Thursday, April 16, 2009

5 Years of Occupation in Haiti

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)

The end of February marked the fifth anniversary of the Canadian, American and French backed coup in Haiti. It was the country’s 35th coup, the second against the popular President Jean Bertrand Aristide and the first carried out directly by foreign soldiers, including American Marines and Canada’s Joint Task Force II. It would be the latest interlude in Haiti’s sad history of constant interference and intervention from foreign powers working in collusion with Haiti’s tiny and corrupt elite. It would violently derail the remarkable popular movement of Haiti’s poor majority which had organized itself in the streets, in the fields and in the churches into a formidable democratic force. This grassroots movement demanded an end to their social and political exclusion, and had given Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas Party an indisputable mandate, with a massive 75% share of the vote in the 2000 elections.

After deposing the President, the “international community” dismantled Haiti’s entire government structure and removed thousands of elected officials from every region of the country. The United Nations Security Council officially sanctioned the illegal intervention, and then consolidated the coup with the deployment of a United Nations military occupation and endorsement of a brutal foreign-imposed dictatorship for two years.

Today, Haiti remains administratively, economically and militarily occupied. The five coup years have served to culminate years of American and international financial institution economic policy impositions that have maintained Haiti as a low-wage, export-friendly, most open world economy providing profitable business and resource extraction opportunities for foreign investors. The coup has resulted in thousands killed, raped, displaced, imprisoned and exiled; a political and social setback of decades; termination of every one of Aristide’s progressive social programs; a crippled economy; and increased poverty, misery and hopelessness.

The storms in the fall of 2007 exposed the perilous state of Haiti under foreign domination, when with more money coming into the country, the international community was incapable or unwilling to even come close to reinstating the disaster relief programs in place under Aristide. The networks and offices of Aristide’s Civil Protection Committees were attacked after the coup, and committee officials were killed, arrested or driven into hiding. The fall-out from the lack of preparation for the expected hurricanes was 1000 people killed, several thousand displaced, destruction of the season’s entire harvest and an aggregated loss to agriculture and infrastructure of 900 million dollars, representing the largest disaster to take place in Haiti for more than 100 years! The Haitian government complained that it became impossible to coordinate relief efforts among the numerous and disconnected NGOs (non-government agencies) who control all of the foreign aid coming into Haiti. Incredibly, the Haitian government was unable to access some 197 million dollars for relief from its own Central Bank because the funds had been placed in U.S. financial markets without the consultation of the Haitian parliament!

So while the international community marked the 5th anniversary of the coup with promises to stay their disastrous course in Haiti, the fatigued but defiant popular movements filled the streets with thousands and thousands of people (as they have consistently done since 2004).Their demands? Release all political prisoners; end the neoliberal policies and associated occupation; end the repression against Lavalas; and return the exiled President Jean Bertrand Aristide. It is a course that Haiti’s poor majority has not altered for five years, and one with which people in Canada need to stand in solidarity!