World Social Forum — January 26-31, 2005 – 2005-02-15 00:02:52
Porto Alegre Declaration on Haiti
Launched at the World Social Forum —
January 26-31, 2005
(January 26-31, 2005) —
WHEREAS, Haiti became the first Black Republic in 1804 when its enslaved people defeated Napoleon’s army, the most powerful of its day, and abolished slavery.
Ever since, Haiti has stood for Black liberation and the liberation of oppressed people everywhere. Haiti offered Simon Bolivar refuge, guns and other supplies, and led the way for the abolition of slavery throughout the Americas.
The colonial powers have punished Haiti ever since: among other things the US led a 60-year political boycott, and France forced Haiti to pay the modern equivalent of $21 billion US for its slaveowners’ losses, which led to a crippling debt and the world’s first structural adjustment policy.
From 1915-1934, the US occupied Haiti, and an act of the US Congress established the Haitian army;
WHEREAS, in 1990 a massive grassroots effort broke Haiti’s history of coups and corrupt US- backed dictatorships. Lavalas means “flash flood” in Haitian Creole, and was the name given to the movement that swept Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency, with the support of the 80% of Haitians who are poor.
President Aristide, a former Catholic priest and liberation theologian, was elected to tackle Haiti’s grinding poverty and discrimination and to redistribute resources to Haiti’s most neglected;
WHEREAS, on September 30, 1991, eight months after his inauguration, President Aristide was overthrown by a CIA-backed coup. After pressure from the Haitian resistance and Black elected officials and others in the US, along with the arrival of huge numbers of Haitian refugees in the US, the US “allowed” President Aristide to return to Haiti.
But President Aristide’s continued firm stand with Haiti’s poor made him yet again an enemy of the US and other colonial powers. North America and Europe imposed an embargo on financial assistance from international financial institutions to Haiti’s elected governments while pouring money into NGOs that played a crucial role in the opposition to the movement led by President Aristide;
WHEREAS, on February 29, 2004, US soldiers forced President Aristide onto a plane and into exile. The elected Lavalas government was replaced with an unelected puppet regime.
This unconstitutional regime, backed by the US, France and Canada, using members of Haiti’s former army, has waged a war against the Lavalas movement: thousands have been killed in violence against protestors, organized workers and grassroots groups; at least 700 political prisoners sit in Haitian jails, and rape is routinely used against grassroots women and girls as a weapon of repression;
WHEREAS, the Lavalas party had many successes in the fight against poverty and isolation during its ten years of democratic governance. Among other things, Haiti tripled the number of elementary and secondary schools, many built for the first time in rural areas, made great advances in literacy, developed a new university and teaching hospital for students from poor families and a social housing program, welcomed Cuban doctors and teachers, successfully prosecuted many serious human rights cases, abolished the hated army, opened the doors of the presidential palace to children and the poor, and consistently ensured the grassroots movement a place at the decision-making table;
WHEREAS, as the puppet regime gives tax breaks to the wealthy and pays former soldiers wages for attacking the resistance, while cutting education, healthcare and food programs for the poor, life for the Haitian people, already the poorest in the hemisphere, has reached a breaking point; and
WHEREAS, the so-called UN stabilization mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), led by Brazil with large contingents from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, was requested and used by the US.
What is not widely known is that rather than being the “peace-keepers” described by a biased corporate media, this UN force has been part of the repression of the Lavalas movement, with deadly raids on poor neighborhoods, illegal arrests of political dissidents and support for illegal operations by the puppet government’s police and the former soldiers.
WE THE UNDERSIGNED THEREFORE MAKE THE FOLLOWING DEMANDS:
• 1. Return President Aristide and the democratic process to Haiti. President Aristide must be allowed to complete his term after which free and fair elections would be held according to Haiti’s Constitution.
• 2. End the occupation of Haiti. Use the money and other resources now used in the war against Haiti’s poor for the fight against poverty in Haiti.
• 3. UN “stabilization forces” must cease all illegal arrests, indiscriminate raids on poor neighborhoods and support for illegal activities by the puppet regime’s police force and members of the former army.
• 4. Political prisoners must be freed, politically-motivated persecution must end.
• 5. Governments and intergovernmental organizations must refuse to recognize Haiti’s illegitimate puppet regime, and must demand an investigation into the circumstances of President Aristide’s removal from office.
• 6. Refugees fleeing political persecution in Haiti must be given asylum, internally displaced refugees in Haiti must be given protection and financial assistance.
• 7. US hands off Latin America and the Caribbean. We stand in solidarity with the government and people of Venezuela and Cuba, countries struggling against a process of destabilization not unlike the one that resulted in the overthrow of President Aristide.
We invite people and organizations throughout the world to join us in this Declaration.
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