Thursday, January 12, 2006

Haitian Elections, Commander's Suicide, Batay Ouvriye Response

Brian Concannon pointed out in a recent commentary [Brian Concannon Jr., "Haiti'’s Flawed Electoral Process Bodes Ill for Future Stability,"” (Silver City, NM: International Relations Center, January 3, 2006)] that the impending delay of the Haitian elections yet again come a year and a half after the constitutional deadline. Concannon explains what is unmentioned in mainstream commentary:

The government will claim that it is trying to hand over power as soon as it can, and that a lack of resources combined with logistical and security problems kept generating delays. But in October 1994, when Haiti's elected government was restored after a three-year dictatorship, it had less financial support but managed to organize full legislative and local elections in eight months, and the regularly scheduled presidential elections six months after that.

Meanwhile one of the most popular candidates and one of the few that provides much hope for a better government, Fr. Jean-Juste, languishes in prison.

Concannon also attacks the prevalence of "political terror as a campaign strategy" and the truly outrageous extent of UN (and OAS) complicity.

Over and over again over the last six months, Haitian police, and even troops from MINUSTAH, the UN mission in Haiti, have gone into neighborhoods known as strongholds of government opponents, killing, maiming, and arresting people and destroying houses. In October, MINUSTAH's top human rights official called the human rights situation in Haiti "catastrophic,"” citing summary executions, torture, and illegal arrests. Keeping the poor neighborhoods under siege and imprisoning activists keeps government opponents from organizing and campaigning. It also keeps voters indoors, now and on Election Day.

On August 20, police accompanied by civilians called the "“Little Machete Army" attacked a crowd at a soccer game in the neighborhood of Grande Ravine, killing at least ten people... One MINUSTAH patrol did arrest a member of the victims' association, illegally (without a warrant), while he was working with another MINUSTAH unit to bring victims to the hospital. After another outcry the police released the leader.

The "“official" watchdogs for this election seem oblivious to the organizational chaos and widespread persecution. Last July, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza provided a glowing report, claiming the elections were "moving ahead," and predicted that a one-month extension of registration would solve the problems. Registration was eventually extended over two months, during which time the police arrested Fr. Jean-Juste and the death squads massacred the Grande Ravine soccer fans. When the latest dates were announced, Mr. Insulza conceded in retrospect that "the electoral process was slow to get off the ground," but trumpeted that now "considerable progress has been made, which allows us to be cautiously optimistic about having organized, orderly, and credible elections early in the new year."

MINUSTAH reacted to the fourth postponement of the elections with an equally glowing report—it even predicted the new president would be inaugurated a week earlier than the electoral decree did. MINUSTAH's press release did not even mention the "catastrophic" human rights situation that its own human rights department denounced in October, or the political prisoners that Mr. Joinet discussed just three days before. MINUSTAH Chief Juan Gabriel Valdes did warn of "dark interests in Haitian society"” that could disrupt the elections, but found no fault with the government's lack of preparation or persecution of opponents.

Of course, it hardly needs to be said that in the actions of the UN and OAS we can see the hand of the US (and France and Canada).

Meanwhile, Democracy Now [Headlines for January 12, 2006] reports today that the circumstances surrounding death of the former commander of the UN forces in Haiti are suspicious. He was found dead in his hotel room last Saturday from a gunshot to the head. The UN is saying Lt. Gen. Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar's death was a suicide. However, "Brazilian Ambassador Paulo Cordeiro de Andrade Pinto told the Associated Press investigators want to probe other possibilities before confirming Lt. Bacellar’s death as a suicide. Pinto declined to say what those possibilities were." Even if it was a suicide, one might speculate that it was connected to his dissatisfaction with the cruelty of his masters. Democracy Now reports that "He had recently clashed with his UN superiors and Haitian business leaders over his opposition to crack down the poor neighborhood of Cite Soleil."

Lastly, Batay Ouvriye has published a response to the article I excerpted on Monday [“On Sprague's Alleged Smoking Gun,” January 10, 2006].

A few excerpts,
For us, of Batay Ouvriye, who have never, ever, compromised our line of complete working class independence by entering into cross-class coalitions such as the 184 group, the claim is revealing because actually: every single major Haitian union federation, regardless of their internal divisions, EXCEPT US, participated in this reactionary alliance’s notorious Dec. 26, 2002 statement in favor of “collective measures to redress the national boat” which initiated the movement to overthrow Aristide’s regime.

firmly armed with our line of working class independence, we are prepared to accept any amount, even if it were a million dollars (!) coming from wherever it may come. (The million dollar figure was “erroneously” given to Fenton by the NED, it seems, instead of the $100,000 “targeted beneficiary” sum).This stand has been unanimously approved at every level of our organization.

That the Lavalas current, alongside the bourgeois “opposition”, repeatedly called for Haiti’s occupation, that it favored the concentration of capital and the application of neo-liberal policies such as the free trade zones, that it repressed workers’ mobilizations… are all extremely important points we need to scrutinize in the interest of the workers. And our general stand on this debate guides us, as a line, in permanently exposing all the ruling classes’ various forms and disguises, in complete working class independence.

We should note that, throughout this dialogue, we haven’t received the slightest response on these reiterated points. Which proves, for us, the fact that these attacks aren’t in view of any real progressive critique and/or advancement but, rather, alternate current “bashing”. So we’re prepared to battle, just as we’ve been doing since many years, against the ruling classes.

In fact, several Haitian progressives are beginning to sincerely question the deep-lying interests of American progressives in defending such frankly exposed “Lavalas family” politics. Certainly, being mistaken by the mainstream media is understandable. But to remain entrenched in such fallacy is beyond us, leading to the question of whether the problem might not rather be related to class nature and composition.

We demonstrated quite clearly ( that we hadn’t received any funds from the Solidarity Center before Aristide’s departure in February 2004 and that only several months later did this organization offer $3,500 to the Free Trade Zone striking SOCOWA workers in response to a public appeal. The debate then came to concern whether a genuine workers’ movement could accept any funds from the American government or the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center. We again responded to this with our “Clarification” document (, establishing clearly what we exactly understand to be relations of solidarity and working class independence (“On Solidarity” - and addressing numerous other points as well. At present, since the Dec. 22nd debate in San Francisco, we are solicited to open the books and state precisely what our solidarity funding is, has been and may be. Once again, we’ve fully complied, in the interest of unity and solidarity, and with respect for the struggles of the workers and popular masses in Haiti and internationally.

The response also mentions in passing [Lucy Komisar, “Haiti Telecom Kickbacks Tarnish Aristide,” Special to CorpWatch, December 29th, 2005] an article reporting that,

Two U.S. lawsuits charge that former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his associates accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from politically connected U.S. telecom companies.


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