By Herve Jean Michel
Over the years, many tragic political events and terrible human rights violations have pushed Lavalas leaders and militants to the forefront of Haiti’s political life to defend democracy and to demand respect for civil and political rights of all Haitians.
A nationwide mobilization has been triggered by the exclusion of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas Family party from the partial senatorial elections in April and June 2009 and now the refusal of a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), chosen by President René Préval, to recognize the majority’s right to choose their representatives freely and democratically in the legislative elections scheduled for February and March 2010. This mobilization will only end when democracy is respected in Haiti and when Aristide, the Lavalas Family’s historic leader and national representative, is allowed to physically return to his country from exile in South Africa.
On December 16, 2009, 19 years after the Haitian people distinguished themselves by holding Haiti’s first free and democratic elections despite the powerful ruling class’s machinations, despite foreign domination of the nation, and despite corruption and intimidation of all kinds, the Lavalas masses turned out in the thousands to demonstrate.
To the government’s chagrin, these thousands took to the streets to say “no” to social, economic and political exclusion, “no” to “selection elections,” “no” to denying the majority their vote, “no” to the exile of Dr. Jean Bertrand Aristide, “no” to dictatorship, and “yes” to the rule of law for all the nation’s children.
The demonstration’s goal was to assemble in front of the CEP’s headquarters where the Lavalas Family’s coordinator, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, would deliver a message. The demonstration succeeded in achieving this goal. Despite a large phalanx of Haitian Police officers and UN occupation troops, Maryse Narcisse delivered her message. She reiterated the march’s peaceful nature as a sort of response to this massive deployment of armed men outside the CEP’s headquarters. She denounced the exclusion of the Lavalas Family by the CEP presided over by Gaillot Dorsinvil, who was handpicked by Préval.
Accusations were leveled against the occupation forces which, according to Narcisse, have concocted a scheme to exclude the Lavalas from Haiti’s elections.
She had basically two demands: that the CEP be replaced and that Aristide be allowed to return to his country.
The Lavalas base organizations in Haiti and its diaspora supported this demonstration. In an open letter posted on Dec. 15 on www.fanmilavalas.net, over 30 Lavalas local committees and leaders accused Préval of behavior reminiscent of Haiti’s dictatorial past. “We note with deep and justified concern, the willingness of the Executive to return to the dictatorial practices overthrown by our tough and rebellious people since February 7, 1986 [when dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier fled Haiti]. We recognize that the seeds of this long history of totalitarian rule are rooted in the mentality of a generation of men and women, eager to apply lessons learned from their predecessors, despite their past role as militants and fighters against these regimes that were hated by the majority of the population. ”
The signers of the declaration, which included people like Dr. Renan Armstrong Charlot, former Lavalas senator Gerald Gilles, Lavalas executive committee member Jacques Mathelier, Senator Youseline Bell, Romage Milien, and agronomist Jean. L. Briere, charged that the Haitian government, the CEP and the imperialist powers were conspiring against the Haitian people. “We, the undersigned, want to remind this corrupt CEP, the executive and its accomplices in the international community that the people’s will is the basis for governmental authority, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948. Today, we see an attempt to straitjacket that will and to manipulate it through Machiavellian force, identical to that of 1960 [under dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier], through the injection of money power and the indecent and malicious interference of international experts like [UN “independent expert” on human rights] Michel Forst, which corrupts and cripples the expression of the people’s interest. We remind them that we said that universal suffrage is and remains the only real road leading to democracy, and the Haitian people will eventually overcome this macabre and undemocratic game. ”
Also contributing to the mobilization was the authoritative voice of President Aristide from exile in South Africa, who is sharing in the suffering, setbacks and disappointments of the Haitian people.
As is his custom, Aristide sent a year-end message to the Haitian people in which he wished them a Happy New Year for 2010. This year he reflected on the problems of the people and government policy. True to his philosophy that “everybody is somebody,” Aristide recalled the Haitian people’s heroic history, a moving story in which the exploited broke their chains despite the psychological war used against them by the colonists to keep them in slavery. “The brains of Toussaint Louverture and [Jean-Jacques] Dessalines, clearly, were never hobbled by any inferiority complex,” Aristide said. “Very quickly, they figured out the tactics of the colonists. Toussaint Louverture used to insist on showing how dignity can provide the strength to give birth to liberty. Both Toussaint Louverture and Father Dessalines might repeat: when the perfume of dignity falls in the bottle of liberty, it settles. When it falls in the bottle of exclusion, it explodes. If we don’t conserve our dignity, the dignity we have leaves us.”
Aristide warned against the prejudiced notion that Haitians deserve their misery because they are lazy. “If misery, Clorox and battery acid hunger burn in the fire of unemployment, it is not due to laziness as they tend to accuse us,” he continued. “Overseas and at home, Haitians always work hard because they have a lot of dignity. The biggest source of their misery is this trio: the colonialist, the neo-colonialist and the traitor. The plot is to yoke the poor into a modern neoliberal slavery. Look at the state that our nation finds itself in since the kidnapping of February 29, 2004 [when a U.S. Seal team abducted Aristide from his home and flew him into exile]. Look how all the promises of hope [also the former name of President Préval’s political coalition] have turned into a big slap of despair!”
This message contains a sort of apology to the Haitian people, who deserve protection, solidarity and love instead of this discriminatory policy that only worsens their already difficult life.
The Haitian people, particularly the Lavalas people, can only struggle to rekindle the torch of mobilization, a mobilization which must break this discriminatory policy of excluding the poor majority.
It is the refusal of the majority’s rights that drives the status quo’s profiteers to break all the democratic rules aimed at transforming the people’s inhumane living conditions into decent conditions, acceptable to everyone. “Everybody is somebody.” to use Aristide’s expression.
The Lavalas masses are driven to make history due to these conditions of humiliation, exploitation, injustice, exclusion and death that they endure. They did not create these conditions which must be changed at any price. So the people continue to fight for change!