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Haitian militants reject U.S.-orchestrated elections

Published Sep 10, 2005 9:20 PM

In Haiti, which has been under the iron fist of UN/U.S. occupation for a year and a half, the imperialist-supported regime is trying to pull off national and local elections this fall to ease the political crisis there. This maneuver has led to a split in Fanmi Lavalas.

Fanmi Lavalas is the party of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the popular president who was forced out of his country on Feb. 29, 2004, by armed U.S. officials. Thou sands of its militants have either been imprisoned or murdered since then by the coup regime.

Early in August, Rudy Hériveaux, Yvon Feuillé and Louis Gérald Gilles, three high-ranking leaders of Lavalas, officially registered the party for the upcoming elections.

Their right to take such action was challenged by other leaders closer to the base of Fanmi Lavalas, particularly in the militant and impoverished communities of Belair and Cité Soleil, the source of numerous demonstrations supporting the return of Aristide as the rightful president. The Haitian National Police broke up most of these demonstrations by firing on and sometimes killing protesters.

The importance of Cité Soleil is well understood by the imperialists. In an article that itself tried to give credibility to elections held under military occupation, the Aug. 29 New York Times observed that “bringing some semblance of order to Cite Soleil and giving its residents a chance to vote in the elections are seen as important steps in establishing a new, credible government in Haiti.”

Cité Soleil a bastion of resistance

Cité Soleil is part of Port-au-Prince, but with 500,000 or so people living there, it is more than just a neighborhood. It is a bastion of Aristide support. Many people in this politically aware, extremely poor community say that without ending the occupation, restoring justice and the constitution, the people of Haiti have no chance of resolving the social and economic crisis afflicting their country.

On July 6, 1,400 UN soldiers with helicopter support entered Cite Soleil and assassinated Dread Wilme, a leader of the Lavalas Movement there, after a 12-hour gun battle. Yet the UN still doesn’t control Cité Soleil. UN forces conduct no regular patrols, have no checkpoints and operate only in armored personnel carriers.

“Political leaders in Cite Soleil are deeply skeptical of elections,” the same New York Times article admits, “having watched as Mr. Aristide, who twice took office in elections, was twice removed... .” But if Cite Soleil does not take part in them, the elections will not be regarded as fair and the current de facto government will not gain the political legitimacy it is seeking.

Since the February 2004 coup, the Nat ional Popular Party (PPN) has been working in a coalition with the popular organizations of the Fanmi Lavalas base, helping to organize demonstrations demanding the return of Aristide. In a statement released on Aug. 30, the PPN said that “to participate in these phony elections will give legitimacy to the Feb. 29 coup d’etat. This gesture will likewise say we accept the occupation of our country and the neo-liberal plan the IMF imposed.”

One of the first actions of the current Haitian regime was to open Haiti’s internal markets to competition from U.S. agribusiness, which can produce rice, one of Haiti’s staple foods, far cheaper than Haitian farmers can. Faced with losing their livelihood, even Haitian peasant org anizations that once opposed Aristide are now against the current government.

On Aug. 31, President Aristide issued a statement from exile in Pretoria, South Africa. “In Haiti, in order to have elections and not a ‘selection,’” it said, “the following steps must be taken: 1) The thousands of Lavalas who are in jail and in exile must be free to return home. 2) The repression that has already killed over 10,000 people must end immediately. 3) Then, there must be national dialog.”

A wave of renewed violence against Haitians living and working in the Dominican Republic has been accompanied by mass deportations. Since many Haitians working there send a portion of their meager wages home to support their families, this is deepening the economic crisis inside Haiti.

A coalition of Haiti support groups in the United States has called for the first session of an International Tribunal on Haiti to take place on Sept. 23 at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., the evening before a national march against the war in Iraq that is expected to draw thousands of protesters.

Prosecutors will present a detailed description of what preceded the coup and preliminary indictments covering the period when the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Repub lican Institute, two quasi-governmental U.S. agencies, were training successors to the Tonton Macoutes and other notorious paramilitary groups. The tribunal plans to present the details on actions taken by the governments of the United States, France and Canada to destabilize the Aristide government.

Most importantly, the International Tribunal on Haiti will introduce eyewitness and expert testimony on the daily slaughter being carried out by masked police with the criminal complicity, and increasing participation, of the UN occupation forces.

A blue-ribbon Commission of Inquiry, led by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, will be announced at the Sept. 23 session of the tribunal.