Haitian voters repudiate U.S. schemes
by Monica Hill
Freedom Socialist Newspaper, Vol. 27, No. 2, April-May 2006
In 1804, the slaves of Haiti, led by revolutionary Toussaint L�Ouverture, won a brilliant 13-year liberation struggle against French slaveholders and established an independent republic. Their forced labor had produced the richest colony of Europe. “Their revolution,” writes Caribbean author Randall Robinson, “wrested from Napoleon the engine of France�s economic expansion, banished slavery from the land, and ended European domination of 10,000 square miles of fertile land and hundreds of thousands of slaves to work it.”
In 1915, the United States of America, led by Democrat Woodrow Wilson, invaded Haiti and imposed its first, 19-year-long occupation. It was an exceedingly profitable venture for expanding U.S. capitalists. And the U.S. has been dominating Haiti ever since, through armed occupations, economic exploitation, and strangling loans � aided and abetted by Haiti�s tiny capitalist class and its death squads. The cost to ordinary Haitians has been excruciating; today, nearly 80 percent are unemployed.
Besieged Haitian workers and peasants have been suffering under their most recent occupation since 2004, when the U.S. kidnapped their last elected head of state, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and had UN soldiers installed. This February 7, they poured out to vote for the presidential candidate they believed would best represent them, former Aristide ally and previous president Ren� Pr�val. Then, when it became apparent that massive fraud was taking place in the ballot count, they took to the streets in indignation and scared their UN occupiers and local elite into backing off and accepting the landslide for Pr�val.
Nine days after the vote, Pr�val was at last declared president-elect � a ringing repudiation of the coup in 2004, the UN occupation, and Haiti�s own savage ruling class.
“We will paralyze this country.”
The Interim Government of Haiti (IGH), operating in league with the UN “stabilization force,” did everything it could to prevent the current regime from being rejected.
Before the election, poor rural and urban voters were systematically prevented from registering. Likely candidates of Aristide�s Fanmi Lavalas party were jailed illegally, and campaign events were attacked by pro-IGH thugs. On election day, a Tuesday, there were no voting stations in Port-au-Prince�s huge slums, where Pr�val is immensely popular. There was no public transportation to get people to polling centers, many of which delayed opening for hours.
Still, people thronged to cast their ballots, walking for miles and standing for hours in Haiti�s hot sun. Defying racist predictions of “violence and anarchism,” they simply waited, and waited, and then they voted. And then they prepared to wait some more for the hand-counted results, due on Sunday.
But by Friday, they smelled something rotten. As Brian Concannon of the U.S.-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti writes, Haitians “have seen enough stolen elections to qualify as world-class experts in the field.”
Pr�val�s huge share of the vote, more than 60 percent, was being revised downward; there was talk about a possible runoff election, even though Pr�val�s nearest rival collected only 11 percent.
Washington saw fit to warn Pr�val that if he were elected, he must not permit Aristide to return from exile in South Africa � which Pr�val has since said he would.
Suspicions were only fueled by the fact that the election�s international observers were organized and funded by the U.S., Canada and France, the three countries that directed the overthrow of Haiti�s legally constituted government in 2004. Solemn reassurances from UN spokespeople were also considered lies, since over the last two years the UN�s blue-helmeted soldiers have shot up poor neighborhoods and repressed and murdered political dissidents.
By Monday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest delays in counting ballots and brazen manipulation of the totals. They demanded that the IGH stop stealing their votes and drop the idea of a runoff election. They rapidly built roadblocks of stones, chains, rusted frames of vehicles, burning logs and old tires, which paralyzed traffic from Cap Haitien to Port-au-Prince. They shut the cities down.
Rallying, they shouted: “There will be no second round!” “We will paralyze this country!” “We voted peacefully. But if we do not have Pr�val, the country will explode!” “The government is trying to steal the election from the poor!”
At one point protesters descended on the ritzy Montana Hotel. Fanning fear of “mob violence,” authorities dashed to evacuate guests from the roof by helicopter. The crowd, it turns out, was more interested in swimming in the luxurious pool, and then took off for more demonstrations. The only real violence during these days of street protests came from UN troopers who killed at least one protester, possibly two.
Late Tuesday, someone picking through the dump of Cit� Soleil, a Port-au-Prince slum that is home to about 300,000 impoverished Haitians, discovered bags of cast-off ballots � some blank, others with Pr�val�s name on them. They were dumped there the day after the election and set afire, but rain had preserved the incriminating evidence. And Haitians got the news out � to the world. The IGH was exposed and charges of election fraud were vindicated. Foreign diplomats scrambled with Haiti�s oligarchy for a solution that proportionately assigned the blank ballots to each of the candidates, and Pr�val�s victory was at last acknowledged.
A beacon for emancipation.
This triumph is hardly the end of the Haitian struggle for self-determination and well-being. Pr�val presents himself as an advocate for the poor and promises to create jobs and improve education. However, he buckled during his past stint as president to International Monetary Fund austerity demands and says now that the current occupation should continue “as long as is necessary.”
Nevertheless, the electoral outcome, secured by mass militancy in the streets, has strengthened the power and will of Haiti�s fighters for freedom. And it has thwarted the U.S. desire to maintain a puppet regime in this strategically important country, located between the Cuban workers state and defiant Venezuela.
In 1804, Haitian slaves led civilization. As John Maxwell writes at www. haitiaction.net, “[I]n advance of France and the United States and the world, the Haitians abolished slavery and promulgated the inalienable Rights of Man.” Today, those on the bottom rung have again defeated the rulers � and quickened the pulse for radical change throughout the hemisphere.