From Fri Jan 24 18:00:08 2003
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2003 15:08:35 -0600 (CST)
From: Bob Corbett <>
To: Haiti mailing list <>
Subject: 14593: Pina:

From: kevin pina <>

Haiti's Large Businesses Shutter Doors as the Poor Markets Remain Open

By Kevin Pina, 24 January 2003

Port au Prince—A general strike called in Haiti today by 184 civil society organizations quickly began to resemble a strike called by the Democratic Convergence last December 4, 2002. Businesses that largely cater to Haiti's small upper and middle classes remained shuttered today while the majority of small marketplace women, known as ti machann, were clearly open and doing a brisk business.

Although not officially behind today's general strike, the Washington backed Democratic Convergence continued calling for Aristide's resignation while demanding Haitians respect the strike in support of the new civil society group claiming to represent all sectors of Haitian society. While tacitly accepting support from the Convergence, the civil society organizations insisted it was not their goal to force Aristide's resignation. This appeared at odds with their simultaneous claims that the government no longer enjoys credibility with a majority of the Haitian people. As one Lavalas insider summed it up, They are supporting the premises of the Convergence [about Aristide and Lavalas] while saving the option of dramatically calling for his resignation at a later date. They think this will give them greater credibility and effectively isolate middle-class support away from Lavalas. They are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

Most banks, gas stations, supermarkets and specialty shops kept their doors closed today which stood in stark contrast to the bustling activity in the marketplaces of the poor. Only those who have money and can afford to stay closed are behind this strike, stated one woman as she paused from bickering with a customer over the price of carrots. Other small merchants defiantly held their hands open with five fingers extended to symbolize their support for President Aristide completing his five-year term in office. A Lavalas coordinator commented on the strike, If the organizers of this strike represent civil society then how do we describe the majority of the poor who do not support this strike? Don't we count as civil society as well or are we still to accept them looking down upon the poor majority as lessor citizens? Are we to accept their statements that they are smarter and know what is best for Haiti? They should know we no longer accept that mentality here in Haiti and if they want to determine the future then they should participate in elections and win the right to do so. There is no other way.

Several small pickup trucks, known as tap-taps and the backbone of transportation for the poor, could be seen disgorging their human cargo after running out of gas. One tap-tap driver angrily denounced gas station owners for participating in the strike, You see we are here to work, people want to get about their business but I cannot get gas today because the gas stations are closed. Suddenly a second truck pulled up behind his tap-tap and offered to sell him 5 gallons of gas at cost. You see that? asked the driver excitedly. He continued, That is why this strike won't work because we are all together to keep the country working. The driver then poured the precious juice into his vehicle from 5 plastic gallon containers, paid the second driver, loaded his passengers and continued the journey up the road.