Friday, September 04, 2009

A Reponse to "Haiti's Minimum Wage Battle"

Read the original article here

Hello good folks at COHA,

I'm writing concerning one bit in an otherwise quite excellent analysis of the recent struggle over Haiti's minimum wage. What got stuck in my craw was this line:

"PrĂ©val’s supporters, despite his calls for nonviolence and respect for the rule of law, took to the streets of Port-au-Prince in large and violent protests against evidence of voting fraud."

The article goes on to state that the CEP aimed to "quell the violence" of Preval's supporters, etc. My problem is that, having followed rather closely the elections in February 2006, I don't recall coming across any evidence of violence on the part of the protesters. There were huge marches and flaming barricades that virtually paralyzed the capital, but the only violence I read about was on two separate occasions where UN troops shot dead protestors manning a barricade.

The protests were militant but incredibly disciplined; one account by a priest travelling with Desmond Tutu who was at the Hotel Montana (the election HQ of the CEP) when it was stormed by Preval supporters, and was impressed by the fact that there was no looting or vandalism by the demonstrators. The mood was clearly one of jubilation, judging by the images of the protestors swimming in the hotel's pool, enjoying a privilege usually reserved for the elite and their foreign accomplices.

Now, it's possible I missed some real incidents in my monitoring of the media at the time, but the only sources that claimed any "violence" were those elite Haitians like Lannec Hurbon (who was in France at the time) expressing their horror at how the country was being given over to "mob rule". In my opinion, the accusations of "violence" are nothing more than pure elite hysteria of the sort typically provoked by popular mobilizations in highly class-divided societies such as Haiti.

These kinds of delusions are all too common in the mainstream media concerning the Lavalas movement, and indeed for over 200 years the Haitian masses have been slandered as "violent" . But COHA has been one of the few consistently critical voices on Haiti, which makes me doubt the error was intentional on the part of COHA's researcher and is why I opted to point it out, hoping for an explanation, or failing that, a correction. Thanks for your attention to this matter.


Nik Barry-Shaw
Haiti Action Montreal, of the Canada-Haiti Action Network

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