We are writing to clarify several points raised in Ricky Baldwin's
article about Haiti, "Free Markets and Death Squads" in
the September/October Dollars and Sense.
Unlike Mr. Baldwin, we are not surprised that Batay Ouvriye is "not
agitating to bring President Aristide back this time." After
all, they were one of the organizations that called for his resignation
before the coup. With that stance, they placed themselves against
the vast majority of the Haitian peasant and labor movement. It
is ironic that Batay is now experiencing repression from the very
forces they helped put in power.
Baldwin's article talks of recent attacks by the coup government
and paramilitary forces on farm workers, but fails to mention that
these farm workers had received this land during Lavalas administrations.
With the ouster of the Aristide government, the former landlords
have been emboldened to seize the land again.
By focusing almost exclusively on the repression against Batay Ouvriye,
Baldwin leaves out any mention of the ongoing, wholesale attacks
on other union members, journalists, and supporters of Aristide's
Lavalas party. Paramilitaries and police have killed or displaced
thousands of people since the beginning of the coup in January,
and up to 10,000 government workers have been fired from their jobs
- victims of a witch-hunt directed at suspected Lavalas sympathizers.
Since September 30 the coup government has mounted a state of siege
against grassroots activists and their communities in Port-au-Prince,
with hundreds of people killed, many of them execution style, and
many more arrested, including Father Gerard Jean-Juste. Fr. Jean-Juste
was finally released on November 29th after a sustained international
campaign, but more than 700 political prisoners still languish in
Haitian jails. Almost none of them have gone before a judge. Why
is this context missing from Mr. Baldwin's article?
On December 1st, according to first-hand accounts, members of the
Haitian national police murdered over 60 prisoners who were protesting
abominable prison conditions and the lack of due process. This attack
coincided with Colin Powell's recent visit to Haiti, where he told
the Latortue coup regime, "We are with you all the way."
Despite this repression, tens of thousands of Haitians demonstrated
throughout the country on December 16th and again on February 7,
2005 calling for the return of President Aristide.
Readers of Mr. Baldwin's article might find it hard to understand
this massive and continuing popular support for Aristide. Mr. Baldwin
claims that the Lavalas government embraced a "neo-liberal"
economic policy, as evidenced by the Free Trade Zone on the Haiti-Dominican
Republic border. In fact, successive Lavalas administrations resisted
privatization and developed an economic and social agenda centered
on local development, health care, a massive literacy program, enforcing
taxation of the elite and raising the minimum wage. Of the 11 national
industries that the IMF demanded be privatized in 1994, the Lavalas
government sold off only two of them. Aristide's refusal to cave
in on privatization is one of the reasons international financial
institutions cut off loans to Haiti.
Batay Ouvriye focused its work in the Free Trade Zone, where workers
make far more than they do in the Port-au-Prince sweatshops owned
by Haiti's elite. The Aristide administration targeted these sweatshops,
where workers are paid, in some cases, as low as 55 gourds a day
and are killed, arrested, beaten or fired if they try to organize.
This could account for the passion with which the Group of 184,
representing Haiti's business elite, mobilized to support the U.S.-French
coup against Aristide. And this could also explain why Yannick Etienne
of Batay Ouvriye, who allied with the Group of 184's attacks on
the Aristide government, fails to condemn conditions in the elite's
Ms. Etienne grudgingly admits that President Aristide raised the
minimum wage and drew the ire of the State Department and Haiti's
elite in the process. But she neglects to mention that immediately
after the coup, many of the Port-au-Prince sweatshop owners retracted
the raise and lowered wages.
The United States and France staged the coup in Haiti not just for
"cheap labor", but to destroy a social movement that had
given hope, democracy, literacy, schools, health care, and even
parks, to Haiti's majority. This movement made Haitian Creole an
official language, and recognized Vodou as a religion. The United
States attacks Haiti, like it does Cuba and every country in the
world that has tried to take an independent path to development,
to prevent the emergence of an alternative model that supports the
majority of the population.
Why is all of this absent from Mr. Baldwin's article? Why does he
fail to discuss the work of Haiti's grassroots labor and peasant
federations, who overwhelmingly support Lavalas? In doing so, he
presents a distorted picture of Haiti's reality. The Aristide government
and the Lavalas movement were - and are -- the _expression of the
hopes and dreams of the clear majority of Haitians. That is why
so many Haitians have taken to the streets, risking arrest, torture
and assassination, to demand the return of Aristide and democratic
We would be happy to provide Dollars and Sense with the names of
labor activists from Haiti who could share with you a far different
analysis from that presented by Batay Ouvriye. Are you interested?
For more information, see reports of Haiti Accompaniment Project
and Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti or visit the Haiti
Action Committee website at: www.haitiaction.net.
for the Haiti Action Committee
PO Box 2218
Berkeley, CA 94702
Daytime phone: 510-845-7114, x115
Regarding OPL and Batay Ouvriye
By Marguerite Laurent, June 15, 2005
The primary complaints of the OPL
Party and Batay Ouvriye against President Aristide is that he sold
out to the neoliberalist. Yet, out of 11 state owned enterprises
only 2 of the smallest enterprises (cement & flour mill) were
privatized and said privatization occured under President Preval,
not President Aristide and, most importantly were passed by an OPL
controlled legislature, not a Fanmi Lavalas-controlled legislature.
It is time for pro-democracy peace
and justice activists to confront these so-called "leftist"
in Haiti, with international reach, for they are desperate to regain
some legitimacy. For us, at HLLN, this CPUSA resolution brings into
sharp focus how the Batay Ouvriyes, OPL, MPP's et al. are continuing
to stand against the people of Haiti while projecting, in the international
community, this idea that they speak for the people. They don't.
Chamille Charles of PAPDA talks about how bad neoliberalism is but
it is just that: TALK. PAPDA's second in command, Yve Andre Wainwright
is the current Minister of the Environment under the illegal and
discredited Latortue government! - and we know definitely Latortue
was not elected by any Haitian voter or worker.
What progressives in the U.S. may define as "leftist"
or "worker" has an altogether different meaning also in
Haiti as applied to OPL, Batay Ouvriye, et al in Haiti. For instance,
no one in the U.S. would say Jesse Helms or Roger Noreiga his protégé
are "leftist" concerned with "workers rights."
Yet, one of the key contacts for Jesse Helms in Haiti was Gérard
Pierre-Charles of OPL, known as a so-called "leftist".
And we also saw how they had done a job on this sector in Venezuela.
A quick look at the money trail, at the who funds Batay Ouvriye,
PABDA and you will discover that many of these so-called anti-neoliberalism
groups, (perhaps because they pushed the "anti-Aristide"
line of the neocons), were funded by mainstream organizations who
are on the right of right.
What US progressive may not understand is that Haiti is a country
filled with "non-workers." With an "informal sector"
that is the economic backbone of Ti Pèp La - the masses in
Haiti. As high as 70% under the Constitutional government and up
to over 90% unemployment right now because of the Coup D'etat these
"leftist" help sponsor. Who then, do these progressive
unions represent? And do their file and rank numbers not want the
return of President Aristide? Where's their proof of membership.
If most Haitians work in the informal sector and are labelled "non-workers"
and unrepresented by unions such as Ouvriye, then aren't they representing
the select few to the detriment of the masses of "non-workers"
pressing for a representative government instead of this foreign
imposed cabal, that would recognize their right to jobs, health
care, schooling, housing, clean drinking water, safe working conditions,
living wages, et al.
HLLN and other pro-democracy groups, such as Haiti Action Committee,
and Veye Yo, can show almost on a daily basis thousands upon thousands
of Haitians - the majority in Haiti, requesting for the return to
Constitutional rule. It would seem these petti bourgeois "leftist"
leaders? speak to their own interest and not FOR the people of Haiti
and never have.
OPL has strong family links with Batay Ouvriye. These theorists
left but walk right. What they project on the international scene
how they are viewed in Haiti are vastly different.
Their role in the bicentennial Coup D'etat is undisputed. Thus,
these people, can by no stretch of the imagination, be labeled "progressives."
What the unions and workers-advocacy groups in the U.S. may not
understand is that most of these unionist and progressives in Haiti,
spent a lot of time undermining Haiti's national sovereignty, not
because they had worker proposals that weren't passed by the Lavalas
governments, but because they personally wanted higher positions
in that government and felt rejected. PAPDA, Batay Ouvriye, SOFA,
KAYFANM, et al, with the
help of international "progressives" like Charles Authur
of England, so
maligned the Aristide government it is not an exaggeration to say
actively participated in bringing on the Coup D'etat. And are
responsible and should be made accountable for the great suffering
the Haitian people today under this Bush's death regime. Fact is,
the former Duvalierist who where re-imaged as "Civil Society"
funded by IRI, USAID "democracy enhancement programs"
so where these
so-called progressives. They were bought. Their constituencies are
foreigners, not Haitians - workers or non-workers.
They are still playing to their foreign constituency.
HLLN is in touch with many Haitians on the ground in Haiti,
with first hand knowledge of these groups, who could provide a
different view of these groups than they are projecting to the
international workers unions and groups.
If I can be of any help with this let me know. Below is a piece
not too long ago on this subject of "workers rights vs. national
sovereignty." It concerns Batay Ouvrye. I've removed the names
original but the substance is below and might shed further light
phony and irresponsible these so-called leftist groups from Haiti
Thanks for your continued support.
Marguerite Laurent, Esq.
Founder and Chair, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
to protecting the human, civil and cultural rights of Haitians living
at home and abroad)
June 15, 2005
Haiti: With Aristide elected,
then kidnapped, where ‘we’ stand is not the question
A Reply to Pierre Beaudet
[Pierre Beaudet's article titled "Haiti, the struggle continues"
appeared, among other places, on ZNet <http://tinyurl.com/b34mm>
(October 2, 2005)]
By Charles Demers and Derrick O’Keefe
Comrades: We cannot, as North American progressives, fall in to
a defense of the thuggery, autocracy and brutality of the Viet Cong
bandits – even if we are uncomfortable with elements of the
American intervention in Vietnam. Instead, we must insist on building
the civil society mechanisms needed to ensure the most democratic
Republic of South Vietnam possible.
Comrades: It’s useless to call for the return of the strong-arm
Bonapartist, Hugo Chavez. We must work within the new political
context, under President Carmona, to build a viable, participatory
Comrades: Cuba – I mean come on. What can I say about Cuba?With
an endless list of populist, democratic, and even authoritarian
third world leaders deposed in the ‘post’-colonial era
by the wealthy
countries of the North to grave ends and with disastrous consequences
in the South – Mossadegh, Lumumba, Allende, Sukarno, and,
yes, even the ill-conceived, vacuum-inducing ouster of the barbarous
Saddam Hussein, which has set the context for decades of confessional
violence in what was once Iraq – at least one lesson of history
ought to be abundantly clear for the Left. That lesson is that,
even with the best of intentions, Empire-builders drunk on hubris
have not and can not build safety, democracy or security over and
against the wills of subject peoples (even if the dubious claim
that this is what they’re doing is taken at face value, which
it oughn’t be).
The failure to learn this lesson is the crux of the problem with
recent contribution of Pierre Beaudet to the discussion on the
orientation that progressives and solidarity activists should adopt
towards the situation of French-, American- and Canadian-mandated
regime change Haiti; a greater problem even than his bungling of
simple, basic, and straightforward facts (Beaudet has, for instance,
René Preval running as a “‘stand-in’”
for Aristide in the elections
of 2000, when in actuality, the latter overwhelmingly won that
election himself). On the facts of the matter, the recently released
book Canada in Haiti, written by Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton,
rigorously exposes Ottawa’s financial, political and military
the February 29, 2004 coup d’état and subsequent occupation,
as the facts on the ground in Haiti.
Beaudet gives scant attention to these matters, preferring to recycle
unsubstantiated (and un-cited) blanket assertions of “rigged
elections” under Aristide. In fact, rather than explicitly
addressing the Left’s and his own organization’s position
Beaudet sets up a familiar and unconvincing straw-man: That those
actively involved in opposing the occupation of Haiti and calling
the return of constitutional order are uncritical apologists for
Aristide and the shortcomings of his government.
The facetious, hypothetical polemics advanced at the opening of
essay with regards to Vietnam, Venezuela and Cuba, are meant as
more than simply cheeky rhetorical devices; we are trying, instead,
highlight the absurdity of a debate which ought to have been easily
resolved with common sense, but instead consumes the Left on issues
such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Haiti. Put simply: It is a sad, dangerous
day when the imperatives and priorities of ‘first world’
NGOs, churches, trade unions or other associations (no matter how
well-meaning or benign) come to override the sovereignty of elected
and, even, unelected ‘third world’ governments. Beaudet’s
analogizing Aristide to Hussein and Noriega is mendacious and absurd,
but, in the end, moot; even in those horrific cases, progressive,
internationalist principles dictate the opposition to destabilization,
regime change from outside, and foreign intervention.
The overriding fact of the matter is: The recognized and sovereign
nation of Haiti carried out legal elections in the year 2000; a
process more decisive and perhaps closer to ideal than elections
carried out in another former slave republic of the Americas that
same year. In the midst of his term, the legitimate president was
kidnapped by historically hostile interlopers who ferried him into
exile from which he has been unable to carry out his mandate. The
clock stopped then for Haitian democracy; it starts again when he
With America pretending to control over Iraq, many ‘progressives’
the United States are trying to make the best of a ‘bad’
at least one sectarian socialist newspaper has called for Iraqis
make use of the “civic space” opened up by the occupation.
whether it’s Christopher Hitchens supporting the Iraqi occupation
advance secularism and Kurdish rights, or Pierre Beaudet supporting
the NGOs backing Aristide’s ouster for whatever ‘democratic’
rationales, their fundamental validations of the imperial project
untenable and unjust. After over 200 years of intimidation, debt
slavery and foreign invasion, the Haitian people deserve the freedom
to create their own national destiny – replete with glories
mistakes. This is where solidarity activists should stand: behind
the Haitian people, and the organized expression of their own free
ZNet | Haiti
October 15, 2005
The Enemy of My Donor is My Enemy
Why government funding and progressive institutions don't mix
by Joe Emersberger
[Note: This is a reply to Pierre Beaudet <http://tinyurl.com/b34mm>
of the Canadian-government-funded NGO 'Alternatives', whose article
was a reply to Nik Barry-Shaw <http://tinyurl.com/c5bhh>,
who argued that 'Alternatives' was a tool of Canadian foreign policy.]
October 15, 2005
Canada is backing a brutal unelected regime in Haiti that is
preparing for sham elections by ensuring the most popular Lavalas
leaders and activists are either dead, in prison or in hiding. One
reason Canada has succeeded in getting away with its murderous
policies in Haiti is the support they have received from CIDA funded
groups like Alternatives. 
These groups pose as leftists but often parrot the line of the Haiti's
elite (like the recently acquitted Jodel Chamblain) who now run
Haiti with direct assistance from Ottawa. Haiti has exposed the
rot within many "progressive" institutions and the dangers
inherent in receiving any government funding. For this reason alone,
the piece Rabble.ca published on October 6, 2005 by Peirre Beaudet
- a founding member of Alternatives - should be examined by anyone
interested in developing genuinely
progressive movements. Alternatives lists as 'supporters' people
Naomi Klein, who, having interviewed Aristide and helped get the
word out about the 2004 coup, would probably be surprised to see
her name used as a smokescreen for Beaudet's ill-informed and reprehensible
Beaudet wrote that Haiti's elections were "rigged" in
appears to be ignorant of the fact that Aristide, not Rene Preval,
won the presidential election of 2000. Putting aside the clarity
his writing, anyone who has bothered to look into the elections
knows they were not rigged. The OAS disputed the way voting percentages
were calculated for several senatorial seats (despite knowing about
the procedure beforehand).  They believed the vote for those
seats should have gone to a second round. The OAS did not question
scale of the Lavalas victory and noted that Haitians "voted
numbers in an atmosphere of relative calm and absence of intimidation.."
The results were consistent with what US
commissioned polls predicted.
The OAS refused to monitor the presidential vote that followed the
"flawed" legislative elections. Aristide's opponents boycotted.
U.K. Economist, a right wing magazine hostile to Aristide, reported
at the time that their boycott was "a welcome way for them
face, since none would have come close to defeating the far more
popular Mr Aristide and his well-organised party." 
The opposition boycott and the OAS refusal to monitor the presidential
election has proven useful to those who have dismissed Aristide's
victory. Beaudet claims, without citing a source, that only 15%
of the electorate showed up. That number doesn't stand up to scrutiny.
A USAID poll
weeks before the election found that 92.8% of the electorate knew
the vote and that 56% were "very likely" to vote. Another
22.7% were "somewhat likely to vote". Those numbers support
the claims by
independent observers and Haitian officials that turnout was 60%..
Beaudet wrote that after the elections "the big international
kept out, creating around Haiti an invisible wall of isolation and
neglect." In reality Canada seized on the fuss made over the
seats to follow the US and the EU in blocking hundreds of millions
dollars in critically needed aid from the government. The
"international community" told Aristide that for aid flows
he would have to cut a deal with his opponents to hold new elections.
His opponents refused to accept their designated seats on the
Provisional Elections Council, which (given the stance of international
donors) became necessary for balloting to occur. The opposition
therefore sustained the pretext that the US and EU used to withhold
aid. Haiti was not neglected. It was deliberately destabilized.
Contrary to the impression given by Beaudet with his mention of
"popular demonstrations" Aristide remained far more popular
than his opponents even after the aid embargo. A US government commissioned
poll in 2002 confirmed why the opposition insisted on Aristide's
departure rather than allow elections in which he would run 
Beaudet refers vaguely to Aristide's crimes while in office and
no attempt to place them (or his achievements) in proportion to
of his opponents. The military junta that overthrew Aristide
1991 murdered at least 3000 people according to mainstream human
rights organizations like Human Rights Watch. 
Even if one holds Aristide responsible for the actions of supporters
during his subsequent time in office it is impossible to conclude
that his crimes were remotely comparable or that he relied on violence
to retain power. In fact, most of the serious abuses during Aristide's
time in office were committed by his armed opponents. 
Since the coup Haiti has been subjected to repression of similar
magnitude to what occurred under the military rule. Thousands of
Lavalas supporters have been murdered, imprisoned or exiled. 
That isn't surprising because people like Jodel Chamblain, who were
deeply involved with repression during the military regime, have
been acquitted of crimes, sprung from prison, and even paid "compensation"
by the unelected regime. 
The "flaws" of 2000 elections provoked devastating sanctions,
but the "international community" happily resumed aid
while Lavalas supporters are filling up morgues and prisons.
Should progressives want any part of organizations like Beaudet's
that fail to speak up against such monstrous hypocrisy?
Then Beaudet sinks even lower by asserting, again without citing
source, that since the latest coup "Aristide has succeeded
hands with some of the hard-nose gangs in the capital to create
havoc". The theory that Aristide is directing gangs in Haiti
remote control from South Africa has been made by Roger Norriega
- a U.S. diplomat who helped organize the Contra army that terrorized
Nicaragua throughout the 1980s. One would hope that only Bush
Administration officials would be capable of spewing such an
outlandish claim, but in Canada the state of ignorance about Haiti
such that government funded "progressives" spew it as
The left should stand for the right of Haitians to vote
or the Reverend Gereard Jean Juste or for whomever they want without
having to worry that the "international community" will
conspire with sweatshops owners and death squad leaders to veto
their choice. We should not let government funded "progressives"
get in the way.
 CIDA is the Canadian International Development Agency.
Alternatives' website says that "government sources",
provide 50% of its funding. (see here) CIDA is also the direct
employer of Philipe Vixamar - Haiti's Deputy Minister of Justice.
That would be the ministry responsible for acquitting mass murderer
Jodel Chamblain while imprisoning the Rev, Gerard Jean Juste, whom
Amnesty International has designated a "prisoner of conscience".
more details about the Vixamr see Thomas Griffin's report cited
CIDA recently announced http://tinyurl.com/7d5pc that "more
million to help local media representatives provide fair and balanced
reporting during and after the electoral period: the training will
provided by Alternatives and Réseau Liberté"
 Rabble.ca lists Alternatives as a "business partners"
proudly claims <http://www.alternatives.ca/article99.html>
Klein and Judy Rebick as "supporters".
 The OAS was aware of the procedure since 1999 when it was
directly involved in Haition elections. See "Canada in Haiti:
war on the Poor Majority" by Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton:
OAS CHIEF OF MISSION REPORTS TO PERMANENT COUNCIL ON HAITI
ELECTIONS: July 13, 2000 <http://tinyurl.com/7h5dk>
 Economist: "The inevitable president"; Nov 16, 2000
"Canada in Haiti: Waging war on the Poor Majority":
pg 31, 34;
cited note 3
 OAS Resolution 822 said that the Provisional Electoral Council
(CEP) would have be formed "in accordance with the process
by the OAS in the Draft Initial Accord (Rev. 9) of June 12, 2002,
later than two months after adoption of this resolution." The
stated that the nine member CEP would have one member from the
rabidly anti-Aristide Deomcraticque Convergence and another member
taken from The Haitian Chamber of Commerce.
 NYT: Tracy Kidder, op-ed, NYT, Feb 26,2004;
 On Aristide's (and his supporter's) achievements see
 Shortly before Aristide's return Human Rights Watch reported
that "Conservative estimates put the death toll since the coup-d'etat
at 3,000 and rising"
 Below from NLR: Option Zero in Haiti by Peter Hallward
<http://tinyurl.com/a3ssp>: "Amnesty International's
the years 2000-03 attribute a total of around 20 to 30 killings
the police and supporters of the FL—a far cry from the 5,000
committed by the junta and its supporters in 1991–94, let
50,000 usually attributed to the Duvalier dictatorships.....
Amnesty International reports indicate that at least 20 police
officers or FL supporters were killed by army veterans in 2001,
another 25 in further paramilitary attacks in 2003, mostly in the
lower Central Plateau near the US-monitored Dominican border."
 See Thomas Griffin's Report "HAITI HUMAN RIGHTS INVESTIGATION:
NOVEMBER 11-21, 2004" <http://www.law.miami.edu/news/368.html>
Published by University of Miami. See also "Keeping the Peace
Haiti?" Published by Harvard Law School <http://tinyurl.com/8tou3>
 Congresswoman Maxine Waters and several of her colleges wrote
letter to George Bush on Jan 7, 2005 strongly protesting that the
funded regime was paying "compensation" to the murderous
army. They put Canada's NDP to shame. For more details see "Canada
Haiti" pg 63 cited in note 3
 Alternatives... to what? Why is this Canadian NGO acting as
tool of imperialism? <http://tinyurl.com/c5bhh> Nikolas Barry-Shaw
Imperialism, and the Treachery of Liberals by Shirley
Pate, Znet, October 15, 2005
A Situation of Terror: Haitian Union Leader on the 2004
coup Paul chry interviewed
by Keven Skerrett, ZNET,
Nov. 4, 2005
In late September 2005, the General Secretary of the Confédération
des travailleurs haitiens (CTH - one of Haiti’s biggest unions),
Paul “Loulou” Chéry, visited Ottawa and Montréal.
Chéry was on a speaking tour organized to allow Canadian
and Québecois trade unionists direct access to a trade union
voice from Haiti.
Kevin Skerrett, a trade union researcher active
with the Canada Haiti Action Network, interviewed Loulou on September
26. The interview focused particular attention on the perspective
of Haiti’s labour movement on the February 29, 2004 coup d’état
that overthrew Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide,
along with thousands of other elected officials. The following is
a translation and transcript of that interview.
Kevin Skerrett: First of all, can you introduce yourself a bit,
and give us a sense of the current situation in Haiti?
Loulou Chéry: Yes, my name is Paul “Loulou” Chéry,
and I am the General Secretary of the Confédération
des Travailleurs Haitiens, the CTH. I follow the current situation
very closely, obviously, especially the situation of the labour
movement, and the population in general. After the coup of 29 February,
2004, the general situation has deteriorated a great deal. It is
a crisis without precedent, our population has not known a situation
this grave since the founding of the country. There is the appearance
of life, but in reality, there is no life.
The majority of the population has been plunged into misery, and
exclusion. At the level of the workers, there is hopelessness, as
there are practically no jobs. There are, maybe, 15% of the population
who are truly employed. Even those who work, do not have the “luxury”
of being unionized. There are some exceptions to this. For example,
we have the APN, the National Port Authority, and there is a union
there, a strong union, affiliated to the CTH. At the post office,
there is a union which is linked to the Québec Federation
of Labour, which also has a good working relationship with the CTH.
There is also Teleco (the publicly-owned national telephone company),
where there is a union which is independent, but which also has
a relationship with the FTQ (Québec Federation of Labour).
As for the other state enterprises, there are not really any unionized
workforces, and in the private sector, there is practically no unionization.
There are only unions in certain professions, such as teachers,
artisans, informal sector, transport, and here they are independent
Currently, as you know, we are facing elections, in order to elect
a president, a president who will succeed President Boniface [Alexandre],
the current de facto president, who replaced President Aristide
after the coup. At this point, the de facto government is conducting
a witch-hunt. They are creating a situation of terror, a situation
of fear, of systematic repression. This repression has resulted
in the killing of thousands of people since the execution of the
coup. Despite this, they are now organizing elections.
What is the reaction of the population to this planning of elections?
The people are not ready for elections, this is clear. They are
organizing them anyway, because the three countries (Canada, US,
France) have to prove that they were right to remove President Aristide
through the coup. They have to prove to everyone that this was the
only solution, and so they are proceeding with the elections even
though any future “elected” president will be what we
call a “puppet” president – meaning, a president
who has no power. No real power. The real decisions will be taken
by Washington, by Ottawa, etc.
And, I think, right after February 7 2006, the protests will start
the very next day. These elections are already contested. And this
will create a paralysis.
KS: So this new president is not going to have any legitimacy in
the minds of the population?
LS: No. It’s impossible, because it will not be the will of
the population that will be expressed in these elections; it’s
the will of small groups who will “select” someone to
be the president.
KS: On the coup d’état itself, the Government of Canada
has claimed that President Aristide had lost support among the population
LS: This is false. It’s totally false. Whatever they say,
it’s false. Certain small groups were manipulated by certain
political leaders of the political opposition. And, the Group 184,
which is led by the bosses, did influence a student group, which
unfortunately today regrets what happened, and they now understand
that the situation is totally different from what they had claimed
at the time.
KS: Were there not trade unions that signed-on to the Group 184
(a “civil society” political opposition group)?
LS: There were no unions; there were certain trade unionists.
KS: What’s the difference?
LS: The union is the structure that brings together the collectivity
of the membership. But, there were certain influential individuals
who went around the union structure, and affiliated themselves to
the Group 184 as individuals. Doing so meant going completely outside
the norms, the principles, the democracy of the union. This is to
say, it did not reflect the labour movement or any of the unions
as a whole. This was a small group of what we call, in general,
we refer to these individuals as dissidents, dissidents who use
the name of the movement, who leave the movement and use the name
of the movement to involve themselves in politics.
KS: So, for you, for a Canadian NGO, such as Rights and Democracy,
to suggest that the Group 184 was a “promising” civil
society movement, what would be your reaction to this suggestion?
LS: Listen, this was a systematic campaign of dismantling and destabilization
of the Lavalas government. It was a media campaign, orchestrated
by certain media in Haiti, of which I could give you several names,
that supported and paid a lot of money to spin lies and send lies
outside of Haiti, to say that President Aristide had lost his popularity.
On the ground, it’s completely different. I can give you an
example. On the first of January 2004, there were about one million
Haitians in the streets, supporting President Aristide. And again,
on the 7th of February, there were more than one million Haitians
out in the streets supporting President Aristide – more than
a million! Imagine! And never, ever, could the opposition put close
to 100,000 people in the street. Never. It’s just like in
Venezuela. Remember? There was a small group who wanted to overthrow
President Chavez. Fortunately, they weren’t able to do this…
KS: They nearly did.
LS: Yes, nearly. But the population mobilized, and they blocked
it. They stopped a coup very similar to what later unfolded in Haiti.
KS: And perhaps, without the intervention of the US military in
Haiti, we might have seen the same mobilization, the same sort of
thing could have happened in Haiti. A popular mobilization in defense
of their elected government.
LS: Exactly. Because, the US trained a group of former military,
former soldiers, former police officers – now called “rebels”
– who went into certain areas of the country, and started
killing people, killing police officers. It became a “capture”
of the population that they would use to justify their intervention.
And, in doing so, they killed the dream of the people with this
KS: We have heard a lot in the alternative press, since the coup,
about the fact that there are still many people in Haiti who continue
to demonstrate in the streets their support for President Aristide
and the elected constitutional government. But in our Canadian newspapers,
such as the Globe and Mail, and even in some of our “alternative
media”, such as the NGO called Alternatives, we read about
a supposed campaign of violence, a terror campaign, carried out
by Lavalas called “Operation Baghdad”. I’d like
to know your reaction to these stories.
LS: They use this phrase to demonize the movement, the people, and
Lavalas supporters in particular, in order to stop this movement.
There have been instances, at times, of infiltration by thugs, who
infiltrate demonstrations in order to create panic and disorder.
But in general, the demonstrations are quite peaceful. However,
several times, I don’t have all the dates right here, but
several times, it has been the police that opened fire on the crowd.
And, this did provoke a hostile reaction from the crowd, some of
whom went after the police, and things degenerated. They took from
this, they labeled this “Operation Baghdad”. But there
is no “Operation Baghdad”. It’s totally false.
KS: It doesn’t exist?
LS: It doesn’t exist! It’s to misinform people, to distract
people away from the real problems, and the real causes of this
KS: Last question. Our government, the Government of Canada, is
claiming that they are delivering financial aid for the reconstruction
of Haiti, the construction of highways, of schools, etc. What is
your sense of the validity of these claims, and what is the perception
of Canada among the population of Haiti?
LS: The people of Haiti view the United States, Canada, France,
and even the United Nations, very badly. Very badly. Because, the
population does not see among these countries any will to truly
help the population. We don’t see it. There are promises,
promises to donate and rebuild, and these promises today remain
just that - promises. The suggestion that Canada has been building
highways – I have not seen a single kilometre of highway built
by Canada. I am not everywhere, I live in Port-au-Prince, so it’s
possible that I may have missed something – but I doubt it.
I think I would have heard about this.
KS: Loulou, thanks for your time.
LS: No problem.
On November 12, at 1:00pm, the Canada Haiti Action Network will
kick off a “Pan-Canadian Week of Action” in solidarity
with the people of Haiti with a mass demonstration on Parliament
Hill in Ottawa. For more information, see: http://www.canadahaitiaction.ca
To join the email info-list of the Canada Haiti Action Network,
"Transformation is only valid if it is carried
out with the people, not for them. Liberation is like a childbirth,
and a painful one. The person who emerges is a new person: no longer
either oppressor or oppressed, but a person in the process of achieving
freedom. It is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can
free their oppressors."