HAÏTI PROGRES - This week in Haiti

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The Haitian Police are finally commended by the U.S. State Department for
"showing restraint," but at what cost to the People of Haiti? -ed.

link to website> Haiti Progres: This week in Haiti Jan 14-20
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"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAÏTI PROGRES newsweekly. For the complete edition with other news in French and Creole, please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100, (fax) 718-434-5551 or e-mail at editor@haitiprogres.com. Also visit our website at www.haitiprogres.com.

HAÏTI PROGRES "Le journal qui offre une alternative"
THIS WEEK IN HAITI - January 14 - 20, 2004 Vol. 21, No. 44


The images are sickening.

Opposition demonstrators savagely kick and pummel a government partisan with fists, rocks, steel bars and broken bottles during a march through Port-au-Prince on Jan. 7. The victim desperately clings to the edge of a bridge as the assailants beat him in the head. Finally he falls 15 feet into a sewage stream at the bottom of a garbage-strewn ravine. The whole scene was captured and broadcast by Haitian National Television (TNH).

The viciousness of the attack outraged viewing audiences. The young man reportedly died from his injuries.

Despite shrill opposition cries that Haiti is a dictatorship, Haitian police vigorously protected the same march from forays by pro-government crowds who feared the opposition demonstration would storm the National Palace. Police shot dead two government partisans. One other person was killed and 15 wounded, four of them policemen. Ten cars had their windshields smashed.

Earlier that day in Gonaïves, opposition thugs burned down the home of Alina Sixto, a leader of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family (FL) party chapter in metropolitan New York. Neighbors rescued her blind mother, who was in the house at the time.

Sixto was instrumental in organizing the Jan. 1 bicentennial celebrations in Gonaïves.

The day before, opposition thugs had burned down the Gonaïves home of Charles JosuÈ, another FL militant,.

Butteur MÈtayer, the mercurial renegade brother of mysteriously slain Gonaïves leader and Aristide ally Amiot "Cubain" MÈtayer, gave Aristide a deadline of Jan. 15 to leave Haiti. If the president stays on, Butteur said, his opposition organization will begin killing FL partisans.

The Haitian bourgeoisie's "Group of 184," headed by North American sweatshop magnate AndrÈ Apaid Jr., called for general strikes on Jan. 8 and 9. As during past opposition strikes, the bourgeoisie's big stores, factories and gas stations in the capital closed, but the rest of the city went about its business as usual. Public transportation and informal-sector commerce were practically normal. The "nationwide strike" had absolutely no effect on activities in Haiti's provinces.

"It's not really a strike," commented Ben Dupuy, secretary general of the National Popular Party (PPN) on TNH. "It's more like a lock-out."

Exasperated, the bourgeoisie extended the strike for an additional two days. This mainly caused gas shortages and price hikes, which created frustration for motorists and resentment among the masses.

On Jan. 11, the opposition held one of its largest marches to date. Some 20,000 demonstrators marched from PÈtionville to Port- au-Prince. The police provided robust security and there was only one minor incident. Opposition demonstrators beat up a man wearing a T-shirt bearing Aristide's picture.

But in the southern town of Mirogo'ne the same day, opposition members killed one FL militant and seriously wounded another during a demonstration calling on the opposition to respect President Aristide's five year term and to agree to elections.

The night before, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Edner Jeanty, the newly appointed police chief for the North department, as he was returning home in the VertiËres district of Cap HaÔtien.

On Jan. 13, the opposition's Struggling People's Organization (OPL) called for a demonstration on Jan. 16 in front of the National Palace, which pro-government masses have encircled in recent months during opposition marches to protect from any assaults.


Radio MÈtropole is the most powerful and influential radio of the Haitian bourgeoisie. Although most Haitians speak Creole, it broadcasts almost exclusively in French and many foreign journalists rely on it for their dispatches.

On January 1, 2004, MÈtropole broadcast the following report from Gonaïves, the city where Haiti's independence had been declared 200 years earlier and to which President Jean-Bertrand Aristide traveled to make a speech:

In Studio Anchor: So who accompanied [Aristide] during his speech?

Correspondent Jean Alfred: During his speech it was only the delegate to the Artibonite Dr. Billy Racine who was there along with members of the government.

In reality, the stage in Gonaïves was packed with local dignitaries, priests, parliamentarians, representatives from Haiti's diaspora, artists and other VIPs.

In Studio Anchor: Was the South African president there? Jean Alfred: Certainly he was there and we noticed that the South African president's knees were shaking at the moment when a lot of gunfire was fired at the stand where the Head of State was giving his speech.

First, there was no gunfire around or near the podium during Aristide's speech. Some shots were heard after the president had left. Secondly, South African President Thabo Mbeki did not travel to Gonaïves.

Jean Alfred : Today truly there is a big, big tension, and guns are firing in the entire city and at this moment in the Dekawo section gunfire continues. It was there that they took hostage the presidential cortege, which has headed towards Port-au- Prince.

At no point was the presidential cortege "taken hostage" or attacked. From behind houses in the Dekawo neighborhood, opposition hooligans did stone and fire at the departing south- bound cars and buses of celebrants.

Other opposition-aligned Haitian media and the international press echoed Radio MÈtropole's version of events, including Mbeki's imaginary attendance of the Gonaïves ceremony.

Perhaps it is not ironic that Radio MÈtropole is financially supported by the government of France, Haiti's former colonial ruler. On the "Politics" page of MÈtropole's website (www.metropolehaiti.com) is an advertisement thanking the French embassy for its "assistance."

Radio MÈtropole called Haiti's massively attended, smoothly conducted and overwhelmingly peaceful bicentennial ceremonies a "fiasco."


The following is a letter written to the New York Times by the Haiti's general counsel, Ira Kurzban

Ms. Lydia Polgreen New York Times New York, New York

Dear Ms. Polgreen:

I write to you and your editors because of numerous factual errors contained in your story on the January 1st celebrations in Haiti marking the 200 anniversary of that country's independence. I assume that the factual errors arose from your lack of familiarity with the political situation in Haiti or because you have been provided a good deal of misinformation. The article that I will address below was published on Friday, January 2, 2004 in the International section of the New York Times.

First, your article states that: "Mr Aristide was re-elected to the presidency in voting that many observers said was flawed" and that as result "the country had been locked in political crisis." You further stated that: "The dispute led international donors to suspend $500 million in aid." These statements are inaccurate. Such erroneous statements regarding Haiti often arise from the common confusion between the May 2000 parliamentary elections and the November 2000 presidential election. In May, 2000, there were 30,000 candidates who ran for 7,500 positions ranging from mayors and department representatives to Senators and members of the lower chamber. Of the 7,500 elections, the Organization of American States challenged the methodology used in counting 8 senate seats. While the independent electoral council (called the "CEP" in Haiti) claimed that the methodology used in counting the victors in those elections had been used in previous elections, the OAS observers disagreed. The OAS report is clear that there were no credible allegations of widespread fraud in the elections.

In any event, no responsible international organization or observers contended that Mr. Aristide's election which occurred in November 2000 was invalid or tainted in any manner as you suggested in your article. I invite you to review the OAS reports. It was clear in November 2000 that Mr. Aristide's election was not marred by fraud or allegations of impropriety.

As soon as Mr. Aristide took office in February 2001 he used the power of his Presidency and as the head of his party to encourage the senators from the 8 contested seats to step down and pave the way for a new election. The seven senators from his party, Lavalas, agreed to do so. The eighth senator, who came from an opposition party, declined to do so.

The second error in your article is the claim that the international embargo was the result of Mr. Aristide's election. Again, this is erroneous. The international embargo began toward the end of Mr. PrÈval's term and had nothing to do with Mr. Aristide's election. Indeed, the United States government has repeatedly taken the position that Mr. Aristide is the democratically elected president of the nation. The embargo was continued under President Aristide's term under the claim that funds would not be released until a settlement was reached with the opposition, notwithstanding the fact that the seven senators had resigned. The embargo, which continues to exist today, and makes it impossible for the government to have any success in alleviating the poverty you address in your article, is therefore not in response to solving the political impasse. That impasse was solved when the senator's stepped down. Nor can the financial embargo be seriously linked to progress in making the country more democratic, because the World Bank, the United States, France and the European Union, who today refuse to provide any direct assistance to the Government of Haiti, provided financial assistance to the Duvaliers during their dictatorship, as well as the military governments that succeeded Duvalier. I leave it to your judgment and good sense as to the true reasons for the embargo. In any event, they are completely unrelated to President Aristide's election.

The third error in your article is simply baffling. I assume you attended the January 1st ceremonies at the National Palace in Port-au-Prince based upon the information contained in your story. The Miami Herald stated that there were "hundreds of thousands" of Haitians at the National Palace. Even the most minimum reasonable estimate of the number of supporters at the National Palace on January 1st, had to range conservatively from 50,000 to 100,000 people. Your description that Aristide spoke to a "small but enthusiastic crowd" simply blinks reality. I have taken the liberty to send photographs to a professional service that will provide me and your editors with a true count as to the number of people who appeared at the National Palace. Although the numbers game can be tricky and I am not assuming you had any bias in writing your article, one would literally have to be blind to say that there was a "small" crowd at the National Palace.

Your article also states that President Mbeki was the only head of state to attend the ceremonies. Your article states: "But it was a measure of Mr. Aristide's political isolation and Haiti's persistent troubles that only one [head of state] showed up." Your own article contradicts this assertion as you state later that the Prime Minister of the Bahamas attended the ceremonies. Indeed, as you were at the National Palace, I am sure you heard Prime Minister Perry Christie state that this was an historic occasion because it was the first time a head of state from the Bahamas had visited the Republic of Haiti. I understand that this may not detract from your general statement, but it certainly is misleading to single out Mr. Mbeki, to ignore Prime Minister Christie, and to ignore the scores of delegations from around the world who attended the celebration.

Finally, there is the question of violence. Your article was remarkably silent on the violence perpetrated by the opposition on January 1st and before that date. Opposition members burnt a police car on January 1st. They blocked all three major roads into the center of Port-au-Prince by setting fires in the road and placing boulders throughout the city. I am sure you witnessed all of these events if you were in Port-au-Prince. Yet your article makes the opposition appear as law abiding democratically-motivated individuals who are subjected to tear-gassing by the police on one hand and violence by Aristide supporters on the other. Had you inquired sufficiently, you would have learned that more supporters of Lavalas have been killed since December 5, 2003 than in the opposition. I am not condoning violence on either side. However, it is misleading to suggest that the violence is simply directed at one side as opposed to the other.

In light of the numerous errors in the article and as the counsel for the Government of Haiti in the United States, I kindly request that these errors be corrected publicly in a manner the New York Times deems appropriate.

As I am certain there was no intention on your part to be biased in the presentation of the facts, I would be honored to have the opportunity to discuss with you any of these or other matters that are of interest to you concerning the Government of Haiti.


Ira J. Kurzban, Esq.

In response to Kurzban's letter, The New York Times attached the following correction to the Web version of its Bicentennial story:

"An article on Friday about the bicentennial of Haiti's independence misidentified the election that outside observers called flawed, a finding that led to the suspension of $500 million in foreign aid to Haiti and contributed to the current political crisis there. It was the May 2000 legislative election, in which the Organization of American States disputed the counting method used in eight Senate races " not the November 2000 election of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which the O.A.S. said was not fraudulent."

"Because of an editing error, the article also referred imprecisely to the size of the crowd that attended the bicentennial celebration outside the presidential palace. While the government estimated it in the hundreds of thousands, and outside journalists' estimates ranged as low as 15,000, the crowd was not small."


On Jan. 27, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Haitian poet Paul Laraque, Haitian trade union leader Ray Laforest and others will launch the new book Haiti: A Slave Revolution at the New School University in Manhattan.

Laraque, one of Haiti's greatest living poets, will read his poetry, followed by discussion and book signing with the authors and editors of A Slave Revolution.

Contributors to the book include Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat, renowned political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, former U.S. Special Forces soldier Stan Goff and Haitian political leader and editor Ben Dupuy.

Drawing on historical texts such as a lecture by famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the new book challenges cultural myths from the 19th century as well as misconceptions about Haiti today.

The book launching will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the New School's Wollman Hall, 5th Floor, 65 West 11th Street in New York City.

It is sponsored by the Haiti Support Network (HSN), the International Action Center (IAC), along with the New School's Diversity Committee and Graduate Program in International Affairs.

For more information call the IAC at 212-633-6646 or the HSN at 718-434-8100.

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