Monday, May 15, 2006

Haiti's new leftist president

Haiti swears in a new president today, Rene Preval, an ally of ousted former leader Arsitide. I must confess to being no expert on the incredibly complex world of Haitian politics, but another left leader elected in the Caribean can only be a good thing.

Haiti seems to have divided the left internationally more than almost any issue I remember. With some (much of the US left, SWP(US) etc, ) stressing the essentially progressive nature of Aristide, redistribution to the poor, official language recognition of Creole for the first time and making Voodoo an officially recognised religion alongside Catholicism, etc.

Others have stressed Aristide's alleged capitulation to globalisation (promising privatisation – although crucially he never did privatise anything) and corruption (Chris Harman's position and the USFI)), a more balanced view comes from the American ISO of critical support for Aristide, but with no illusions in him. And there is a marvellous article from the CWI calling for a mass workers party in Haiti - it is a "one size fits all" theory that requires no adaptation for specific circumstances!

Interesting, that when Venezuela launched Telesur (their attempt to create a latino Al Jazeera), the very first programme was a documentary condemning Lula's imperialist intervention in Haiti, and how the Brazilian army are doing the dirty work for French, US and Canadian multinationals. Certainly one of the motivators behind the imperial intervention by UN troops seems to have been the demand by Aristide that France pay reparations to Haiti for Slavery.

So what will happen now? President Preval’s election is certainly an expression of the enduring power of Aristide’s movement among the poor. The US had originally sought to prevent any pro-Aristide candidate standing, which had resulted in several delays to the elections. President Chavez takes a strong personal interest in Haiti, and often refers to the copy of the “Black Jacobins” that was presented to him by Selma James, widow of the author C.L.R. James, and a strong supporter of the Bolivarian revolution.

Haiti has been punished for two centuries by the imperial powers for daring to overthrow the yoke of slavery under Toussaint L'Ouverture. Can the Venezuelan and Cuban governments combine to provide Haiti with the aid they need to turn back the tide of illiteracy, grinding poverty and lack of health care?


Phugebrins said...

If Preval's willing, his hands are still tied. Haiti will be dependent on foreign money whatever happens, and I'm not sure Cuba, Bolivia, or Venezuela have the wherewithal to help. I suspect Preval will be judged a traitor as soon as he accepts western money and terms, and we will likely not think to point out that the decision probably won't be his. On the other hand, the west may decide to ignore Haiti, and use it as an example. I can't see them extracting any more from it, which leaves the door open for a difficult, but perhaps not impossible, ground-up reconstruction.

Renegade Eye said...

There was more progress under Aristide, than in all the years of Haiti's history before him.

AN said...

Yes I see "difficult, but perhaps not impossible, ground up reconstruction" as the type of task that Venezuela, Cuba and perhaps Bolivia can assist with.

I would draw attention to the following very intersting account of how Cuba has coped with the economic disruption since the fall of the USSR:
Also Cuba has the capacity to provide help in the firleds of health and education.

Given the immense poverty of Haiti, even very modest aid in the form of cheap oil from Venezuella coud be of immense benefit.

Martin Ohr said...

Socialists in Britain should be under no illusions that Preval can deliver anything. Our comrades in Batayouvriye make the following demands on Preval:

a) We cannot live on the poverty-wage of 70 Gourdes (US $1.70) a day. We can’t be killing ourselves in the “module” system. From the Jean-Claude Duvalier years till today (20 years), our wages have decreased tremendously. In all factories, there must be a legal minimum wage corresponding to the US $3.00 of the Jean-Claude years. This must be done immediately. Then, we can fight for a real WAGE ADJUSTMENT that will increase under the terms negotiated in our COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS. We should realize, and they must realize that WE NEED A LIVING WAGE! WE CANNOT LIVE ON THE US $3.00. THE BASE SALARY MUST BE 300 GOURDES (US $7.06/day).


c) In all factories, management must negotiate COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS with us, while immediately creating better working conditions: OUR DEMANDS ARE ALREADY ON THE TABLE! These contracts will address the module question and other important issues.

The Sentinel said...
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