Haitians oppose ‘electoral coup’ and call for new elections. Selma James and Nina Lopez report
On December 16 the people of Haiti will mark the 25th anniversary of their first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the liberation theology priest they lovingly call Titid.
This is an important date, especially because Haiti is the midst of elections — parliamentary, then presidential, the final round scheduled for December 27.
But the elections, funded by the US to the tune of $30 million, are being stolen and since August tens of thousands of people have repeatedly taken to the streets to protest at an “electoral coup.”
For the first time since 2004, when a US coup removed Aristide for the second time, his party Fanmi Lavalas has been allowed on the ballot and its candidate Maryse Narcisse, a woman, has been personally endorsed by him.
The election has been marred by state violence and fraud. Maxine Waters, member of the US congressional black caucus and longstanding supporter of Haiti, wrote to the Secretary of State John Kerry: “Many are calling for the resignation of the current CEP [Provisional Electoral Council] and the annulment of the entire first round.”
She was ignored and on October 25 the second round went ahead. Again, intimidation and anomalies were reported including by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) electoral observation mission.
A review demanded by Narcisse confirmed irregularities in 98 per cent of the tally sheets re-examined. The executive director of the National Human Rights Defense Network declared they reflected “massive acts of fraud aimed at changing the results of the elections” to benefit Jovenel Moise, the candidate backed by outgoing president Michel Martelly and his US sponsors.
Any candidate who benefits from fraud can be expelled, but the CEP has refused to disqualify Moise, hence Narcisse is bringing a claim against the CEP before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Margaret Prescod, journalist and co-ordinator of Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike, was part of a grassroots fact-finding delegation organised by the Haiti Action Committee. Her show, Sojourner Truth (on KPFK Pacifica radio), has reported on police attacking protesters with tear gas, batons and live bullets.
You would be forgiven for not knowing any of this as the mainstream media has largely kept its distance. When we urged a Channel 4 News correspondent to cover the fraudulent elections, she was dismissive: “I used to live in Haiti. It happens all the time.” Haitian lives, it seems, don’t matter.
Yet when the devastating earthquake killed over 200,000 in 2004, British people and others around the world helped with generous donations as an unprecedented $13.5 billion was raised — but it never reached survivors.
Many NGOs — the US Red Cross particularly — stand accused of stealing the money. With hundreds of thousands still living in camps without clean water the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund and the International Financial Corporation have been building luxury hotels in Petion-Ville.
To spare the sensibilities of guests paying $250 a night, the slums they tower over got a lick of paint, quaint bright colours of course.
But Haitians have a glorious history they have never forgotten. Their 1804 revolution, vividly told in the classic book The Black Jacobins, defeated Napoleon and abolished slavery, setting an example for the rest of the world.
The colonial empires trembled at the sight of slaves who had freed themselves and were helping liberation movements in the Americas.
Haitians have been punished for their success and systematically impoverished ever since. In 1825 France imposed a “debt” for the loss of “its property” — the liberated slaves!
When Aristide demanded reparations from France in 2003, the money Haiti had paid France was estimated at $21.7bn. In 1914 the US occupied and took over Haiti’s national bank. Both France and US backed the Duvalier dictators — Papa and Baby Doc — who stole millions while their Tonton Macoutes paramilitaries terrorised the island for decades.
Intervention has had other disastrous consequences. Haiti was swamped with US rice which destroyed its subsistence agriculture and its 1.3 million native pigs were exterminated with the excuse that they might bring swine fever to the US.
But Haitians have never given up. Their 1986-90 mass movement forced Baby Doc Duvalier into exile and voted in Aristide. Within months he was removed by a CIA-backed coup, survived, came back and was re-elected, with 93 per cent of the votes.
While in office, he refused to privatise public assets, built schools and hospitals, supported women and farmers, abolished the dreaded army and doubled the minimum wage. No wonder he is loved.
In 2004 the fearless Aristide who had opened the government palace to street kids was removed again, this time by US marines. UN troops moved in, legitimising the coup.
Unlike in Rwanda where UN troops did not to intervene to stop genocide, in Haiti they are in overdrive — they killed Aristide supporters, raped boys as well as girls (Sri Lankan and Uruguayan soldiers had to be withdrawn over rape allegations) and infected the population with cholera.
In their struggle against imperialism, today’s black Jacobins face not only the US, Canada and France but even Latin America’s progressive governments as Brazil heads the occupying UN forces and Ecuador trains their repressive police. And while some objected to the US “selection” of Martelly, a former Tonton Macoute, as president, they have not refused to work with him.
We were there in 2011 to welcome Aristide and family when they were finally allowed to return. An extraordinary day, full of love, hope and excitement as thousands of people accompanied their Titid home from the airport. His wife Mildred Trouillot told us: “This is a victory they cannot take away.”
She was right. Despite every intervention and occupation the revolutionary people of Haiti have not been defeated and today they are calling for transparent elections.
International support actions are planned on December 16, including in front of the US embassy in London.
Selma James and Nina Lopez are joint co-ordinators of the Global Women’s Strike. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and www.haitisolidarity.net