By G. Dunkel, IndyMedia UK
According to AHP, the official Haitian press agency, at least 10,000 people marched in Port-au-Prince July 15 to demand the return of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide on his birthday. Aristide has been in forced exile since the coup, mostly living in South Africa.
The march started at Tabarre, Aristide’s house in the north of Port-au-Prince, still in ruins from the 2004 coup. The house was decorated with pictures and flowers for the occasion.
The densely packed march grew much larger as it drew close to Constitution Square on the Champ de Mars near the Presidential Palace.
All the groups connected to Aristide’s Lavalas Movement united in this birthday present to demand: “Long live the return of President Aristide!”; “Down with the MINUSTAH [UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti, the military occupation force]!”; “Release all political prisoners!”; “Reinstate all fired state employees!”; and “Down with the neoliberal plan!”
The neoliberal plan for Haiti involves creating a “safe, secure” environment for wealthy tourists and creating tens of thousands of very low paid textile, subcontracting jobs.
Speaking at the concluding rally, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, a member of the Fanmi Lavalas Executive Committee, declared, “Our political organization will defeat all those who are working for its demise.”
Narcisse criticized Haiti’s current president, René Préval, for trying to amend Haiti’s 1987 Constitution while violating it at the same time. “Lavalas remains true to its dream of a better Haiti, where all citizens can have access to education, health, housing and employment,” she concluded. “Realization of this dream goes hand in hand with the return of President Aristide to Haiti.”
Préval won the election with votes from Lavalas and its supporters who believed he supported the return of Aristide. He has not only kept Aristide in exile but kept Fanmi Lavalas off the ballot in the recent senate elections. This is how the Haitian bourgeoisie has kept Aristide and his party from winning elections.
Ansyto Félix, a member of Fanmi Lavalas’ mobilization committee, claimed that the success of this demonstration, held on a work day, indicates the majority of the Haitian people support the Lavalas Movement and are united around the return of its leader.
Building on the strength of this demonstration, according to July 22-28 Haïti-Liberté, Fanmi Lavalas and elements of the student movement have called for a major demonstration July 28 with a broad set of demands, including MINUSTAH’s departure and the return of Aristide; instituting the minimum wage of $5.05 a day, which has been passed by parliament but suspended by the Préval government; reforming the state university; and justice for the man shot dead by MINUSTAH at the Port-au-Prince cathedral.
July 28 is the 94th anniversary of the first U.S. invasion of Haiti in 1915. Mary A. Renda, author of “Taking Haiti,” describes the tasks facing the U.S. in 1915: “In this case, those tasks were to bring about political stability in Haiti, to secure U.S. control over Haiti with regard to U.S. strategic interests … and to integrate Haiti more effectively into the international capitalist economy.” (University of North Carolina Press, 2000)
On Feb. 29, 2004, the U.S. had to confront the massive support the poor people of Haiti–80 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 a day—gave to President Aristide, someone whom they had elected twice because they felt he represented their interests.
The U.S. and its imperialist partners France and Canada wanted to preserve Haiti as a major market for their food exports and a major source of cheap labor. Haiti is the third largest market for U.S. rice. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while visiting Haiti in April, pushed for creating 100,000 garment jobs. Having a convenient source of low-wage garment workers, especially since labor in China is becoming more expensive, suits U.S. corporate interests.
A small country, Haiti shocked the world in 1804 when it became the second independent country in the Western Hemisphere. It shocked the U.S. in December 1990 when a mass movement of Haitian people elected Jean Bertrand Aristide as its president over a candidate financially and politically backed by the U.S.
The U.S. has real economic interests in Haiti that it wants to maintain. But politically it is precisely because Haiti is impoverished and weak that the U.S. can’t let it escape its clutches. That would set a very bad example.