A Message From Occupied Haiti       April 26, 2004

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A Message From Occupied Haiti
April 26, 2004

by Charlie

Hi All,

I sincerely hope this gets to everybody. I've been trying for a week to put this together, but there hasn't been time, electricity has gone out, computers haven't worked, etc. etc.

My "site" is the Aristide Foundation, a really nice large compound on the outskirts of the city, that so far has escaped destruction. It's pretty well fortified, which I'm sure helps, and has people sleeping there around the clock. I've been out there every day for a few hours. I'll be there quite a while tomorrow, since there will be quite a few people. Before the coup it was really a hub, including up to
65 classes a week and big meetings of different groups (like market women)

I've heard a number of testimonies from people whose lives are in danger, who are in hiding, and are without means to support themselves. Many are fleeing to the Dominican Republic (which shares a border with Haiti on the island of Hispanola). They need money there, but at least they are safe from gangs and death squads. The opposition is absolutely vicious. They have burned many homes. Lyn went to the morgue in the city of Gonaives and counted 21 burned corpses and another 13 who had been shot. No one would claim the bodies, out of fear of being identified with the dead.

In the northern city of Cap Haitien, 24 corpses were found in a container truck. The men had been left in the locked container for 3 days to cook to death, then the truck was shoved into the sea. Last week a pro-Aristide student organizer who had been in hiding since the coup attempted to return to Law School, since it's his last year and he wanted to graduate. He was viciously beaten, and barely escaped alive. It's not uncommon to hear machine gun fire at night (there's a 10:00 curfew) and bodies often turn up in the morning. Several houses were burned just last night in the Cite Soleil slum. This is the level of brutality with which we are dealing.

But as a "blanc" I will more than likely be safe. There is an incredible hatred of the Bush family among Lavalas supporters, even more passionate and vitriolic than in many parts of SF. Pro Aristide graffiti abounds. The poverty is almost overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands of people work as street vendors, selling out of little baskets of goods, and earning only pennies a day. These people are the Lavalas (Aristide's party) base, and since their numbers are only increasing as a result of the coup, Lavalas support is not going away.

But that's clearly the goal of the US occupation, with all their camouflaged and trigger happy troops. Pro-Aristide supporters are being fired from jobs and driven out of every institution. Three men in hiding from Gonaives said that between 10-20% of the ENTIRE population of the city have fled. Normal life has been completely disrupted for virtually an entire country. You wonder how much more it can take. Life is so incredibly hard. There's almost no electricity. Public transportation is slow and expensive (gas costs more than $3.00 a gallon.)

There's very little work, and wages have been cut dramatically since the coup, as prices for basic goods has soared. The wealthy who supported the coup are rewarding themselves handsomely, just like the Bush Republicans in the United States. It's shameless and immoral, but as the Haitian proverb goes, "The constitution is paper. Guns are steel."

So now the phone company and the electric company that are publicly owned and which Aristide refused to privatize (angering the international banking set) are on the auction block, prepped by US consultants earning $200,000 a year of our hard earned tax dollars, as the Haitian poor are systematically starved to death. Soon the puppet president will meet the IMF and money that has been held back for the past 3 years will start to flow again - one more effort to convince the people of Aristide's failures and the largesse of the new government.

The big debate here among Lavalas supporters is whether or not to participate in new elections. Wealthier supporters seem open to it, under certain conditions, primarily the guarantee of safety for participants (which seems like a pipe dream given the conditions reported above.) The base is saying a resounding NO - Aristide is the only legitimate president and they won't vote for anyone else. Also some folks in hiding told Lyn they had voted twice and look what happened. Why should they risk themselves again.