Movements within Haiti declared the Lavalas Government an outlaw government
Open Letter to our Caribbean Sisters and Brothers
Fortunately, over the past few days, the press within the region has begun to focus on what is happening in Haiti. As a result, we know that you are aware of the fact that since December 11, 2003, all of the democratic and social movements within the country have declared the Lavalas Government a rogue or outlaw government functioning outside the bounds of the law.
Sisters, Brothers and dear friends within the Caribbean.
Following the initiative taken by women’s organizations which are members of the National Coordination for Advocacy on Women’s Rights (CONAP), political parties, student organizations, peasant and small farmer organizations, popular organizations, private sector organizations, as well a broad range of other civil society organizations have unanimously accused the Lavalas Government and Mr. Aristide of treason against the Haitian people. Mr. Jean Bertrand Aristide has built an apparatus of state terrorism.
Aristide’s party, the Lavalas Family, has occupied every echelon of political power in Haiti
Ever since the contested legislative and presidential elections of may 2000. Jean Bertrand Aristide’s party, the Lavalas Family, has occupied every echelon of political power in Haiti. This absolute control has plunged the country into an unprecedented and insupportable political crisis. The Lavalas government is at war with the Haitian people. On December 5, 2003, state sponsored political violence culminated in a violent attack against the State University. Carried out by state supported “chimeres” or armed thugs, working in cahoots with the national police, the toll was very high : the chancellor of the university was savagely beaten with iron bars and both of his legs were broken, a vice chancellor was savagely beaten, thirty students were injured by bullets and or knives, and countless other professors were harassed and victims of aggression. Two university departments were completely gutted : buildings ransacked, equipment and academic records destroyed. In Haiti, as in many other countries within the region, the University is inviolable- yet the regime and its acolytes violated this space and, in a country where education is a priority and existing services are scarce, demonstrated their disdain and lack of respect for learning.
Protests throughout Haiti
The protest movement calling for the resignation of the Lavalas Government has spread throughout the country, and has mobilized supports in all sectors. The anti-government demonstrations are the object of violent repression by the State : demonstrators are kidnapped, arbitrarily arrested and detained without due process ; death threats have been made against the leaders and spokespersons of social movements and other groups which have been vindicating democratic rights, ; reprisals have been taken against organizations and individuals participating in these peaceful demonstrations. The independent media and journalists have also been the targets of repression in a desperate, and unsuccessful, attempt by the regime to censure information and silence the voice of protest.
Most recently, on January 29, 2004, just prior to Mr. Aristide’s meeting with P.J. Patterson, and other heads of state, in Jamaica, the repression escalated to another level. Following a peaceful demonstration organized by university students in Port au Prince which was brutally repressed by the police force and their associates, the chimeres, a demonstrator was hospitalized because he has been hit, at close range, by a tear gas grenade which had lodged in his thorax. While on the operating table, he died. When the news became public, students and representatives of other civil society organization engaged in the fight for human rights in Haiti convened in front of the hospital in a peaceful demonstration of indignation over this most recent example of state sponsored repression. Riot police suddenly arrived on the scene with the aim of stopping the demonstration. They began to shoot at the demonstrators, who, in order to protect themselves, were then obliged to enter the grounds of the hospital in search of sanctuary. They were followed by the riot police who continued to shoot and then carried out a room to room manhunt within the hospital buildings. They also searched operating rooms and other sterile zones within the hospital. Dozens of students were arbitrarily arrested. Patients and doctors were subject to harassment and intimidation. This is a direct violation of international human rights laws as well as the Geneva Convention.
In this war against the Haitian civilian population, women are often the victims of the repression carried out by the state apparatus and their supporters. Women have been arrested, beaten, and victims of extortion. As during the 1991-1994 military coup d’etat, rape as a form of political repression has once again become common place. Among the many cases which have come to public attention, two are particularly revealing. On the night of December 11, 2003, in the small town of Petit Goave, a women and her two very young daughters were raped as part of the reprisals following anti-government demonstrations in that town. Again in the month of December2003, in a maternity hospital in Port au Prince, a young women patient was raped by armed chimeres/ Lavalas mercenaries.
On January 1, 2004, the Bicentennial of Haiti’s Independence was celebrated by the Lavalas officials alone, without the participation of the various sectors of the Haitian population. Given the context and the outlaw nature of the current regime, these organizations and individuals organized activities which honored critical reflection on the country’s history and which demonstrated their refusal of the Lavalas dictatorship. The official bicentennial celebrations once again provided the regime with an opportunity to abscond with massive sums from the public treasury thus further aggravating the economic situation of the poorest country within the hemisphere.
Given this somber situation, all sectors of the Haitian population are unanimous in calling for the immediate resignation of Jean Bertrand Aristide, the destitution of the Lavalas Government and the judgment of the regime. Throughout the country, peaceful demonstrations, bringing together thousands and thousands of people are organized on an almost daily basis. Despite the various efforts of the regime to suppress fundamental liberties and repress demonstrators. Yesterday, in direct violation of a recent anti-constitutional decree by the Lavalas regime suppressing the right to demonstrate, tens of thousands of people, men and women of all social categories and ages, marched in the streets of Port au Prince.
It is within this extremely difficult context that CARICOM wants to intervene. The heads of government of the region would like to contribute to resolving the Haitian crisis. During the recent meeting with heads of state in Jamaica on January 31, 2004, Mr. Aristide gave his word to carry out a series of measures aimed toward “reassuring” the opposition and civil society- in order to hold elections in Haiti. This is not the first time that the head of the Lavalas government has made such promises to the international community and to CARICOM. We know that the Lavalas government wants to remain in power - whatever the cost. The Lavalas regime has accomplished this, up until now, through the use of violence, and the systematic violation of human rights and basics democratic principles.
We should not allow ourselves to be fooled ! The Caribbean community should not allowed themselves to be duped. The Haitian population aspires to the triumph of democracy, the respect of human rights, free speech, right of assembly, and the liberty of the press- these are fundamental rights which we cannot exercise under the Aristide dictatorship. These are basic rights and liberties which are fundamental to the Caribbean community and enshrined in the Caribbean Charter of Civil Society.
We call upon the solidarity of the Caribbean community to help us ensure that democracy triumphs in Haiti, and that justice prevails. We ask you to make our voices heard at the level of CARICOM member governments so that t hey do not fall prey to Mr. Aristide’s games, and by so doing, legitimize the unacceptable. All avenues of negotiation have already been tried, Mr. Aristide has clearly demonstrated that he does not respect democratic principles. The Haitian people can no longer and will no longer negotiate with Mr. Aristide. CARICOM must be made to recognize that the only solution is the destitution and the judgment of the Lavalas Government.
Port au Prince February 2, 2004
For CONAP : Myriam Merlet, ENOFANM