Concern: Ouanaminthe Free Zone

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Concern: Ouanaminthe Free Zone

Post by admin » Wed Aug 06, 2003 1:04 am


Submitted to The Sunday Times
By Jacqui Goddard in Ouanaminthe, Haiti.
5 July 2003

Farmer Jean Eugene gazes wistfully through the tall wire fence that has been built across his Caribbean farmland, shaking his head as he reflects on the bad fortune it represents for his family.

Just weeks ago, his fields were rich with corn and vegetables - treasured assets in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. But then the bulldozers arrived. Mr Eugene's crops were ripped from the soil by government contractors and he has been barred from his own land to make way for the construction of an industrial Free Trade Zone (FTZ) that will house cheap-labour factories producing clothes for leading brands including Levi's, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss.

"This is a crime against humanity," says Mr Eugene, 43, whose elderly father was chased away by armed
Haitian police when he tried to access the plot to pick ripened mangoes from a tree. "While these big companies are getting rich, we will be struggling to even feed ourselves. Planting crops is how we survive here - our life comes from the earth. We cannot eat rocks and cement, we need plantains and corn."

The Maribahoux Plain is one of the country's most fertile agricultural regions. Located on Haiti's border with the Dominican Republic, it has a production capacity of more than 30,500 tons of food per year, enough to feed half a million people.

But under a scheme jointly approved by the two countries' governments and funded by the World Bank, 54 peasant farmers including Mr Eugene have been evicted to free up land for the first phase of the FTZ.

Ultimately there will be around 40 factories along the 360km border, creating a 500,000-sq.metre trading park from which goods will be exported free of taxes and tariffs.

The first phase involves the building of a 150,000-sq.metre w
orksite for Grupo M, a Dominican Republic textile company that will lease the land from the Haitian government for 25 years. It supplies some of the world's top clothing outlets, boasting: "We dress the world, stitch by stitch."

Grupo M and the World Bank say the first phase will generate up to 4,500 jobs for Haitians, while the entire project could provide more than ten times that number. The firm will provide workers with housing, a training unit, a day care centre and a clinic.

"There has been a lot of discussion about the social and environmental aspects and we have offered to move farmers to new land. We are very sensitive to the issues," said a spokeswoman at the company's headquarters in Santiago,
Dominican Republic.

But Mr Eugene claims the bulldozer teams that seized his fields in March came unannounced and there has been no offer of new land. Whereas he could previously expect annual crop profits of around 70,000 Haitian Gourdes (£1,300), he says the government has offere
d around a third of that sum as total compensation. "I don't want the money," he said defiantly. "My land is not for sale."

A kindly-faced man, he lives with wife Anouse, 33, and their seven children in a cramped concrete home in Ounaminthe, a town of 70,000 people located a three-hour drive along a rocky unmade road from the second city of Cap Haitien. Pigs, goats and chickens wander the streets, mingling with donkeys and horses carrying farmers and their produce to market. Few people here have even heard of the multi-billion pound designer brands for whom their crops have been sacrificed.

Gaston Etienne, coordinator of Komite Defens Pitobert, a farmers' advocacy group, said: "you will be buying your fashion items while we are earning a pitance making them."

Mr Eugene has now taken work as a teacher, earning 2,500 Gourdes (£62) a month, but needs a minimum of 200 Gourdes (£5) a day to feed his family, including daughter Aisha, born only ten days ago. "My dreams for Aisha's future ha
ve completely changed," he lamented. "I will not be able to even afford her powdered milk. "

For each of the 54 farmers who lost land, up to 50 farmworkers - many of them elderly - have also lost their livelihoods, but only those under the age of 35 will be offered factory jobs. It is not yet known how many others will lose land in the next phases of development.

In addition, critics condemn the factories as "sweatshops," farmworkers who have been offered jobs there reporting that their wages will be just 10% of what they used to earn.

Leading Haitian economist Camille Chalmers, citing the example set by FTZ sweatshops established in Haiti in the 1960s under former president JeanClaude Duvalier, predicts a swift "ghetto-isation" of the Maribahoux area as cheap housing springs up and thousands pour in searching for work.

"The job creation rhetoric is propaganda," said Mr Chalmers, founder of PAPDA, the Haitian Advocacy for an Alternative Development Programme. "They talk about jobs
being created, not the jobs that are being lost. There will be a real human cost."

"They should work with farmers to increase agricultural productivity and feed Haiti's people, rather than destroying the country's bread basket to benefit foreign investors."

There are also concerns that the region's four rivers will be polluted by the industrial activity.

At the World Trade Organisation summit in Cancun, Mexico, this September, the British government will be pushing for a new agreement that will govern foreign investment in developing countries such as Haiti. The government, along with the EU, claims that the deal would create fairer trading practices and protect the poor.

But non-governmental groups including the development agency ActionAid, which will tomorrow (Mon) lobby Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt in London, complain that the deal would actually make it easier for big corporations to expand their wealth at the expense of some of the world's most poverty-st
ricken people. They say Haiti is a prime example of how things can go wrong.

"While foreign investment can help combat poverty, it can only bring benefits if carefully managed," said ActionAid trade analyst John Hilary.

In Ounaminthe, there is fear over the insecurity the FTZ has brought. Farmer Francis Bosse, 74, another of the towns' farmers who lost their land, said: "Land is your inheritance, but now I have none to hand over to my son. This was the pearl of Haiti, but what they are building on this land is misery."

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Dear All,

The Haiti Support Group hopes that your organization will decide to support the civil society organizations in Haiti that have serious concerns about the Ouanaminthe free trade zone project that is due to be funded by the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC).

We are asking you to send letters to the address/email below stating that
you want the World Bank board of directors to ensure that a comprehensive and meaningful consultation with relevant Haitian civil society organizations occurs before any decision on proposed funding for the project is taken. You can also ask that the World Bank insists that Grupo M includes a commitment to permit union organizing and collective bargaining in their factories in the Ouanaminthe free zone, in line with agreed International Labor Organization core conventions.

The USA's executive director at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund is:

Carole Brookins,
MC 13-525
World Bank Group
1818 H Street, NW,
Washington, D.C. 20433,
USA

Tel: 202-458-0110
Fax: 202-477-2967
Email: cbrookins@worldbank.org

Please cc to Carole Brookins' alternate:
Robert B. Holland, III,
Email: rholland@worldbank.org

and to:
The Haiti Support Group
Email: haitisupport@gn.apc.org

For more information on this issue see the Haiti Support Gro
up's special feature page at: www.haitisupport.gn.apc.org - What's New.

Thanks,
Charles Arthur

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The lease of 65 hectares of prime agricultural land outside the town of Ouanaminthe near the border to the Dominican apparel company, Grupo M, has caused much controversy in Haiti. Local farmers and progressive organisations in Haiti are outraged that the Haitian government should authorise such a dubious development project.

In June, the HSG discovered that the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) is preparing to loan Grupo M US$23 million loan, and that part of this loan will finance the construction of the free trade zone. Armed with this information, the HSG has begun an international campaign to press the IFC to acknowledge the concerns of our partners in Haiti. We have sent letters (and are asking others to write too) requesting that the World Bank board of directo
rs ensure that a comprehensive and meaningful consultation with relevant Haitian civil society organisations occurs before any decision on proposed funding for the project is taken. We are also asking that the World Bank insists that Grupo M includes a commitment to permit union organising and collective bargaining in their factories in the Ouanaminthe free zone, in line with agreed International Labour Organisation core conventions.

You can send your own protest letters to:
Brian McNamara, Investment Officer (Textiles),
Global Manufacturing and Services Department,
International Finance Corporation,
2121 Pennsylvania Avenue
NW, Washington, DC 20433, USA.
Email: Bmcnamara@ifc.org

And:

Tom Scholar, UK Delegation to the IMF and World Bank,
Room 11-120, 700 19th Street,
Washington, DC 20433, USA.
Email: tscholar@worldbank.org

The HSG has also contacted the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome and at its Haiti field office. We asked how th
e environmental degradation and unregulated shanty-town development that will inevitably accompany the free zone at Ouanaminthe squares with their ambitious and costly plans for sustainable development and environmental protection in the border region.

Pitit Ginen

Post by Pitit Ginen » Wed Aug 06, 2003 5:42 am

This article has said it all after what some of haitian newspapers like Haiti Progrès has published around that matter. This is simply one more crying examples of the betrayal of the haitian people by Lavalas (including Aristide.) This is a very hard and sour pill to swallow : for nearly 200 years (in just about less than six months) the haitian people is still being dragged into mud by its educated children. For how much longer do we have to wait before we see some Haitians having a vision for their country? Two more hundred years !!!

In fact, many pertinent criticisms voiced against that project were :

1_ The government has chosen a fertile agricultural area to let build such a project in stead of opting for an arid place.

2_ Even if that investment would bring some proven benefits for the people (which is not the case at all) in that area, there was no logical way the choice of the place can be justified.

3_
For a <<democratic>> government, why it has refused to listen to the objection of the peasants who live in that area and who have opposed that project from the beginning?

4_ Any path to progress starts with investment in Education, Health, and Agriculture. It seems that our elite would be so smart to not understand it that way. To the very moment we are writing, the american farmers stand profoundly hostile towards any change that would threaten their business. Whereas in our country the government is doing violence against our peasants to please american businessmen. What can be more disgusting?

In the end, the question remains as to know why no haitian organization (s) (inside the country not outside) has been able to put a stop to that project or drive the government to consider another spot? I said "domestic organization (s)" because the real fight has to be carried out inside the country, and not from outside, even though the Diaspora could, but it is only to some limite
d extent, play a role or influence the domestic politics. To me the success of that project would only prove the lack or the absence of any serious organization (s) inside the country. This is a very bad sign for our nation's future (...)

I must also say that what has been proposed as some kind of alternative does not make any sense to me : "You can also ask that the World Bank insists that Grupo M includes a commitment to permit union organizing and collective bargaining in their factories in the Ouanaminthe free zone, in line with agreed International Labor Organization core conventions". What difference would that make when, any way, my people's true means of survival (fertile agricultural land) have been destroyed and wasted?

Do we have a last chance to put an halt to that project? Maybe some serious protestations from inside and outside the country would work. Yet, is there any organization out there which is ready to take that deciding step. well, with some blindly on the side of
Lavalas (just it could have been for any other government), and others against but sold to foreign interest, without counting the observers plus the powerless and helpless, we might definitely get nowhere; or keep going backward in our country. Because it is so hard to see who is in the battle for real.


Pitit Ginen.

Pitit Ginen

Post by Pitit Ginen » Thu Aug 07, 2003 11:11 am


[quote]One et Respe to all: Aristide's Betrayal: US Free Zone displaces Haitian farmers

One et Respe to all:

I spoke too soon…

I was encouraged by reading the histories of African strongman, like Robert Mugabe, Charles Taylor and Jonas Savimbi, Laurent Kabila and Foday Sankoh (Category Zero opportunists) posing as "freedom fighters" and favorably comparing the Lavalas government and Aristide to date. But that was yesterday, I said…."Not yet." I believed then Aristide(Category Zero - unwilling opportunist/collaborator) had not yet FULLY taken on the backward, profit-over-people white-privileged policies of the IMF/World Bank/USAID and US Embassy (Category One.)

And, I hoped that if Aristide was forced to, he would do so measurably, gradually and with less human suffering, more activist involvement, more people empowerment than we see in Africa, India, Latin
America and the Caribbean. But, it's not too late to revisit my assessment. I said, "not yet...."

But I was wrong. Post dated Tue Aug 05, 2003 6:04 pm Post subject: Concern: Ouanaminthe Free Zone – article submitted to The Sunday Times, By Jacqui Goddard in Ouanaminthe, Haiti. 5 July 2003)

Yesterday I wrote Aristide had to be judged based on his relationship with the majority of the people. Today I wonder what the people in the town of Ouanaminthe, who lost their farms and who are too old to get jobs at the Ouanaminthe Free Zone factories are suffering because of the Aristide government policies and its leadership failure to make proper restitution?

What is Aristide about? Just radical Black liberation rhetoric? Is he like Mugabe, Taylor and the deceased Jonas Savimbi simply manipulating the symbols of Black liberation to promote carnage, gender violence, arbitrary arrests, insec
urity and destruction across Haiti? This Free Zone will hire mainly Haitian women? Where will this lead our society. Will there be daycare for their children, healthy conditions in these sweatshops, protection from the hoardes of unemployed who will be preying on them? Where is Aristide leading these Haitian women? What about the displaced, out of work farmers and their families? How severe will the State repression be that will contain their legitimate discontent?

Speaking about Mugabe, Professor Campbell noted that "Radical rhetoric as a disguise for state repression has been developed into an art form by the leadership in Zimbabwe.
"(http://www.blackcommentator.com/51/51_zim_campbell.html ) Is this where Haiti is heading. Is it there already?

First off, can the Aristide government legitimately be asking for restitution from France when it is now in debt to these Ouanaminthe farmers? Isn't it squandering it's own moral standing just as Mugabe did? I do hope ameliorating steps are immedia
tely taken because we-Haitians did not come this far to go backwards.

For, if the reports one read are accurate, the Aristide Government has clearly stolen the land of Haitian farmers without due compensation or due process; clearly committed an injustice against the 54 farmers in the town of Ouanaminthe. For the land is our Bwa Kayiman inheritance, paid for in-blood, sweat and tears. To ignore the farmers pleas, to ignore Haitian civil society organizations and give Haitian lands up to the World Bank/IMF/Grupo M - Levi's, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss, et cetera, is a shocking and unspeakable betrayal of the mandate of the Haitian people to rule on behalf of the people. Pwen, no virgul.

Clearly the Aristide government has moved to the political center if not outright to the ultra Haitian right on this neoliberalization issue if the Free Trade Zone confiscation of farmers lands is any indication. This then, is the historical moment, Haitian progressives may clearly point to as the moment i
n time when Aristide, as the leader of Lavalas, no longer articulated the demands of the Haitian populous. This then is the moment in time when his leadership is becoming unworthy of the support of decent peoples everywhere. I hope his government makes amends quickly. For, with this so-called "Free Trade Zone", Aristide has rejected we of the anti-imperialist cadre and joined in and aligned his leadership with our enemies and their Haitian business forces and imperial agents.

This is a clear political leadership degeneration. It will have far-reaching degeneration affecting every aspect of Haitian society (environmental, overcrowding, improper handling of toxic waste, absence of health care and lack of proper conditions for factory worker in the Free Zone sweatshops). And, the fact that it's a so-called "people's government" instituting this degeneration is disappointing to the extreme. But it does follow the traditional repression model/blueprint - from Revolutionary leader to unwilling participant
in neoliberalism to outright collaborator just fighting to keep a job as the political honcho/feudal lord in charge, or keeping house, for Euro/US capitalist.

Naturally, our instincts are to fight against this degeneration and rally to the support of the farmers. This division will likely only make the ultra-Haitian-right opposition to Aristide stronger and lead to more compromises, more chaos, more militarization, more anti-democratic State action - leading to greater human loss and misery in Haiti. The old blueprint continues - unrolling as programmed.....

It is reported that:

"The lease of 65 hectares of prime agricultural land outside the town of Ouanaminthe near the border to the Dominican apparel company, Grupo M, has caused much controversy in Haiti. Local farmers and progressive organizations in Haiti are outraged that the Haitian government should authorize such a dubious development project."

Haitians don't need this collaboration with the imperialist. It will only lea
d down the road to a Haitian Civil War that will then give the imperialist the excuse to come "restore order." No good will come of it if past sweatshop collaborations are any barometer. If the displacements in Africa, in Jamaica (), in Latin America for Free Trade Zones are any indications.

Soon, a few years from now, as the beleaguered factory workers at the Ouanaminthe Free Trade Zone, strike, we may be faced with imported Asian laborers into Haiti to salvage the white men's businesses. Is this what Haitians fought for in 1986 until now? I beg a reconsideration, pronto.

For, as activists have noted, Free Trade Zones, such as the one in question will only lead to "a swift ghetto-isation of the Maribahoux area as cheap housing springs up and thousands pour in searching for work."

"The job creation rhetoric is propaganda," said Mr. Chalmers, founder of PAPDA, the Haitian Advocacy for an Alternative Development Programme. "They talk about jobs being created, no
t the jobs that are being lost. There will be a real human cost." We know this for sure!

"They should work with farmers to increase agricultural productivity and feed Haiti's people, rather than destroying the country's bread basket to benefit foreign investors." Yes indeed, they should!

Why has Aristide brought misery to this region? Don't we-Haitians have enough to deal with already without anticipating the ghettorization of Haiti's breadbasket region and the displacement of PRODUCTIVE farmers? WHY IS THE ARISTIDE GOVERNMENT FURTHER DESTROYING HAITI'S DOMESTIC ECONOMY for foreigners' profit?

Has Aristide entered the third stage of our repressive model – from unwilling participant to outright collaborator, displacing the most exploited, ruining the environment and creating only crony capitalist to benefit from his new policies? What next? Greater security and military to keep forced Haitian labor humming along, to stop the factory workers from unionizing; to imprisoned Haitian farm squ
atters who should refuse to peacefully leave their lands?

As this is a joint venture with the Dominican Republic, shall the DR's Haitian-hating-police-force be dispatched to keep the Haitian workers in order. You know, this repressive model is too old - it's consequences to predictable for Aristide not to know. The only reason why this would go on is if Aristide has totally lost his head to his lust for power. Nothing else explains it. For if the IMF/World Bank said "you do this or we withhold money?" What else is new? As I've said before silence doesn't help the Haitian people fight the imperialist. If we don't know the story, we can only look at the model and the conclusion is that the suffering of the Ouanaminthe farmer means profit for Aristide with the IMF/World Bank people. The hype about creating jobs is as real as the hype was about "civilizing" Africa.

For the Ouanaminthe farmers, the damage has already been done. Now, is the time to STOP the bloodletting before it really starts.


Unless the displaced Ouanaminthe farmers are duly compensated, unions are organized, daycare provided and working conditions regulated in this so-called "Free Trade Zone" to protect the factory workers, this is nothing more than the Aristide government providing the imperialist with access to helpless unprotected slave labor in Haiti at the expense of further underdeveloping Haiti and Haitian society.

As one Haitian farmer who just lost his Bwa Kayiman lands to Aristide/US Corporate buddies succinctly puts it: "Land is your inheritance, but now I have none to hand over to my son. This was the pearl of Haiti, but what they are building on this land is misery" (Farmer Francis Bosse, 74). (See, http://www.haitiforever.com/forum/viewt ... highlight=)

Ezili Danto

"Grenadye a la so. Sa ki mouri za fe yayo. Nan pren manman, nen pren papa. Sa ki mouri za fe yayo. Grenadye a la so…..(Haitian Revolution Freedom Song.) [/quote]
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Dear sister Ezili,

I will add a few comments to your post I find very interesting.

"I hoped that if Aristide was forced to, he would do so measurably, gradually and with less human suffering, more activist involvement, more people empowerment than we see in Africa, India, Latin America and the Caribbean".

Let me say that a government that is really working in the interest of its people can never be forced to do anything contrary to the well-being, let alone contrary to the very survival, of its people by any external force(s). The asian countries and Cuba are the prime examples of that. Moreover, there is no selling oneself to the system gradually, measurably, step by step etc. In politics, there is only two options, not four, five or a thousand : a government is working with and in the interest of its people or it is sold to foreign interest in defending its own dirty interest. There can be no hiding around that.

"What is Aristide about? Just radical Black libera
tion rhetoric? Is he like Mugabe, Taylor and the deceased Jonas Savimbi simply manipulating the symbols of Black liberation to promote carnage, gender violence, arbitrary arrests, insecurity and destruction across Haiti?"

I am afraid that is exactly what it is. When Aristide sworn in power in 1991 I was in Haiti. I was not only there but I was observing his government closely. That is why today I can say without any hesitation that that former priest has betrayed the people. And for those who want to know : that betrayal is not dated to the current violent expropriation of those peasants. Aristide has betrayed my brothers and sisters in Haiti since 1991 by not setting up any significant popular organizations to organize the country. I said that already : it is only when he smelled the coup that he resorted to demagogic rhetoric in a bid to scare the army; a stategy that would eventually precipited his fall.

"This Free Zone will hire mainly Haitian women? Where will this lead our societ
y. Will there be daycare for their children, healthy conditions in these sweatshops, protection from the hoardes of unemployed who will be preying on them?"

"Unless the displaced Ouanaminthe farmers are duly compensated, unions are organized, daycare provided and working conditions regulated in this so-called "Free Trade Zone" to protect the factory workers, this is nothing more than the Aristide government providing the imperialist with access to helpless unprotected slave labor in Haiti at the expense of further underdeveloping Haiti and Haitian society".

We should not even raise those questions. We should not even think that way because the use of those fertile agricultural lands does not allow us to think that way. Agricul-
tural lands that can produce food to feed the haitian people for the next 200 years can never be traded for a couple bucks. In fact, the extremely poor salaries from those sweatshops can never be compared to the high value of those fertile lands. Please, don't put
any value on this crime ! Please don't !

"Where is Aristide leading these Haitian women? What about the displaced, out of work farmers and their families? How severe will the State repression be that will contain their legitimate discontent?"

That downpression has already started long ago. From the very first day of inauguration of that project of shame, the peasants have voiced their concerns that were met with a brutal response from the police. How severe? Well, I am sorry I don't have the articles from Haiti Progrès with me, I would tell you sister how rough the police brutality was. At any rate, it was savage enough coming from a government that the majority of those same peasants elected.

"I do hope ameliorating steps are immediately taken because we-Haitians did not come this far to go backwards".

Sister, I urgently suggest that you wake up to face the reality : For two long hundred years culminating with that former militant priest, the haitian people is rollin
g from one betrayal to another. While the poor merchants in Croix Des Bossale didn't get a penny from their money engulfed in the cooperatives, Convergence had received thousands of dollars from the government. A government that has pleaded in favor of the cooperatives encougaring the people to place their money with them.

"For, if the reports one read are accurate, the Aristide Government has clearly stolen the land of Haitian farmers without due compensation or due process; clearly committed an injustice against the 54 farmers in the town of Ouanaminthe".

The reports are accurate. Haiti Progrès has produced several reports on that subject. The reports about police brutality in that matter are also true. We are dealing here with an extreme case of violent betrayal. That is exactly what it is! We might only wish it was a dream but it is a real nightmare.

"To ignore the farmers pleas, to ignore Haitian civil society organizations and give Haitian lands up to the World Bank/IMF
/Grupo M - Levi's, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss, et cetera, is a shocking and unspeakable betrayal of the mandate of the Haitian people to rule on behalf of the people. Pwen, no virgul".

Shocking and speechless act of serious betrayal indeed. And I am sorry to say that more often than not, those kinds of betrayal come at a, sometimes, deadly price for the traitor(s). We have seen Toussaint being taken away by the murderers (the barbarian french) while the slaves were sitting right there watching as spectators. It was an opportunity for them to avenge the death of Moise (their true leader that was betrayed).
This time around, the peasants (due to their conditions of living can just be called slaves) are vividly and directly stabbed in the back. I can assure you that they will be sitting there too one day (...)

"Clearly the Aristide government has moved to the political center if not outright to the ultra Haitian right on this neoliberalization issue if the Free Trade Zone confis
cation of farmers lands is any indication".

"For, with this so-called "Free Trade Zone", Aristide has rejected we of the anti-imperialist cadre and joined in and aligned his leadership with our enemies and their Haitian business forces and imperial agents".

They have indeed taken a different stand in the struggle. They have clearly moved against the people. They have made a choice.

"This is a clear political leadership degeneration. This division will likely lead to greater human loss and misery in Haiti".

What you see is what it is. It is very encouraging though to see that you have realized that and have come to that logical and uncompromised conclusion.

"They should work with farmers to increase agricultural productivity and feed Haiti's people, rather than destroying the country's bread basket to benefit foreign investors." Yes indeed, they should!"

That is exactly what all the asian governments have done in order to bring their people and their countrie
s to the world political and economic map but this is not what Lavalas thinks would be good for the country. Under the reign of Papa Doc when the country's
agriculture was flourishing, our nation was known around the world. Our high quality of coffee was one of the many products that put us on the world map. Today, Lavalas thinks that sweatshops are the magical remedy. As I said : it seems that our so-called idiotic leaders are not watching what is going on elsewhere.

WHY IS THE ARISTIDE GOVERNMENT FURTHER DESTROYING HAITI'S DOMESTIC ECONOMY for foreigners' profit?

That is the core question. However, as I said there can be only two choices in politics.

"For the Ouanaminthe farmers, the damage has already been done. Now, is the time to STOP the bloodletting before it really starts".

Even though the blood of the farmers has already been shed for the safety of that project, nevertheless, I would ask you to clarify that last sentence for us.

Pitit Ginen.

Ezili Danto
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 11:57 pm

"Politics IS about two ways: it's about lies."

Post by Ezili Danto » Wed Aug 20, 2003 9:43 am

One et respe to all;

This post responds to the above Pitit Ginen post.

Pitit Ginen writes: "Let me say that a government that is really working in the interest of its people can never be forced to do anything contrary to the well-being, let alone contrary to the very survival, of its people by any external force(s). The Asian countries and Cuba are the prime examples of that. Moreover, there is no selling oneself to the system gradually, measurably, step by step etc. In politics, there is only two options, not four, five or a thousand : a government is working with and in the interest of its people or it is sold to foreign interest in defending its own dirty interest. There can be no hiding around that."
*******

I appreciated your observations Pitit Ginen and I agree 100% that the FTZ project is reprehensible. I believe a government that is really working in the inter
est of its people who is being forced to do something contrary to the very survival of its people by an external force(s) should resist that force by any means necessary.

But, I don't see it as definitively as you do that a government always has the power to work for the well-being of ALL its constituents all at the same time. I, in fact, see some gray areas between your two extremes that "a government is (either) working with and in the interest of its people or it is sold to foreign interest in defending its own dirty interest." For, politics is about many interests vying for attention. There is, in fact, two ways, four ways, five or a thousand ways about it.

Politics, to put it bluntly, is about LIES. That is why it's called "politics." According to my dictionary, "Politics" is defined as "a competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government)" Merriam-Webster dictionary says further that "political activities" are characterized by "art
ful and often dishonest practices." That "politics" is "the total complex of relations between people living in society."

Looking at its very definition shows that "politics" is about balancing interests.

Grass-roots politicians fight tooth and nail for "their people." Then, when and if they get elected, the power structures constraints them, corrupts and then co-ops them. It's an observable cycle. When elected officials are cooped it's either because the electorate pulled their support after the election, thinking their work was done once the voting was done. Or, a combination of that and/or the politician get seduced by the establishing ruling elite. Comes to think of himself as "always" apart from the "milling masses" and on his way to joining the sophisticated elites. Either way, one should expect the veteran politicians to become "part of the system." Which generally is why progressive must constantly attempt to replenish the ranks with new blood. Work needs be done on all fronts - support
and pressure the elected politicians to remain accountable to his/her elected constituency and building the ranks of civil society to nurture new grass roots leaders to take up the slack.

For there is no way an elected politician can legitimately represents ALL his/her constituency- the center, the ultra right or the ultra left cannot be represented all at the same time by the same politician. So lies or, to put it pragmatically, inflated claims, are the stuff of politics.

Elected politicians are, by nature, good liars. Aristide is no exception to the rule. Many, after some years in office move to the center and can be persuaded by somewhat left to center or somewhat right to center at the drop of a dollar. That's the game. Someone's going to get played. Some campaign promise, if not all campaign promises are going to be ignored. This is all too obvious to go into examples of people like Clinton and, for instance, how he promised to not follow the Bush policies towards Haitian refugees, et cete
ra. But did once he got into office and faced Establishment pressure.

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Pitit Ginen writes: "….The Asian countries and Cuba are the prime examples of that. (i.e. resisting external forces.)

I agree Cuba is a unique exception. But the "Asian countries" I am not too sure about. You have made constant reference to the "Asian" countries and how their politicians and economic successes are a model worthy of following. I cannot thoroughly examine this reference in this post. But it is something I've wanted to address from a few post back when we were discussing Euro/US "globalization." Thing is, I am not sure what you mean by "Asian countries." The Euro Asian continent comprises of Europe to the extreme Northwest, Russia to the Northeast. India to the Southwest and China, Japan, Korea to the Southeast. I assume you're not talking about Western Asia (Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan); that you are talking about Southeast Asia (Taiwan, South Korea, Japan) and the economic development of the forme
r Japanese colonies and you're not referring to Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Tailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines?

Although Southeast Asia also includes parts of India and China, et cetera, I assume you're only talking about the former Japanese colonies, for they are the ones commonly referred to as the "Asian miracles." But I wouldn't ever wish their people's plight on the Haitian poor. I mean these are pretty authoritarian countries. Wow, the role of women and female infanticide is unspeakable in these "Asian miracle" countries. And yes, the poor in Taiwan and Korea face a State despotism and repression, on a level the Haitian peasants, with all our troubles, don't face. I wouldn't wish their entire "model" on us.

Either way, before I go further into why the former Japanese colonies are (or were) more developed than the rest of South East Asia, I supposed I would have to know what you refer to when you say "Asian countries." The only comment I would offer
overall is that these countries that have "developed" did NOT follow neoliberalism and did protect their domestic economies from imperial exploitations by extricating their economies from free-market disciplines. But the global village thing has brought this to a screeching halt as most Southeast Asian countries are now bantering their weary, emaciated workforces about to the highest bidder to bring hard currency into their various countries. According to Chomsky, "…the countries that have developed economically are those which were not colonized by the West; every country that was colonized by the West is a total wreck. …Japan was the one country that managed to resist colonization, and it's the one part of the traditional Third World that developed." (See, "Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky," edited by Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel, at p. 65).

According to Chomsky's book, the Japanese colonies developed because Japan didn't treat them the way the Western powers treated their col
onies. (id, p. 66). Chomsky writes that "the Japanese where brutal colonizers but they developed their colonies economically; the West robbed theirs." (p. 66). So, if one compares Taiwan with the Philippines, a US colony right next door; "the Phillippines is a total basket-case, a Latin American-style basket-case. Again, that tells you something." (p.66).

After World War II, the Japanese system got decimated. But Korea and Taiwan, in the post-war period, were able to follow the "Japanese model of development: the state coordinates industrial policy, capital export is strictly constrained, import levels are kept low. ….Those are exactly the kinds of policies that are IMPOSSIBLE in Latin America (and, in Haiti also), because the U.S. insist that those governments keep their economies OPEN to international markets – so capital from Latin America is constantly flowing to the West."(p.66)

Chomsky points out that that doesn't happen in South Korea. Why? Well Pitit Ginen if you think the FTZ zone is a
blatant expropriation of Haitian farmers lands and reprehensible. Listen to this, in this "Asian" country you may have been referring to as a good model of economic development. Guess what? In South Korea capital doesn't flow wily nilly out of the country, like in Haiti, because, according to Chomsky, in South Korea they have the DEATH PENALTY for capital export!!!! Talk about marginalizing civil society and repression! But, your point is well taken. The Japanese-style development model works – in fact, it's how every country in the world that's developed has done it: by imposing high levels of protectionism; closing itself off, for a time, to foreign exploitation; devoting extensive resources to social welfare spending, like health care and education and removing its economy from free-market development. (P.66)

As Chomsky writes: "And that's precisely what the Western powers have been preventing the rest of the "Developing World" from doing, right up to this moment." (Chomsky, at p. 66). Haiti has a
different history, with US Monroe Doctrine/Manifest Destiny "makdwet" all over its development. Therefore, Haiti doesn't have the unenviable Asian start. But we also overthrew our brutal colonizers eons ago; giving a level of respite to our Haitian peasants, perhaps unknown to those "Miracle Asian country" peasants societies. Ours is a unique story. Untold in the annals of human history. The closest comparable, as of the second half of the 20th century alone, is Cuba. And, we know what happened to Cuba's development as it struggles to stay outside the US imperial system. Haiti can look at the "Asian miracles" but, it must follow it's own path to development. I agree with your main point though, the Asian model, minus the authoritarian aspects, should be street talk amongst our politicians, so they know not to sell out our domestic economy and remain, simply a US "service area."
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Ezili wrote: "For the Ouanaminthe farmers, the damage has already been done. Now, is the time to STOP the bloodlet
ting before it really starts".

Pitit Ginen responded: "Even though the blood of the farmers has already been shed for the safety of that project, nevertheless, I would ask you (Ezili Danto) to clarify that last sentence for us."

What I mean Pitit Ginen is this:

I give the Aristide government the benefit of the doubt because I was raised in the belly of the beast. I know the US's two-faces very well. It is precisely because I know my Haitian and African history well that this FTZ matter is sounding alarm bells in my brain. I don' t know the Aristide's government's story on this. But I know how the IMF/World Bank/USAID steals the world blind, leaving pain and destruction in developing countries. And no agreement between the US, the Haitian government and the Dominican Republic, which did NOT involve open debate, violent struggle and/or that sort of participation from the Haitian public can bring ANY good to the Haitian masses. Pwen. No virgul.

In addition, I note: it is normal f
or politicians to make inflated claims about the importance of a proposed policy and its likely benefits and ignore potential problems. But, in this case, with the FTZ zone the problems are staggering. If you've ever walked into US ghettos, you would know that the Powers-that-be keeps the US's-Black masses contained in a dead end, one way in, one way out ghettos. And from what I know of His ghettos, the wall that will be built within the 3 mile area into Haiti from the DR border to house this FTZ zone will be a one way maze to hell for Haitians with outlets for US products into the DR and no outlet for Haitians. How many will die or be disappeared? What kind of "opening" are we inviting into Haitian territory here by our archenemies?

It simply boggles the mind to even contemplate not only the putting out of Haitian citizens into the one-way hands of a racist US-run Free Zone to be mistreated. But we are also freely giving the Pentagon a tangible "national interest" in Haiti to now "protect." That's pla
in suicidal knowing US history in Haiti and its policy toward it's own Black people in the US.

What's worse though is for a so-called legitimate Haitian government to give FDR security forces, who were, in 1937, responsible for the murder of 30,000 Haitians – the greatest Haitian genocide in history after independence - the job of "regulating" and supervising "order" for Haitian workers. It's a call for a new killing field……. That's what I mean Pitit Ginen when I wrote "Now, is the time to STOP the bloodletting before it really starts."

I was thinking: Aren't enough of our people already rendered slaves in the DR Batayes? Did we have to bring the suffering home? For "a people's government" in Haiti to let the blood-soaked hands of racist FDR police anywhere near regulating poor Haitian workers is unconscionable and obscene to the nth degree. No 800 jobs at 16cents an hour is worth the sort of potential bloodletting this FTZ policy could bring down on Haitian heads. If the Haiti Progres report
s are accurate and this policy is not scrapped immediately, Aristide's government may go down in history as the government responsible for the murder of more than 30,000 Haitians. How abominable could that be? And what a great victory for our US/Euro enemies! Frankly, I can't even contemplate this, so I have to hold judgement. I'd like to see the government defend itself. But if the reports I am reading are correct, Aristide is about to commit the highest of crimes against the Haitian nation and the Bwa Kayiman warriors. For his "people's government" to put Haitian LANDS and more Haitian workers in the hands of the Dominican Republic – a country who hates our very existence - with even more vitriol than the US - is criminal, treasonous no less. It highlights how we must decentralize political power immediately in Haiti if we are to safeguard our brethens from the whims or lack of foresight of the executive branch.


THE SIGNIFICANCE OF OUANAMINTHE IN HAITIAN HISTORY.

I don't use the words "tre
acherous" lightly. But with a heavy heart and not a small degree of sadness as I look down the tunnel of history.

Back in 1822 when Haitian President Boyer made his way to reconquer and reunite the island as Toussaint did before, he entered the DR via OUANAMINTHE ( and Lascahobas.)

Boyer's reunification of the Island of Hispaniola lasted for 21 years. The DR's elite ruling classes – who, by the way, are more into inbreeding and buying into white genes to preserve the light skin tones than the best of any of the Haitian elites, have note forgotten they were twice conquered by Africans from Haiti and have made our Haitian peoples pay for this for centuries.

Dajabon, the DR border town where 30,000 defenseless Haitians were murdered by Dominican guards is just across Massacre River to Ouanaminthe, the opposite Haitian border town. Is the Lavalas government looking to repeat history, outdo Rafael Leonidas Trujillo (Dominican President Dictator 1930-1961), who was himself of Haitian descent
, but who so hated his African blood, he practiced his self-flagellation on these poor Haitian peasants. Are we trying for a repeat history, except this time in reverse, have the massacre happen on Haitian land. Or, have the DR invade Haiti through Ouanaminthe to the further detriment of Haiti's already shakable sovereignty? What? So the US, who owns the Dominican Army may come back into Haiti to maintain law and order and take care of Haitian finances again as they so nobly did back in 1915 – virtually re-enslaving Haitians?!!!


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Pitit Ginen writes: "Moreover, there is no selling oneself to the system gradually, measurably, step by step etc. In politics, there is only two options, not four, five or a thousand : a government is working with and in the interest of its people or it is sold to foreign interest in defending its own dirty interest. There can be no hiding around that."

I believe, Pitit Ginen that, back in 1991, the minute Aristide took office he had to face ALL Haitians,
not just his fragmented, disorganized supporters. Unfortunately, the imperialist and His local imperial agents had and have all the money, access to credit and the power networks. Try running a business, (a government, in this case) without access to trade, cash or credit. Entrepreneurs will tell you, running a business this way is a pretty hard feat. It takes perseverance, austerity, faith and a whole lot of stuff gets postponed and stays undone. Sometimes there's no choice but to go take on a partner with cash who can take you to the next level. Yes, sometimes, the sell-out is gradual, measured, piecemeal if you're vying to survive at all. What happens are compromises you did not wish to take on. What happens is you must share your intellectual property, your copyright, your patent, your valuable assets, your music, your dance, your widget, whatever it is you have created and own.

You make the best decision you can hoping down the line you can buy out your partner. Or, get big enough to be known fo
r a "body of work" and "consistency" that overalls represents your initial aim, if not all of it. You try, through it all, to keep rank commercial interest and destructiveness from ruining your product or diluting it to the point where you don't even want your name associated..So yes, I can see and know well why Aristide would have to make pragmatic decisions. We all balance competing interests everyday, at our own smaller levels. That's real. That's life.

For, there's a distribution system out there. It's called capitalism. It's owned by white privilege and white institutions who have a vested interest in promoting a particular bottom line (profit-over-people) and, who have mega monopolies. So you find your niche, and develop your own market, make your own inroads. At a particularly huge level, which you too may exploit, at that vast terrain where Black opportunists are born, so are white opportunists. And within that huge landscape, it's ultimately about the green, not the white privileged. So there
are lots of inroads to be made.

It doesn't much matter whether you're talking about creating a song, a play or developing a farm or developing a country. White privilege with their local imperial Black sycophants out front when necessary own the banks, the distribution systems, the monopolies, access to funds, the access to networks and images. But they can't own all the outposts. That's the rub. And the thing is, you could still make it, if they would just be happy with what they already own. But no. Capitalism requires they gobble what's yours too. So you must work harder, be smarter, make alliances. Never give up.

I'm being simplistic and using personal experiences. But my point is, there are always holes one can squeeze through, niche markets, certain caches US-stooges can't legitimately claim and ways of making a living if one is courageous and bold. But it isn't easy. Similarly, Aristide had to come back to Haiti in bulletproof US-Plexiglas. He was compromised then. I've only seen, of late
, some fight and resistance being lifted up although simultaneously with some crony capitalism. But I am no blind cheerleader. Lavalas suffers from leadership guidance, systemic organization and professionalization. This required a strong, focussed leader with unstinting confidence in the People's mission and a vision for empowering Haitian civil society. This is something the Aristide government lacks and refuses to hire.

So what's the solution. This is where we came in: Eske Ayiti se problem yon sel grenn kretyen vivan? No. It's Ezili Danto, Pitit Ginen, JAF and every Haitian's concern also. There are developments happening we can't see. Our task is to continue to expose the game. Isolate parts of the power structure's oppressive tentacles, like USAID, US sponsored "reforms" agencies creating chaos and impasse and lay them under siege. Harnessing not anger or bitterness but our sense of history and destiny about Haiti as Africa's sacred trust.

The million-dollar question is: "What are we bri
nging that's new to the game, to push our suffering majority towards development? Away from their two-centuries old life of deprivation?" First rule is - take care of self so you have something to give. No point in playing if you're bringing nothing new to the game, but bitterness and weariness and hatred. Also, betrayal is part of life. Great world poets, authors and singers have immortalized the tragedies of human avarice. No race or culture owns this vice. But said poets would also say: Work for the betterment even when you fully understand that whoever you do business with is looking to enrich themselves. Speak truth even "if the truth you've spoken will be twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools." Try and lift up the images and living standards and culture of the Haitian people, even if you are betrayed by your own. That's how life is. It's not unique to the Haitian or Black human being. Betrayal is a human fault. But, as Rudyard Kipling might say, (in his "if" poem which I've just paraphrased), it's
still better "to fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run" than to not run at all, remaining zombified.

Our task is to make that distance run and cut "deals" that leave us better off than when we started, not worst off. The FTZ zone is too obviously in the latter realm. Only a politician capable of infinite delusions would countenance any good coming out of it for Haiti's domestic economy.

Pitit Ginen writes: "Aristide has betrayed my brothers and sisters in Haiti since 1991 by not setting up any significant popular organizations to organize the country."

Again, what I think is that we-Haitians are not hapless victims who can wily nilly be betrayed in some ferociously unique way not open to other nations and peoples. That's a myth. Our ways of organizing may not be textbook. But, if you look at the Latin American countries resisting US-styled market oppression and neo-liberalism, Haitian civil society may be "wounded", as JAF says, "all over our body" but, we
are still resisting nonetheless - still not exactly tractable and pliant servants. I assure you.
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What we need is NOT more FTZ Eurocentric development plans. No, NOT USAID in Haiti, or the IMF or the World Bank. Not even more Haitian Constitutions which, to effectuate an amendment for strengthening Haitian Civil society with dual citizenship, requires, after the approval vote is in, that we wait for a new Presidential term for this to take effect! No. We don't need any more laws, whose applications, further marginalizes the growth of Haitian civil society. We need to stop Haitian fratricide and look outwards together. Set up voting apparatuses for Haitians living abroad who are still citizens to vote. We need to focus on looking at the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law when it marginalizes Haitian Civil Society, which makes it pro-etranje and the ruling elite. We need to a leader whose actions embody the spirit of our lengthy struggles and the Haitian People's thirst for participati
on and control over our own lives. We need to close these distances. We need more looking outwards together and more systematized collaborations and mobilizations by Haitian grass roots organizations. We could benefit from a state-of-the art media campaign on behalf of the Haitian people against the US/Euro Goliath's. 2004 gives the catalyst - the launching moment for telling our story to all peoples, including the only institution more powerful than the US government – to, US civil society. But we-Haitians can't depend on anyone but us to save Haiti for the children.

We Haitians living abroad have "access to the imperial palace and the Emperors chambers" to paraphrase Arundhati Roy. Thing is, our freedoms, wherever we may be, where not granted to us by ANY government, Haitian or non-Haitian. We wrestled it from outside the grasps of those who thought they governed us. So, if our grass roots "leader" has been cooped beyond repair. If we have a "messiah" who's gone to la-la land. Let's take our story to
television then - the strongest instrument of the imperialist. Bring the game to the Man's house. The Powers-that-be will keep overstepping their bounds, reaching even for us outsiders. That's all they know to do. But, as we continue fighting each in our small corners, I believe, that very soon, the catalyst for an ISSUE-ORIENTATED mobilization will sure enough bring us all to the collaboration table to reclaim the Haitian People's electoral rights, to reclaim our Haiti for Haitians….It will happen sooner than later. Like the FDA's "aids" stigmatization did back in the late 1980s. Then a power no one knew existed will send seismic waves across from the Brooklyn bridge to Washington, to Haiti, again.

Kenbe fem, pa lage.

Ezili Danto
"Dje blan-yo mande krim. Bon Dje ki nan nou-an vle byen fe." (Boukmann at Bwa Kayiman, August 14, 1791)

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