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Preval fails to get 50% of vote; crowds invade Hotel Montana

It seems that recent street demonstrations in protest against alleged fraud in the Haitian elections, which failed to secure for Preval the required 50% in order to prevail, have led to the Hotel Montana being invaded by the protesters, who then took to swimming in the Hotel’s pool!

I believe that several LS members are still at the hotel, perhaps Walter Astrada among them. 

This story is not over yet.

by Jon Anderson at 2006-02-14 12:46:12 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Santo Domingo , Dominican Republic | Bookmark | | Report spam→

some info on the Elections

Haiti’s election upheaval Big protests against the coup regime By Helen Scott 

UNITED NATIONS (UN) peacekeeping troops opened fire on huge protests in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince this week as anger escalated over allegations of a rigged presidential vote. The slowly emerging results from the February 7 election show René Préval—the candidate who symbolizes opposition to Haiti’s coup regime, which took power two years ago by driving out former left-wing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide—with by far the most votes. But Préval’s percentage has shrunk from the nearly two-thirds reported early on to just under the 50 percent he needed to win the presidential election without a runoff. His supporters charge that the regime manipulated the vote totals to force a runoff, set for March 19. Over the weekend, thousands of people from the capital’s poor neighborhoods—the historic base of support for Aristide’s Lavalas movement—took to the streets, demanding that Préval be named president immediately. As Socialist Worker went to press, at least two people were killed and more wounded when “peacekeepers”—present on the streets of Haiti since Aristide’s ouster—fired on one of the protests, according to press reports. Following the shooting, the demonstrations spread across Port-au-Prince, with streets blocked by smoldering barricades and a luxury hotel occupied. Mainstream media reports claim that Cité Soleil and other pro-Lavalas areas of Port-au-Prince are ruled by armed “bandits.” But the main source of violence are the peacekeepers—known as the United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH) and led by Brazilian troops—who have kept the poor under a state of siege. Human rights groups have documented civilian massacres, rapes, intimidation and machine gun attacks on homes, schools and hospitals by MINUSTAH soldiers. Haiti’s “democratic elections” took place under a military occupation that has spent the last two years terrorizing the population and crushing democracy following the coup against Aristide. Yet despite their best efforts, the Haitian elite and its U.S. and UN champions were unable to quell the aspirations of the country’s poor, who turned out to vote for René Préval as a symbol of opposition to the coup regime. Clayonne Derogene, a single, unemployed mother from Bel Air, one of the capital’s slums, explained how her anger at the U.S.-supported coup against Aristide in 2004 motivated her to rise at dawn and wait hours to participate in the election. “I couldn’t miss the vote, I had to vote for Préval,” Derogene said. “[T]he way they took Aristide away from us…Préval is like a retribution.” Too few polling stations and late openings meant long walks and lines, and some residents of the pro-Préval Cité Soleil slum in Port-au-Prince were excluded from voting at all. Aristide watched from exile in South Africa. His still-popular party, Lavalas Family, didn’t run in the elections because the coup regime failed to decriminalize the organization. Lavalas continues to be persecuted. Hundreds of supporters of Lavalas remain in prison without charges or trials, including high-profile former minister Yvon Neptune, popular folk singer So An (Annette Auguste), and—until recently—popular activist priest Father Gerald Jean-Juste, who would have been the Lavalas candidate. Jean-Juste, who has leukemia, told the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network last summer that “he was suffocating from the repression, the massacres, the arbitrary incarcerations, the humiliations of Bush’s regime change and occupation in Haiti suffered by the people.” Meanwhile, CIA-trained death squad murderers like Guy Phillippe, Jean “Tatoune” Baptiste and Louis Jodel Chamblain, run free. Late last month, a New York Times article broke the U.S. media’s wall of denial and confirmed what Haitians have long believed—the U.S. government (with France and Canada) conspired with right-wingers and the Haitian business elite to replace Aristide with a puppet regime, Gerard Latortue’s “national unity” government, which consists, as left-wing writer Peter Hallward puts it, “exclusively of members of the traditional elite.” As Haiti Progres newspaper reported, “Despite their squabbles, the ruling groups continue to collaborate in cracking down on the Haitian people, who overwhelmingly reject the February 29th coup.” Préval was running for Lespwa (Haitian for ‘hope’), but he was strongly associated with Aristide. If he faces a runoff against the second-place finisher, former conservative President Leslie Manigat, Préval is expected to win easily. But even had he won outright in the first round, his position is unenviable. The press is already calling on him to “end the conflict” between rich and poor; and he has said he will encourage foreign investment, which means agreeing to the privatization and sweatshop plans typified by the International Cooperation Framework. Ominously, the National Endowment for Democracy declared Venezuela, Haiti, Ecuador and Bolivia its “priorities” for 2006. Lespwa may represent hope for Haiti’s poor, but the only way their aspirations will be met is regionwide opposition to imperialism and neoliberalism

by [former member] | 14 Feb 2006 16:02 | Washington Heights NYC, United States | | Report spam→
well, that article sums up a lot of what is going on down here, and is not far from the truth, but some of the argument should be taken with a grain of salt: there are moments of political-rhetorical flight that do not err exactly, but fail to render the necessary details.  For example:

"Human rights groups have documented civilian massacres, rapes, intimidation and machine gun attacks on homes, schools and hospitals by MINUSTAH soldiers. Haiti’s “democratic elections” took place under a military occupation that has spent the last two years terrorizing the population and crushing democracy following the coup against Aristide."

There have been attacks and there have been civilian deaths, true.   But "massacres"?  Terrorism?  Acts of terror, yes, but Terrorism?  This word is thrown around far too loosely these days.  There is some concern that Minustah is in fact acting in concert with the current powers that be and demonizing the gangs in Cite Soleil (along with the mass media), and these powers are doing everything they can to see that Haiti does not return to even a semblance of the Aristide period — hence the mistrust of Preval, who in fact didnt do a bad job at all while he was in office.  But This is not a simple conspiracy or monolithic military offensive against the disenfranchised of Haiti. It is just not that simple, and thus it is much harder to resolve.  The US and France have a lot to answer for here, undoubtedly, and recent revelations about the US’s forked tongue policy and surreptitious support for the rebellion have made it quite clear that the international powers, with mixed motives and often uncoordinated and disjointed policy decisions, have acted in such a manner as to undermine the stability of the state and the economy. But that is not the same as an outright conspiracy a la Iran and Guatemala in the 50s.

Moreover, the whole question of how to pull Haiti out of its economic mess is a very hard one to tussle with, because the fact is, while anti globalists would prefer not to see sweat shops and free trade zones installed, this tiny Caribbean nation, like the one I am living in right now, is faced with some very big obstacles on the path to internal development.  Just how are these past colonies supposed to survive?  What would you have them do?  The fact is, they all function to this day as quasi-colonies. They are still outrageously exploited by the US and Europe.  My own country has been reinvaded by the Spanish, who run the nation’s leading industry, tourism.  As a Labor activist down here once pointed out to me, the DR offers basically two things to the developed nations: cheap labor (and if it is not cheap enough, the Free trade zones are emptied and the factories move to Malaysia or elsewhere, as Gap did recently); and beautiful morenas (dark skinned women), who find employment here in the sex tourism trade, or are exported to Europe in large numbers to serve as trabajadoras (maids) and quasi or full time prostitutes.  I would argue for  a third thing, and that is our natural resources, as we are still exploited for our cacao (chocolate), coffee, sugar, nickel and bauxite, salt and other such commodities.  This has not changed since colonial timesl.  There is very little money in all of this for us.

Dont get me wrong; the Free Trade Zones are anything but free for Dominicans or Haitians — they are places where the First World freely exploits the Third World, paying on average about a hundred to a hundred fifty bucks a month.  But it is oversimplifying matters to state the following:

"The press is already calling on (Preval) to “end the conflict” between rich and poor; and he has said he will encourage foreign investment, which means agreeing to the privatization and sweatshop plans typified by the International Cooperation Framework."

It does mean this, and much more.  One can criticize freely like this, but if it is not accompanied by  concrete proposals and a clear understanding of the global economy, it will never ever produce anything to compete with or even adequately critique what the World Bank, The Paris Club, the US Govt, the French Govt, CAFTA accord and all that huge machinery have planned for the region.  Bear in mind too,that the Caribbean is entirely disunited, fragmented, atomized, all the better to serve the exploitive interests of Europe and the US, because each little island ultimately is forced to compete with the other little islands for the crumbs that these powers cast in their direction.  You ever see a crowd of street kids scrambling for the coins that some rich jerk throws out his car window as he passes through a slum?  that is the Caribbean.

by Jon Anderson | 14 Feb 2006 17:02 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→

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