Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

HAITI’S TOP TEN DEMANDS TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

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* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

January 21 – 27, 2009
Vol. 2, No. 27

HAITI’S TOP TEN DEMANDS TO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
by Haiti Liberté

With some two million people jamming Washington’s two mile long National Mall leading to the steps of the Capitol Building, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in this Tuesday as the 44th President of the United States of America, the first African-American to hold the post.

The inauguration culminated a weekend of inaugural events during which the birth of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was also fittingly commemorated. It was watched live on television by billions worldwide, from cities across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia, to small villages in the Haitian countryside.

Haitians could not but notice that Obama’s inauguration was marked by the same joy, hope and colossal crowds that were witnessed on February 7, 1991, when Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the victor of another “historic election,” was sworn in as the President of Haiti for the first time.

The parallel also helps to remind us that the power of the Presidency, by itself, cannot change the state and the realities of a given country or the world. The forces of reaction and elite economic power still remain deeply entrenched despite the “Lavalas” outpouring for change the world witnessed on January 20, 2009. President Obama, just like President Aristide, will soon discover what kind of vicious system he now presides over if he truly wants or tries to reform it and put it at the service of people’s needs rather than the interests of the rich ruling class.

Of course, his policy pronouncements and cabinet choices so far show no sign of such a radical agenda.

What is now needed is a massive popular movement to demand that the promises, many of them vague, of Obama’s two-year presidential campaign become reality. It is further necessary that many unaddressed matters be brought to the fore as well.

While President Obama leads the United States and not Haiti, we think it appropriate for the Haitian people to articulate their demands to the new U.S. President. It should in no way be interpreted that President Obama has any right – legal, moral or political – to dictate anything to Haiti. But since the histories of the two nations are deeply intertwined, Haitians must make their will known.

Here, we formulate our top ten demands on behalf of Haitians everywhere.

1) President Obama, you should apologize for the 2004 coup d’état against Haiti which was principally fomented by the U.S. government. It caused thousands of deaths and hundreds of unwarranted and illegal political detentions and exiles, many of which continue to this day. It once again derailed Haitian democracy, the effects of which will be felt for generations.

You should also explicitly repudiate the Bush Administration policy of successfully banishing former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide not just from Haiti but from the Western Hemisphere. You should declare that the U.S. will facilitate Aristide’s return to Haiti and offer a jet to fly him back to his homeland from South Africa, just as it was an unmarked U.S. government jet that flew the kidnapped Haitian president and his wife at the gunpoint of U.S. Special Forces to Africa in the first place.

2) President Obama, you should call and work for the immediate withdrawal of U.N. occupation troops from Haiti. The U.N. is simply doing the bidding of the U.S., France and Canada, which were the governments behind the 2004 coup which brought with it the occupation. U.N. troops have carried out massacres, abused and humiliated our people, and wasted precious resources through pointless show patrols aimed at intimidating or creating a false sense of security. The U.N. military occupation is a violation of Haitian sovereignty and of international law.

3) President Obama, you should immediately abrogate the shameful 1997 treaties which allow U.S. warships and warplanes to penetrate Haitian waters and airspace whenever they please. This treaty, which was forced on Haiti and presents the U.S. as the “policeman” of the Caribbean and the world, should be condemned. Furthermore, all U.S. claims to the Haitian island of La Navasse should be abandoned.

4) President Obama, you should immediately grant all undocumented Haitian refugees in the U.S. Temporary Protected Status or TPS. After the four storms that savaged Haiti last August and September, Haiti is still reeling and buried in mud. All repatriations of Haitians must stop immediately.

5) President Obama, you must immediately halt the deportation of Haitian-born but U.S.-raised felons from the U.S. to Haiti. Often these criminals have no knowledge of Haiti, don’t speak the Krey l language, and contribute to Haiti’s crime problems.

6) President Obama, you should immediately reject and disapprove the neo-liberal policies which the U.S. government has forced on Haiti over the past two and a half decades. These include the push for Haiti to privatize its strategic state-owned enterprises, cut its government services, lower its tariff barriers, and balance its budget. Even you have said the U.S. may run a deficit in the trillions of dollars to meet the financial crisis your country faces. Haiti faces an even worse financial crisis, and this for many years.

7) President Obama, you must immediately stop U.S. aggression, threats, sabotage and bullying against our Caribbean neighbors, in particular Cuba and Venezuela. These two nations are our key allies, providing us with fuel, doctors, power plants, education, technical support and financial aid. U.S. aggression against them is unwarranted and illegal. It hurts and outrages the Haitian people.

8) President Obama, you should call for the immediate cancellation of Haiti’s $1.3 billion external debt, about 40% of which was rung up by the Duvalier dictatorships and never served the Haitian people. Most of this sum is owed to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Interamerican Development Bank. In all three institutions, the U.S. wields the most influence and votes. Haiti has already qualified for, but not received, debt relief through the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative. Haiti is being asked to meet difficult requirements while paying about $1 million a week to the banks while in the midst of a humanitarian emergency.

9) President Obama, you should publicly demand that President Nicolas Sarkozy of France honor Haiti’s 2003 demand for reparations totaling some $21.7 billion. From 1825 until 1947, France extorted some 90 million francs from its formal colony, with the connivance of other North American and European powers. Haiti’s demand for restitution of this sum with interest, which is founded in international law of which you are a student, would be a first step towards correcting the centuries of punishment Haiti has endured for being the first and last nation in history to carry out a successful slave revolution.

10) President Obama, you should offer Haiti, not aid, but reparations for the damage caused by the U.S. against Haiti in the coup d’états of 1991-1994 and 2004-2006, which claimed the lives of not fewer than 9,000 people. Reparations should also cover the damage and hardship caused by U.S. support of the Duvalier dictatorship for 29 years (1957-1986) and neo-Duvalierist dictators for another five years (1986-1990), which combined claimed another 10,000 lives. Support of these coups and dictatorships was, in fact, an undeclared war, which caused vast damage to Haiti’s people, development and democracy. For the nearly four decades in question, at about $250 million in damages yearly, we would set reparations for this undeclared war at $10 billion.

President Barack Obama, if your victory is to be anything more than symbolic, if your professions of faith in peace, justice, law and virtue are sincere, if you truly wish to reverse the course of the Bush Administration and its predecessors, then you will not hesitate to act on our demands. The Haitian people are watching. The whole world is watching.

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