26 May 2009
IN HAITI ARISTIDE LIVES!
by Charlie Hinton
Four elections prove it.
In 1990 and 2000, overwhelming majorities elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide president, but military coups overthrew him both times.
In 2004, the U.S., France, and Canada led an occupation force that kidnapped and exiled him from the Americas. A United Nations military occupation force followed, led by Brazil, and continues to occupy Haiti today, with the mission, under the name of “peacekeeping,” of suppressing the popular movement and preventing the return to power of Aristide’s Lavalas Party.
The coup government held an election for president in 2006, and although security conditions did not permit Lavalas to run candidates, Rene Preval, a former Lavalas president, ran. Under the banner of a new party, Lespwa or “Hope,” Preval received a huge majority, because Haitian voters thought they were voting for an ally of President Aristide and his policies, which had prioritized improving the lives of the Haitian majority. After vote-counting fraud almost forced a run-off, massive street demonstrations backed up the popular vote.
The Election Council relented and announced Preval the winner.
Preval, however, has ignored the wishes of those who voted for him, and joined with the occupation forces to consolidate the policies of the coup. His government scheduled elections for 12 Senate seats on April 19, but the Election Council rejected all Lavalas candidates. In response, Lavalas called for a boycott of the election. Fewer than 10%, and by some accounts as low as 3% of Haitians voted, once again demonstrating their love and respect for their president and what he stands for.
Haiti’s majority have now demonstrated four times, in every way they legally can, their support for President Aristide and a Lavalas government. Seemingly the whole world has allied against them, not unlike during the war to end enslavement 200+ years ago, when Haitians had to defeat English and Spanish expeditionary forces as well as Napoleon’s army to free themselves and establish an independent country, which all slave-owning nations then boycotted for fear Haiti’s example might spread.
That same fear of a powerful, independent movement for freedom and democracy exists today, as Preval and the “international community” suppress and repress all those they cannot buy off.
- LAVALAS prisoners languish in prison 5 years after the coup without charges.
- The disappearance of grassroots leader Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, kidnapped in August, 2007, has never been investigated.
- Rigged food prices have led to food riots, starvation, and a diet of mud cookies for the most destitute.
- Tens of thousands of victims of devastating killer hurricanes receive zero support.
- U.N. military troops terrorize the neighborhoods most supportive of Lavalas.
If the United States government truly supported democracy and free elections, President Aristide would have served out both his terms, and U.N. troops would not be occupying Haiti.
- U.S. ambassador Janet Sanderson, a Bush appointee, would not be pressuring the Preval administration to issue arrest warrants for 42 of the organizers of the election boycott, including five hunger strikers who were forced out of the parliament building by police the day after the election.
- She would not be calling the boycott an “obstruction of democracy.”
This election demonstrates the power of the electoral boycott. Lavalas almost boycotted the 2006 presidential elections called by the coup government, but the grassroots had hope that Preval would govern to benefit them and voted for him, en masse. When he betrayed their hopes, and Lavalas candidates were not allowed to run for the Senate seats in 2009, they called for the boycott, completely destroying the credibility of the elections on one hand, and demonstrating the overwhelming support for Aristide and Lavalas principles, on the other.
Haiti’s people need solidarity right now. They are clear in their demands: an end to the occupation, the release of Lavalas prisoners, the return of President Aristide (currently exiled in South Africa), and a government that serves those most in need, which in Haiti is at least 80% of the population.
If the “international community” is part of the problem, it is up to the freedom-loving peoples of the world to be part of the solution.
Does that mean you?