José Antonio Gutiérrez D. writes on the new order in UN-occupied Haiti
Seven years ago, a bloody coup sponsored by the CIA and elements nostalgic the monstrous Duvalier dictatorship, and fulfilled by paramilitary thugs linked to the old armed forces, toppled president Jean Bertrand Aristide. That moment started an ongoing military occupation in the country, first by French, Canadian, Chilean and (of course) US troops. The latter kidnapped Aristide, who was no revolutionary, but advocated a number of minimal reforms that were unbearable for both the US and the Haitian elite, and so they put him on a plane to the Central African Republic on 29th February 2004.
Then, in June, the military occupation was handed to a UN force, the MINUSTAH, which is led by Brazil and composed almost entirely by Latin American armed forces, as well as other “freedom-loving” armies such as that of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Angola, Morocco, etc. 10,000 died as a direct result of this act of international gangsterism.
Subsequently we had the government of Latortue and then, in 2006, after sham elections, the old associate of Aristide, Rene Preval, came to power. On 28th November 2010 there were elections again, or as the locals call them, “selections”. In both elections, 2006 and 2010, dozens of presidential hopefuls participated, but no candidate of the most popular party, Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas, which has been unofficially banned (their candidates are disqualified by the Electoral Committee). As you may expect, turnout was of the order of a mere 20%.
The two main candidates Mirlande Manigat, widow of a former dictator, and Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly, a popular kompa singer who flirts with Duvalierism (he announced that deposed dictator Baby Doc Duvalier would be his presidential advisor) and collaborated with fascist death squads who murdered 5,000 people during the 1991-94 Cedras dictatorship. They received the meagre endorsement of a 6% and 4%, respectively, of the total electorate.
The whole process was riddled with irregularities, votes were lost, dead people voted, etc. For example, Jude Celestin, the candidate favoured by president Preval, had technically more votes than Martelly, but the Organization of American States (OAS) decided to exclude him on the grounds of irregularities –when the whole process was irregular, you can’t just handpick a single candidate because you don’t favour him! With the exclusion of both Celestin and Fanmi Lavalas, the president would be handpicked by the occupying community. but according to the UN and the OAS this proved once again their own commitment to democracy building.
So the run off between Manigat and Martelly took place on 20th March… the “selection” was won by Martelly (67% of votes), with less than 25% of participation. His first meeting was with the IMF, World Bank and the US State Department in Washington, showing who really runs the show in that God-forsaken Caribbean island – after all, he was the first choice of Obama, and he made sure Celestin was taken out of the contest. Martelly has declared his intention to rule the country “Fujimori-style” (a reference to the former Peruvian dictator) and has proposed to ban demonstrations and strikes. Also, he is in the process of reconstituting the army with the thugs that participated in the 2004 and tortured, raped and killed at will. No wonder Obama is pleased with his own new little monster.
So what does the future have in store for Haiti? With 80% unemployment and 50% of the population without access to basic services and living on less than $1 a day (in a country where, whether you believe it or not, the cost of life is similar to that of the US since everything is imported) the future seems grim as grim it can be. If you also consider that over a year after the terrible earthquake that shattered the country, and after billions poured into NGOs (most of that money remaining in their own bank accounts and in the pockets of over paid staff), only 5% of the debris has been removed, reconstruction has prioritised the premises of Free Trade Zones and assembly factories, while over one million Haitians still dwell in tent refugee camps. This is not a mere model of inefficiency of the international community; it is also a model of what they want for the future of Haiti: a population with no hope nor future, in refugee camps, willing to work for whatever in sweatshops.
After the earthquake, there was a possibility of a different type of Haiti being built. But reconstruction, carried in its entirety by US firms and designed by Washington through a committee of reconstruction headed by former president Clinton (with the negligible participation of Haiti’s vice-president, who is a yes-man anyway), was designed to deepen the model already in place in Haiti – a sweatshop country with its countryside entirely in the hands of agrobusiness. The recipe for economic disaster was contained in Paul Collier’s report to the UN, in which there is nothing to be learned from 40 years of failed neoliberal experiments. Well, failed from the point of view of the Haitian poor, greatly successful from the point of view of the elites and multinational corporations operating in the Free Trade Zone.
All these political efforts by both the Haitian oligarchy and its bosses “up north” should be read in the same sense: to restore the infamous Duvalierism as the natural social and political model for Haiti and, with it, get rid of that bothersome popular movement, get rid of all its symbolic reference points, destroy the social network that was woven by the people from below with solidarity and kill off any kind of popular threat to their privileges.
They want to tell the Haitian popular movement –all of your struggle for more than twenty years was good for nothing, don’t dare to challenge us again, you will never win.