By Dady Chery
Things haven’t cooled down in Haiti. Quite the contrary. They’re just starting to simmer.
Haiti’s house of Representatives, a large majority of which belongs to René Préval’s party, voted on March 8, 2010 for a highly controversial State of Emergency Law that allows an Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC, Commission Interimaire pour la Reconstruction d’Haiti), led by former United States president William J. Clinton, to run the country for a supposed 18-month State of Emergency.
This particular meeting of the Haitian Members of Parliament (MPs) was extremely contentious. Outside, a small group of protestors urged the legislators to vote “no.” At least 20 legislators walked out, declaring the law to be unconstitutional and hoping to break the quorum. Others stayed and voted against the law at the start of the meeting, hoping to stall the proceedings. One senator proposed an amendment that would allow a senatorial commission to oversee the IHRC. All their efforts failed. It was a done deal from the start. Forty-three MPs voted “yes,” 6 voted “no,” and 8 abstained.
How did this come to pass?
First, the current Haitian government, if one can call it that, came to power after elections that excluded the most popular political party Lavalas and 14 others. It is highly unrepresentative, to say the least.
Second, the most vocal opposition to the IHRC and the State of Emergency came from the right, which is categorically rejected by the great majority of the population. This opposition demanded that the Haitian Armed Forces (FADH) be re-established, MINUSTAH departs, and the Haitian Constitution and United Nations Charter be respected. Their calls of protest fell on the death ears of a population well acquainted with their brutality.
Finally, Préval’s government is considered to be a great embarrassment. Among other things, it has failed to account for its expenses of the last three months. Préval himself campaigned for the State of Emergency Law, although the stated reason for this law was a need to circumvent the State’s corruption. In typical style, he insisted that everyone dirties their hands along with him and the law be voted on by the entire Haitian Parliament. When criticized about dragging the country into the depths of dependency and handicapping the next administration, he shrugged and lapsed into absurdities like Haiti is ‘a weak state,’ but still “possessed of its sovereignty.”
With the House of Representatives in the bag, the next obstacle was the Senate. In an April 8, 2010 meeting, the senators voted “no” to the State of Emergency Law and the IHRC. In advance of another vote on Tuesday, April 13, Préval held a press conference at which he pleaded with the Senators not to “miss this chance.” Several demanded to know why he felt he needed the parliament to ratify a commission with a majority of foreigners. They pointed out that he could take full responsibility for his miserable commission and establish it by presidential decree.
Others, like Acluche Louis Jeune declared that “the president wants to dissolve the parliament to give the occupier a free hand.” The April 13 vote was successfully blocked by the lack of a quorum. The Haitian Senate now numbers 25 because of two deaths. It needed a quorum of 16, but only 15 senators participated. Two of those senators showed up merely to snub the meeting.
Enter Michelle Obama on April 14, 2010. What did she do during her surprise visit to Haiti, besides drawing fishes and comparing them to the more advanced art of the Haitian elementary-school children? What inducements or threats did she bring to the Haitian Senate on behalf of the U.S? Might her statement of the innocent-sounding proverb, “Little by little, the bird makes its nest” have been a signal that a deal was made for the occupation?
A late-night parliamentary session the next day did the trick. With barely a quorum of 16 senators, 13 voted for the State of Emergency Law, with all but one of the “yes” votes coming from Préval’s party. One senator voted against the law, 2 abstained, and 9 stayed away from the meeting altogether.
I find myself being proud that even this highly unrepresentative government put up such a fight to protect the country’s sovereignty. Haiti will not be an easy conquest.
In the IHRC, which is Bill Clinton’s wet dream of a government and is to be led by him, a majority of foreigners hope to administer Haiti, including:
- Nine representatives who are major donors, chosen by an IHRC administrative council. This is a strictly pay-to-play affair. To get a seat, a country or institution must donate at least $100 million over a two-year period or erase debts worth at least $200 million. The current list includes the U.S., the European Union, France, Canada, Brazil, Venezuela, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the United Nations, and the World Bank.
- One representative of CARICOM (15 Caribbean countries included).
- One representative of the Organization of American States (OAS).
- One representative for all the other donors without a seat.
- One representative of the NGOs in Haiti.
- One representative of the Haitian diaspora.
Haiti itself would be represented by a minority of seven representatives, none of them popularly elected.
- World-Bank veteran Jean-Max Bellerive gets a laughable equal billing to Clinton; in October 2009, he was foisted by the U.S. on Préval as Primer Minister.
- Préval himself would have symbolic veto rights but would not actually be a member.
- Three representatives of the Haitian government (nominated respectively by the executive, judiciary, and local authorities).
- One MP from the House of Representatives (based on a list submitted by the political parties represented in the House).
- One Senator (based on a list submitted by the political parties represented in the Senate).
- One representative designated by union syndicates.
- One representative nominated by the business community.
There is much to be learned from this affair about the leaders of supposed democratic countries. I expect this is how they would run everything if they could. Consider the World Trade Organization (WTO). Watch closely and pray against natural disasters. The next pay-to-play Commission might well be for your state or country.
Though the IHRC boasts of its plans to restore urban centers and build homes throughout Haiti, its real mission, also stated quite explicitly, is to proceed with privatizations, in particular the privatization of the sea and air ports of Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince. The plans for sweatshops are there too, though not as explicit.
Indeed, even as homeless Haitians are being bused one hour away to a desert to live, presumably because there is no room for them in the city, ground is being broken in town for new factories. The IHRC would additionally grant opportunities to foreign companies to invest in agriculture and tourism (read as land grab).
At the conclusion of its term, the IHRC would become an “Agency for the Development of Haiti,” with an indefinite mandate. Thus any democratically elected government would find itself at the helm of an island nation, but without control of its ports, and therefore without the means to tax its imports and exports. The only way to raise revenue would be to go begging. This has gone on for some time, but it would now become institutionalized.
On May 10, 2010, in the city of Gonaives there was a major protest against the State of Emergency and IHRC. This city’s Senator, Mr. Youri Latortue, is steadfastly opposed to the Emergency Law.
Four political parties (Alternative, Liberasyon, Rasanble, and Uccade) have declared the parliamentary vote to be in violation of the Haitian Constitution (specifically, its Article 278.2). They have called on all opposition parties to join forces and on all Haitians to salvage what democracy has been built and to continue along a progressive path.
Even the ancestors had their say this month, in an original copy of the Haitian Declaration of Independence that magically reappeared.
This document reminded me, among other things, that our Declaration of Independence was signed in Gonaives and only printed in Port-au-Prince. In an eloquent passage that beautifully distinguishes our revolution from the general blather of slavers about democracy, it declares:
“We have dared to be free, let us be thus by ourselves and for ourselves. Let us imitate the grown child: his own weight breaks the boundary that has become an obstacle to him. What people fought for us? What people wanted to gather the fruits of our labor? And what dishonorable absurdity to conquer in order to be enslaved. Enslaved?… Let us leave this description for the French; they have conquered but are no longer free.”
This last statement refers specifically to the Napoleonic era that followed the enlightenment, but it applies generally to colonists. Conquerors are more or less the same, no matter their past ideals or eloquence. They ultimately lose their own freedom because, sooner or later, the empire builders cross the Rubicon and return home. As for us Haitians, our revolution continues. What choice have we but to keep it alive and find our own way? Long ago, in Gonaives, we made a pact never again to be enslaved.
UPDATE #1: Haitians Rise Up Against US-Led Interim Commission
Crackdowns from the police and MINUSTAH have failed to prevent four continuous days of protest throughout Haiti. Marches and sit-ins have continued in Gonaives (Artibonite Department). Other cities have risen up, including Cayes (South), Miragoane (Nippes), and Hinche (Center). In Leogane (West), traffic is paralyzed by walls of burning tires. Four political parties (Alternative, Liberasyon, Rasanble, and Uccade) have jointly declared the Parliament’s vote to dissolve itself for 18 months to be in direct violation of the Constitution’s Article 278, which states that: The Parliament shall be in session for the entire duration of any State of Emergency, and a State of Emergency is automatically lifted if it is not renewed by a vote of the Parliament every 15 days after the inception of this State of Emergency. They have called on all opposition parties to join forces and on all Haitians to salvage what democracy has been built and to continue along a progressive path. Stay tuned for possible future updates.
UPDATE #2, April 26, 2010: Senators Paid Off – Haitians Continue Uprising Against US-Led Interim Commission
Haitians are continuing to fight the unconstitutional state of emergency by shining a spotlight on the corruption that engendered it, informing each other about the letter of the IHRC, and protesting in the streets of Haiti’s major cities.
The Haitian National Network for the Defense of Human Rights has formally requested an investigation by Haiti’s Anti-Corruption Unit into allegations that three named senators received large sums of money (each over $40,000) to guarantee a quorum in the parliamentary session that voted for the IHRC. In the meantime, unbought legislators who opposed the law, like MP Esdras Fabien, have been busy warning citizens that the IHRC document “removes all power from the legislature” to control the conduct of foreigners. According to the IHRC State of Emergency Law, its international members may not be held liable for any of their actions. Legislators and party leaders are crisscrossing the country to support anti-governmental protests, the most recent ones of which took place on Monday, April 26, 2010 in Cap Haitien (Haiti’s second largest city) and Miragoane. The protestors are calling for Préval’s departure, a decentralization of resources, and the release of political prisoners.
Over the weekend of April 24-25, 2010, a U.S. response to the popular opposition was quickly plotted. It is expected to take the form of a USAID-coordinated SouthCom military mission to pacify Haiti’s provinces.
Though there is pork thrown in for Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, most of the 500 troops for this mission would come from the Louisiana National Guard. Are these National Guards being deployed to Haiti during a massive oil spill in the Gulf because the rights of Haitians and Louisianians are threatened by the same parties?
UPDATE #3, May 5, 2010: Haitian Senators Challenge Constitutionality of the Clinton Commission (WC Commission)
In a press conference on Wednesday, May 5, 2010, a group of Haitian senators announced that they brought to the Haitian supreme court a formal challenge to the constitutionality of the IHRC. The senators referred to the IHRC as the “coup d’état d’urgence.” I prefer to call it “the WC commission.”
In a move to distract the press from the commission’s legal troubles, which also signaled the commission’s desperation in identifying a new Haitian front man, the next day Préval announced with great fanfare that he would extend his term after all, if elections could not be held in time for his departure.
In fact, elections cannot be held at all, so long as the WC commission continues to exist because of a great scarcity of interested voters and, remarkably, puppet candidates.
Préval’s magic act continued to work on the foreign press while Canada’s visiting Minister of Foreign Affairs quietly unraveled his humanitarian package: a contribution of prisons, Canadian police, and Canadian prison guards to Haiti.
Are we grateful? Yes. For every small sign that the WC commission is running scared.
UPDATE #4, May 10, 2010: Haitians Protest, “Down With Préval!” Lavalas and GNP Parties Unite!
In a development that spelled major trouble for the WC Coalition’s backroom election plans, on Monday, May 10, 2010, many thousands of Haitians marched through Port-au-Prince shouting “down with Préval” and accusing him of selling the country to foreigners.
About 30 political parties, including Rasanble, Libération et LAPH joined voices to say that they would not accept a dictatorship. In addition, the protest inaugurated an alliance of Haiti’s two major political parties: Lavalas (headed by René Civil, Ansyto Félix et Jacques Mathelier) and the current coalition opposition party GNB (headed by Hervé Saint-Hilus, Evans Paul et Serge Gilles).
Two groups of protestors started from different corners of Port-au-Prince, swelled their numbers by marching through several populous neighborhoods and then converged on the national palace. Haitians from all walks of life demanded the retraction of the State of Emergency, the dissolution of the current electoral committee, the departure of Préval, and the reinstatement of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to finish his second term. The protestors were undeterred by a heavy presence of police and broke through their barricades. When asked about the tear gas used by the police, protestor Réginald Lange, who directs an association of earthquake victims, replied that the police can open fire if they want, we will march every day against Préval, who has done nothing whatever for the people.”
Simultaneously with the uprising in Port-au-Prince, there was a march in the city of Miragoane, a “pot concert” (banging of pots) in Cap-haïtien (North Department), and a sit-in before the regional parliamentary building in Jacmel (Southeast).
The level of fear from those who are losing control has reached fever pitch. Reuters journalist Guyler C. Delva, who recently broke a story on the use of bribery to control the flow of information to the media, and Mr. René Civil, who officially announced the alliance of Lavalas with the GNB party, reported that they have become targets of death threats.
Source: Haiti Chery
Copyright © 2010 by Dady Chery. All Rights Reserved
– Haiti’s Puppet Masters by Another Name
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