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May 19, 2009 - No. 99

No to Foreign Interference in Haiti!
Get Canada Out of Haiti!

No to Foreign Interference in Haiti! Get Canada Out of Haiti!
Electoral Farce Continues in June of 2009 - Wadner Pierre, HaitiAnalysis.com
Lavalas Flexes Its Muscles in Haiti - Kevin Pina, www.haitiaction.net
Popular Initiative Calls for Removal of Bush Appointee - Kevin Pina, www.haitiaction.net
Canada's Ambassador to Haiti: The Elections Were Legitimate - Canadian Haiti
Action Network

U.S. Development Plans for Haiti Ignore Most Haitians - Ansel Herz, HaitiAnalysis.com

No to Foreign Interference in Haiti!
Get Canada Out of Haiti!

On April 19, elections to the Haitian Senate were held to fill 12 out of 30 seats. The election was widely boycotted as part of organized resistance to an electoral process which was viewed as illegitimate especially because of the exclusion of Lavalas Party candidates. Voter turnout was estimated at somewhere between 2-11 percent of Haiti's 4.5 million voters. No candidate received a majority of votes with the result that now a run-off election is scheduled for June 7. Lavalas candidates were excluded on spurious technical grounds, with the electoral commission rejecting their forms for not being physically signed by party leader Jean-Betrand Aristide who is in exile in South Africa, having been ousted in a coup on February 29, 2004.

Since 2004, Canada has played a particularly nefarious role in Haiti. Canadian troops were part of the international invasion force which overthrew democratically elected President Aristide under the high-sounding ideal of "defending democracy." From that time until the present, foreign interference has continued to destabilize the people and undermine their fight to establish and build organizations and institutions that represent their interests. This includes interference by the Canadian state through the sending of RCMP to train the hated Haitian National Police, the Canadian International Development Agency and its funding of anti-people non-governmental organizations, and Elections Canada's participation in elections following the coup, as well as the many foreign troops suppressing the people as part of a UN "peacekeeping" mission.  

A May 17 article in the Halifax Chronicle Herald provides a recent example, in which the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre and a South American counterpart hosted a "joint seminar about UN challenges in Haiti" on May 13-14 in Santiago, Chile. "Funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the seminar brought together about 40 participants to discuss improving peace operation training in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. The purpose of the seminar, co-hosted by the Chilean Joint Peacekeeping Operations Centre, was to enhance the ability of UN troops and police from contributing countries to respond to complex situations. Representatives attended from Canada, the U.S., Latin American training centres, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the UN mission in Haiti and Haitian government officials," wrote the Chronicle Herald.

Haiti and its people, far from their portrayal by the imperialists as a people and place of helpless victimhood and destitution in need of condescending saviours are fighting to overcome the blocks to progress put in their way by those same imperialists. The Haitian people are the inheritors of a militant tradition of struggle for self-determination and the recognition of rights which belong to people by virtue of their being human, first in the fight of the slaves to end their enslavement, then the winning of their independence through the first revolution in the Americas and then the establishment of a constitution which enshrined human rights on a modern basis. Since then, the Haitian people have been fighting to extricate themselves from brutal terms of foreign debt-servicing and a series of puppet governments in service of foreign imperialists and their monopolies. TML calls on the Canadian working class and people to give their full support to the Haitian people so that their historic struggle for self-determination is realized once and for all.

In this issue, TML is posting several items on the attempts of outside interests to use the April 19 Haitian Senate elections as a further opportunity to block the aspirations of the Haitian people and impose foreign agendas and illegitimate institutions and governance on the Haitian people.

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Electoral Farce Continues in June of 2009

As widely predicted, Haiti's senatorial elections of April 19 were boycotted by the overwhelming majority of the electorate. Two days ago, as if to deliberately invite more ridicule, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) announced that there were no winners in the first round for 12 vacant senate seats that were contested. Haiti has a 30 seat senate. A second round of the discredited elections will take place on June 7. However, the vote in Haiti's Central Plateau has been cancelled due to fear of violence.

Polling station on the outskirts of Cité Soleil remains empty as voters stay away during April 19 Senate elections.
(Photo: Haiti Information Project)

Government officials have claimed that turnout was 11% but many political organizations say it was 2-3% -- consistent with a pre-election survey by the Florida-based advocacy organization Haiti Priorities Project (HPP). Regardless of the exact figure, no one is disputing that turnout was extremely low. U.S. Ambassador Janet Sanderson attempted to dismiss the significance of low turnout by saying:

"Historically, off-year elections in the United States as well as in other countries tend not to be as well-attended as presidential elections. We'll have to see."

However, in 2006, turnout was 30%, according to UN officials, for legislative elections held months after René Preval won the presidency.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, gently chastised the Haitian people:

"Indifference is harmful for a democratic process that requires a strong interaction between political actors and governments."

In fact, outrage, rather than indifference, explains why voters stayed away. The boycott was provoked by the CEP's disqualification of candidates put forward by Famni Lavalas (FL), the party of deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. International donors, embarrassed by the CEP decision, were initially critical of the ban but soon opted to promise more aid for Haiti as a way to appease voters.

Eliminating FL was the objective of the 2004 coup backed primarily by U.S., France and Canada. Thousands of FL partisans were murdered during the two year rule of a UN backed dictatorship and hundreds became political prisoners. The FL base, overcoming countless obstacles to their participation, carried René Preval to victory in the presidential election of 2006. It was widely hoped that he would make it possible for Aristide to return to Haiti. He has disappointed the FL partisans many times since his election, but going along with the CEP's disqualification of FL appears to have been the last straw.

Increasingly bitter critics observe that Preval's LESPWA party is well positioned to prevail after the second round in June. Nine LESPWA candidates appear headed toward victory. It has been suggested that Preval's allies in the senate will then amend the Haitian constitution.

FL partisans sent a powerful message with the successful boycott. They have referred to it as "operation closed doors and empty streets." A group of young people interviewed on a radio station said "We, in Bel Air, belong to Lavalas. Preval excluded us. We cannot vote today."

Cité Soleil, an FL stronghold with over 300,000 people, predictably shunned the election. An inhabitant of Cité Soeleil told a reporter "This election is not for us. It is for Preval. Lavalas are out -- we are out as well."

FL's message appears to have even reached the international press. An April 21 press report by AP reporter Jonathan Katz refers to FL as the "still-popular" party of Aristide.

Haiti Liberté reports that even a group of senators, led by Evaliere Beauplan, whose parties participated in the April 19 polling, dismissed the elections as a "farce" and called on Preval to apologize to the Haitian people.

After four tropical storms that ravaged Haiti last year, the $16 million wasted on this so-called election (which was postponed several times) could have been used to help starving people.

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Lavalas Flexes Its Muscles in Haiti

A nearly empty ballot box at a polling station in Port-au-Prince during the Haitian Senate election on April 19, 2009. (Photo: Haiti Information Project)

Haiti's Lavalas movement effectively destroyed the credibility of the April 19 Senate election through a successful boycott campaign called Operation Closed Door. Even the most generous electoral count puts participation at less than 10 percent in the capital of Port-au-Prince, while the actual figure may be as low as 3 percent nationwide.

According to René Civil, one of the spokespersons for Operation Closed Door: "What we are seeing is the non-violent resistance of the Haitian people to undemocratic elections. There is no way they will be able to call the senators elected in this process legitimate. You cannot hold elections without the majority political party."

Ronald Fareau, another representative of the campaign, stated: "We want to congratulate the international community for their hypocrisy in these elections. They spent over $17 million on another electoral fraud in Haiti while our people continue to suffer from malnutrition and illiteracy."

The controversy over the election began when factions of the Fanmi Lavalas party originally presented two slates of candidates to the Conseil Electoral Provisoire or CEP. In an apparent attempt to wrest control from Aristide, one faction led by former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune questioned the legitimacy of the slate presented by the former president's appointed representative, Dr. Maryse Narcisse. Neptune's faction presented a second slate, but in the end the Fanmi Lavalas party's leadership managed to hammer out a compromise list of candidates in time to meet the deadline.

The CEP finally refused to accept the Fanmi Lavalas applications on the grounds they did not have former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's personal signature from exile in South Africa. The CEP reportedly would not allow for a facsimile copy of his signature on the documents when they were presented on the final day of the application deadline. This effectively excluded all Fanmi Lavalas candidates from participating in the election and led to the boycott of the Senate elections on April 19.

Neptune and other members of his faction within the Fanmi Lavalas party called for participation in the election despite the nationwide boycott. Early Sunday morning Neptune said publicly on a local radio program, "We must vote today if we are to keep the integrity of the democratic process." When asked on Radio Caraibe's Ranmase program if he had a message for voters, Neptune responded, "Vote well." The success of yesterday's boycott was taken as a referendum of support for Aristide by the base of the Lavalas movement in the much-touted internal party conflict.

Although there were some reports of sporadic violence in yesterday's elections between supporters of current president René Preval's Lespwa party and its rival, L'Union, the disruptions were isolated to a single city, Mirebalais, in the country's Central Plateau region.

There were largely no reports of violence or voting irregularities in the capital, where streets and polling stations remained deserted throughout the day. The only incident occurred in the seaside shantytown of Cité Soleil after a member of the L'Union party was accused of handing out money and food to bribe voters.

Private vehicles and motorcycles were banned during the election as they were during the presidential election in February 2006. Where long lines formed at the polls early in the day on Feb. 7, 2006, polling stations remained virtually empty on Sunday due to the Lavalas boycott.

Five Lavalas hunger strikers continued to occupy Haiti's parliament building in an effort to draw attention to their party's exclusion from the election. They vowed to continue until the election is nullified and demanded that it be held over again during upcoming national elections scheduled for November. On the following day, thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the parliament to support the hunger strikers as SWAT teams with the Haitian National Police, backed by U.N. military personnel, surrounded the building.

* Kevin Pina is special correspondent to Flashpoints, heard weekdays at 5 p.m. on KPFA 94.1 and dozens of other stations nationwide. Haiti Information Project (HIP), winner of the Project Censored 2008 Real News Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism, is a non-profit alternative news service providing coverage and analysis of breaking developments in Haiti. Email HIP at HIP@teledyol.net. To learn more, visit www.haitiaction.net.

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Popular Initiative Calls for Removal
of Bush Appointee

A spokesperson for grassroots organizations aligned with Haiti's Fanmi Lavalas party demanded the Obama administration remove current U.S. Ambassador Janet Sanderson. Reached by telephone in the capital of Port-au-Prince, a leader of a group calling itself the Popular Initiative stated, "She is lying about last Sunday's elections by not acknowledging it was our boycott that kept voters away." He continued, "She claims it was because this was not a regular election year and that people may be tired of the political process. The only voter fatigue we have in Haiti is with undemocratic elections. Allow Fanmi Lavalas to participate and we'll show you the voters have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for an authentic democratic process. She is out of touch with reality in Haiti."

Haiti held controversial Senate elections on April 19 that were boycotted by Fanmi Lavalas after all of their candidates were excluded on procedural grounds. Voters mostly stayed at home on Election Day after Lavalas launched a campaign called Operation Closed Door. The Obama administration is widely seen as having green lighted the contested elections after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Haiti three days prior to the ballot.

The Popular Initiative has also called for a re-evaluation of U.S. policy in Haiti by the Obama administration, claiming that its current direction is a holdover from the Bush administration. A second spokesperson in the conference call declared, "It is time for a real change in Haiti and that can only come by breaking with the past, which means the policies of the Bush administration. A good place to start is with the removal of Ambassador Sanderson, who was put in place by the Bush government."

They also blamed Ambassador Janet Sanderson for pressuring the Preval administration to issue arrest warrants for 42 of the organizers of the election boycott, including five hunger strikers who were forced out of the parliament building by police earlier on Monday, the day after the election.

"She made remarks on the radio that the organizers should be investigated. Since then several of our people have been forced into hiding, including René Civil and Nawoon Marcellus. They have invented a new and bizarre charge, 'obstruction of democracy,'" concluded the spokesperson.

At a press conference yesterday, the Popular Initiative and other groups aligned with Lavalas announced they would step up the pressure for the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide from exile in the Republic of South Africa. They declared May and June months of mass mobilization against elections that exclude Lavalas and to fight what they call the "growing misery and poverty as a result of the removal of our democratically elected president on Feb. 29, 2004."

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Canada's Ambassador to Haiti:
The Elections Were Legitimate

Agence Haitienne de Presse reports that Canada's ambassador to Haiti, Gilles Rivard, felt that the controversial April 19th partial Senate elections, which excluded Haiti's most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, were legitimate.

Rivard, in an exclusive interview with Radio Solidarité in Haiti, claimed that the Provisional Electoral Commission (CEP) and the UN force MINUSTAH had pulled off a remarkable logistical feat, with more polling stations open than in the 2006 elections.

Rivard also felt that, despite a participation rate of only 11% [that number is itself contested], the elections were legitimate. He dismissed the low numbers as a result of general disinterest in partial elections.

Rivard, who admitted he knew little about Haitian politics, has previously attracted controversy for declaring the file closed on the exclusion of Lavalas from the elections, despite the rulings of a judicial council that Lavalas should be admitted.

(Source: Agence Haitienne de Presse, May 1, 2009)

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U.S. Development Plans for Haiti
Ignore Most Haitians

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood on the floor of a textile factory in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti earlier this month and talked about America's commitment to the island nation. "I pledge we will do more to create more good jobs for the people of Haiti," she told an audience of Haitian textile workers.

Sounds good, right? But when Clinton finished her speech and smiled the applause was muted. Many of the workers could not understand her speech because it was not translated into Kreyňl, the language spoken by the vast majority of Haitians. Clinton's obliviousness typifies the mindset of policymakers who are ignoring a deeply flawed democratic process in Haiti, while pushing neoliberal anti-poverty schemes on Haiti from afar.

Clinton, along with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, are touting a plan devised by Oxford economist Paul Collier to expand tariff-free export zones around Haiti. Their plan calls for Haiti to lift urban slum-dwellers out of poverty through jobs in textile factories, like the Inter-American Garment Factory at which Clinton spoke.

There is little popular demand in Haiti for this maquiladora-style development. Workers at the factory assembling clothes for American companies like Levi's are paid twice Haiti's minimum wage, but they complained to Al Jazeera English that the wages are still so low that they cannot escape poverty.

The former President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose Lavalas party has enjoyed overwhelming support among Haitians in election after election, tried during the 1990s to triple the minimum wage. But under pressure from U.S. officials and people like Andy Apaid, Aristide was forced to drastically scale back the wage increase. Apaid is a rich Haitian who owns numerous sweatshops and the garment factory that hosted Hillary Clinton two weeks ago.

In 2004, Apaid and other members of the tiny Haitian elite successfully conspired to overthrow President Aristide with the help of the U.S. government. Aristide was flown out of the country on a U.S. jet surrounded by Marines and dumped in the Central African Republic. Aristide says he was kidnapped and still has not returned to Haiti.

Aristide and Lavalas represent a grassroots threat to the centuries-old status quo in Haiti and the international interests that have sought to exploit it. Aristide raised taxes on the rich, launched highly effective literacy and anti-AIDS programs, and built schools and hospitals across the country during his two presidential terms, each cut short by U.S.-backed coups.

The Lavalas party has tried to carry on amidst continuing repression. A heavily armed UN peacekeeping force has repeatedly shelled and occupied Cité Soleil, a slum outside the capitol and one of Lavalas' strongest bases of support. Many of the party's leaders were imprisoned on bogus charges by the post-coup regime, and without Aristide the party is less united than it once was. Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, a leading human rights and Lavalas activist who was abducted in 2007 after announcing his bid for Senate office, is still missing.

Lavalas was banned from last week's Haitian Senate elections by the government's Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) because of a technical problem with the list of candidates they submitted. A judge who ruled that the CEP's decision was illegal was promptly stripped of his post by the Haitian government.

Like the rebel force of slaves that defeated Napoleon's armies and founded Haiti, however, Lavalas and its agenda of social uplift have not been easily marginalized. The organization called for a boycott of the Senate elections from which it was banned, and Haitians duly heeded the call -- voter turnout on April 19th was estimated at less than ten percent.

Popular Haitian demands include revitalization of local peasant economies, debt cancelation, temporary protected status for immigrants in the United States, and the return of Aristide. The Obama administration has already pledged $20 million to pay off part of Haiti's illegitimate debt to the World Bank. That's a start.

The notion that poor Haitians should become a cheap labor force for American corporations, on the other hand, is more of the same. The mentality that the "international community" knows what is best for Haiti's poor has been discredited by decades of worsening poverty. Strong support from the Obama administration for democracy in Haiti, including the participation of Lavalas, would represent change Haitians can believe in and so desperately need.

A version of this article was posted by the Daily Texan Online.

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