Unions prepare wave of demonstrations against Aristide

Robens Cheriza, Hoover's Online, 11 January 2003, 7:37am

[Presenter] The union sector has maintained its call for demonstrations today, 10 January. Union activists will stage this peaceful demonstration to say that they have had enough of the high cost of living, the high cost of fuel and the lack of security. Yesterday, various union organizations gathered to organize a concert of can-banging to protest against the person elected on 26 November [2000] [reference to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide]. The following is a report by Robens Cheriza:

[Cheriza] One development is following another. This is another development. Today, it is the turn of union activists. The days are passing by, but they do not look like one another. It seems that every step taken by the crisis rouses a new group from the public. Even though the fire of the university uprising has not even been put out yet, the union sector has risen up. The uprising over the [government's] decision to increase fuel prices on the market is taking the form of strikes, marches and all kinds of demonstrations. [However] Lavalas is holding its ground. The presidency says so, the commerce minister supports so, and [secretary of state for communication] Mario Dupuy explains that reducing the price of fuel is out of the question if that is not done on the international market. This is the news that the people do not want to hear. The unions are going further into action:

[Unidentified union activist] Those who are in the (?highest strata of Haitian society) must go down [to participate in protest movements with other people]. Changes cannot be effected in the country through radio and the television. You must come and march past Champ de Mars.

[Cheriza] You will hear a concert of can-banging. But that did not stop the impression that the union activists' fight for the reduction of fuel prices is linked to a fight to overthrow Aristide. Overthrowing Aristide and reducing fuel prices is [the theme of] a concert that was given in the premises of the Convention for Democratic Unity that has become from now on a true public square.

[Claire Lydie Parent] Once it is question of overthrowing Aristide, you will find the square for free. It is the Freedom Square, and we tell the entire opposition to the Lavalas government that is destroying the country that the square is open to them.

[Cheriza] Union activists have gone further into action. One has the impression that they feel stronger. After the success of the 7 January strike, the mobilization must continue. The union movement is not remaining idle. It has promised to demonstrate on Friday, 10 January.

[Unidentified union activist] Tomorrow, there will be a demonstration against the high cost of living, fuel prices and finally (? to overthrow) Aristide, because he has posed too many problems to the people's pockets.

[Cheriza] That was enough to provoke the curiosity of all journalists. The Lavalas OP's [People's Organization] have not accepted these kinds of demonstrations for some time. Their reaction is never pleasing: rocks and empty plastic containers are hurled at demonstrators when they are not beaten up with whips. But union activists are not afraid to say they will not run away. Anyway, they say violence, terror and fear are the biggest tools that Lavalas never hesitates to use to keep power in Haiti. This is what many analysts say, and we have the impression that violence is tending to become more intensive these days.

One of the qualities that people never stop praising in Haitians is their patience and sometimes their resignation [to their fates]. Today, a gallon of petrol costs 85 gourdes. We have the impression that the people will eventually accept that. How long will this movement last? Will the unionists' movement have strength for that? What results will that bring? We will wait and see.