Pro-democracy anti-occupation demonstrations flare across Haiti
May 27, 2005
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Pro-democracy anti-occupation demonstrations flare across Haiti

THIS WEEK IN HAITI May 25 - 31, 2004 Vol. 23, No. 11

MAY 18, 2005:

Over 10,000 people marched through the streets of Port-au-Prince on May 18 to demand the return of exiled President Jean Bertrand Aristide and an end to the foreign military occupation of Haiti.

Held on the 202nd anniversary of the creation of the Haitian flag, Wednesday's march was one of the largest in Haiti since U.S. Special Forces soldiers kidnapped Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004.

Called by the popular organizations affiliated to the Lavalas Family party and supported by the National Popular Party (PPN), the demonstration brought together thousands from Cité Soleil, Belair, Carrefour, La Saline, and other popular quarters where anti-coup sentiment runs deep.

As the march ended, a Haitian police came close to having a confrontation with demonstrators. About 20 masked SWAT cops carrying M-14s and M-16s were preparing to enter Belair when they encountered journalist Kevin Pina, a second cameraman and several Haitian radio journalists near the Cathedral. "The Haitian police demanded that Pina not videotape them and one commander asked him exactly what his work is in Haiti," theHaiti Information Projectreported. "Pina showed his press credentials and explained that people in the United States, especially members of the U.S. Congress, want to understand the role of the Haitian police. As Pina continued filming, the SWAT unit literally ran from his camera and left the scene." Pina was also threatened by Brazilian U.N. occupation troops while filming that day.

The HIP also reported that Haitian police attacked demonstrators returning to Cite Soleil after the march. "According to witnesses, Sanel Joseph was shot and killed by the Haitian police for no apparent reason as he returned home from the demonstration," the HIP said. "No U.N. security presence or U.N. police monitors were present as the police opened fire."

Meanwhile, the Lavalas Family party and PPN jointly organized demonstrations around Haiti's north. Several hundred people rallied in St. Rose Place in Grande RiviPre du Nord on May 15.

On May 16, several thousand marched in Limbé to calls of "Down with the occupation, down with the Feb. 29 kidnapping, long live the return of President Aristide." Demonstrators denounced repression in the town, where police shot to death a young man earlier this year in Limbé's Nan Fouwo district. But the demonstration ended without incident in St. Pierre Place.

Many thousands also rallied in Cap Haïtien on May 18. Leaders of the PPN and Lavalas Family party addressed the demonstrators, denouncing the U.S. and France for their leadership of the coup and orchestration of the occupation. The march organizers also exhorted the Haitian people to step up their resistance.

Ironically, the official Flag Day ceremony held on May 18 in the town of Arcahaie, where the flag was created, was boycotted by the population. De facto President Boniface Alexandre waxed on the flag's meaning mainly to his entourage. "If our ancestors' unity allowed us to achieve independence, unity today will give us our pride and dignity," he said. But few Haitians see any "pride or dignity" in the illegal, repressive government which acts as a front for a foreign occupation.

by Daniel Pena Shaw

This account, written last summer, reveals that the present crackdown in the Dominican Republic is but another chapter in the constant persecution of Haitians in that country.

Monday, August 16, 2004, was a day like any other for the more than 1,500,000 Haitians who call the Dominican Republic home. The majority were up by 6 a.m. with the sun and off to work in the tobacco, rice and sugarcane fields. The going wage for the Haitian laborers is 150 pesos, the equivalent of US$3.70 for 10 hours of heavy labor.

Nené and Juné didn't go to work that day. They had picked that day to travel back to Trou du Nord and Cap HaVtien, their hometowns across the border in Haiti. They had been saving up their wages for several months and were anxious to return home and see their families. I sat in the back of the bus with them and 30 other Haitians. About 15 Dominicans occupied the rest of the seats in the front listening to the bachata of Fran Reyes and paying little attention to the kreybl being spoken in the back. The driver roared over the dry countryside road known as La Linea, slowing only to avoid large tire-ruining holes.

The trip from Santiago, the Dominican Republic's second largest city, to Cap, Haiti's second capital, takes approximately seven hours by bus. I nestled down in my seat introducing myself to several new friends and taking vocabulary notes on various anecdotes and jokes in kreybl. There was no sign of trouble until about two hours into the trip when it was time to pay. The driver's partner, the cobrador, went around collecting the fare. I asked him several times the price of the trip but he refused to give an exact answer.

He collected 100 pesos from most of the passengers. The Haitians grew anxious as they waited for their change because they suspected they would be cheated. They protested. The driver stopped the bus and threatened to throw off any Haitians who wasn't quiet. Tension grew. The cobrador slapped Nené across the face a few times in a half-playful, half-mocking way and told him to sit down. It reminded me of the way masters probably slapped their house slaves not too long ago. I called the cobrador over and stayed calm. I put him in a light headlock and whispered to him that the jokes were over. If he wanted to slap somebody, I was right there, I said, but kindly keep his hands off everybody else.

I demanded that he declare the exact price to the Haitian border in order to sort out all of the confusion. I smiled and he began to give the Haitians their change. He moved toward the front of the bus. I thought we had broken bread but had gravely miscalculated the man's bitterness. He stood in the door of the bus and yelled back at me a few threats. I erupted and told him in several languages that a crook was a crook. At the next military checkpoint somewhere between Montecristi and Dajabon, he got off the bus and called the Colonel in charge of the military headquarters. Soon, a police chief and three soldiers were pleading with me to get off the bus, saying I had created a riotous situation. I refused. They were not sure what to do about me. Had I been Haitian, I would surely have had a few bullets pumped into me. But a North American tourist? A Westerner from a country of privilege? A white man? All the Haitians whispered to me: "Don't get off." I didn't intend to.

Then the chief and his three henchmen charged onto the bus, pushing through women and children. They tried to put cuffs on me but I wrestled. Machine guns were drawn, and I found the captain's .22 caliber piston to my head. The wrestling was over. They dragged a random Haitian man off the bus with me for good measure. I never caught his name nor saw him again. A few Dominican women who understood all too well the routine protested to the army that I wasn't in violation of any law. I appreciated their speaking up. But they were wrong. I had violated a deathly silence that resides across the Dominican Republic concerning Haitians and human rights.

As they dragged me away, I struggled to make one last point. Though the military and president Hipolito Mejia are to blame for the corruption and violence marking the roads to and from Haiti, every Dominican citizen and every citizen of the world who stays quiet in the face of this Apartheid also carries the responsibility. Duarte, Sanchez, Mella, CaamaZo, and every other Dominican patriot would be ashamed. Haitians are not responsible for the miserable economic downturn the D.R. has taken in the past four years and for the past four centuries for that matter. They are simply the easiest scapegoat. A spent a few lonely hours in jail and bribed my way out. I imagine the Haitian who was detained did not sure the same luck that I did.

What transpired in the course of this journey was not unique. It was a microcosm of the everyday humiliation Haitians are subjected to in the neighboring country. The only difference was that I was there to witness what I hadn't scene in three years since I worked as an ethnographer and teacher in the Caribbean. I'm excited for everyone out there, we have recently graduated lawyers, journalists, and other professionals among us. May we continue to put our heads together to mobilize against the humiliations of imperialism.

by Marie-Jeanne D'Haïti

As federal elections in Canada become more likely, it is timely to turn our attention to the role played by Canada, along with the United States and France, in Haiti's deteriorating political and economic situation.

Since 2000, the Canadian government has suggested in various forums that Haiti be put in trusteeship. On March 15, 2003, the magazine L'Actualité published an article by Michel Vastel in which the overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government was proposed, not by the Haitian opposition, but by a coalition of countries convened by Canada.

In April 2003, in an interview given while he was in the Dominican Republic, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien declared that the "international community" should not have to wake up with Aristide in power on January 1, 2004, Haiti's bicentennial.

In Montreal, shortly before Aristide's kidnapping, the current international affairs minister Pierre Pettigrew met Paul Arcelin, an opposition representative, a close associate of "rebel" chief Guy Philippe, and a mastermind of the coup d'état.

Meanwhile, Denis Coderre, Prime Minister Paul Martin's special counselor for Haiti, was part of the delegation of " last chance, charged with presenting an exit plan to the crisis which peaked in February 2004. This mission did not put pressure on the opposition, which refused the plan, but on Aristide, who accepted it.

Finally, when the coup happened, Prime Minister Martin was at UN headquarters in New York and quickly accepted Aristide's resignation, without knowing its circumstances.

If Paul Martin's liberal government is sincere about wanting to help Haiti, it must unite Haitians in Canada around a project aimed at a viable and sustainable solution for Haiti. It must cease its politics of "divide and conquer," which is bad and counter-productive for Haiti. Canada's Haitians and friends of the Haitian people must remember: O Canada.Je me souviens.

The author is a member of the Quebecois Committee to Recognize the Rights of Haitian Workers in the Dominican Republic, based in Montréal.

All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc.
REPRINTS ENCOURAGED. Please credit Haiti Progres.

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