Haitian president-elect turns to Cuba, Venezuela
Date: Wednesday, May 03 @ 03:40:42 UTC
Topic: Haiti

By G. Dunkel, workers.org
Published Apr 27, 2006

It has been more than two years since Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was elected with the overwhelming support of the people, was forced out of the country by U.S. officials and a right-wing "de facto" government was installed. Haitians are now waiting to see if their choice in the first election since then, President-elect René Préval, will be seated on May 14 as promised.

Conditions in this impoverished country have only grown worse since the "coup-napping."

Fidel Castro and René Préval
Fidel Castro and René Préval
Because they had not been paid for five months, and are expected to work without gloves, brooms, buckets and other supplies, the support staff of the Hospital of the State University of Haiti (HUEH) went on strike April 7. Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel followed a few days later, unable to work in the unsanitary conditions produced as blood, wastes and all kinds of debris piled up throughout the HUEH, the main public hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Workers at other public hospitals throughout the country—in Cap-Haitien, Gonaïves, Jacmel and Cayes—have also walked out. Some haven't been paid for seven months. In some areas outside Port-au-Prince, local authorities came to an agreement with the strikers, who then went back to work.

But the agreements were broken, so the strikers went out again, even angrier. Observers say this attack on public health care may be one way that the de facto government is putting pressure on Préval. It wants to enmesh him in big problems from day one.

Electricity and water are also sporadic in Port-au-Prince, with some poor neighborhoods nearly completely deprived.

The public health crisis in Haiti made a visit by Préval to Cuba from April 14 to 19 particularly important. As Preval told the media there, Cuban doctors "have held more than 8 million office visits and done more than 100,000 operations. In Haiti, we say after God comes Cuban doctors."

He also held warm talks with Cuban President Fidel Castro on a range of subjects from economic development to electric generation and education. Cuba has a major program to train Haitian doctors. Some 120 Haitians have already graduated from medical school there and 600 are enrolled. Besides the normal quota of Haitian business leaders in his entourage, Préval also brought Haitians who needed medical care. He himself extended his visit to get a hernia operation.

Préval's next visit before his inauguration will be to Venezuela. The current autho rities in Haiti, who are hand-picked by imperialism, turned down Venezuela's offer to join Petrocaribe, a program run by Venezuela to provide cheap gasoline to poor Caribbean countries. They say it's because they don't have a government-owned distribution center and don't want to build one in competition with Haitian businesses. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, in his weekly television broadcast on April 23, announced Préval's visit and said Venezuela would donate a distribution center to Haiti after it joins Petro-caribe, some time after the inauguration.

A major reason why so many cities and towns in Haiti don't have electricity is that they don't have the money to buy fuel to run their generators.

Runoff elections for parliament were held on April 23. They came off without the contention that marked the February election for president. However, thousands of people with valid voter cards were turned away from polling stations where they had voted in February. They were told to check the Internet for places where they could vote—an onerous task for poor people without computers who get only a few hours of electricity a week.

While the de-facto government says it doesn't have the money needed to run hospitals, generate electricity and provide clean water, it got millions of dollars from "donor countries" to run elections and create photo IDs for those registering.

The United States and Canada, the two countries with the biggest "aid" programs in Haiti, don't just deny Haiti the economic aid it deserves.

Jeb Sprague, a freelance journalist writing for Haïti-Progrès (April 12 to 18), charges that "In the years leading up to Haiti's 2006 presidential and legislative elections, ... the International Republican Institute (IRI) helped form and coach three coalitions of right-wing and social-democratic parties, which were all partisans of the Feb. 29, 2004, coup d'état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide."

IRI is an international agency of the U.S. Republican Party that gets its funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), whose funds in turn come from the U.S. Congress, with a mandate "to promote democracy throughout the world."

IRI charged Fanmi Lavalas, Aristide's party, with not being "democratic." But it guided some FL breakaways into the Movement for the Installation of Demo cracy in Haiti (MIDH), whose candidate for president was former World Bank official Marc Bazin. Bazin received only got 0.68 percent of the Feb. 7 vote.

Washington has been pushing Bazin as Haiti's leader for a long time. In 1990, when Aristide was elected for the first time, the New York Times predicted Bazin would defeat him because only the poor, who "don't vote," were for Aristide. Bazin got 14 percent of that vote.

IRI and USAID even went so far as to assist a "socialist" coalition to contest the recent vote. Most of the candidates for this "socialist" coalition had supported the coup against Aristide and in reality represent the left wing of the Haitian bourgeoisie.

Préval's party, Lespwa, did not take any IRI or USAID money. His election was assured only after tens of thousands of Haitians came out into the streets and demanded that their votes be counted and respected.

The Haitian people are going to support Préval as long as they see him trying to resolve the huge problems affecting their country. The help he gets from Cuba and Venezuela will be a key element in this struggle to improve the condition of the Haitian people.

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