From Wed Jan 7 07:45:11 2004
Date: Wed, 7 Jan 2004 06:03:26 -0600 (CST)
From: Bob Corbett <>
To: Haiti mailing list <>
Subject: 17560: This Week in Haiti 21:40 12/17/2003 (fwd)

Destabilization campaign, and popular resistance, intensify

This Week in Haiti, Haiti Progres, Vol.20 no.40, 17–23 December 2003

With less than two weeks until Haiti's Jan.1, 2004 Bicentennial celebrations, reactionary forces are redoubling their efforts to overthrow the popularly elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

After politicians, civil society representatives, bourgeois activists, and infiltrated rabble-rousers, university students have become the latest contenders in a tag-team-like effort to knock Aristide and the Haitian people from the ring of Haitian politics. But as in professional wrestling, after each body-slam, the defending champion groggily gets up, summons strength from some inner reserves, and repels the attack.

The latest spate of dueling demonstrations and counter- demonstrations began after protesting students and pro-government popular organizations (OP) clashed on Dec. 5 at the National Institute of Administration, Management and International Studies (INAGHEI) and the State University's School of Human Sciences (FASCH). Although students calling for Aristide's resignation had demonstrated with police protection on several occasions in prior weeks including Dec. 3, the stage was set for violence after students went on the radio the night of Dec. 4 and taunted popular organization members as car washersand delinquents.

The next day, OP members arrived in front of the two schools, ready to counter-demonstrate. Things turned ugly when a group of students returning to the FASCH attacked a vehicle supposedly belonging to an OP member. FASCH students and OP members began throwing rocks and bottles at each other. Then someone from the roof of the FASCH shot and wounded an OP demonstrator in the leg. This set off a frenzy in which OP members invaded the university grounds at both INAGHEI and FASCH, destroying books, furniture, and equipment. Several people were wounded in the skirmishes including University rector Pierre Marie Paquiot, whose knees were fractured. While the bourgeois press solely blamed the OP for the rampage, the role of provocateurs cannot be discounted.

Haitian government officials say that many of the students have been encouraged to take part in protests with the promise of foreign visas. Secretary of State of Communications Mario Dupuy said police had to break up students fighting over the distribution of visas outside an embassy recently. The police had to take these two students to a police station to calm them down, he said.

The Washington-backed Democratic Convergence opposition front and the Haitian bourgeoisie's Group of 184 civil society front (G184), led by a U.S. citizen and sweatshop magnate André Andy Apaid, Jr. (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 21, No. 35, 11/12/03), have been quick to embrace, foment and urge on the student demonstrations.

So on Dec. 11, about 10,000 students, with the G184 and Democratic Convergence leaders in tow, marched through the streets of the capital. (Bourgeois radio stations inflated the demonstration up to 5 fold). On hand were Apaid, former Haitian Army colonel Himmler Rébu, Convergence leader Evans Paul, writer Gary Victor, the head of the Civil Society Initiative (ISC) Rosny Desroches, and dissident Lavalas senators Prince Sonson Pierre and Dany Toussaint. Later that day on Radio Kiskeya, Toussaint virtually called for a coup by saying that the international community was reluctant to remove Aristide from power only because they feared anarchy would result. But, he reassured them, he could restore order within 48 hours due to his connections in the police and former army.

Lavalas partisans rushed from all corners of the city to gather in front of the National Palace to thwart any coup attempts. The opposition demonstrators repeatedly tried to break through police lines protecting the Palace but were repulsed with tear-gas.

The countdown for the end of this regime started, declared Convergence spokesman Paul Denis. It said that it would not leave, but it will leave. The cup is full. It's too much. Aristide must leave power and quickly.

But starting that evening and the following day, Friday, Dec. 12, tens of thousands of Haitians, including pro-government students, flooded into Port-au-Prince's streets demonstrating and setting up barricades. The capital was effectively shut down. OP members vowed a state of permanent vigilance to prevent any coup.

Michelle Karshan, foreign press liaison at the National Palace, issued these rough notes about events. Thursday night popular organizations came out to stand vigilant in front of the National Palace, to guard the people's choice. Cars circulated Thursday night and Friday morning (again when pro-government masses were taking to the streets) shooting indiscriminately into crowds, Karshan estimated that about ten people were shot, and seven of them killed.

Nevertheless, in sharp contrast to the violent demands of the opposition for the immediate overthrow of the government, the people took to the streets by the tens of thousands Friday to call for respect of the constitutional mandate of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.... With both hands thrust in the air displaying all five fingers on each hand to represent the five-year presidential term and the people's will to see the President finish his term, people chanted, 'Elections, YES! Coup d'etat, NO! Aristide for FIVE YEARS!' People said if the opposition thinks they are the majority then why don't they go to elections to prove it... Some people addressed the university students who were working with the opposition, asking them not to allow themselves to be manipulated by the opposition by gifts of visas or money. They also said they don't want ambassadors to visit universities anymore because they are luring people with offers of visas.

Some people interviewed said that former military and FRAPH [a coup-era death squad] members had infiltrated the 'student' march the day before (on Thursday) swelling the numbers of persons in their march...

I spoke with three journalists who each visited the hospital on Friday at different times during the day. They interviewed persons (two of the journalists told me they were persons who identified themselves as militants who were taking to the streets in support of the government) who were shot either Thursday night or Friday morning by cars circulating (some said without license plates) and shooting indiscriminately at people. One person was shot by the marketplace downtown, one on Rue Pavée, one woman was injured when she fled from a car that was speeding at people.

Karshan highlighted the case of André Jean-Marie, a literacy worker shot dead in front of the Palace. According to filmmaker Kevin Pina, cited in Karshan's notes, Jean-Marie was killed by unknown assailants who apparently followed his vehicle and waited for him to leave his car. André had gone to the Palace for a literacy campaign meeting earlier that same evening but had returned to lend his presence to the thousands of supporters camped in front of the palace to defend their constitutional president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Jean-Marie, who had a wife and two young sons, was the coordinator of the government's literacy program in Pétion-Ville. His only crime was that he was committed to teaching the poor majority how to read and write, Pina wrote.

The U.S. embassy has also added fuel to the fire. On the eve of the commemoration of the bicentennial of Haiti's independence, an event which still resounds today as the symbol of victory over oppression, it is regrettable to note the deplorable state of human rights in Haiti, said U.S. Ambassador James B. Foley in a Dec. 12 statement. During the past months, the government, in a constant way, has failed in its mission to protect the civil rights of citizens demonstrating peacefully and expressing their opinions freely.

The same day the U.S. embassy closed its doors citing violence, and the Department of State has warned its citizens not to travel to Haiti for safety reasons. This warning appears more than a little suspect, coming just days before the January 1, 2004 festivities when Haiti is due to receive many Haitian-Americans.


Police issued a statement Monday reiterating that protest organizers must notify them of any planned demonstration 48 hours in advance. The government is attempting to cow protesters, said lawyer and former Sen. Samuel Madistin. Political problems can't be solved with repression... We are in a situation of general revolt.

Associated Press, Dec. 16, 2003

Sunday evening, in a communiqué Haitian authorities reminded demonstration organizers of their obligation to notify the police 48 hours in advance of the intention to demonstrate, the chosen itinerary, and the names and addresses of the organizers. This communiqué was considered by one of the opposition spokespersons, Evans Paul, as the installation of a disguised state of siege.

Agence France Press, Dec. 16, 2003

The police authorities must be notified in advance of assemblies outdoors in public places.

1987 Haitian Constitution, Article 31.2

Both AP and AFP insinuate that Haitian authorities are preventing demonstrations. In reality, Haitian authorities have a far more lenient approach to demonstrations than their U.S. and European counterparts, which demand a permit and fees, usually one week in advance, for any protest. The 48-hour notification rule has been in effect since 1987 and is nothing new. The police were simply reminding protestors of the law.