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With Prime Minister besieged, Coup Rumors Swirl 

Haiti Progrès  

 

 

This Week in Haiti,  November 28 - December 3, 2001 

Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca,  November 2001



For months now, Washington has applied a low flame to its "nation unbuilding" experiment in Haiti. Now the beaker is beginning to boil.

 

Millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been funneled to the Democratic Convergence (CD), a hodgepodge of opposition parties with practically no popular following. U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran has repeatedly blamed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party (FL) for thwarting Organization of American States (OAS)-umpired "negotiations" with the CD aimed at settling a dispute over elections last year. Ironically, the OAS was the body which started the dispute (over how the run-off determination for seven Senate races was calculated), and the FL has made all the concessions and the CD none (even though the FL has until recently enjoyed wide popular support and the CD none).

But the most effective weapon in Washington's low-intensity war against the Haitian people has been its blockage of international aid. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved $145.9 million in loans to Haiti aimed at improving health care, schools, water systems, and roads. But the U.S. State and Treasury departments have vetoed release of these loans to Haiti until the electoral dispute with the CD is resolved. There are no signs that this will happen any time soon, if ever.

Most shocking of all, Haiti must pay the arrears and interest on the loans which have been "granted" but not yet "released." If this situation continues for another month, Haiti will begin having a net outflow to the IDB, paying approximately $10 million more than it hopes to eventually receive.

Meanwhile, the country's vital statistics continue to plummet. Four percent of the population is infected with HIV; infant mortality is 74 per thousand; there are 1.2 doctors for every 10,000 people; only 4% of the population has access to piped water. Dramatic statistics like these have caught the attention of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus which, among other actions, wrote a Nov. 8 letter signed by all 38 members to U.S. president George W. Bush asking that he change his "inflexible policy" which "is contributing to the continued attrition of the quality of life of Haiti's people" and "if left unchanged could lead to horrendous outcomes for the western hemisphere's poorest people."

Despite such passionate (though likely futile) appeals, the situation looks bleak for the FL and its government. Scandals revealing corruption and the waste of precious public funds have enraged the Haitian people, who have constantly been asked to sacrifice and be patient (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 19, No. 31, 10/17/01).

Almost daily, demonstrations erupt in cities around the country, demanding delivery on last year's rosy Lavalas promises. Two weeks ago in Cap Haïtien, some FL politicians attempted to organize a pro-government counter-demonstration but were forced to flee the street under a rain of stones and jeers. Now, some FL politicians are trying a new tactic: they are joining in demonstrations to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Jean-Marie Chérestal, thereby channeling popular anger away from the party and president who installed him.

"We are calling for a mobilization against the Chérestal government, which is a hypocritical, anti-people government which works against President Aristide, against the Haitian people, and against the popular organizations," said Paul Raymond of the St. Jean Bosco Little Church Community, an FL-aligned popular organization. He also called for "a general mobilization without rest in the four corners of the country in all forms, but under the banner of peace, against the Convergence and the political racketeers who have payoffs in their hands."

Certain FL popular organizations in the Artibonite went so far as to take FL Senators Lans Clonès and Gérald Gilles "hostage" for a day on Nov. 22 in the town of Pont-Sondé when the two were returning to the capital from Cap Haïtien. Given that both senators have made statements favoring Chérestal's resignation, the hostage-taking appears to have been contrived. "I imagine that the organizations had nothing against [Gilles and Clones], but just held them to attract attention to their protest and then released them," said Jonas Petit, an FL spokesperson.

Another FL senator admits that Chérestal's replacement can only be a temporary solution, at best, and that the FL's strategic reliance on U.S.-controlled aid had to be reconsidered. "If we remain here saying that we are waiting for international aid and that we have before us a government incapable of creativity, we are going straight to failure," said Sen. Prince Sonçon Pierre, president of the Senate Finance commission. "President Aristide has always said that he prefers to fail with the people that to succeed without them, and that with the people, we cannot fail. In this sense, I think that we senators must reflect and see how we can bring our contribution, not in the 'dechoukaj' [uprooting] of an individual, but in ridding the people of this sinister gift," i.e. a phantom interest-sucking loan.

Meanwhile, Haitian unions also have joined the chorus condemning the FL's government. In a statement, unionists said that signs of "anarchy" last week included a vigorously-repressed uprising at the National Penitentiary, in which five died and many were wounded; an "aggression" by alleged FL-linked individuals against ex-senator Edgard Leblanc in the town of Marigot; and the murder of two money-changers by a band of thieves who dressed as policemen and used a car loaned to them by FL Deputy Jean Robert Placide. The unionists, who had previously laid down a Nov. 15 deadline for a solution to the political crisis, sent out a call "to all the nation's forces to adhere to any action" aimed at installing a state of law and social progress. As a part of this mobilization, the member organizations of the Haitian Union Collective organized a meeting on Nov. 22.

Last week, FL Sen. Dany Toussaint, a former soldier, declared that he felt all the conditions were in place for a coup d'état. He said that today one sees the same scenario as that which led up to the Sep. 30, 1991 coup d'état. "I think that we are in a truly difficult moment where we are reliving what we went through in 1991," Toussaint said. "There is a Prime Minister who is at odds with part of the Parliament. At the National Penitentiary, there were the same sort of uprisings. In Pétionville in 1991, the police rose up, and the Haitian Navy rose up... Thus we see the same thing repeating itself and that should make us reflect. I think that this is not the moment for Lavalas senators and the Lavalas government to enter into conflict. The same club will be used against everybody, will make everybody flee." According to Toussaint, this imminent coup will be the work of a "third hand" wielding a "club which will hit the Lavalas, many people of the opposition, and those who are in internal conflict."

Although Toussaint did not accuse the Convergence of the plot, Evans Paul, alias K-Plim, of the KID/Espace/Convergence rejected the idea of a coup. "When the Lavalas now cries coup d'état, it would like to point at other people. They are looking for pretexts to justify repression, since it is clear that the only sector in a position to make a coup d'état is the Lavalas since they control all the levers of the State... These are political maneuvers to try to deflect the popular mobilization which is crying out against hunger and against poverty, against the pilferers of public funds. I think that it is an insult that they want to compare the legitimate revolt of the people to a mere plot," said K-Plim who has encouraged the anti-FL mobilization in recent days.

As usual, there is a little truth everywhere, but all of it misleading. There is no doubt that a coup is possible and that the present political crisis is the result of two years of political sabotage, economic strangulation, and low-intensity war, all supported by Washington, which has been intent on circumscribing (in the case of the Democrats) or eliminating (in the case of the Republicans) Aristide since he began his return to the presidency. There is also no doubt that the Lavalas Family has played right into Washington's game, packing its own ranks and government with Duvalierists, putschists, and opportunists in a futile attempt to appease Washington. It is hard now to tell which is more responsible for the FL's accelerating collapse: pressure from the outside or rot from within.

Aristide may soon buy some time by forcing (if he is able) the resignation of Chérestal, with or without his cabinet. But the crisis will not be long abated.

The National Popular Party (PPN) has called for the formation of an "alternative front" of all rebelling sectors which are not Duvalierist, or aligned with the Convergence or Lavalas Family. It is now a race to see if the U.S. and its Haitian allies will be able to consummate yet another coup, as they have on several occasions since the fall of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, or whether, once again, the Haitian people can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by reconstituting and revitalizing the democratic nationalist movement which once proudly wore the name of Lavalas.


Copyright,  Haiti Progres, Inc. Reprints encouraged. Please credit Haiti Progrès.


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http://globalresearch.ca/articles/HAI112A.html