by Roger Annis / September 2005 issue of Socialist Action
Eighteen months after an imperialist invasion that served the overthrow of the elected government of Haiti, a ferocious repression continues to rain down
on the people of that country. The three invading countries—the United States, France, and Canada—appointed an illegal coup regime and have armed
and trained rightist gangs and police agencies to enforce its rule.
The coup regime and its armed gangs now rule the streets and countryside of Haiti, together with a United Nations-sponsored occupation force. They are
carrying out a bloody campaign to cripple the vast movement of Haitian people opposed to the coup. The repression is targeting, above all, the Lavalas
movement of the overthrown president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide was elected president in 2000 by a vote of 92 percent.
One of the latest killing sprees took place in the capital city, Port-au-Prince, on Aug. 10. The Haitian National Police entered the Bel Air district accompanied by plain-clothed thugs armed with machetes. As many as 10 people died from police bullets and machetes.
Last month, an international outcry followed an operation by Brazilian United Nations troops in the Cite Soleil district of Port au Prince on July 6. At 3
a.m. on that morning, UN troops sealed off two neighborhoods with tanks and troops. Two helicopters flew overhead. At 4:30 a.m., troops went on the
offensive, shooting into houses, shacks, a church, and a school with machine guns, tank fire, and tear gas. Leadership of the UN military forces in Haiti is
assigned to Brazil.
Eyewitnesses reported that when people fled to escape the tear gas, UN troops gunned them down from the back. Journalists and human rights workers who entered Cite Soleil in the hours and days after the attacks also reported bullet holes in the roofs of buildings, confirming eyewitness accounts that the helicopters had fired.
At least 25 people were counted dead in the hours and days after the attack. Witnesses also saw UN forces carting away bodies that could not be found and counted.
Film footage and eyewitness accounts of the assault were shared with a labor and human rights delegation from the United States that entered Cite Soleil the following day. The delegation was sponsored by the San Francisco Labor Council and had been in Haiti to attend the Congress of the Confederation of Haitian Workers (CTH) and to interview Haitian workers, farmers, and professionals about the current labor and human rights situation in Haiti.
Seth Donnelly, a member of the delegation, spoke to “Democracy Now” radio network on July 11: “We went to the local hospital that serves people from Cite
Soleil. It’s run by Doctors Without Borders. It doesn’t charge a fee, so very poor people can go to that hospital.
“Their records show an influx of civilian casualties. Starting at 11 a.m. on July 6, there were 26 people alone from Cite Soleil that came in, suffering mostly
from gunshot wounds. Out of that 26, 20 were women and children.”
The target of the July 6 UN operation was Lavalas supporter Dread Wilme. He was assassinated by UN troops during the operation.
Thousands of political prisoners languish in Haiti’s jails or are in internal exile. Among those in prison since last year are the prime minister under Aristide
and longtime politician, Yvon Neptune; former interior minister Jocelerme Privert; and well-known singer/songwriter Annette Auguste.
Catholic priest Gerard Jean-Juste was apprehended and imprisoned last month, on July 21. He is one of the most well-known figures to oppose the post-coup regime and has traveled and spoken frequently in the United
States on the human rights violations in Haiti.
Sham election: next stage of occupation
The foreign occupation forces in Haiti are preparing to stage three rounds of elections this autumn—municipal, national legislature, and presidential. They hope this will give legitimacy to their neocolonial rule. They are working intensely, and spending millions of dollars, to create a rightist political party with credibility, if not in Haiti, then at least abroad.
But so far, these elections fall short of the appearance of legitimacy. Thousands and tens of thousands of Haitians have demonstrated for the return
of their constitution and their elected government.
They have shown they will not accept a sham election. Only 20 percent of the population, 840,000 out of four million people of voting age, has submitted to the occupiers’ voter registration. Municipal elections that were planned for Oct. 9 have been postponed to a later, unspecified, date.
Most importantly, the Lavalas movement has said it will boycott the elections unless a series of minimal conditions are met. These would include the release of political prisoners, an end to the repression, disarming of rightist gangs, and a commitment for the withdrawal of foreign troops and police.
One thousand people demonstrated for these demands on Aug. 21 in Cap Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city. Their demands also included the resignation of the coup regime and the right of return of all exiles,
Failure of the occupation
As in Iraq, the occupation authorities have failed to bring improvement to the lives of ordinary Haitians. In fact, life has become much harder. Poverty and
unemployment in nearly universal. Violence is endemic, coming directly from the actions of police, rightist thugs, and UN forces, or indirectly from desperate
social conditions and the breakdown of the judicial system. Many social services have been dismantled.
The imperialist powers invaded Haiti in order to crush the popular movement that backed Aristide and brought him to power. The Haitian people used Aristide’s election in 1990 and again in 2000 to try and improve their lot. That spirit animates the continued protests against the coup regime and the demands for the return of the ousted government and constitution.
Aristide’s first government bent to the pressures and threats by imperialism. It accepted important concessions in economic and social policy as a condition of his restoration to power in 1994, following the first coup against him in 1991.
But these concessions were not good enough for Haiti’s neocolonial lords in Washington, Paris, and Ottawa. They refused to accept the results of the election in 2000 and embarked on a course to undo the results and overthrow his government. Aid money was sharply cut or eliminated.
Solidarity with Haiti is growing
There is a growing movement of awareness and solidarity with Haiti. On July 21, protests against the July 6 massacre were mounted in 13 U.S. cities,
five Canadian cities, in Paris, and in Brazil. Many of the protests targeted embassies or consulates of Brazil because of that country’s role as leader of the military component of the UN occupation force.
Here in Canada, solidarity committees have formed in six cities, and their work is increasingly coordinated through a countrywide body, the Canada Haiti Action Network. Each has set out ambitious programs of work in the coming months.
Campaigns for release of the political prisoners in Haiti are underway in several countries. Twenty-nine members of the U.S. Congress have signed an appeal to the U.S. government calling for Father Gerard Jean-Juste’s release. The appeal states, in part, “We write to express our profound concerns about the unjust imprisonment of Father Gerard Jean-Juste in Haiti. We urge you to take action at once to seek his immediate and unconditional release from prison.”
Commenting on the July 6 assault in Cite Soleil, Seth Donnelly told “Democracy Now” on July 11, “It seems to me that this really was a Warsaw Ghetto-type attack on an impoverished community. And I do think this is
emblematic of the ongoing war on the poor majority that is occurring in Haiti today. It requires people in the United States to stand in solidarity with the
people of Cite Soleil.”