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Pierre Labossiere on welcoming Aristide home to Haiti

April 10, 2011

Interview by Minister of Information JR

You are listening to another Block Report with the Minister of Information JR on Hard Knock Radio. Today we’re going to be talking about the country of Haiti. Our guest is Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee.

As President Aristide speaks at the airport on his return to Haiti March 18, the joy in his face and his wife Mildred's reflects the jubilant exultation of the people.
Pierre, there’s been a lot going on in Haiti. One, Haiti was the first people’s movement of African people to free itself from slavery – chattel slavery. Can you give us a glimpse into Haiti’s history so that we can bring it all the way up to date where people can understand what is happening on the ground today.

Pierre: Yes, first let me start by thanking you for having me on your show once again and thank you for your support and solidarity for the people of Haiti. I thank Block Report Radio and also Hard Knock Radio for their constant support.

The history of Haiti – well, we all know about Christopher Columbus and his invasion of the lands of the indigenous people in this hemisphere that today is known as the Americas. Christopher Columbus invaded the island in 1492 and the name Haiti or, as it’s pronounced, Ayiti, it’s an indigenous name that means Land of Mountains, and the Arawaks were the first inhabitants of the land – what Christopher Columbus mistakenly referred to as the Indies or Indians.

In 1492 he started a war of extermination against the indigenous people and by 1503, the first arrival of Africans kidnapped from Africa for the purpose of enslavement actually was recorded. But it’s important to pay homage to the indigenous people. The population of the indigenous inhabitants was estimated at the time at about 1,500,000 but then in about 30 years the population was reduced to 60,000.

It was truly a brutal system of slavery that Christopher Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors had imposed and also a war of extermination – to exterminate indigenous people in order to get their resources. Why is it important to say that? Because in modern times as we are looking at the world today, we have the same wars of extermination taking place against indigenous people living in various lands throughout the world, not only in the Americas but throughout, to get their wealth, to get their resources, so the same spirit of the conquistadors way back in the 1490s is still what’s going on today.

Today they give it other names: They call it the new world order. They give it names such as globalization. And that’s why as we look at the Congo, for example, because it is a very rich land and its peoples are subjected to a whole process of extermination, be it through wars or through forced labor or imported diseases. So that’s basically what Haiti went through in those early years, and some are arguing that this is what’s going on today to the people of Haiti.

MOI JR: What has the United States’ impact been on Haiti? What has the United States’ history with Haiti been over those years?

Pierre: Well, this takes us to the beginning – the founding of Haiti as a nation – with the Africans being brought in as enslaved people and being worked to death on the island. The island became split between the Spanish and the French in 1697. For the next 100 years on the French part, which today is known as Haiti, and the other part of the island, now the Dominican Republic, the French continued the system of brutal exploitation, brutal slavery.

A hundred years later, 1791, the Africans rebelled and there was a massive rebellion led by Brother Boukman Dutty and a woman, Cecile Fatima, and that rebellion successfully ended 13 years later in the Africans defeating the armies of Napoleon, the Spanish and the British and proclaiming themselves an independent republic in 1804.

Now the U.S., as a slaving-owning nation, saw the new nation as a threat, so they started to undermine the Haitian revolution to destroy it basically. For the next 50 years the U.S. refused to recognize Haiti as an independent nation. They had also maneuvered so that in the conference of the independent states of the Americas – now, what I mean by that is all the South American countries under the leadership of Simon Bolivar, who led the movement for the pan-American conference; Haiti had helped Simon Bolivar in his struggle against Spanish colonialism – Haiti was invited to participate in that conference, but through manipulations by the U.S. and pressure, Haiti was disinvited and Haiti was told not to come to participate in that conference, which took place in 1826. It wasn’t until the end of the Civil War that the United States finally gave recognition to Haiti as an independent nation.

One of the first ambassadors to Haiti was Frederick Douglass. At the very inception of Haiti, Haiti was in the crosshairs of the United States and various administrations of the U.S. Haiti was also seen by the U.S. as a place that was very strategically located in order to locate a Naval base, but the Haitians resisted that and refused to cede any of their territory.

I must say Frederick Douglass was very supportive of the Haitian side of it. To him, as a former enslaved African, Haiti was sacred ground because as an enslaved person who fought so successfully his way out of slavery, he identified with his brothers and sisters in Haiti and he stood up for Haiti.

The Haitians successfully refused to cede their territory, and 1915 was the first U.S. occupation of Haiti. It lasted 19 years, from 1915 to 1934, and it was during that time that the Haitian military, which had successfully defeated the troops of Napoleon, that the traditional Haitian military was destroyed and replaced by a new military formed by the U.S.

At the Aristides’ home, thousands of Haitians, who had waited seven long tortured years for the return of their beloved president and his family, waited a little longer to welcome them. – Photo: Jean Ristil Jean Baptiste
After the U.S. troops left in 1934, that force became an extension (of the occupation) and a repressive force against the people of Haiti in order to make sure that the plantations and economic interests that the U.S. had now gotten into in Haiti were being protected by a military that was subservient to the U.S. – not serving the people of Haiti but being subservient to U.S. economic interests. Actually, a man named Butler, who was a Marine officer and who was in Haiti and was part of the occupation, he had a conversion of sorts so that in his memoirs he said that he regretted that his service was actually being an enforcer for the interests of Wall Street.

And during that period the gold reserve of Haiti’s bank was actually taken forcefully out of Haiti and transported to the U.S. It hasn’t been returned to Haiti to this date.

MOI JR: Can you tell the people a little bit about the history of 1991 and the rise to power of the people – Fanmi Lavalas as well as President Jean-Bertrand Aristide?

Pierre: Yes, during that period following the end of the occupation and the removal of the troops – but people will argue there was a continued de facto occupation of Haiti and that Haiti had lost its sovereignty – there were many movements in the country, movements from the grassroots to change the system, particularly the system of color prejudice and class prejudice that existed during that time.

In 1946 there was a massive uprising; it’s known as the Revolution of ‘46 in Haiti. Out of that there was a president, Dumarcais Estime, who was pretty much a reformist president.

Four years later he was overthrown by the Haitian military because they didn’t like the fact that his reforms targeted such things as establishing a minimum wage, allowing trade unions to participate, to have a say in what was going on, to be active in the country. A number of grassroots organizations, community organizations, were coming forth and they were directly part of the movement of ’46. So Dumarcais Estime was too much for the Haitian ruling elite.

The Haitian ruling elite: There is a tiny elite in Haiti that after the independence of Haiti, with the support of the French interests and European interests, had managed to gain a foothold to dominate the economy of Haiti. So if you look at the international imperialists, the ruling elite were junior partners running the country for their interests.

One of the shameful things in our history is that in 1826, France demanded that Haiti pay ransom, reparations to the French slave owners because of our foremothers and forefathers taking their freedom and declaring themselves free people. So France got the support of the U.S. and Britain and Spain to force the newly freed Haitians to pay reparations to the French slave owners.

What did that mean? It means that everything that we were producing in Haiti, instead of investing it in ourselves, in our own institutions, such as hospitals, building schools, having tools for farmers, having irrigation canals, universities, roads, all of those things that would help the new nation have the infrastructure to develop into a modern nation, you see, all of that money was being sent to former French slave owners in Europe. That was why they needed that ruling elite and a subservient military to keep the people subjugated, to keep the people producing just like in slavery days.

That’s what Kwame Nkrumah referred to as neocolonialism: It was another way to maintain the colonial system. But in any case, people have been rebelling against that since the 19th century. In 1946 that movement of the people was part of changing that whole structure.

We had a series of dictators. There was the military dictatorship, and then Papa Doc Duvalier came to power in 1957 – actually handpicked, selected, put in there by the U.S. government with the support of the Haitian military and a large majority of Haiti’s ruling elite.

So the Duvaliers controlled Haiti – first the father, who died in 1971; then his son took over and (caused) brutal, brutal repression. Over 50,000 Haitians were reported as having been killed or disappeared and the country was being systematically destroyed by the Duvalier regime and their policies. They were implementing the demands and dictates of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Those were the realities that were really keeping Haiti within that neocolonialist system, very dependent.

Joyfully, people surround Aristide’s car as he leaves the airport. They ran beside him all the way to his house. – Photo: Jean Ristil Jean Baptiste
And so the people of Haiti woke up in 1986 and said enough. And in the wake of that, the Haitian military kept trying to reverse and kept trying to suppress that movement with the support of France and the U.S. and other Western European nations.

But the people of Haiti managed in 1990 to elect a young parish priest who was a very eloquent spokesperson for the demands of the people. You see, during that time a lot of the agricultural sector in Haiti was under severe attack and under severe destruction. For example, our livestock, the pork industry in Haiti, the pig industry, all the pigs were destroyed, the Kreyol pigs. That wiped out over $600 million of the peasant agricultural economy, and that livestock wasn’t replaced.

Our rice industry was completely destroyed and now rice was coming in – imported rice that was subsidized, rice produced in the U.S. that was being sold below market rate in Haiti – which really destroyed the rice economy, making Haiti more dependent. The same thing happened to our poultry production. So you see our whole agricultural sector was being undermined by this assault.

The labor unions, for example: In the ‘70s, Baby Doc Duvalier used brutal repression against the trade unions that were demanding decent wages, while sweatshops were being encouraged to come in to Haiti. Companies would close their factories in the U.S. and open them in Haiti as sweatshops, where they wouldn’t pay a living wage to people, basically starvation wages, less than $1 a day for a 10-hour workday.

Our people, when they formed a union and tried to demand better wages, they were considered subversive, put in jail. Union leaders were being killed outright. When people rebelled in 1986, it was to change that system.

Aristide was elected on a people’s platform to change the system, and seven months after his election he was taken out of office by a military coup – supported, really encouraged by George Bush, the father, who the Haitians call Papa Bush. After three years of struggle, in which the people of Haiti received a lot of international solidarity from communities throughout the world, Aristide was returned to Haiti. Bill Clinton was the president of the U.S. at that time. In 1996, a new president (of Haiti) was elected – Rene Preval – who had been prime minister under Aristide.

But five years later the people again drafted President Aristide to run again for office, again on the people’s program to build schools, to build roads, to build hospitals, universities and to really demand that companies that do business in Haiti negotiate, follow the laws, pay their taxes, and invest so that there would be investment in the country and the investment of the resources, the tax money, and also investment of the government of Haiti into institutions to help people build schools, hospitals, and investing in education for our children, whereby schools would be subsidized.

Aristide as president did something that the Haitian people wanted him to do: He demobilized the military, disbanded it, and he took the headquarters of the Haitian military and gave it to the women’s movement as the ministry for women’s affairs. It would be like taking the Pentagon, decommissioning it and turning it over to the women’s movement.

This was tremendous for the people of Haiti. What happened is 40 percent of the national budget that the Haitian military was taking outright for doing nothing and being of no service to the country, that money was used to build the roads, the hospitals, the schools that the people wanted.

The platform of the government of the Lavalas movement was investing in the people: “Let’s invest in our people!” It’s shameful that the average life expectancy for our people was 48 years. Illiteracy – 85 percent of our people did not know how to read or write. There was one doctor for every 20,000 Haitians. So they founded a medical school.

The people were demanding a platform. The people formulated a platform and they said, “Look, brother Aristide, we trust you when we give you our vote that you are going to implement those demands that we are formulating into a program to launch Haiti into the new century.”

MOI JR: Aristide was overthrown during the bicentennial of Haiti’s independence (in 2004) and he recently returned from exile. And you were there to greet him and that happened less than a week and a half ago. Can you talk about that experience? And what was it like to be on the ground for such a historic occasion?

Pierre: It was tremendous, JR. You know, this happened on Friday, March 18. I’d gone to Haiti, I landed there on Thursday, and I could see feverish activity from various communities. I was in Port au Prince and I could see people trying to put up posters, putting up banners saying, “Welcome home,” “Bon retour, Aristide,” which means “Welcome back” – feverish activity all night long. It was so busy I didn’t get to see many friends because they were so busy putting up posters. And I did too. I got caught up in the fever.

The following day with the delegation I was supposed to be at the airport, but the roads were so clogged so early in the morning from 8:00 on, it was impossible to get to the airport, so a friend of ours at the airport said look, forget it, it’s an impossible task. Why don’t you go to his (Aristide’s) house, so that’s what we ended up doing.

Young people who are barely old enough to remember Aristide before he was kidnapped by U.S. Marines seven years ago and forced into exile were as excited as their elders to welcome him home. The sign says, “Titid, the youth love you.” Titid is an affectionate nickname for Aristide. – Photo: Ansel Herz
At his house, we were waiting for him and it was slow for him to get to his house because the streets were clogged with tens of thousands of people celebrating his return, and I could see that the day before too. Even at the airport, some of the people around the airport were just thanking everybody coming, saying, “Man, thank you so much, thank you for bringing President Aristide back!”

And so the day of, as I was at his house, we heard a roar of shouts of joy, and then over the walls people started coming in, pouring into the courtyard of the house when they saw the car. People were accompanying the car as many as three miles from the airport to his house. Now these are community organizations that had already marched to the airport. Now they were at the airport and bringing him back to his home. So it was a slow procession of people, tens of thousands of people in the tropical heat.

We’re in the yard and all of sudden all these people marching, brothers and sisters singing, and they were shouting with joy, saying, “Give him back his house! He’s back now, he’s back to take his house back! Give him back his house!” It was an expression of anger at the way President Aristide had been kidnapped.

As you mentioned earlier, in the year 2004, the year of Haiti’s bicentennial, he had been kidnapped in a coup d’etat, and this was by the administration of George Bush, the younger – people in Haiti call him Baby Bush; that’s a reference to Baby Doc Duvalier. People are so angry at the fact that their democratic rights, their right to choose their own representatives, had been so brutally and openly snatched from them. Expressing their anger, people were chanting and singing songs of the movement and singing the song, “Our blood is the blood of Aristide. We are all united as one!”

They said so many of us have died because we stood up for our rights, for the right to vote, for the respect of our right to choose our own leaders. They were saying that and counting the many who died. They said, “Many of us were wounded by bullets shot at us by U.N. troops when we were demonstrating for Aristide’s return, by the Haitian police who were defending the coup d’etat and were against our rights, and still we stood up.”

So it took the brother (Aristide) at least another 45-50 minutes to walk from the car into his house. So much joy, it was just electric. It was fantastic. People felt a sense of vindication. They said, “We were told Aristide would never come back. Now see the power of the people, the resistance of the people.”

They asked me to convey their many, many thanks and their love to people here in the Bay Area because they were aware how people here in the Bay Area – how the listening audience worldwide – have stood up with them in solidarity, even though there were many lies being spread against Aristide. People were calling him a drug dealer, a dictator.

But one day while he was in exile, a friend was in touch with him by phone – the friend conference called me – and he (Aristide) told me something, and I said, “President Aristide, I’m so sorry that this is happening, all those lies against you.” And he answered using a Haitian metaphor which translates in English roughly as, “Truth crushed to earth shall rise again.” And this is what is happening in Haiti.

I did have a chance to sit down with him, and he sends his love and appreciation to everyone, to each and every one for everything they’ve done in solidarity with the people in Haiti, for the democratic rights of the people of Haiti. As he said in his article, which is in his letter, “Upon My Return,” his focus is on education. The denial of our peoples’ rights, political rights, and also their right to live and achieve their potential in this society, has to stop.

He’s an educator. He’s focused on education. So he’s going to reopen the medical school and also the university. That’s what his major focus is – to find ways to help bring our young people educational opportunities.

MOI JR: For those of you who are just tuning in, we are listening to the voice of Pierre Labossiere, cofounder and organizer with the Haiti Action Committee. I am the Minister of Information JR and this is Block Report Radio on Hard Knock Radio. Pierre, there was recently an election which happened the day after Aristide came back from exile. Can you speak a little bit about this election and how the people on the ground in Haiti feel about this election.

Pierre: For the most part, people didn’t turn out. Nobody believes in those; they call them a selection process, in which it’s been the big countries that dominate Haiti, that occupy Haiti – France, the U.S., Canada – that are running the show. Basically they are trying to roll back the gains of the democratic movement of 1986, so what they are doing is taking the people again out of the political process.

Five to ten thousand supporters wait to greet President Aristide outside his house when he returned to Haiti after more than seven years in exile. – Photo: Ansel Herz
What does that mean? Well, when there was the dictatorship of the Duvaliers, father and son, people didn’t have the right to vote. Well, you could vote but you’d better vote for Duvalier. And so the right to freely choose your representatives didn’t exist.

Since ’86, many have died for their right to cast their ballot, and so people see (their exclusion) as a rolling back to those days of the dictatorship. That’s why they call them (the recent elections) a selection process.

Famni Lavalas, the party of Aristide – Lavalas means flash flood – and its family, the flash flood family, means that the people all of a sudden rose up in 1986 in a big mass movement to clean Haiti of all of the mess that it was in.

2009 was the beginning of this current election process. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to various reports, led the successful efforts to remove the Lavalas party from the elections. And so they decided to ban Fanmi Lavalas – the Preval government banned Lavalas – excluding them from the elections, under the pretext that, President Aristide being in exile, even though that’s not against the law and he had appointed someone, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, to represent the party and be able to sign the party into the elections. But they (election officials) claimed that the authorization was not done, that there was some hanky-panky going on and they didn’t believe the signature, which was a bold face lie. And it didn’t stand up to scrutiny what they were presenting.

It was simply because Lavalas was the majority party, is the majority party, they were so afraid that if in a normal election where everybody could freely express themselves, that Fanmi Lavalas would once again sweep most of the seats, including the presidency. So they knew that after seven years of misrepresenting, vilifying Fanmi Lavalas, vilifying President Aristide, that in the hearts of the people, the people knew who was on their side.

The people would never turn away from Fanmi Lavalas. On the contrary, Fanmi Lavalas had gained in stature and popularity, so that’s why they brutally excluded Fanmi Lavalas from the process. In 2010 in November was another round of elections. In ‘09 there was a round of elections for the legislature. Fanmi Lavalas didn’t participate and there was a massive boycott. Only 2-5 percent of the people turned out.

On Nov. 28, 2010, again they excluded Fanmi Lavalas from the process and this time also very few people participated in that process and it was a fraudulent election – so bad that most of the candidates, all the major candidates actually, in midday, around noon, they went on national TV in Haiti. They called a press conference and told their supporters don’t bother voting; this is fraudulent. The vote has taken place already. This is crazy. Don’t even participate.

What happened was that by that evening, the United Nations, which is the organization that supposedly is entrusted with setting the rules for democratic elections and making sure that the rights of the people are respected, the U.N. itself was involved in the fraud taking place. They had called two candidates, two right-wing candidates, Manigat and another guy, Michel Martelly, who is known as Sweet Mickey.

For the seven years of President Aristide's exile, Haitians by the thousands marched through police and U.N. "peacekeepers'" beatings and bullets to demand his return. On the great day their demand was finally met, signs everywhere read, in literal translation, "Good (or happy) return, Titid!" Titid is Haitians' affectionate nickname for Aristide. - Photo: Ramon Espinosa, AP
He’s a singer and also a very right-wing person and a supporter of Baby Doc. It’s reported according to a French newspaper that he was a Tonton Macoute at the age of 15. A Tonton Macoute, for those who do not know, they were part of Duvalier’s militia, secret police. And also he was a member of the Ninja; that’s again according to various reports.

The two of them were promised that if they dropped their opposition to the fraud in the election that they were the ones who would go to the second round. And to their shame and their discredit – no one could expect better from these two – they decided to go along with it. And essentially the second round that took place last Sunday, March 20, was between these two people, and the turnout again was very poor. It was according to various estimates between 15-25 percent, but in any case it’s one of the lowest turnouts in presidential elections in the Americas, from what I’ve heard, in recent history.

Even though the Electoral Council, the body that’s in charge of running elections, as discredited as they are, as bad as they are, still the majority of them is supposed to ratify the first round so you can go to the second round. But things went so bad on this one that less than the majority signed off on it, which made it illegal, and to this day they never ratified the first round of the election, which makes the whole second round completely illegal and a complete farce.

For people who still were saying, “Well Haiti’s not occupied,” this is clearly an occupation. This is clearly where Secretary Hillary Clinton and France and Canada have imposed their will in such a blatant way and a blatant disregard for Haiti’s institutions that they didn’t bother to even have the fig leaf of the president’s signature or to have a fig leaf of legality through this whole process.

And the OAS, the Organization of American States, is also involved in this big time. So what we are saying is a number of international organizations that brand themselves as being people who are so upright, are so concerned with human rights, with legality and democracy in Haiti – they have shown themselves to be nothing but complete liars and brutal forces of aggression.

I’m not saying that lightly, because the United Nations forces have been involved in a number of massacres in Haiti of our brothers and sisters, and there are a number of massacres that they are connected with simply because our people were demanding that their right to vote be respected, were demanding their right to freedom, were demanding the right to voice their opinions into the running of the country.

MOI JR: You were just listening to the voice of Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee. I am the Minister of Information JR for Block Report Radio on Hard Knock Radio. Pierre, there’s been two major catastrophic disasters in Haiti, the first being the earthquake of 2010 and the second being the cholera outbreak. Can you tell the listeners a little about what’s going on the ground in Haiti right now in terms of those two disasters?

Pierre: Yes. The earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, as everybody has seen by now, was devastating. The current figures are that over 310,000 people were killed in that earthquake: horrific, terrible. This is a natural disaster, but with so many deaths, it shows (the effect of) the previous manmade disasters – meaning the coup d’etat of 2004, the coup d’etat of 1991, the economic sabotage of the country, the blocking of the loans that were supposed to help build infrastructure, such as more health care institutions, more hospitals throughout the country. That was blocked when President Aristide was there. So when this natural disaster took place, the country was ill-prepared to deal with this kind of disaster.

"In the courtyard of Aristide's house on the day of this return, people ... shimmied up the coconut trees, onto the roof and the balconies, ate mangoes from the mango trees, cracked open coconuts and passed them down to the crowd below, reveled and smiled and claimed the house and its occupants as their own," writes Laura Flynn of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, another eyewitness. - Photo: Paul Burke
Many of the (earthquake) survivors died as a result of the lack of institutions which would have helped them survive secondary infections and (that would have distributed) food, basic food and basic water. So had there been institutions in place where people could have been evacuated, a number of people would have survived.

And about 10 months later, in October 2010, there was a massive outbreak of cholera. The cholera was brought to Haiti – despite the U.N. saying that they didn’t bring it to Haiti – by United Nations troops that were infected with the disease, were carriers of the disease from Asia. It’s been 100 years since there was cholera in Haiti. Those troops had recently arrived the end of September, and their waste was being dumped into one of the main rivers in Haiti. That’s where their waste was being dumped.

Within three weeks of their arrival and with their fecal matter being dumped into the river, you had a number of cholera outbreaks downstream from their base. They tried to deny it, but there was a group of reporters that went there, they took photos, they filmed it, they showed where the fecal material from the base was going into the river, and then one of the trucks that was emptying the fecal waste was actually dumping it into the river – and all that was circulating on the internet.

The United Nations and all of the big countries that participated in the overthrow of President Aristide promised people that after Aristide was gone, Haiti would be a land of milk and honey, everybody would have everything, there would be no more misery, no more poverty and all of that. But what we saw was it was worse for the people of Haiti. Economically the situation got worse for the people of Haiti. Seven years after those big rich nations took control of Haiti, the situation for the average Haitian was much, much worse economically.

So what happened both after the earthquake and with the cholera outbreak was that the people had to fend for themselves. JR, you were in Haiti right after the earthquake and you saw how people all over the world freely gave so much. But those supplies, that money was kept stockpiled someplace, not being given to the people who really needed those supplies, so the people of Haiti were left on their own to fend for themselves.

Same with the cholera outbreak. All of those powerful nations should have mobilized and put together a plan very quickly to contain the disease and provide information to the population and provide support for the people – the vaccinations and medicine and all the stuff they needed – because cholera is deadly but it’s preventable. You can treat it very easily, but that wasn’t being provided to the people of Haiti. I hear there’s been a recent upsurge in the cholera outbreak; I heard about that yesterday: Over 800,000 people are infected with it and over 5,000 are dead.

But this is not counting the countryside, where figures are not kept, so this is mostly in the city. This is shameful. This is disgraceful. And this is what this occupation of Haiti has led us to, and it’s shameful that these big countries continue to lie about this situation and are not telling the world the truth about what’s going on.

MOI JR: Last question: Can you tell us what is the history of Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States, as well as what is the interest of the United States in Haiti? What is it that they want? And one thing that we didn’t mention during the interview that I think is very important is that during the time of French colonialism, Haiti was seen as the breadbasket of the French empire. So can you tell us what is it that the United States is eyeing in Haiti and what is the history of Bill Clinton specifically – what has it been in Haiti?

Pierre: Well, they have always eyed Haiti from the beginning, when it was a colony. Because of the brutal exploitation of our people, Haiti produced more for France than the 13 colonies in continental America were producing for England at that time. So Haiti has been like a prize possession. Everybody wanted to take it and maintain the system of colonialism that was brutal – colonialism that was making France so rich. Haiti is very strategically located in the Caribbean. That’s why the U.S. wanted a base there. Before they got Guantanamo, they wanted to have a base there.

Also, Haiti has a lot of mineral resources as well. Haiti has gold, copper and oil reserves that people want. Some of the things (the U.S. wants) also include the fact that Haiti is a source of cheap labor, where people are brutally exploited. But combined with that, the people of Haiti have always fought against that.

Etched on the older people’s faces is the truth of this woman’s sign, “We suffered greatly, (but) we had faith you would return home.” Thousands of Haitians died during the past seven years at the hands of the U.S. and U.N. forces occupying Haiti, compounded by the over 300,000 who were killed in the earthquake and over 4,600 killed so far in the cholera epidemic. – Photo: Etant Dupain, brikourinouvelgaye.com
Ideologically, even though people in the progressive movement refuse to admit it, Haiti has been very successful in its history, in the history of people’s resistance. An example is the fact that the very first successful slave rebellion that culminated in the founding of a nation showed people that it could be done, that colonialism in the Americas could be broken. And Haiti served as a base for many people who were fighting for freedom to come to and from there launch successful movements of liberation.

In the modern era, with liberation theology – Father Aristide, President Aristide, being a former priest, a liberation theologian – to lead successful movements calling for the poor people to have a place in society, to have the right to vote, and be able to sit at the table of decision-making and also to say no to the plans that keep people in misery couldn’t be tolerated. So on an ideological level that example had to be brutally crushed.

And to get rid of its military at the time when the U.S. was pushing for the School of the Americas and the integration of military, promoting military, not as a way to help people, to help those various nations, but more as a repressive force in those countries – Haiti chose a different path, a different model of economic development where people were being put first before profits. That was too much of a challenge, so on those various fronts, the example of Haiti had to be destroyed. That’s what I believe.

As we look at the labor front as well – Haiti being one of the places where the wages are so low – when workers in other countries are demanding or fighting for better wages, fighting for better working conditions, the bosses always use Haiti as a place where they can move to. They use it as a threat: “Well, unless you agree to these concessions, we can always reopen the plant in Haiti.” That’s very useful. There are so many ways that Haiti serves the interests of greedy folks, greedy capitalists.

MOI JR: On Bill Clinton, real quick, as we’re running out of time.

Pierre: Yes, Bill Clinton, a special envoy of the U.N., really is one of the big promoters of what we call sweatshop development. A number of policies, including those fraudulent elections, can be attributed to former President Bill Clinton because he wields tremendous power in Haiti, but also his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They are the ones pushing for a policy that is destroying Haiti as a country and destroying the people of Haiti, and that has to change.

So I’m appealing to the audience to get on their phone to call and protest this and to demand that there is a new foreign policy in regards to Haiti. Call on the Obama administration to stop this policy that has been in existence ever since the days of the colonies, ever since the days when the U.S. saw Haiti as a threat because it had broken the chains of slavery. This has to stop.

MOI JR: What about Barbara Lee here in the Bay Area, the former head of the Black Caucus. This is her region that she runs. What has Barbara Lee’s connection been to Haiti?

Pierre: Rep. Lee has always been a good friend to the people of Haiti even before she was an elected official, both at the state level and now the federal level. We look upon her as a friend. But also she needs to hear from us because the other side is really lobbying. They sit in Washington. They have money. The ruling elite in Haiti have all the access. But we can help encourage her in continuing her strong stance in solidarity with the people of Haiti, just like her colleague, Rep. Maxine Waters. And for people who are in Marin, Rep. Lynne Woolsey has been a good friend as well.

They’ve been good friends of Haiti but they need to be encouraged to know that when you stand with the people of Haiti and their chosen leadership, President Aristide, you can’t go wrong. So we should not listen to the ruling elite of Haiti and to the other side.

MOI JR: How do people get in touch with the Haiti Action Committee?

Pierre: The Haiti Action Committee: You can reach us at our website, which is www.haitisolidarity.net. Also I’m a board member of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. We work with a number of grassroots organizations in Haiti, giving to them directly. We provide them the support so they make the decisions. And the way to reach the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund is www.haitiemergencyrelief.org.

MOI JR: We have 60 seconds, Pierre, but can you tell us real quick: Recently Wyclef John, the rapper, is said to have been shot in Haiti and people have reportedly debunked that claim. Real quick, can you tell us what happened with that situation? What are people on the ground in Haiti saying?

Pierre: When I was in Haiti last Sunday, only one person mentioned that to me. But then when I came to the U.S., a number of people said this was a big lie, and I saw several articles that debunked it. The Haitian police investigated it and they saw that there were no shots fired at Wyclef and the doctor who treated him said he was cut by glass, not by a bullet, so everything points to the fact that this was all made up and a lie, so this is disgusting.

MOI JR: Thank you again, Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee. He was here giving us a history of Haiti as well as bringing us up to date on the current events going on in Haiti, including the sham “selections” as well as the return from exile of President Aristide. I am the Minister of Information JR signing off for Block Report Radio on Hard Knock Radio.

Email POCC Minister of Information JR, Bay View associate editor, at blockreportradio@gmail.com and visit www.blockreportradio.com. A different version of this interview was broadcast Monday, March 28, 2011, on Hard Knock Radio, the “news, views and hip hop” hour-long show heard weekdays at 4 p.m. on KPFA 94.1 FM or kpfa.org and on stations across the country.


One thought on “Pierre Labossiere on welcoming Aristide home to Haiti

  1. Marcel M. Lissaint

    I congratulate Mr. Labossiere for such intelligent interview given to that Radio. Our history as a first Black Independant Nation the Hemisphere, Mr Labossiere has ditailled intelleligently throughtly for the people in the US.
    Well done Mr. Labossiere.

    Reply

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