By Hervé Jean Michel-www.haitiliberte.com
Hundreds of members of popular organizations marched through Port-au-Prince in a large and spirited but peaceful demonstration on Tuesday, July 28, 2009. They were commemorating the fateful day of July 28, 1915 when the United States Marines invaded Haiti and began a military occupation that lasted 19 years, from 1915-1934.
Today, our nation is under the boots of United Nations soldiers working at the service of the Haitian bourgeoisie and U.S. and French imperialism. Symbolically, the demonstrators began at the statue of Haiti's founding father Jean-Jacques Dessalines at Pont-Rouge and marched to the United Nations headquarters in the Bourdon district to demand the immediate departure of the U.N. Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), as the occupation force is called.
The UN Security Council mandate for the MINUSTAH expires on October 15, 2009.
Among the slogans written on banners and posters carried by the demonstrators were: "We want the departure of MINUSTAH and the immediate return of President Aristide!" and "We demand the vote and the application of the minimum wage of 200 gourdes!" and "Down with neoliberalism!"
It was in an atmosphere of great patriotic fervor that these compatriots marched so that they could make their demands heard by the Haitian leaders and their accomplices who help keep the country occupied.
Préval was denounced during the whole course of the march. The condemnation of the Haitian President illustrates how his policy of promoting neoliberalism has destroyed any credence he had with the Haitian people, who, in the aftermath of the February 7, 2006 vote, struggled with all their might to block electoral tricks aimed at subverting Préval's election.
The July 28 demonstration brought together for the first time all the fundamental progressive demands of Haiti's converging mass movements, including student demands for reform at the State University and application of the 200 gourdes ($5.05) daily minimum wage as well as the Lavalas masses' demand for Aristide's return and the release of all political prisoners, including Ronald Dauphin (he is accused of involvement in the long discredited "La Scierie Massacre" hoax concocted by 2004 coup supporters). All sectors are also calling for justice for Kenel Pascal, who was killed by MINUSTAH soldiers outside the Port-au-Prince Cathedral after the June 18 funeral of Father Gérard Jean Juste.
Over a dozen mass organizations came together to organize the march, including the Assembly of Organizations for Change (ROC), the Network of Multiplying National Organs of the Lavalas Family (RONMFL), the Network of Organizations of the West Zone (ROZO), the National Organization for the Equitable Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ONAPROEDEF), and Alternative for Haiti's National Liberation(ALEH).
The march organizers asked Haiti Liberté journalist Yves Pierre-Louis to lay out the demonstration's demands to the leaders of the occupying army. He did so through a bullhorn in front of UN headquarters at the Christophe Hotel in Bourdon. There the protestors were faced by several columns of Haitian police and blue-helmeted UN troops who made a show of force behind coils of barbed wire. Some carried large clubs and plastic shields while others were armed with assault rifles.
At this point, nobody knows what the UN troops are going to do. Are they going to go home, as the people demand, thus ending this contemptible occupation which is destroying the Haitian people's future? Or will they pursue a policy of provocation by continuing the occupation which has already gone on for over five years?
"The country belongs to the Haitian people," said Tony Philistine of the Cité Soleil Action Coalition of the Lavalas Family Base (Aba Satan), one of the march organizers. "There is no question that the people are living as prisoners in their own country. If the people ask the MINUSTAH to leave, the MINUSTAH should obey this sovereign demand. The Haitian Police can provide security. The MINUSTAH should leave with the neoliberal plan in their luggage, so that we can build our own future."
This position was shared by all the march organizers, who in a press release denounced all the atrocities committed by the occupation troops against the Haitian people. For them, Haiti's military occupation and neoliberalism's application are part of one and the same reality. They are imprisoning the Haitian people to make them swallow a fatal pill: the neoliberal plan.
In this battle, the Haitian people are faced with a government which they helped set in place. The Legislative and the Executive officials sanctioning the occupation and neoliberalism were all elected. So the people voted in the agents of their own current misfortune. However, we must continue to vote (but not in bogus elections like thos of April and June 2009) so that the constitution will survive and so that our leaders who have violated the trust people put in them and violated the law will be removed.
The July 28 march should also motivate young people, who are increasingly frustrated by coming of age in a nation where there are no opportunities and no future for them.
WBAI SHOW ON HAITI'S MILITARY OCCUPATIONS IN 1915 AND TODAY
This Thursday, July 30, from 9 - 10 p.m. on WBAI 99.5 FM and www.wbai.org, "Haiti: The Struggle Continues" will look at the first U.S. Marine Occupation of Haiti which began on July 28, 1915 and lasted 19 years. The show will also look at the current U.N. military occupation of Haiti which began five years ago.
Historian Mary Renda, author of the book "Taking Haiti," will outline the similarities between the 1915 Occupation and today's. In her book, Renda explores the cultural dimensions of U.S. contact with Haiti during the occupation and its aftermath, and how this contributed in crucial and unexpected ways to the emerging culture of U.S. imperialism.
The show will also examine how Washington's current doctrine, "Responsibility to Protect," is a continuation of the "paternalistic interventions" of the early 20th century.
Listen to "Haiti: The Struggle Continues" for news about Haiti and Haitians around the world. The Haitian Collective at WBAI, which produces the program, can be reached at 917-251-6057 or firstname.lastname@example.org
All articles copyrighted Haiti Liberte. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Liberte.