The Politics of Money: Haiti and the Left

Article excerpt

Since the U.S.-backed overthrow of progressive Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the severe level of political repression launched by the new government has left tens of thousands of Lavalas (Aristide's political party) supporters the victims of rapes, incarcerations, firings and murders. One tragic aspect of this story is the extent to which Canadian federal government money has been able to buy the support of supposedly progressive organizations and individuals. Today they continue to align themselves with Canada's brutal pro-coup policy.

THE POLITICS OF NGO FUNDING

In September, 2003, for example, Rights and Democracy, a Montreal-based NGO whose money comes from the federal government and which was formerly headed by the NDP's Ed Broadbent, released a report on Haiti. The report described Haiti's pro-coup Group of 184 as "grassroots" and a "promising civil society movement." The group says this even though the Group of 184 is funded by the International Republican Institute and is headed by the country's leading sweatshop owner, Andy Apaid. Apaid has been active in right-wing Haitian politics for many years, and, like G-184 spokesperson Charles Henry Baker himself, is white.

Moreover, several Quebec unions that received hundreds of thousands of CIDA dollars for work in Haiti through the Centre International de Solidarite Ouvriere (CISO) passed resolutions condemning Aristide's alleged anti-union activities. The FTQ and CSQ union federations and a half dozen NGOS are part of an informal group known as the Concertation Pour Haiti (CPH). Prior to the coup, they branded Aristide a "tyrant" and his government a "dictatorship" and a "regime of terror." In mid-February, 2004, CPH representatives told the Canadian Press, "We think there will not be a solution without Aristide leaving." This demand was made at the same time CIA-trained thugs swept across the country to depose Aristide.

Since Aristide's overthrow, these same Quebec unions have failed to criticize the installed government for its far more severe harassment of unionists. Last October, for example, Lulu Cherie, head of Haiti's CTH union, had his life threatened by the Haitian Police. No unions in Quebec have said anything about this or about numerous other post-coup affronts to union activity. In addition, Quebec unions also worked to dilute an anti-coup resolution proposed by a number of English-Canadian unions to the Canadian Labour Congress convention held in Montreal in June.

The CPH's antagonism towards Lavalas isn't merely a by-product of the political upheaval of February. In October, 2004--after months of widespread political repression directed at Lavalas sympathizers--the CPH released a statement blaming the victims. The CPH repeated the claim first made by Haiti's ruling elite and ultra-right that Lavalas launched an "operation Baghdad," which included beheading police officers. Numerous observers have noted that "Operation Baghdad" is simply pro-coup propaganda designed to divert attention from the de facto government's misdeeds, particularly the murder of at least five peaceful, pro-constitution demonstrators on September 30, 2004.

IMPERIALISM AND THE RHETORIC OF HUMAN RIGHTS

In April, 2005, the CPH organized a delegation from Haiti to Montreal and Ottawa. Yolene Gilles, one of the speakers invited by the CPH, is the coordinator of the "human rights" monitoring program at the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), formerly known as NCHR-Haiti, which is funded by CIDA. This organization changed its name in mid-March, 2005, after its parent group in the U.S., itself pro-coup, condemned the blatantly partisan work of NCHR-Haiti regarding the imprisonment of constitutional Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. …