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Sunday, February 25, 2024

High Noon for René Préval in Haiti

CSMS Magazine Staff Writers

New Analysis

 For weeks, the Haitian masses have been demanding a relief on rising food prices. At first, they directed their anger toward the country’s Prime Minister, Edward Alexis. They succeeded last week in precipitating his downfall, as René Préval stood above the fray to let his hand-pick PM go down the drain. It looked as if whatever happens to the Haitian masses does not concern the Head of State. As cynical as it may seem, for months René Préval has been telling the people that there isn’t much he can do to help ease their misery. To him, the food tragedy now befallen on the poorest nation of the Americas has more to do with the economic crisis plaguing many countries in the hemisphere, than it has to do with his passive attitude toward the plight of the masses.       For days, he has been telling the people that he understands their pain and that he is with them in their cry for price relief, sounding more like an opposition candidate than a “commander-in-chef”.  Meanwhile, he stood by and did nothing as United Nations forces opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, leaving more than 150 people injured.      It is understandable that René Préval would not dare opposing UN troops in Haiti—troops that he needs to guarantee his stay in power, even if it means compromising the country’s independence.      Never before, the leadership of a country has been so shameless. It was built on a culture that everything in the country has to be imported from abroad, including basics necessities like rice, corn, barley, meat, etc.      For close to two centuries, Haiti was a major exporter of agricultural products, especially coffee and banana. Today, not only these products have to be imported, but also the average Haitian has to pay an exorbitant price to get them, which means more than two third of the population do not have access to them. According to the United Nations’s own statistics, four million Haitians survive only on 60 cents a day, and three millions only earn daily an average of two dollars.      In fact, Haiti is not necessarily poor if one has to take into account the value of its human resources—the biggest natural resource a country can have. A million of well-educated Haitians were forced to leave the country over the years, fleeing political repression and economic starvation. So the country is left with no infrastructure to rid itself from its dire situation. With its natural resources pillaged, its intellectual elite drained and its forests destroyed, Haiti is a country that has been made poor; and it will take a fundamental turnaround to change things for the better.      But it is conformist petit-bourgeois like Preval mixed with an anti-nationalist upper-class—bourgeois comprador and the dinosaurs (rich farmers) alike in their plotting with multinational interests—that are at the roots of Haiti’s seemingly endless plight. “Haitians have every right to hold the international community responsible for their current condition. The birth of this revolutionary nation was met with utter disdain and institutionalized racism,” said Charlotte Meere from the New Orleans Gazette.Old players are back in the game In Miami on Sunday, the Haitian community hosted Rev. Jesse Jackson. At hands were community leaders like Haitian-American state representative Ronald Brise, Haitian activists Tony Jean Tenor, Jean Robert La Fortune, etc. Jackson’s main visit, according to Maimi Herald, was “to raise awareness of the food crisis strangling the people of Haiti, where a 6-pound bag of rice sells for $4.” Promoting a new US intervention in Haiti, Jesse Jackson plans to visit the country in the coming days to assess the “situation.”  As always, traditional politicians, community activists and social service agencies are already lined up to harvest yet another round of funding for the poor in Haiti, where barely 5 % of that whatever is collected will reach those who really need it. The bulk of the money will go to fill the pockets of button-down technocrats in the community, heartless politicians on both sides of the Florida straight, fat belly bureaucrats of the Haitian parliament, and other dubious figures of the Haitian elites.    To kickoff this latest chest game, Florida congressman, Kendrick Meek, was dispatched. “ [He]  boarded a plane headed to Port-au-Prince, where he plans to meet with Haitian business officials and President René Préval on Monday morning to discuss the impact of the food crisis on Haiti’s 8.5 million citizens.,” confirmed The Miami Herald on Monday. According to the Herald, before he left Miami, Meek told several news organizations that  “he wants to see how U.S. aid is being spent in Haiti in light of the current crisis.”  The paper also confirmed that Meek will hold a conference call from Port-au-Prince, where “he will be joined on the telephone by Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.” From there, they hope to “update Préval on efforts to modify the U.S.-friendly HOPE trade bill, which Haiti has been pushing to help create more jobs.”      “The cornerstone of the trip is to make sure that the U.S. commitment meets the need in Haiti in terms of food and economic incentives,” Meek told The Miami Herald in an interview after the sermon. “The second issue is to make sure we can push the HOPE II act,” he added.       HOPE, or the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity through Partnership Encouragement Act, provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for woven and knit clothing made in Haiti from fabrics from other countries. So, who is fooling who, here? Who control these businesses in Haiti? There is no secret that it is multinational corporations—the US at the top of the list—and their lumpen representatives, the local bourgeoisie. Those who have been braving the guns to make their voices heard on the streets of all major cities in Haiti can barely feed themselves, let alone controlling the monopoly of export products to other countries. The comprador bourgeois in Haiti, who control the seaside businesses, also control the rice business and other commodities well stocked in huge warehouses near the Port-au-Prince airport, and they are being released in bits and pieces to the local market in order to make the maximum profit from soared prices. Preval knows it, and he could have done more than just offering lips service to an angry and hungry population living in entrenched poverty.     It was the same policy that was introduced in 1986, shortly after the fall of Bay Doc Duvalier. Lesly De Latour, the head of the Chicago boys were called to lead a market reform designed to liberalize the economy by opening the country’s market to cheap imports at the expense of the local and agricultural products, forcing thousands of farmers to abandon their plots of land to go risking their lives on high seas in hope of making it to either Maimi and Nassau or to go swelling already overflowed shantytowns of all major cities of the country. To accomplish the so-called liberalized economy, workers’ rights were blatantly ignored and government services were substantially cut.

The last card to avert the catastrophe

 CSMS Magazine has learned that another high-level donor conference is scheduled for April 25. The goal is “to undue two centuries of bad policies toward Haiti.” As if suddenly the international community has a change of heart. Several things are being proposed. For example, Haiti’s debt must be relieved for “the Haitian government is forced to pay almost $1 million per week to international donors in services to odious debts, most of which are loans from US-backed dictatorships. This money could be used to alleviate poverty and build infrastructure to benefit Haiti not international interest.”    Another suggestion is that international donors must have a clear vision on “how much of the “aid” attributed to helping Haiti is really helping Haiti. International institutions, governments, even large NGOs have huge overhead costs and a significant portion of aid money returns back to the host countries in salaries and contracts. Real aid would support Haitians finding their own indigenous solutions.” But as already explained above, this will likely fall on deaf ears, and the people will continue to wallow in abject poverty.   But this week could be pretty decisive for the Préval presidency. He is now at a crossroad. He must deliver or face total civil disobedience. He does not have the means to mount a sustain repression, but he will certainly hide behind the United Nations troops to pacify the masses. How long can he continue to play this game?      Also see: Rene Prevsl takes office  Haiti: the lies will never endWill Haiti Ever Regain Its Sanity?Will Haiti ever achieve responsible governance?

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