As Préval becomes president
Haiti’s crises persist
Published May 26, 2006 6:32 PM
René Préval was finally inaugurated
as Haiti’s president May 14, after being elected in February. The first
step, getting the sash of office, took a little longer than expected because the
electricity went out. Port-au-Prince had been suffering from outages all
Just before he spoke as the new president of Haiti, 800 prisoners,
mostly political prisoners, held a protest in the National Penitentiary, within
walking distance of the National Palace where Préval was inaugurated.
Reporters heard firing during the night and morning. Prisoners said that 12 of
them had been killed. The Haitian National Police admitted 11 prisoners had been
seriously injured and a number of cops had been hurt, but not
Préval’s speech was short. He emphasized peace and
dialog. Speaking in Creole, he said: “Peace has already begun to establish
itself. Peace is the key to open all the doors. To attract investment, to create
jobs. Jobs combat unemployment. To bring more tourism to the country. To bring
more schools, more hospitals.”
The Haitian radio station Metropole
broadcast interviews with people listening to Préval’s speech May
15, without asking people to identify themselves. The BBC’s Worldwide
Monitoring Service distributed a report in English on this broadcast a few days
The announcer began, “After the speech made by President Rene
Préval, some people in the crowd that gathered in front of the National
Palace say that Préval’s speech was not very convincing, while
others appreciate the straightforwardness that he expressed.”
first person interviewed commented, “He told us not to destroy the country
and to stand united for the country’s progress.”
said: “I am a Lavalas [the party of U.S.-deposed Haitian President Jean
Bertrand Aristide] partisan. I sincerely did not see anything serious in what he
said. He did not give us hope. I did not see anything that would cause us to be
The journalist asked interviewees, “What were you
expecting him to say?”
The first person interviewed responded:
“I was expecting him to speak to the people. It is the people who elected
him. He should have talked to the people about what he is going to do for them
and what he can do for them. But Préval did not say anything
A third person responded to a question about
solidarity: “Solidarity? With whom? If the people are not part of anything
then there cannot be solidarity. He did not put the people
Another person said: “Actually, I am really pleased
with what he said, especially concerning the military tanks of the UN
Stabilization Mission in Haiti [Minustah]. He wants the military tanks to be
replaced by bulldozers for the country’s development.”
Metropole ended its broadcast with a long quote from a Lavalas organizer, who
said in part: “If Préval is in power today it is because of
Aristide. There are three questions that we asked him. First, we told him that
in order for us to support him he would have to assure the immediate return of
Aristide. Second, he would have to assure the release of all the political
prisoners. And third, he would need to lower the high cost of living and make
education available for all of us.”
About 40 percent of school-age
Haitians are in school. The rest can’t afford the fees and supplies needed
to go. Sixty percent of all Haitians, especially those in rural areas where most
Haitians still live, try to survive on less than $1 a day.
The economy of
Haiti depends on foreign aid and remittances. The government is so broke that it
will have problems meeting its June payroll. It doesn’t even have the
money to finish the elections for the National Assembly.
offering solidarity. Through Petrocaribe, Venezuela is planning to supply
Haiti’s oil needs, about 11,000 barrels. The Venzuelan government said it
will donate as much asphalt as Haiti can use for a year.
shipment of 100,000 barrels of oil products arrived in Port-au-Prince’s
harbor May 15, the day after Préval’s inauguration.
Haitian government has inherited major problems, both political and economic.
Political prisoners that the departing de facto regime threw in jail without
charges are still there waiting to be released.
The medical aid that Cuba
provides and the oil from Venezuela are sorely needed by the Haitian people. The
White House will no doubt try to put pressure on President Préval to
break ties with these two anti-imperialist governments.
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