Caribbean Political Economy

Haiti Two Years After, Joel Dreyfuss

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An accompanying note from Mariama Williams says “For the women, men and children still in tents and coping with long duree of aftereffects have been quite inspiring to me…You and your fellow Haitians are exempleries of resilience, strength and courage but mostly love and care.”

Beyond disappointment at the slow progress of reconstruction, many Haitians and Haitian Americans have begun to lose faith. We have begun to wonder if the sharp divisions of class and color in Haiti are an unavoidable obstacle to progress, and realize that they must be overcome for the poor Caribbean nation of 10 million to move forward…

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Haiti and Trans-Caribbean Literary Identity: A Missing Link In Caribbean Literature

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This new book by Emilio Jorge Rodriguez is “a remarkable collection of essays,” …(which) “should be listed among the few books that can be said to truly advance the understanding of the subject they address.” Its subject is the Haitian novel in the 20th century and the search for Amerindian and African origins in the masterful work of Alejo Carpentier.

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Five years for a drop of water, Haiti Grassroots Watch

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Haiti Grassroots Watch has teamed up with students from the State University of Haiti’s Faculty of Human Sciences to investigate what went wrong with a project meant to brong water to marginalised neighbourhoods in the capial city.

Port-au-Prince, 4 November 2011 – Two-and-a-half million dollars (US$2.5 million) to supply water to several marginal neighborhoods in the capital. Approved in 2006. But, five years later, the water isn’t running yet. Children are still in the streets bearing bottles and buckets.The project is almost finished. “The end of October,” according to the funder. But not yet…


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The Inevitable Spectacle of the Aristide Myth, Nick Stratton

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Historical Amnesia in the International Media about Haiti

News from Haiti in the past two months has focused dominantly on the return of two mythical figures: former “President for Life” Jean-Claude Duvalier and former democratically-elected president Jean-Bertand Aristide. Duvalier’s mythification remains irrefutably decoded since his departure to France aboard a US plane in 1986-…
The mass media has also reached consensus on the myth of Aristide, though one in which a large degree of spectacle remains…

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Crusader, Friend, Father, Teacher–John Maxwell Remembered, Alicia Dunkley

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HE spent over five decades fighting unpopular battles, stepping on countless toes in his quest for truth and in defence of right. He was rarely silent, having never met an argument he did not want to have...


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Haitian Community Hails John Maxwell Myrtha Desulme

Haiti EPA signing ‘sell-out of population’: National Coalition

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The STOP EPA National Coalition strongly protests the signing of the EPA on December 10th (International Day of Human Rights) by the new Préval / Bellerive government and calls on Haitian parliamentarians to speak out against the EPA and to reject its ratification, which would mean the death of the Haitian economy…

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The Caribbean and Latin America at the Rendezvous of History, Melanie Newton

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From “In The Diaspora”, Stabroek News, October 19, 2009

Melanie Newton is a Barbadian and Associate Professor of History at the University of Toronto

In 2004 two events sent shock waves across the Caribbean Sea, presenting us with two radically different blueprints for future hemispheric relations. In February a combined force of American, Canadian and French troops slipped into Haiti in the dead of night, “convinced” President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign, and spirited him out of the country into exile. Over the past five years the United Nations has occupied Haiti, ostensibly helping to build democracy, but, in reality, crushing democratic opposition movements. In a historic turn of events, Brazil, which has emerged in recent years as a regional superpower, has led UN forces in Haiti since 2005.

Meanwhile, in December 2004, the governments of Venezuela and Cuba spearheaded the Bolivarian People’s Alternative (now the Bolivarian Alliance, or ALBA). ALBA has sought a new kind of relationship between independent Caribbean and Latin American states…

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Haiti: The Battle Over the Mininum Wage

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What Special U.N. Envoy Bill Clinton May do To Help Haiti Ezili Danto,  

Ezili Danto (Marguerite Laurent)

Ezili Danto (Marguerite Laurent)

Bill Clinton was in Miami Sunday, August 9, 2009, making a presentation before Haitians and we’d written a piece entitled What Special UN Envoy Bill Clinton may do to help Haiti where we outlined seven points – stating that Bill Clinton may help Haiti by helping to change US draconian foreign policy in Haiti, that is, by helping grant TPS and equal treatment to Haitians; to end the UN military occupation; free the thousands upon thousands of post-Bush 2004 coup d’etat political prisoners in Haiti; to cancel immediately and without onerous “privatization” or neoliberal conditions all Haiti debt to international financial institutions; to protect, not dilute the $2 billion in annual remittances Haitians from the Diaspora send to Haiti; to support Haitian sovereignty and the institutionalization of the rule of law, not impunity; to establish fair trade wages and nix fraudulent free trade wages and policies and stop failed US/USAID policies of fleecing US taxpayers and handing aid money to USAID – or effectively trading through USAID, churches and predator NGOs, etc…

Haiti’s Minimum Wage Battle

A Council On Hemispheric Affairs (COHA),  Analysis

In May 2009, both chambers of the Haitian Parliament voted to increase the daily minimum wage from 70 gourdes ($1.75) to 200 gourdes ($5). Haiti is the least developed nation in the western hemisphere. The approval of the minimum wage legislation is seen as a momentous victory for Haitians living in poverty. However, Haitian president René Préval declined to sign the proposed legislation into law. Instead, the president offered a counter proposal to raise the minimum wage to just 125 gourdes a day, further cementing the status of the Haitian working class as one of the poorest and lowest paid in the hemisphere. In early August, the Parliament approved the 125 gourdes adjustment. The recent minimum wage battle reflects the conflict between the business sector and Haiti’s poor underclass, and also highlights the harsh political realities that have plagued the embattled Préval since his presidential v ictory in 2006. Préval’s political capital has been continuously squeezed and pressured by Haiti’s business class as well as by external political players. Though Préval is the reputed champion of the poor, he also has been single-minded in trying to gain the support of the country’s pro-business faction that seriously opposed his victory in 2006.

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Ezili Danto

Ezili Danto

A Refreshing ‘Encounter With Haiti’

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by Matthew J. Smith,University of the West Indies, Mona

Comments on Reginald Dumas, An Encounter With Haiti: Notes of a Special Advisor (Port-of-Spain: MediaNet, 2008), 313 pages. Delivered at the 34th Annual Meeting of the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA),Book Launch, Kingston, Jamaica, June 4, 2009.

It is hard to believe that half a decade has already passed since the events of 2004 in Haiti, which were highlighted by the departure of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February of that year. Since then there has been an outpouring of books and articles from authours such as Peter Halliward in Damming the Flood, Michael Diebert in Notes From the Last Testament and others, and by my count at least 4 films that deal with various aspects of the 2004 coup. This production while not as high as the volume that appeared in the post-Duvalier period two decades before, is still marked by a fair amount of controversy; an almost expected consequence of writing on recent history. Many of this writing tends toward a familiar dichotomy between heroes and villains who, depending on the political leanings of the writer, change in appearance from the United States, Aristide, the opposition, LaTortue, CARICOM, or the international community. The confusion of the period is present in most of these works, but the reality is often mired in polemic. Reggie Dumas’ book, An Encounter With Haiti: Notes of a Special Adviser, which I am happy to launch this evening, represents an important departure from this tendency.

Reggie Dumas, an experienced diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago, spent six months in 2004 as Special Advisor on Haiti to then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. In this period he was privy to high-level discussions and planning. This is a unique and important book. Eschewing the temptation to choose sides, Dumas instead presents the various arguments of those on opposing sides and exposes the sometimes absurd prescriptions they offer to solve the issue in Haiti. No one is left unscathed in this account. We learn of the strong and contentious views of leaders and members of the popular classes who Dumas encounters. We get a bold and unrivaled look inside the discussions and plans taken during 2004, as we follow Reggie across the Caribbean and the U.S. in a seemingly unending search for solutions to the crisis. The familiar events of that period, which were closely followed by all of us in the region, are vividly retold in great detail through Dumas’ privileged eyes. Dumas takes us to boardrooms, conference floor and Security Council meeting halls in New York and Washington D.C., the Pétionville homes of opposition leaders members for private meetings, the streets of Port-au-Prince, Jérémie and Cap Haitien, and back to his native Trinidad and Tobago. Along the way he gives us generous glimpses by way of personal anecdotes, balanced humour, and insights, about the behind-the-scenes political wranglings, diplomacy, and the many contradictions in the positions held by people on all sides. Reggie Dumas draws on his great experience and deep knowledge of international affairs as a diplomat who has traveled the world to assess the Haitian situation. That he manages to do all of this without consciously taking sides is quite impressive.

Above all, this book is important for the Caribbean perspective Dumas brings to it. A frequent lament of many of us from the Anglophone islands is that our relative neglect of Haiti fuels great misunderstanding of Haiti’s problems. Reggie Dumas is to be applauded for going beyond this to write an account that draws references and comparisons to the political histories of Haiti’s neighbours, and analyses the events of 2004 in proper regional context. Indeed, in many of the works on post-Aristide Haiti the narrative is written as if CARICOM and Jamaica where Aristide sough temporary exile, were barely present. An Encounter with Haiti gives great critical focus on the role of CARICOM in particular in the unfolding political events of 2004. It is refreshing to read a book on Haiti that carefully considers all the players, big and small.

Reggie dedicates the book to the “Haitian people.” I would add that the book is also for people across the Caribbean, who can learn much from its rich insights and approach.

If all of this is not sufficient to encourage you to immediately seek out personal copies of the book, here is a final and perhaps most important reason: The publisher of the book, Medianet in Port-of-Spain, with (ITNAC) Is There Not A Cause, and the Trinidad Express newspapers have set up the Medianet Haiti Relief Fund. For every copy of the book sold on amazon.com (US$3.00) will automatically be contributed to this fund. Contributions can also be made to a bank account, and for those of you from Trinidad, there are also ITNAC drop-off locations where you can donate materials to Haiti.

All commendable efforts tied in to a commendable book. Please join me in congratulating Reggie on a job well done!

The Minimum Wage and the Coup in Honduras

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by Robert Naiman

The author is National Coordinator of Just Foreign Policy

From The Huffington Post August 7 2009

The coup in Honduras — and the at best grudging and vacillating support in Washington for the restoration of President Zelaya — has thrown into stark relief a fundamental fault line in Latin America and a moral black hole in U.S. policy toward the region.

What is the minimum wage which a worker shall be paid for a day’s labor?

Supporters of the coup have tried to trick Americans into believing that President Zelaya was ousted by the Honduran military because he broke the law. But this is nonsense. A Honduran bishop told Catholic News Service,

“Some say Manuel Zelaya threatened democracy by proposing a constitutional assembly. But the poor of Honduras know that Zelaya raised the minimum salary. That’s what they understand. They know he defended the poor by sharing money with mayors and small towns. That’s why they are out in the streets closing highways and protesting (to demand Zelaya’s return)”

This is why the greedy, self-absorbed Honduran elite turned against President Zelaya: because he was pursuing policies in the interests of the majority.

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How Bill Clinton may help Haiti

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by Ezili Danto

Bill Clinton may be useful to Haiti’s people, not only the ruling/tyrannical Haiti Oligarchs and US elites in Haiti if he uses his spotlight to:

1. Support granting TPS to Haitians; stopping indefinite detentions and/or automatic repatriation of Haitian refugees and support justice and equal application of US laws towards Haitian immigrants and refugees.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and work permits to Haitian nationals ought to be granted with a specification to stop all deportations until Haiti has recovered from the ravages of hurricanes, floods and the bicentennial coup d’etat instability.

2. End the UN military occupation
Expose the UN killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests and political persecutions in Haiti – Support justice for the Coup D’etat and UN victims, not impunity for the UN and the economic elites in Haiti; support the release of all political prisoners in Haiti.

The 9,000 U.N. troops in Haiti are paid over $601.58 million per year and have been in Haiti for four years. That is $50.13 million per month, $1.64 million per day. Yet, during the recent floods and hurricane season in Haiti, the Haitian President had to call for international help from the international community. Wasn’t that help already in Haiti, to the tune of 9,000 U.N. – MINUSTAH- troops already cashing in $1.64 million per day? Why are they there, if incapable of providing emergency help? If they had not one amphibious unit, temporary bridge, caravan of trucks or equipment to reach Haitians in distress, what use are they to the people of Haiti? Are their war tanks, heavy artillery, guns and military presence in Haiti making Haitians more secure, more safe, more free, more prosperous, better nourished, educated and healthier than before they landed four years ago? No.

Special envoy Bill Clinton ought to support ending the UN military occupation. Haiti needs development/infrastructure assistance, poverty reduction assistance through investment in Haitian agriculture and self-sufficiency, tractors not tanks and guns. Community policing, not war soldiers.

Clinton could help if he uses his spotlight to demand the demilitarization of the Haitian police and UN peacekeepers, promoting not any army on Haitian soil, foreign or domestic, but community-based policing; community-focused UN and Haitian police work and training and the banning of UN tanks, heavy weapons, equipments and all small arms exports to Haiti.
3. Support canceling immediately and WITHOUT CONDITIONS all Haiti debt to international financial institutions.

4. Support fair trade in Haiti, not sweatshops, or “Free Trade” and began reciprocal trade.Stop grossly unfair free trade deals and ineffective initiatives such as – the Caribbean Basin Initiate Investment Support (“OPIC”), or the Special Export Zones (“SEZ”) under the Hope Act which bans trade unions to protect workers’ rights, or other such sorts of agreements – pummeling, bullying and beating Haiti into the dust of misery, debt and poverty. And, instead, support Haitian food production and domestic manufacturing, job creation, public works projects, sustainable development and a good working culture that values human rights.

5. Special Envoy Clinton ought to help Haiti by stopping failed US/USAID policies of fleecing US taxpayers and handing the money to USAID – or effectively trading through USAID, churches and predator NGOs. A great portion of food aid from such entities do not reach the intended beneficiaries in Haiti and, end up for sale in the marketplace. Start fair trading with Haiti and supporting grassroots, indigenous Haiti capacity building organizations. USAID denies Haitian sovereignty and progress by blocking, declining, subverting any
direct assistance to empower the Haitian government while engineering so that the majority of Haiti’s national budget (provided by the international community as a consequence the 2004 Bush/USAID regime change) is currently managed by its approved non-governmental organizations. For instance, some 800 NGOs control part of the budget, thoroughly undermining the state’s ability to deal with the famine and food crisis.

Direct that the U.S. re-orientate its resource allocation to Haiti to trade with the Haitian government, not, in effect, with the U.S. Agency of International Development (“USAID”), foreign NGO’s, churches and charities in the name of Haitians. For this US foreign policy effectively forms a shadow government enchaining Haiti that undermines Haiti’s sovereignty, emboldens and empowers NGOs with no public responsibility or accountability to Haitians or Haiti’s long term well-being.

It is in the best interest of the United States to directly support Haitian democracy, good governance, development, self-reliance and self-sufficiency. This cannot be done if the Haitian government has to compete with foreign funded NGOs and charities who are not elected or accountable to the people of Haiti, but are predatory and promoting dependency and their own organizations’ interests for self-perpetuation in Haiti.

To effectively support grassroots, indigenous Haiti capacity building organizations, the US Congress must demand greater fiscal accountability, transparency and quantifiable evidence of sustainable development achievements from reform projects designed, supervised and financed through USAID and their subcontractors, corporate consultants and charity workers using federal funds in Haiti. And, in particular these new Haiti foreign assistance guidelines should ensure, that food and other aid actually reach their intended
beneficiaries and not end up for sale in the open market or stay in Washington or used in Haiti mostly on administrative salary, fees and expenses for USAID’s political benefactors, shipping companies and nonprofits.
6. Support the institutionalization of the rule of law
Special UN Envoy Bill CLinton should support the institutionalization of Haitian laws, not USAID/IRI/NED “democracy enhancement” projects that promote coup d’etat, instability and financial colonialism and containment-in-poverty in Haiti through neo-liberalism – “free trade,” “globalization” and other such “privatization” – schemes.

Every time the United States supports the destabilization of a duly elected government it visits enormous economic pressures and political turmoil upon Haiti. The turmoil and pressures benefit Haiti’s bloody military and Economic Elites and undermines Haitian justice, participatory democracy, self sufficiency, sovereignty, self-determination and promotes insecurity, debt, dependency, foreign domination, injustice, a rise in fleeing refugees and a structural containment in poverty. This instability has widespread and deep and disturbing repercussions. It keeps Haiti underdeveloped, dependent and contained-in-poverty.

Clinton, may begin to support the Haitian Constitution by assisting with the return of President Aristide to Haiti and thereby reinforce the rule of law and interests of the majority of Haitians, not just that of the undemocratic and morally repugnant Haitian elites.

7. Encourage Maximum leveraging of Diaspora remittances The Haitian Diaspora invests over $2 billion dollars per year in Haiti. That investment is destroyed, diluted and undermined when it must be used to bury family members killed in political turmoil, kidnapped in the chaos of anarchy, instability that follows coup d’etats, or to move and help rebuilt the family of a relative or friend traumatized by the UN soldiers’ rapes, molestation, arbitrary detention and indefinite incarcerations of their children relatives and friends in Haiti, instead of being used to buy books for their children and relatives to go to school, to buy supplies to carry out a viable family business, seeds to plant next year’s harvest, or invest remittances in Haiti’s tourism, schools, reforestation, agriculture, road construction, flood barriers, communication, energy, sanitation or health needs. Moreover, when the
US deports an income earner to storm-ravaged and famine Haiti, this decreases remittances and further impoverish family members who depended on the remittances from family members abroad. Diaspora remittances are the most effective and direct aid to the Haitian poor in Haiti.

CONCLUSION
Special UN Envoy Bill Clinton may assist Haitian development, democracy, self – reliance and sovereignty if he supports granting equal treatment and Haitians TPS, ending the UN military occupation, demand justice for the coup d’etat victims, calls for the release of thousands upon thousands of political prisoners in Haiti, assist Haiti with poverty reduction with domestic agricultural investments not sweatshops, support Haiti-led-capacity building grassroots organizations not foreigners and NGOS, supports community policing,supports canceling, without conditions, the unfair debts to international financial institutions and promotes the return to Haiti of President Jean Bertrand Aristide. All this would support stability, participatory democracy, stop the flow of refugees and illegal immigration and meet the policy interests of the United States.

For further information, see Ezili HLLN’s

- Haiti Policy Statement for the Obama Team
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/HaitiPolicyToObama.html#policy ;

- What Haitians and Haitian-Americans Ask of the New US Congress and President

http://www.margueritelaurent.com/campaigns/campaignsix/c6mission.html#HA_08

and

- The Free Haiti Movement Demands

http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/sanba_zakafest.html#2008FHMdemands

The Prime Minister has spoken-IV, Reginald Dumas

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As published in the Trinidad Express Tuesday, July 14th 2009

reginald-dumas21 Conclusion of a four-part series

As I’ve often said, I’m wholly in favour of working closely with our Caricom colleagues. It helps them, it helps us. Why else would you have a regional body?

Caricom isn’t doing all that well, however. The people of the region remain essentially unengaged with it 36 years after its birth, and its aims and objectives, to which lip service is repeatedly and solemnly paid by generation after generation of its political leaders, are in practice crumbling through misuse and neglect.

Rickey Singh, who knows more about these matters than most of us, wrote in the Express after this month’s Georgetown summit that our Heads of Government “may have unwittingly succeeded in spawning more disappointment and cynicism The communiqué issued at the end of the meeting exposes the yawning gap between high-sounding rhetorical claims and the failure to take hard and imaginative decisions.” The late Lloyd Best used to say that talk is action. We in the Caribbean have elevated that aphorism to the level of art, and our politicians are our most accomplished artists.

Patrick Manning at least has been making an effort at some form of sub-regional integration. As so often with him, he’s been going about it in the wrong way, and there are suspicions of his real motives. But he did set up the Vaughan Lewis Task Force, which has now reported, and he did address both his party and the Parliament on the topic of what T&T could do to assist the less fortunate in the region. (He rather spoiled that superficially noble sentiment by linking it with a need for us to keep Caribbean illegal would-be migrants away from our shores, and with the spectre of our paying “in blood” if we didn’t.)

Where the Lewis Report is concerned, I’ve read only the executive summary and find that I’m not clear on what is being proposed and why. This means I have no choice but to read the report in its entirety. I dread that, because its two volumes together make up more than 560 pages, and my capacity for sustained concentration over lengthy periods is no longer what it used to be. But I shall have to make the effort.

On the Manning ideas for help to the region, I was extremely disappointed not to hear any mention of Haiti, which is worse off than any other Caricom member. Let me state for the record that I much appreciate what the Manning administration has already done for that country by way of grants from the Petroleum Stabilisation Fund. But much more has to be done for and with the Haitian people (as, to be blunt, the Haitian people have to do much more for and with one another).

Manning knows that, hence his proposal for a Haiti Hemispheric Fund at the recent Summit of the Americas. Alas, the proposal has fallen on deaf ears, I’m told. Here in T&T, however, the Medianet Haiti Relief Fund has been established, and the government may wish to contribute to it through money and/or goods. Kelvin Scoon at Medianet Caribbean (622-9432 and 628-7855) is the person to contact.

We must not ignore the broader theme of location of projects that subliminally pervades Manning’s parliamentary statement of June 24. Again, this matter of regional harmonisation of industry isn’t new; it goes back to the days of the West Indies Federation. This is what The Economics of Nationhood, published by the T&T government in September 1959, said on the subject: “Federal coordination of the (regional) economy (will ensure) that the various projects proposed by the different Units (of the Federation) do not duplicate or overlap each other but are conceived in a regional context.”

Nearly 30 years later, in 1985, the Caricom Heads approved the Caricom Industrial Programming Scheme (CIPS), according to which, the Caricom Secretariat tells us, industries were to be identified and allocated to various member states. If you’ve heard of the CIPS at all, which I doubt, what have you been able to glean about its operations? Under his recent proposals, how many southern Caribbean drydocks does Mr Manning envisage? How many quarries?

I have two last points. First, whom does Mr Manning see as the investors in his suggested regional ventures? The private sector? Regional governments? Or the T&T taxpayer? (Mind you, if one of our state agencies can spend nearly $200,000 on balloons and confetti-thus also causing more environmental impairment-for a function where the only obligation was to cut a ribbon, perhaps money really is no problem. Always provided, of course, the money isn’t yours but the taxpayer’s.)

Second, I note that all the countries in which Manning wants to “intervene” are beneficiaries of Hugo Chavez’s’ PetroCaribe programme, and that at least two of them, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines, also belong to his ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). Is this coincidence or design? And if the Chíƒ, ¡vez and Manning initiatives are indeed running on parallel tracks, how are they to be reconciled? Are they to be reconciled?

Read ,   Part I Part II Part III

The Honduras coup is the Caribbean’s business; Norman Girvan, Andaiye and Alissa Trotz

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Andaiye

Andaiye

A slightly shorter version of this commentary was published in the Stabroek News of July 13, 2009

On April 11, 2002, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez was briefly removed from office by an abortive coup d-etat. A documentary on this episode, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, shows how an alliance of big business, wealthy landowners, and elements of the military conspired to remove him, with the active support of the Bush Administration and the local and international media. State-owned TV stations were closed,coverage of pro-Chavez demostrations was blanked, and false stories circulated. Fortuitously, on the day of the coup, an Irish television crew happened to be inside the Presidential Palace making a documentary; and the end -result was a film that offers an alternate and compelling viewpoint to the pro-coup stories. It documented the pro-poor policies of of the government, the fact that it had been democratically elected and enjoyed extensive support among the working poor; it refuted the

Alissa Trotz

Alissa Trotz

lie that Chávez had resigned and revealed that he was being held prisoner, and showed the massive street demonstrations in his support.

There are disturbing parallels with Honduras, where on the morning of June 28th the incumbent President Manuel Zelaya, democratically elected in 2006 , was taken prisoner by soldiers and put on a plane to neighbouring Costa Rica, a forged letter of resignation was produced, and the President of the National Assembly, Robert Micheletti, proclaimed President. Honduras, a Central American nation of seven million people that recently overtook Guyana as the third poorest country in the hemisphere, still exhibits the deep racial and class inequalties that are a legacy of Spanish conquest and colonisation of the indigenous majority. 75 percent of the people live in poverty, while the top 10 percent of the population gets 45 percent of the national product (Background to the Honduran coup: Poverty, exploitation and imperialist domination, By Rafael Azul). The unemployment rate is 30 percent and the average working day for adult men and women is 14 hours. 30,000 employees in the maquiladora (export assembly) plants have reportedly lost their jobs since the onset of the global economic crisis. Manuel Zelaya, himself a wealthy landowner, had angered the Honduran business elite and military by moving increasingly ‘to the left’ during his presidency, raising the mimimum wage by 60 percent, reducing fuel prices in response to popular demands, and, most controversially, taking Honduras into the Venezuelan-led ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). His plan to hold a non-binding referendumwas the trigger of a series of events which led to his ouster.

Contrary to widespread media reports, the June 28 Referendum was not about extending Zelaya’s term of office. The actual question on the aborted June 28 ballot read: “Do you think that the November 2009 general elections should include a fourth ballot box in order to make a decision about the creation of a National Constitutional Assembly that would approve a new Constitution?” “Yes” or “No.”? To quote Mark Weisbrot, Director of the Washington-based Centre for Ecocomic Policy and Research writing on July 8th for the London Guardian,

“There was no way for Zelaya to “extend his rule” even if the referendum had been held and passed, and even if he had then gone on to win a binding referendum on the November ballot. The 28 June referendum was nothing more than a non-binding poll of the electorate, asking whether the voters wanted to place a binding referendum on the November ballot to approve a redrafting of the country’s constitution. If it had passed, and if the November referendum had been held (which was not very likely) and also passed, the same ballot would have elected a new president and Zelaya would have stepped down in January”.

What was launched, therefore, appears to have been a pre-emptive strike by the Honduran elite in an attempt to thwart Zelaya’s plans to deepen the democratic process in a country that has historically excluded the poor and indigenous majority from effective participation in social and economic life; a process similar to that underway in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.

An inadvertent revelation of inbred racism and classism of this class was the statement by Enrique Ortez Colindres, named as interim foreign minister, dismissing U.S. President Obama as a “little black man [who] doesn’t know where Tegucigalpa is.” A lukewarm apology was proffered, but a further remark by Colindres surfaced which translated reads “I have negotiated with queers, prostitutes, leftists, blacks, whites. This is my job, I studied for it. I am not racially prejudiced. I like the little black sugar plantation worker who is president of the United States.” (There are reports that Colindres has been replaced, but other news stories contradict this).

Whatever one may think of Mr Zelaya’s politics, there can be little doubt that what is at stake here is the integrity of institutional democracy and constitutional order. Quite simply, if soldiers can take it on themselves to remove and eject a demcratically elected President, then no such President or government is safe–not in Latin America, not in the Caribbean, not anywhere in the world. The Cuban leader, Fidel Castro has rightly warned that failure to restore President Zelaya could result in a wave of additional coups in Latin America, or place existing governments “at the mercy of the ultra right-wing military, educated in the security doctrine of the School of the Americas, an expert in torture, psychological warfare and terror”. Hence the coup has been unanimously condemned internationally–the United Nations General Assembly, the OAS General Assembly, the Rio Group, the ALBA nations, the Central American Integration System, the Caribbean Community, the European Union, and now the Non-Aligned Movement—have all called for the President’s restoration. Evidently the geopolitical climate has shifted somewhat since 2002. Last week US President Obama reassuringly declared “America supports now the restoration of the democratically-elected President of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies” .

US Base at Soto Cano, 50 miles from Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras

US Base at Soto Cano, 50 miles from Tegucigalpa, capital of Honduras

But is the U.S. speaking with one voice? Some argue that the Pentagon, which operates one of the largest U.S. air bases in the region just 50 miles from Tegucigalpa, and has close ties to the Honduran military, must have had forewarning of the coup; and not only failed to stop it but may even have given ‘a wink and a nod’. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s initial statements on the coup were ambiguous, to say the least, and she sponsored the clumsy attempt to broker an agreement between President Zelaya and the usurper Micheletti, using President Arias of Costa Rica as mediator; an attempt which spectacularly-and predictably-failed. As Weisbrot notes, the US still does not call for an immediate and unconditional return as do the United Nations, the Organisation of American States and Caricom. Some in the U.S. may well support the coupists’ strategem of dragging out the process until the Honduran presidential election, due in November.

But just who is in charge in Washington? And when President Obama spoke of the ‘dangerous precedent’ that Zelaya’s ouster would create if it succeeded, was he subliminally, perhaps, thinking of the possibility of it coming closer to home? Was Fidel sending an oblique warning to Obama when he wrote “The Pentagon formally obeys the civilian power. The legions have not yet taken over control of the empire as they did in Rome”?

Meanwhile popular resistance to the coup in Honduras grows daily, and with it the likelihood of a violent polarisation of the country; dragging other Central American,   nations into

Alfred Lopez National Fraternal Black Organization

Alfred Lopez National Fraternal Black Organization

the conflict. Daily demonstrations are being held by the national resistance movement, a coalition of popular organizations, at least one of which has been violently supressed. The National Fraternal Black Organization, representing Honduras’ Garifuna population (‘Black Caribs’, of African-Caribbean origin), is an active part of the resistance movement; considering it their ‘historic responsibility, as a culturally distinct people (whose) culture is threatened by these same powerful groups responsible for the coup’.

Mike James in July 10th Catholic Standard, has reported on several Honduran religious communities publicly condemning the coup. One protestor, a youth killed by military snipers when he attempted to go onto the airfield to welcome the plane that was attempting to land returning Zelaya–aborted by the military–was the son of Pentecostal ministers, one of whom led the Human Rights committee in his community and has since been arrested. He describes popular religious organizations offering alternative radio coverage and carrying video footage of the resistance and repression in the Honduran capital; and a website, Honduras Resists, has been set up with regularly updated coverage. And across the region grassroots organizations are also categorically condemning the coup, like the network of indigenous women of South America and Mexico who issued a statement from Lima last week.

Honduras also brings to mind the ongoing crisis in Haiti, where, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was himself put on a plane by soldiers (American, in this instance) and banished in 2004, on the eve of the 200th anniversary of Haitian independence; a disgraceful episode in which US, Canadian and French governments played no small part. Honduras is not only our business in the Caribbean, we need to put to these events in a wider hemispheric context. We must insist on a conversation that recognizes that today two popularly elected presidents from our part of the world, Aristide and Zelaya, are in exile, and that the democratic aspirations of both the Honduran and Haitian people continue to be in limbo and require our solidarity.

Norman Girvan is Professor at the UWI Instititute of International Relations in St. Augustine, Trinidad
Andaiye is international coordinator of Red Thread, a collective of mainly grassroots women in Guyana which crosses race/ethnic divides
Alissa Trotz is a member of Red Thread and teaches women/gender studies and Caribbean Studies at the University of Toronto

Documentation

The Right Strikes Back Immamuel Wallerstein

Honduran Crisis: Role of U.S. Military Training School Lawrwence Gist, L.A. County Examiner

Ex-Clinton Aides Advising Honduran Coup Regime Bill Van Auken

The Coup Dies or Constitutions Die Fidel Castro

Honduras resists

Hondurans Resist the Coup; They Need International Support Mark Weisbrot

U.S. Press falsely claims Honduran plurality for the coup

Honduras’s First Lady Leads Demonstration in Tegucigalpa

Zelaya’s wife leads protest

Interview with Vice-President of National Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras

Central America’s New Transnational Right and the Regional Military Threat Simon Granovsky-Larsen

Bigotry, hatred mark Honduras’s de facto regime

Ortez Colindres,   fired

he Honduras Coup: Is Obama Innocent? Michael Parenti

In Honduras, two political lines of the USA at work Jose Vicente Rangel

BBC Video,   shows soldiers shooting,   unarmed protestors

Caricom Condemns Miliatry Action; Calls for Reinstatement of President Zelaya

FITUN Statement Calling for Restoration of President Zelaya and of Solidarity with Honduran People


PAPDA’s DECLARATION ON HAITI’S MINIMUM WAGE

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Statement by the Haitian Platform For Development Alternatives PAPDA

Port-au-Prince, June 22, 2009

For several weeks, the question of raising Haiti’s minimum wage has been at the center of political discourse and is the basis of a new round of mobilization and repression. Since May 1, the national police (PNH) and UN (MINUSTAH) have unleashed a wave of repression against the population, particularly those supporting the law passed in the Senate on May 5th to fix the new minimum wage at 200 gourdes ($5) per day.

Several times, PAPDA has already publicly pronounced its support for the new law. But here are a few reasons worth repeating:

1. The lack of augmentation of the minimum wage between April 17, 2003 and June 2009 is a violation of the Haitian labor code (article 137) and a violence that the state and the dominant classes committed against Haiti’s workers and against the nation.

2. Workers’ purchasing power continues to diminish. The minimum wage in the 1970s (5 gourdes in 1971, 6.5 gourdes in 1974) is less than the 1950s. The situation continues to diminish in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. All calculations, taking account of inflation in the past 6 years, would arrive at a reasonable minimum wage between 500 and 600 gourdes per day.

3. During the period between 2003-2009, Haitian dominant classes’ profits have exploded because of several factors, including the tax holiday the Boniface/ Latortue government gave the private sector. Available statistics show that more than 61% of the wealth in Haiti is absorbed by profits – only a small portion goes to workers’ wages.

4. The behavior of the State is shocking, presenting an image of politicians totally in the service of a blind oligarchy, completely foreign to national realities. Contrary to the DSNCRP (Haiti’s strategic plan to the World Bank and IMF), neoliberalism has not contributed to growth in the country, only more misery.

5. PAPDA is scandalized by the fallacious arguments the business owners (ADIH) have used to scare the government and population against raising the minimum wage. Every time the minimum wage has been discussed, ADIH has cried wolf to scare the government against its passage: that raising minimum wage would mean the certain and immediate closure of industry in Haiti and the cause of a sudden loss of jobs. In every case, it was a lie.

6. The question of minimum wage is far from being a simple question-of-the-day. It needs to be posed in relation with the vision and the model of development imposed on the country. Washington and the U.N. want to turn the country into a workshop of the U.S., building more free trade zones, recently brought about by the HOPE II act and repeated by Paul Collier in his report to the U.N. This sub-contracting model does not add to the wealth of the country, but only facilitates it being drained more quickly. To truly develop our country’s wealth we need to do away with this development model in favor of national production.

7. It’s clear that ADIH’s arguments haven’t born fruit. With a daily salary of 70 gourdes for 6 long years under the HOPE law, we still haven’t seen the sudden boom of foreign direct investment (FDI) promised. Haiti has an enormous structural deficit (routes, ports, airports, communication, electricity, etc.) The U.N. and U.S. and foreign press continue to talk about Haiti as a “failed state” which justifies foreign occupation. What investor would be rushing to invest in this country often stigmatized in the foreign press?

8. 70 gourdes per day are largely already passed in CODEVI (Haiti-DR free trade zone) and in certain factories in SONAPI (Port-au-Prince industrial park), so it’s possible to raise the wage. According to ADIH, HOPE II represents a savings of $1.50 per pair of pants, but the cost of all Haitian labor is 12 and a half cents.1 Double this and it’s another 12 and a half cents, a small fraction of the gains already made by HOPE II.

9. The camp of those struggling for the passage of the law for the 200 gourdes minimum wage needs to grow. PAPDA salutes the big mobilization by the Collective for another May 1 who has mobilized numerous demonstrations. We also salute Parliament, particularly the author of the law Steven Benoit. For the past several weeks, State University (UEH) students have been carrying the banner.

In accounting for these elements, PAPDA

1. Exhorts the 2 chambers of Parliament to maintain the 200 gourde minimum wage.

2. Asks the executive to respect the constitution and quickly publish the 200 gourdes minimum wage.

3. Asks the Minister of Social Affairs to honor its mission to reinforce its supervisory capacity to ensure that this increase in minimum wage would trigger a rapid increase in workers’ quotas.

4. Demands the Haitian government to renounce the neoliberal macro-economic framework.

5. Firmly condemns the hateful repression arrived since May 1, 2009

6. Asks that all organizations who truly believe in a better future for Haiti to join in the mobilization for the 200 gourdes and contribute to build a single platform of demands to reinforce the popular movement and its place in the process of decision-making.

Signed,

Camille Chalmers Fruck Dorsainvil Marc-Arthur Fils-Aimé Chenet Jean Baptiste

Bureau Exécutif ANDAH ICKL ITECA

William Thélusmond Lise-Marie Déjean Cilencieux Benoit

CRAD SOFA MITPA

Haiti Debt Cancellation: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

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Release from from the Haiti Support Group,   2 July 2009

Like when a wrongly-convicted prisoner is released after years of incarceration, there can only be mixed feelings about yesterday’s announcement of the cancellation of US$1.2 billion of Haiti’s US$1.9 billion debt. Yes, it is good news that over 60% of Haiti’s debt has been cancelled under the terms of the HIPC. But, on the other hand, it is a scandal that it took so long for the international finance institutions (IFIs) to take this step. Just think what could have been done with the money wasted on debt repayments over the last years?

Part of the debt that has now been cancelled was composed of loans made to the Duvalier regimes in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. These loans were never used to develop the country and much of the amount was stolen by the Duvaliers and their clique. It remains an outrage that the Haitian people had to continue paying interest on these amounts until June 2009!

The HIPC debt cancellation announced by the IMF and World Bank is good news indeed, but what about those wasted years when the debt was being repaid and Haiti’s economy went from bad to worse?

The debt cancellation means that the US$1m per week that the Haitian people have until now been paying to service the debt can instead be used for other purposes. The HSG would hope that this would mean more state support for national production for national consumption. However all the indications are that – under heavy pressure from the IFIs – the Haitian government will instead pursue a development strategy based on the deeply-flawed garment assembly export sector. Without ever providing a convincing argument, the IFIs have been pushing for decades for this sector to be the motor of Haiti’s economic development. Despite the fact that this sector exists in a virtual vacuum with only minimal impact on the wider Haitian economy, only a few months ago UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and British economist Paul Collier made yet another proposal for international aid to fund garment assembly production in new Free Trade Zones.

Indeed, Corinne Delechat, IMF mission chief for Haiti, commenting on the debt cancellation, told Reuters that Haiti is a ‘land of opportunity if you’re an entrepreneur and an investor,” adding, “It is a golden moment for Haiti to start investing in export capacity, particularly in textiles.”

It looks like the IFIs’ interventions will result in the HIPC debt cancellation being a matter of Haiti taking one step forward, while their focus on garment assembly for export will take the country two steps back.

_______________________________________________________
Sent by the Haiti Support Group – A British solidarity organisation supporting the Haitian people’s struggle for participatory democracy, human rights and equitable development
- www.haitisupport.gn.apc.org

Windmills Of The Mind, Mervyn Claxton

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I decided to wait until all the comments on my paper Port of Spain Declaration: A Critical Analysis were posted before making a global response. Four comments were received – those by Norman and Yash in this exchange and two others – by Wendy Lee and Margaret Gill – (Wendy’s contribution is posted on the website, Margaret’s is not) in two separate, parallel e-mail exchanges. Notwithstanding the several important points made by Norman and Yash (which I discuss below), it is my opinion that only Wendy’s and Margaret’s contribution grasped the essential issue involved – sustainable development.

Wendy posed the crucially important question “How can we get decision-makers to absorb and act on the information that is so readily available about sustainable development IMPERATIVES, including critical ecological requirements, instead of pursuing the same old false, unjust and unsustainable models?” Margaret identified another key aspect (one that I explored in the paper) – how do we inform and educate the Caricom public on that essential issue.

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Caribbean Trade Unionists on Solidarity Mission in Haiti

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5 May 2009,   (AlterPresse www.alterpresse.org ) – Trade unionists from the Public Services International (PSI) concluded their solidarity mission to Haiti on 5th May, according to information received by the online news agency, AlterPresse.

Andrew Garnett, representing Guyana’s local government officers’ union, said that the visit enabled the PSI delegates to learn about the situation of Haitian unions and to establish solidarity links with different sectors of Haitian civil society…

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EU Development Funding for Cariforum 2008-2013

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Regional and Country Strategy Papers ,  and Indicative Programmes, 2008-2013.

The EU Regional Strategy for the period 2008-2013 covered by the 10th EDF is based on the policy agenda of CARIFORUM States, the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement (hereinafter “Cotonou Agreement”), the EU Communication on the Caribbean of 2 March 2006 and the related Council Conclusions, as well the statement of European Union (EU) Development Policy of 20 December 2005. It is also based on the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The Regional Indicative Programme (RIP) is financed through an allocation of €165 million for 10th European Development Fund (EDF) regional programming over a six-year period starting in 2008…

Click below for

Regional Strategy Paper and Regional Indicative Programme

Country Strategy Papers and National Indicative Programmes: Click below for:

Antigua and Barbuda

Bahamas

Barbados

Belize

Dominica

Dominican Republic

Grenada

Guyana

Haiti

Jamaica

St Kitts and Nevis

St Lucia

St Vincent and the Grenadines

Suriname

Trinidad and Tobago

Intra-ACP Programme

The above sourced from http://ec.europa.eu/development/index_en.cfm

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Mervyn Claxton reviews ‘An Encounter With Haiti’, by Reginald Dumas

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Reginald Dumas has written a fascinating, highly readable, well documented account of his experience as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Adviser on Haiti, in the period immediately following President Aristide’s resignation from power, which was disingenuously described as ‘voluntary’ by certain foreign interests.. His penetrating insight into the dynamics of big power, small country, and international organization politics illuminated his observations and analysis throughout the book…

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