Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Haitian Election Boycotts: Masses Reject UN Occupation

Whilst the mainstream media maybe talking up US forces pulling out of cities and towns in Iraq there is another occupation that the US initiated that is still ongoing. On February 29th 2004, US special forces kidnapped the Haitian President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide and dumped him in the dictatorship of the Central African Republic after funding guerrilla insurgents and others to destabilise the country. US, Canadian and French forces moved to occupy the country, ostensibly as peacekeepers, and were later replaced by a Brazilian-led UN peacekeeping (read occupation) force.

Even 5 years on thousands still marched through Port-au-Prince to mark the anniversary of Aristide’s overthrow demanding his return to the country. Aristide is still associated with the hope the masses felt with the end of the hated Duvalier dictatorship and is seen as having achieved improvements for the mass of the population (such as increases to the minimum wage) despite the concession he made to imperialist countries to get international aid, such as the privatisation of public services. Indeed, the 2006 election of the Lespwa candidate and former associate of Aristide, Rene Preval, to the presidency was seen as a vote for the return of Aristide. But with huge food shortages leading to rioting in the capital, Post-au-Prince last year and no return of Aristide, support for Preval has massively diminished.

On April 19th the first round of Haiti’s senate elections were held with a record low turnout. According to the Provisional Electoral Council (Conseil Electoral Provisoire - CEP) the turnout was 11%, although other observers place the figure as low as 5%. Prior to the elections, the CEP excluded all 14 candidates of Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas.

In the run-up to the second round of elections, a prominent Fanmi Lavalas supporter, who was imprisoned in the run-up to the 2006 to stop him being a candidate in the Presidential elections, Father Gerard Jean Juste died from cancer. His funeral was used as a rallying call by Fanmi Lavalas activists to call on the population to again boycott the elections. Yet the funeral was yet another scene of vicious attacks by UN troops, killing one of the mourners. Despite denials by the UN force, a video has emerged showing two Brazilian troops firing into the crowd. The boycott appears to have been equally effective the second time round prompting the government to claim that imaginery ‘violence and intimidation’ are to blame for the low turnout.

Whilst Marxists support the right of Fanmi Lavalas to take part in the elections, and the right of Aristide to return to Haiti, neither will solve the problems of the Haitian masses. If either were to return to power, they would be forced into the position that they were in previously of giving concessions to foreign imperialist and capitalist interests in return for meagre aid packages. The Haitian masses must look towards the small but significant working class in Haiti and the development of a revolutionary party that can lead serious struggles to improve their living standards.

No comments: