From Fri Jun 15 12:21:21 2001
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 00:16:54 -0500 (CDT)
From: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Haiti_Progr=E8s?= <>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 19:13 6/13/2001
Article: 121073
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

The ‘Civil Society’

This Week in Haiti, Haiti Progres, Vol.19 no.13, 13–19 June 2001

A new organization calling itself the Majority Civil Society (SCM) was launched on Jun. 1 during a press conference at the Plaza Hotel in Port-au-Prince. The founders of the new group defined themselves as an alternative to the Civil Society Initiative (ISC), led by Rosny Desroches, who was Education minister of the neo-Duvalierist military junta which took power following dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier's downfall in 1986.

The ISC, made up almost exclusively of businessmen and conservative church officials, invented itself earlier this year to act as mediator in the on-again off-again negotiations between the ruling Fanmi Lavalas party (FL) of President Jean- Bertrand Aristide and opposition Democratic Convergence front (CD). The SCM taxed the ISC as being a minority civil society.

The SCM leveled a scathing indictment against Desroches's organization for seeking the conquest of political power and the maintenance of economic power for a minority which possesses its wealth through corrupt mechanisms to the exclusion of the great majority of the population.

In the 'Civil Society Initiative' of Mr. Desroches, do we find the unemployed, cab drivers, peasants, students, or members of the socio-professional sector? asked Dr. Kalil Jean-Baptiste, one of the SCM's founders. I think you know the answer. For all these reasons, we assert today, first, that the very expression - Civil Society Initiative—of Mr. Desroches is a veritable intellectual fraud... Secondly, this civil organization of the minority in no way speaks in the name of the Haitian people, because it is not representative. However, Dr. Jean-Baptiste said that he is ready to dialogue with minority civil society representatives.

The SCM was launched by Dr. Jean-Baptiste and seven other individuals from groups with names like the Women's Organization of Marigot and of the Collective of Haitian Doctors. These founders claim to represent more than 130 civil society organizations.

Obviously, this new civil society formation is close to the FL. It emerged just as Lavalas government officials began to vigorously denounce the ISC.

A small minority thinks it has a monopoly on civil society, said Yvon Neptune, Senate president and the FL's national representative, the day after Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Csar Gaviria's visit to Haiti two weeks ago. Gaviria met with the FL, CD, and ISC. In the ISC, Neptune continued, one finds a majority of putschists who financed the Sept. 30, 1991 coup d'Etat. Alongside these old putschists, we find new putschists who like to adopt democratic airs, but who have not grasped the fact that the majority of people voted for the Fanmi Lavalas,

In the same vein, Communication and Culture minister Guy Paul rightly accused the ISC of being both an umpire and player in the negotiations around the political crisis. The irony is that the FL itself legitimized the ISC by granting it the all but official role of designated mediator.

Aristide, in fact, came up with the expression and name of the new group when he said that Gaviria's visit to Haiti was a victory of this same majority civil society. Clearly, the very conflict of a majority civil society versus a minority civil society is just another episode in the rivalry between two camps which resort to the same political lexicon without any preliminary definitions, to paraphrase journalist Bernard Cassen of Le Monde Diplomatique (The pitfalls of governance, June 2001, p. 28).

The reaction of the ISC has been swift, bitter and arrogant.Who are these representatives who have supposedly received a genuine mandate from a certified majority? asked Rosny Desroches in response to the SMC's assault. Our point of view is that the economic problem must be resolved in a lasting way. As quickly as possible, we must find a solution to the political problem, to the electoral crisis.

One of Desroches's cohorts, Edouard Paultre of the Protestant Federation of Haiti, said with priestly false modesty that we don't believe we represent Haitian civil society in its entirety, but still called the SCM's declarations exclusive and inappropriate in the context of the present crisis.

Former Prime Minister designate Herv Denis was skillfully demagogic. These parts of civil society—the private sector, the business sector—are what the Lavalas is desperately lashing out at today, he said, because they have the courage to say what they think, to make some proposals, and to get involved in politics from now on.

One of the principal CD spokesmen, the neo-Duvalierist Hubert de Ronceray, also came rushing to the side of his allies in the ISC. Civil society in its entirety has realized that definitely the Lavalas will not compromise with it, de Ronceray said. [The Lavalas] got upset and mad because they thought they could have the OAS deal only with the civil society and marginalize the Convergence. But in the end, civil society remained in solidarity with the national cause. When the Lavalas saw that it definitely had nobody with it, it got mad, threw all kinds of insults, and called the civil society things which it is not. Only yesterday they thought it was their flunky but now want to slaughter it.

This war of words might continue for a long time. However, one must wonder why the FL waited so long to have this reaction to such an obvious maneuver. Since its inception, it was clear that the ISC was not representative of anything other than Haiti's most exclusive private interests lined up against the general interest. In short, the bourgeoisie had come to the aid of the Convergence.

At the time of the ISC's emergence, Hati Progrs reminded Lavalas officials of the role people like Rosny Desroches and Edouard Paulatre played in the opposition movement launched in 1999 by arch-reactionary businessman Olivier Nadal, who now lives in self-imposed exile in Miami. The political history of all the ISC leaders disqualified them from any mediation initiative that was supposed to be neutral or impartial.

But, as always, due to opportunism and lack of principle, the FL plugged its ears and tried to make believe that wolves could become lambs. Now that the negotiation process has suffered practically irreversible damage because the ISC was allowed to freely pursue its obvious reactionary objectives, the Lavalas leadership is desperately trying to regain its footing.