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Haitian reality under occupation

No normality, little food, heavy repression

By G. Dunkel

Gérard Latortue, the Boca Raton, Fla., business consultant appointed defacto prime minister after the Feb. 29 coup against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, visited France and Belgium May 12-14.

The main purpose of his trip--besides pleading for money from the European Union--was to renounce Aristide's demand for $21 billion in reparations from France.

After a slave revolution won independence in 1804, former colonial power France forced Haiti to pay 150 million gold francs to be recognized as a nation. No other initiative in Aristide's second term as president created as much enthusiasm and interest among the masses as the reparations demand.

In an interview with Le Monde May 13, Latortue asserted that Haiti doesn't have a legal right to the $21 billion, but that France does indeed have a moral obligation to provide aid. He said it could come in the form of a "line of credit"--most of it to be spent importing French products.

In their campaign to oust the democratically elected Aristide, the United States. and EU reneged on promises of financial aid. Instead they imposed devastating economic sanctions on the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, while assembling a rebel force of former military and death squad members in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

Aristide asserts that U.S. military personnel kidnapped him and forced him to leave Haiti.

Though more than two months have passed since the U.S./French-backed coup, foreign aid has not resumed. Latortue counseled patience. He told Le Monde, "I have worked too long for the United Nations not to know the slowness of the system."

His visit to France did have a slight payoff. French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier made a 24-hour visit to Port-au-Prince on May 15. It was the first visit by a top French diplomat in the 200 years since Haitian independence. Barnier promised a 1 million Euro grant to help pay back wages.

Latortue may see the necessity of patience. But Haiti's people, watching their children sometimes go days without food, don't have that luxury.

Many Haitian workers can only afford a meal every other day--if they are working. But many workers don't even have a job. Unemployment is 70 percent.

Teleco, the telephone company that is 90-percent government-owned, has announced plans to lay off half its workers--some 2,000 people. (Associated Press, May 12)

Some education and public-health workers haven't been paid for months.

Police and army

Adding to the already chaotic situation, the rebels who attacked Aristide's government in January and February have dissolved local police forces, freed human-rights abusers from prisons, and usurped control of the courts.

Aristide, near the end of his first term in the mid-1990s, had disbanded the Haitian Army, long known for its bloody repression of the masses.

The May 5 edition of Haiti Progress reported that Latortue and Interior Minister Gen. Hérard Abraham recently announced the re-establishment of the Haitian National Police (PNH). This is a first step toward reconstituting the army, said Haiti Progress, noting that Abraham had invited ex-soldiers to present their resumes to the National School of Justice May 2. Demonstrations were held in rebel strongholds that day demanding the Army's reconstitution.

If the old Haitian Army had continued to exist, the local capitalist class and their U.S. masters wouldn't have had to go to the trouble of building a rebel force of ex-army officers, Tonton Macoutes and FRAPH death squad goons to overthrow Aristide. They could have just ordered a military coup.

The bourgeoisie needs its bourgeois army, police force and justice system--the capitalist state--to effectively maintain its for-profit social order. Latortue and Abraham are maneuvering to strengthen that state, even if the Haitian Army's bloody history makes it difficult to openly proclaim this intention.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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