HAÏTI PROGRES - This week in Haiti

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"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAÏTI PROGRES newsweekly. For the complete edition with other news in French and Creole, please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100, (fax) 718-434-5551 or e-mail at editor@haitiprogres.com. Also visit our website at www.haitiprogres.com.

HAÏTI PROGRES "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

* THIS WEEK IN HAITI * February 4 - 10, 2004 Vol. 21, No. 47


In recent weeks, the Haitian opposition, led by a U.S.-born sweatshop owner and financed by U.S. and European governments, has come up with two basic formulae for creating havoc in Haiti: 1) deviate from an agreed upon march route and provoke a battle with the police or 2) throw rocks at or beat up pro-government counter-demonstrators and provoke a melee with them.

After such confrontations, the bourgeoisie's radio stations, relied upon and echoed by most of the U.S. corporate press, shrilly relate the latest crackdown of the "Lavalas dictatorship," integrating the called in, anonymous "reports" of "listeners," which have often proved later to be inaccurate, exaggerated or complete fabrications.

This past week, the formula exploded in the face of the opposition and its media allies, once again discrediting them both. This is what happened.

In light of the growing aggressiveness and violence of the opposition's marches, which regularly beat-up onlookers (one recently to death) or journalists they perceive to be pro- government, the Higher Council of the National Police (CSPN) issued a Jan. 27 order that "any group wanting to make known its demands through demonstrations can do it on the Place of Italy in the Bicentennial district." But the opposition saw this as yet another opportunity for provocation.

The next day, Jan. 28, some students of the state university, under the banner of the opposition's "Group of 184," organized a symbolic funeral for President Jean-Bertrand Aristide near the United States Consulate, far from the Place of Italy, and even burned the symbolic coffin. Following their ceremony, these demonstrators were setting off to join other protestors when they encountered a group of Lavalas militants calling for respect of Aristide's five year mandate.

The opposition's "students" (who often turn out to be nothing of the sort), some of whom were inside the Law School, started to throw stones at the government's partisans. The pro-government crowd threw stones back, and a confrontation began.

The police's Company for Intervention and Maintenance of Order (CIMO) arrived on the scene and fired teargas grenades to break up the skirmish. One of the projectiles hit Lionel Victor, a 29- year-old father of two girls, in the back.

He was taken by ambulance to the Canapè Vert hospital, where he died a few minutes after arrival.

Opposition demonstrators, always in search of fresh corpses to hold up, insisted that he was a student at the Medical School. One opposition leader, Hervè Saintilus, even went on the radio to say that the victim had been seen several times taking part in meetings at the university's rectory. Law School Professor Aviol Fleurant was trotted out to declare that he recognized Victor as a university student.

Meanwhile, the opposition's "students" ignited burning tire barricades in front of the Canapè Vert hospital to demand that Victor's body be turned over to them. That was, until his wife showed up.

Islande Gèlin, the mother of his Victor's children, Samantha and Cindy, arrived at the hospital with a picture of their family to prove her relationship to him. When questioned by journalists, she confirmed that her husband was not a student at all, but a Lavalas militant.

Professor Fleurant quickly recanted his "testimony." Just as quickly, the opposition's "students" left the scene, enraged. They vented their fury on Rood Chèry, a photographer for the state newspaper L'Union, whom they found outside. He was severely beaten, the second L'Union photographer to be physically attacked in the past two weeks.

On January 30, President Aristide received Islande Gèlin and other family members of Lionel Victor at the National Palace to present his condolences. During the meeting, Islande Gèlin explained how "students" had badgered her at the hospital as she sought to claim the body of her husband.

The Associated Press and Reuters also reported that Victor was "student," with no ensuing corrections, in stories that slyly blamed the government for the violence and Victor's death.

Meanwhile, at Washington's behest, CARICOM has taken the lead in meddling in Haiti's internal affairs, supplanting for the moment the long-stymied Organization of American States (OAS). A gaggle of Haitian businessmen, who increasingly speak on behalf of the opposition instead of long-discredited professional politicians, met with CARICOM "mediators" in Nassau, Bahamas on Jan. 20 and 21.

(Arch-reactionary Miami-based Haitian businessman Olivier Nadal, an eccentric precursor to the more successful factory-owner-cum- opposition-leader Andrè Apaid, revealed the bourgeoisie's rage at two renegade businessmen, F. Carl Braun and Edouard Baussan of Unibank. In a public email polemic, he castigated the two for independently meeting with CARICOM officials, where they reportedly gave a more balanced account of events in the country).

Refusing any participation or even observation by the Haitian government, the opposition representatives claimed they wanted only to present their grievances and update CARICOM leaders Prime Ministers Perry Christie of the Bahamas, P.J. Patterson of Jamaica, Patrick Manning of Trinidad & Tobago on the situation in Haiti (as if Haiti were not a part of CARICOM and as if CARICOM did not have representatives on the ground in Haiti) in meetings held under the watchful eyes of delegations from the U.S. State Department and the European Union. The OAS's assistant secretary general Luigi Einaudi was also on hand.

On Jan. 31, President Aristide then went to Kingston, Jamaica to engage in one day of talks with the same set of CARICOM leaders and "observers" from Washington and Europe.

Aristide once again agreed to enforce within the next two months the same set of unenforceable and unrealistic demands that he had agreed to in previous OAS Resolutions 806 and 822. These include "dismantling all armed groups," most of which are opposition- aligned and more heavily armed than the police; creating a "neutral and impartial" police force, as if the opposition will ever accept any corps which thwarts their push for Aristide's overthrow; and "solving" murky episodes like the Dec. 5 clash between demonstrators at the State University (see http://www.blackcommentator.com/73/73_haiti_pina.html ) or the Jan. 13 attack on radio station transmitters (see HaÔti ProgrËs, Vol. 21, No. 45, Jan. 21, 2004). Following the meeting, Aristide overruled the CSPN's Jan. 27 order circumscribing demonstrations, opening the gates for renewed, escalating confrontations.

In short, CARICOM, like the OAS before it, called on the Haitian government to "establish a climate of security," which Washington is actively involved in frustrating. As the Council on Hemispheric Affairs recently wrote, "Some foreign journalists and the [U.S.] administration's leading group of radicalized regional policymakers accuse the Aristide government of prolonging a political stalemate and failing to establish a climate of "security," neglecting to acknowledge that it is the intransigence of the U.S.-sponsored opposition that has crippled democratic processes in Haiti" (see Haïti Progres, Vol. 21, Nos. 45 & 46, Jan. 21 & 28, 2004).

Finally there was the all-important call for "international supervision" of upcoming elections, in which the opposition has openly declared it has no intention of ever participating.

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