Created on Tuesday, 15 April 2008 22:06
Written by Haiti Information Project
Haiti: Aristide and the removal of Alexis
by Haiti Information Project
he situation in Haiti was thrown into further confusion on April 12 as the Haitian parliament passed a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis.
Led by rightists in Haiti's parliament such as Senators Youri Latortue, Adris Riche and renegade Lavalas party Senator Roudy Herveaux, the vote of censure was passed on April 12, 2008 at 11:55 am EST.
HIP - Port au Prince, Haiti â€” President Rene Garcia Preval, following controversial
U.N.-sponsored elections in 2006, appointed Alexis as Prime Minister.
Alexis served for an administration touted as a coalition government
backed by the United States and the international community that
included members of the so-called opposition that forced former
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile in 2004. Alexis'
administration gave the final appearance of a legal veneer to the
ouster of Aristide and his political movement known as Lavalas by
co-opting former grass-roots leaders into his government.
Alexis was not a new comer to the rough and tumble world of Haitian
politics. He first served as Prime Minister under Preval beginning in
mid-December 1998 following a period in which the latter was forced to
rule by decree after the term of a majority of parliament had expired
in a political confrontation. During that same period, both Preval and
Alexis were accused of being pawns and mere placeholders for Aristide
prior to presidential elections scheduled for Nov. 2000. Alexis'
administration was responsible for oversight during the contested
parliamentary elections of May 2000 that were later used by a foreign
financed opposition to justify the ouster of then president
Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. It was also during Alexis' first
administration that Haiti's most prominent journalist, Jean Dominique,
Alexis' vote of no confidence last Saturday
comes on the heels of major riots last week that resulted in the death
of five persons and left more than a hundred people wounded according
to the international group MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res. Signs of
discontent had been mounting for two months prior as hunger and
unemployment forced Haiti's poor to choose between eating and sending
their children to school. Critics claim that indicators of the actual
situation facing the poor in Haiti came months in advance.
dire situation of Haiti's poor went largely ignored by Alexis'
government and the United Nations. International press reports in the
months leading to the open rebellion against hunger in the streets led
casual observers to believe the situation was normalizing. The
international press actually helped to obscure the reality of hunger
and misery in Haiti. On March 8. 2008, Reed Lindsay reported in the
Washington Times, "U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti say they are battling an
image of fear that is keeping the Caribbean nation mired in hunger and
disease, with little hope of attracting foreign visitors and
investment.' Lindsay's fundamental point being that the only thing
standing between Haiti and prosperity was merely the perception of
â€˜hunger and disease.'
Anger and frustration
from Haiti's poor was inflamed by this U.N. propaganda campaign that
sought to portray the situation as improving even as the reality of
grinding poverty deepened. Radio commercials featuring the voice of
hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean and extolling progress made in Haiti by the
U.N., saturated the airwaves throughout the country the week before
protests erupted in Haiti's third largest city of Les Cayes on April 2.
Ironically, the national radio spots produced by the U.N. featured
Wyclef urging the Haitian people to "turn away from the use of
The United Nations has blamed the recent upheaval
in Haiti on rising world food prices while many in the country also
point to the international body's support of neo-liberal economic
policies that have favored the Caribbean nation's small wealthy elite.
Profits of wealthy Haitian families and clans who maintain a virtual
monopoly on the importation of staples such as rice and beans have
risen almost as dramatically as prices for basic goods.
attempt to forestall the removal of Alexis by the Haitian legislature,
President Preval held a press conference early Saturday morning
announcing an $8 cut in the price of a 50 lb. sack of rice amounting to
a reduction of nearly 16 percent. Preval announced the government will
use international aid money to subsidize the price of rice at the cost
of US$5 and that the private sector had agreed to knock US$3 off the
price of each bag. At the same time, he reaffirmed that the long-term
solution to Haiti's crisis is an increase in national production of
staple goods by Haiti's peasant farmers. The president's appeal and
last minute offer did not appease Senator Youri Latortue who led the
movement for Alexis' removal and has been accused of corruption.
Latortue has also been implicated in the murder of Jean-Marie Vincent,
a Catholic priest in 1994, by former U.N. investigators.
by Preval was that the subsidy of rice by the international community
would also undercut Haitian production. In addition to subsidies
announced by Preval to lower the price of rice, Brazil announced this
week they would provide 14 tons of food in a charitable give away to
Haiti through the World Food Program of the United Nations. This would
almost guarantee a lower price for locally produced staples as no one
will buy them while they are available for free from subsidized
distribution programs sponsored by foreign governments.
represents a catch-22 for Preval and the international community and
adds to what many in Haiti already describe as a skewed economic
policy. Critics consider Haiti as a captive market of 8.5 million
Haitians rather than a free market. Competition is near non-existent
and small and medium sized businesses have never flourished under the
former system and the current alternative offered by the United Nations.
importantly, the censure of Alexis' government also signals the end of
a tenuous political compromise between those who supported Aristide's
ouster in 2004 and co-opted renegades of his Lavalas movement. Preval's
Lespwa party base was built upon the Lavalas movement who saw him as a
means to end repression following Aristide's ouster. Alexis' government
was representative of a temporary truce between supporters of ousted
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the opposition that worked with
the international community to remove him from office.
Alexis' center-right coalition government now removed from office, it
is expected he will be replaced by a more reactionary rightist
alternative that will further polarize the political landscape between
Haiti's haves and have-nots.
Adding to the insecurity in Haiti
is that a U.N. peacekeeper was shot and killed the same day as Alexis'
removal. Three U.N. soldiers had been fired upon and wounded a week
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