Abahlali Event for International Day of Action in Support of the Haitian People (7 February 2007)

53 cities — in South Africa, the Philippines, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and North America — are joining hands in the February 7th mobilization, in answer to the call from the popular movement in Haiti.

*** In Durban, South Africa, the Abahlali shack dwellers movement and its 34 settlements are holding an event at the Kennedy Road settlement Feb. 7 in support of the shack dwellers of Haiti. They re showing videos of the heavy-caliber killings of Haitian children, men and women in Cite Soleil by an invasion force wearing the Blue Helmets of the U.N.

*** In Georgetown, Guyana, the women s organization Red Thread is picketing a U.N. office Feb. 7 to protest UN massacres in Haitian shantytowns.

*** In New York City, the Haitian community is demonstrating Feb. 7 in front of United Nations headquarters to demand an end to the occupation, exile and political imprisonment being imposed upon Haiti. From coast to coast, many US and Canadian cities are organizing Haiti solidarity activities: Miami, Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Windsor, Washington, DC, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego, Philadelphia, Tucson.

*** In Cochabamba, Bolivia, on Feb. 7 they are showing the explosive new 90-minute Kevin Pina film, Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits .

*** In Santiago, Chile, Feb.7th protest activities include the painting of a street mural about the Haitian people s struggle and their suffering at the hands of the UN occupation force, which includes soldiers from Chile.

*** In Dublin, Ireland, as well as in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California, protesters are targeting the embassy or consulates of Brazil, which supplies the top commander and many soldiers for the UN military force in Haiti.

*** In Rio de Janeiro, 6,000 Brazilian youth and students marched through the city center to demand the immediate withdrawal of all of Brazil s troops from Haiti.

*** In Manila, Gabriela, the largest women s federation in the Philippines, is joining the Haitian popular movement on Feb. 7 in condemning the US/UN occupation of Haiti, just as they oppose the presence of US troops on Philippine soil.

*** In Mexico, the National Democratic Convention and the Mexican Federation of Electrical Workers (SME) are throwing their weight behind the demands of the Feb. 7 mobilization for Haiti.

*** In Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada, Haiti solidarity activists are doing a high school and university tour, educating students about the Haitian Revolution, the grassroots liberation movement, and how Canada gave key support to the 2004 coup and today s brutal occupation.

See below for City-by-City Calendar of Feb. 7th Protests in 53 Cities on 5 Continents


Click this link to see and download the 7-minute trailer

of the Kevin Pina film, Haiti – The UNtold Story

[If it doesn t open, copy the link and paste it where you type the internet address in your browser]

These are 7 packed minutes of live footage of UN atrocities and recent Haitian history.

Show the evidence to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, at meetings.

We all have a responsibility to face reality, get the word out and STOP the daily

UN attacks on the poor majority in Haiti.


Click this link for key documents of the International Haiti Solidarity Day:


1. Call to Action – in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese

2. Sept 30th Foundation Declaration: No to Occupation – No to Trusteeship – in Kreyol; soon in English.

3. Article: The Coup d Etat Continues – in French; soon in English.


City-by-City Calendar of Feb. 7th Protests on 5 Continents
53 Cities Join International Day in Solidarity with Haiti

Durban, South Africa – Abahlali, the South African shack dwellers movement, is organizing an event in the Kennedy Road shack settlement Feb. 7 in support of Haitian shack dwellers. It will be a film showing and discussion, showing a DVD about UN attacks in Cite Soleil. They write: Abahlali had an all night meeting on Saturday at which this small gesture of solidarity was discussed with representatives from all of the 34 settlements affiliated to the movement. There was tremendous enthusiasm and a hope that ongoing networks of solidarity could be developed between shack dwellers under pressure in different countries. …. Also, on Feb.6 in Durban, at the Center for Civil Society on the University of KwaZulu Natal campus, a program about the current situation in Haiti.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – A demonstration of more than 6,000 youth and students marched through the center of Rio de Janeiro Feb. 1st — with two demands:
1) Immediate withdrawal of all Brazilian UN troops from Haiti! and 2) Demands relating to University reform. The march went to the remains of the old headquarters of the National Students Organization, which was torched by the Brazilian military and paramilitaries and burned to the ground during the US-backed military coup that ousted the democratically elected President Goulart in 1964. That coup resulted in years of repression by the military dictatorship. Many of those same Brazilian military officers were trained by the US military at the School of the Americas, and their brutal traditions live on in the Brazilian-led military occupation of Haiti today.

Montreal, Quebec – March in downtown Montreal on Feb. 3 against the foreign occupation of Haiti, organized by a coalition including Oganizasyon Baz Fanmi Lavalas (Montreal) and Haiti Action Montreal, marching to protests at the US and French embassies and Canadian government offices at the Guy Favreau Building. This demonstration in Montreal is to support the campaign led by the popular masses in Haiti against the occupation of their country by UN forces, fully backed by France, the US and Canada, which continue their bloody assault against the poor majority, targeting leaders and supporters of the democratic movement. UN out of Haiti! Baz Fanmi Lavalas later issued a statement: UN – Get Out of Haiti! Long live a Free and Independent Haiti! (text to follow)

San Francisco, California – Rally 5 pm Feb. 7 at Powell & Market (Powell St. BART), then march down Market St. to picket Brazilian Consulate General, 300 Montgomery, to protest the role of Brazil in commanding the UN troops in Haiti, who are responsible for almost daily killings in popular neighborhoods of the Haitian capital. A delegation will meet with the Brazilian Consul General the next day. Sponsored by Haiti Action Committee.

Manila, Philippines – Gabriela, the largest women s federation in the Philippines, representing scores of women s organizations from all over the archipelago, is issuing a statement Feb. 7 in solidarity with the Haitian people, and condemning the US/UN occupation of Haiti, as they oppose the presence of US troops on Philippine soil. The US-backed Philippine government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is one of the regimes providing soldiers for the UN occupation force in Haiti.

Mexico City – The National Democratic Convention is organizing a delegation and informational picket Feb. 7 at the Haitian Embassy, around the demands of the International Day in Solidarity with the Haitian People. Julio Turra, national executive director of the CUT labor federation in Brazil, will be part of the delegation.The Mexican Federation of Electrical Workers (SME) is also issuing a statement in Mexico City in support of the demands of the popular movement in Haiti.

Miami, Florida – The Haitian community and friends are gathering at 3 pm Feb. 7 at Veye Yo, 32 NE 54th St, in the heart of Miami s Little Haiti, in observance of the International Day in Solidarity with the Haitian People.

Dublin, Ireland – Solidarity picket Feb. 7 at the Brazilian Embassy, 41-45 Harcourt Street, initiated by the Latin American Solidarity Centre. A leaflet issued by the Workers Solidarity Movement states: On the 7th of February 1986 the Haitian people, after years of revolt against the rich and powerful, toppled one of the most brutal dictatorships that history has recorded, the one led by the Duvalier family. Not only did they put an end to the US-backed reign of terror of the Duvaliers, but as well, the people were pushing forward a series of popular demands thast were meant to radically change the face of Haiti: this was a truly revolutionary struggle. Today, Haiti is again under the yoke of oppression – this time under a UN military occupation called MINUSTAH, headed mostly by subservient Latin American governments, but engineered from the US and France, the main imperialist powers controlling Haitian affairs. [The UN] took over after the kidnap and coup on President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. Don t let us have false illusions on the true nature of MINUSTAH: they are an occupation force that protects the sympathizers of the Duvaliers and other human rights violators. They are the only support for the corrupt Haitian elite….So MINUSTAH have been efficient in fulfilling their role –…to protect the privilege of the 3% of Haitians that control over 80% of the wealth of that country. End the UN and all foreign occupation of Haiti!

Los Angeles, California – Emergency protest at noon Feb. 8, Brazilian Consulate General, 8484 Wilshire Blvd (at La Cienega), initiated by Global Women s Strike, Internat l Action Center, Pan African Activist Coalition, Answer Coalition, and Coalition in Solidarity with Haiti. The flyer states: Massacres by the UN occupiers of Haiti continue. The 8000 UN troops are a proxy force for the US who, with the support of France and Canada, backed a coup against Haiti?s government in 2004 and kidnapped President Aristide….[Aristide] had wide popular support among Haiti?s poor who are 90% of the population. Despite the election of President Preval, the UN refuses to end its military occupation, and UN troops and police-controlled death squads routinely assault communities that support the Lavalas grassroots democracy movement….All foreign occupation forces must leave Haiti now!

Boston, Mass. – Demonstration 4-6 pm Feb. 7 at the Haitian Consulate, 545 Boylston St., Copley Square, sponsored by Fanmi Lavalas (Boston). End the UN Occupation of Haiti! Free the Political Prisoners! Return President Aristide!

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Speakout and leafleting in Buenos Aires on Feb. 7. Argentina is one of the countries supplying troops to the UN military operation in Haiti. On Feb. 4 el Comit? Democr?tico Haitiano en Argentina, an organization of Haitians living in Argentina, issued a statement, MINUSTAH (UN forces) – Get Out of Haiti. (Text to follow.)

Haiti cities – Demonstrations and events in many cities, demanding an end to the US/UN occupation, freedom for the political prisoners and the return of President Aristide and other political exiles.

Johannesburg, South Africa – On Feb. 5 in Johannesburg, Lybon Mabasa issued a statement on behalf of the Socialist Party of Azania, of which he is president. We condemn in the strongest terms the wanton destruction and destabilization that has been brought upon the people of Haiti, first by the government of the United States, that has become a common denominator in bringing untold suffering to many peoples of the world… destroying hundreds of thousands of lives in Iraq, Lebanon, Haiti and … many countries of Africa. In this vein we also condemn the United Nations that is constantly in complicity with the butchers of US imperialism. It is the UN that provided the desired and necessary cover for the slaughter in Africa in the Great Lakes Region when they pulled out only weeks before the genocide. They provided cover for US and its allies in the slaughter of the innocent in Iraq by implicitly supporting a notion of weapons of mass destruction….Their continued unbridled support for the state of Israel has given it a carte blanche cheque for wanton destruction in the region. Now they are at it in Haiti.

The people of Haiti have the right to defend their right to self determination, they have a right to define democracy in the manner that will suit their aspirations, have a right to defend their elected leaders against the designs of US imperialism, the Mabasa statement continued. It is also their democratic right to call for the unconditional cancellation of the so-called Haitian Debt which is the author of many of their ills and so many unwarranted foreign interventions….The day of action in solidarity with Haiti in more than 50 cities across continents has our unwavering support. …..Also in Johannesburg, the movie Aristide and the Endless Revolution to screen at Witwatersrand University Feb. 7 as part of Haiti international solidarity day.

New York City – Demonstration from 2-7 pm Feb. 7 in front of United Nations headquarters. Gather at Ralph Bunche Park, 43rd St & 1st Ave, Manhattan to demand an end to the occupation, exile and political imprisonment. Sponsored by a coalition of Haitian organizations including Lavalas Family Party (NY chapter), Haiti Support Network and KAKOLA. President Aristide and his wife Mildred were kidnapped from their home in Port-au-Prince by US Special Forces on February 29, 2004 and flown into exile in Africa, the organizers said in a statement. Canadian, French and US troops then militarily occupied Haiti until June 1, 2004 when MINUSTAH [UN forces] took over…[Today] we see the policies and realities of the coup d etat regime are still in place.

Dominican Republic – Community meeting for Haitians and friends in the capital city of Santo Domingo at 8 pm Feb. 7, showing DVD of UN killings in Cite Soleil last year and in 2005.

Toronto/Guelph, Ontario – A special event featuring radio journalist Jean Saint-Vil and Kabir Joshi-Vijayan at 5:20 pm Feb. 7 at University Centre Room 442, University of Guelph, in recognition of the International Day in Solidarity with the Haitian People and Black History Month. The forum will focus on Canada s role and the role of NGOs in the destablilization of the overwhelmingly elected Aristide government, the 2004 coup and the current foreign occupation of Haiti.

Tucson, Arizona – Worker to Worker Solidarity Committee will celebrate the International Day in Solidarity with the Haitian People with an activity at the office of US Senator John McCain, 407 W. Congress, Tucson from 4:30 to 5:30 Feb.7th. Sen. McCain is chair of the International Republican Institute which funded, and in several cases created and trained, major groups behind the 2004 coup in Haiti.

Vancouver, British Columbia – A full hour on the radio — 7:45 to 9:00 am on Feb. 7 — devoted to the crisis in Haiti and International Haiti Solidarity Day. Hosted by Anthony Fenton and Yolanda Tsangarakis, with clips from talks by Pierre Labossiere and Jean Candio, the program on Coop Radio can be listened to at 102.7 FM or online at www.coopradio.org On Feb. 10 Haiti solidarity activists will show up at an event at Simon Fraser University-Harbor Centre in downtown Vancouver featuring various Canadian-government-funded NGOs — and pass out leaflets exposing the insidious role many of these NGOs played in destabilizing Haiti, supporting the 2004 coup and backing the current UN occupation of Haiti.

Washington, D.C. – The Konbit Lakay bilingual radio program on WPFW, 89.3 FM Pacifica Radio in Washington DC, hosted by Yves Pont du Jour [every Saturday, 10pm to Midnight EST] featured the International Day in Solidarity with Haiti on its Feb. 3 broadcast, as well as new information on recent killings in Cite Soleil.

Caracas, Venezuela – The Frente Francisco de Miranda, an organization of Venezuelans and Haitians living in Venezuela, is rallying at the Plaza Petion as part of the Feb. 7th mobilization. The protesters are demanding the departure from Haiti of all the UN soldiers, and that the right-wing death squads be put out of business.

Central Florida – The Haitian American Support Group of Central Florida and Radio Louvri Je have been broadcasting information about the Feb. 7 International Day in Solidarity with Haiti every Thursday since January 11th (11:00 pm-2:00 am) over the airwaves of Radio Louvri Je (WOKB, 1600 AM). They write: Let us struggle together for the liberation of Haiti and raise these demands: 1) All political prisoners must be freed. 2) Political exiles must be free to return to Haiti. Immediate return of President Aristide. 3) All the criminals and authors of the Koudnaping of February 29, 2004 must be rendered before international tribunals for crimes against humanity. 4) All those who lost their jobs unjustly must find justice and restitution. 5) All the sons and daughters of Haiti come together to relaunch a program of development.

Cochabamba, Bolivia – Feb. 7 screening of the explosive new, 90-minute Kevin Pina film, Haiti: We Must Kill the Bandits

Detroit, Michigan – Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) will hold a video showing and speaker on the crisis in Haiti at 7 pm Feb 7, 5920 Second Ave , Detroit (just north of Wayne State University).

Atlanta, Georgia – Screening of the film Aristide and the Endless Revolution Friday evening, Feb. 9, as part of the International Day in Solidarity with Haiti.

Berkeley, California – Speakout on Haiti Feb.5 at the city s Peace & Justice Commission. The body was considering a resolution supporting HR 351, the TRUTH Act, which calls for an investigation into the US government s role in the 2004 coup that ousted President Aristide and sent him into exile. After the Speakout, the commission voted to approve the resolution and send it on to the City Council.

Calgary, Alberta – Demonstration in downtown Calgary at 4 pm on Feb. 7 in front of the Harry Hayes federal building. Stop the war against the people of Haiti!

Edmonton, Alberta – Screening of the film Aristide & the Endless Revolution, at 7 pm Feb. 12, Remedy Cafe, 8631 – 109 Street, near the University.

Enterprise, Oregon – Showing of the film Aristide & the Endless Revolution, at Stage One, 7 pm on

Fredericton, New Brunswick – A vigil and informational picket at noon Feb. 9 at City Hall, sponsored by Women in Black and the local Haiti Action and peace coalitions.

Guyana – On Feb. 7 the women s organization Red Thread is holding a picket line at a UN office, to protest the assaults by United Nations troops on civilians in popular neighborhoods in Haiti. The picket will take place at the UN Development Program office in Georgetown, the capital city

Halifax, Nova Scotia — A meeting on Democracy Denied: The UN and Canada s Pacification of Haiti will be held Feb. 7 at 2:30 pm at Dalhousie University, Marion McCain Bldg, featuring investigative journalist Stuart Neatby and Ralph Nelson…. At 7 pm Friday, Feb.16, NSCAD University, Bell Auditorium, 5163 Duke St., screening of Aristide s Haiti, Gemini-nominated documentary by Nadia Pequeneza, chronicling the US-backed overthrow of President Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004. Also: Our Arms Do Not Kill: The UN s Pacification of Cite Soleil, a short film by independent journalist Isabelle Macdonald, documenting UN atrocities. For information on these films, call Haiti Action Halifax 1-902-405-9480, or email stu.neatby@gmail.com ]

Jacksonville, Florida — Northern Florida Haitian community meeting on Feb. 7, showing videos of UN killings in Cite Soleil over a 13-month period.

Lima, Peru – Speakout and leafleting on Feb. 7th. Peru is one of the countries supplying troops to the UN military operation in Haiti. Peruvian troops must leave Haiti now!

London, England – Showing of the Kevin Pina film, Harvest of Hope, at 6 pm Feb. 7, Crossroads Women s Centre, 230-A Kentish Town Road, London [nearest Tube: Kentish Town on the Northern Line]. Sponsored by Global Women s Strike and Women of Colour in the Global Women s Strike. The film, about the rise of the Lavalas movement leading up to the December 1990 elections that swept Jean-Bertrand Aristide into the presidency — and the 1991-94 coup that followed — is a primer for understanding the roots of the current crisis in Haiti.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin – At University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Feb. 7 Haiti solidarity activists will be tabling and asking people to call their Congressional representatives to support HR 888 (Haiti Debt Relief Act) and HR 351 (TRUTH Act, calling for investigation of the US role in the 2004 coup in Haiti)….On Feb.10 Brian Averill and Erika Wolf will give a presentation on their recent visit to Haiti, before the United Nations Assn of Milwaukee, highlighting the UN s role in Haiti.

Minneapolis/St. Paul – The Minnesota Haiti Justice Committee is holding a vigil from 4:30 to 5:30 on the Lake Street Peace Bridge spanning the Mississippi River that unites the Twin Cities. Stop the killings! End US/UN occupation of Haiti! Free all political prisoners! Support real democracy in Haiti! End occupation of Iraq!

Ottawa, Canada – On Feb. 7 the Ottawa Haiti Solidarity Committee is issuing a press release to Canadian media publicly joining the call for an end to the violence and an end to the foreign occupation of Haiti.

Philadelphia – Vigil from 11:30am-1:00pm Feb. 7 at City Hall, 15th and Market, initiated by House of Grace Catholic Worker, featuring Atty. Tom Griffin, just returned from an investigative trip to Haiti and author of a groundbreaking report documenting police and UN atrocities since the 2004 coup.

Guadeloupe – A protest action and rally will take place Feb. 7 in the capital city of Pointe a Pitre, with leaders of the UGTG labor federation speaking from the podium. The rally is in support of the communique: Solidarity with the Haitian People! Foreign troops out of Haiti!, issued Feb. 5 by the worker/peasant organization Travaye e Peyizan. The communique says, in part: Considering that foreign occupation of Haiti has occurred many times since independence in 1804…And considering that the present [UN] occupiers try to justify their presence by claiming a desire to put an end to violence…while on the contrary, we are witnessing a deterioration in the economic and social situation and an increase in repression, including the assaults and massacres of December 22, 2006 and July 6, 2005….We estimate that those responsible for the misery and violence in Haiti, are none other than the ones who pillaged the riches of Haiti and continue to do so (France, the USA)….Therefore we demand: 1. Restitution by France of the sums extorted from the Haitian people after Haiti s independence in 1804. 2. Withdrawal of all occupation forces from Haiti. 3. Respect for the national sovereignty of the Haitian people. In the last part of January, teachers union leader Jacqueline Petitot from the Caribbean island of Martinique urged solidarity with the Haitian people from the podium of the 5th Congress of the FSU trade union federation.

Trinidad — On Feb 7, the African Caribbean Network is issuing a statement in solidarity with the Haitian people, and showing the film, Aristide and the Endless Revolution in Port of Spain, the capital city.

Richmond, California – Speakout on Haiti, sponsored by Richmond Greens, at 7 pm Feb. 6 in the public forum at the Richmond City Council meeting, 1401 Marina Way South, Richmond.

Sacramento, California – Event Feb. 2 in honor of Black History Month and International Haiti Solidarity Day. Film showing and first-hand report on human rights abuses in Haiti by Leisa Faulkner, president of the Coalition for Democracy in Haiti and executive director of Children s Hope. Hinde Auditorium, Sacramento State University.

San Diego, California – Showing of the powerful film Bitter Cane, shot clandestinely in Haiti during the Duvalier era, and presentation on the current situation in Haiti by Gloria Verdieu, at 7 pm Feb. 9, International Action Center, 3930 Oregon St. #230, San Diego. End the UN Occupation of Haiti! Return President Aristide and Democracy to Haiti!

San Jose, California – Speakout and leafleting at 5 pm Feb. 7 at south end of Cesar Chavez Plaza, corner Market and San Carlos streets.

San Rafael, California – Vigil, corner of 3rd & Irwin, downtown San Rafael, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm Feb. 7, initiated by Marin Interfaith Task Force. People are urged to make signs and posters in solidarity with the people of Haiti and urging an end to the repression by UN troops.

Santiago, Chile – Protest activities on Feb. 7 include the painting of a street mural about the suffering and struggle of the Haitian people. Chile is one of the countries supplying troops to the UN military operation in Haiti. Chilean troops out of Haiti now!

Sydney, Nova Scotia – From Occupied Haiti, a photo exhibit and talk by Stu Neatby on Feb. 8, 7 pm at Cape Breton University, Room CE310.

Tampa, Florida – Passing out leaflets to students at the University of South Florida, Tampa, about the situation in Haiti.

Windsor, Ontario – A program on the struggle for sovereignty and independence in Haiti, at 4 pm Feb. 8, University of Windsor, featuring a former member of the Haitian Parliament.

Check out our beautiful 2-1/4 inch buttons (pictured at top), specially designed by Loni Ding for the 2nd International Day in Solidarity with the Haitian People. Mail your order with a check or money order to the Haiti Action Committee, PO Box 2218, Berkeley, CA 94702. Buttons are $1 each, including shipping by regular mail. (Fast mail is extra – email us haitiaction@yahoo.com if you want to use overnight delivery.) Minimum order is 10 buttons. These can be resold for more as a fundraiser for your Haiti solidarity group. Hurry, we expect to sell out fast.


The World Watches Haiti Today

Today large demonstrations are expected against the United Nations armed forces in Haiti. There will be solidarity actions in 35 cities around the world, including Durban. The heart of the Haitian demonstrations will be in the huge shanty town Cite Soleil (Sun City) where UN soldiers have launched a number of major attacks that have left scores of people dead and resulted in many others being wounded and sexually abused.

In the 18th century Haiti was the most profitable colony in the world. The exploitation of African slaves on sugar plantations was so severe that more than a third died soon after arrival on the island. But slavery earned more for France than all of the 13 American colonies did for Britain. It is often argued that French cities like Bordeaux, Nantes and Marseille were built on the profits of Haitian slavery. The slaves revolted in 1791, fought a 13 year war against the French state and finally won the independence of Haiti in 1804. The Haitian revolutionaries instituted a Black Republic in which all who had fought with the slaves, including Polish and German soldiers, were counted as Black and in which runaway slaves and indigenous people from the rest of the Americas were welcomed. The Haitian revolution was an entirely unexpected and shocking challenge to the colonial world. But France had a navy and still controlled the ocean trade routes. The French only agreed to allow independent Haiti to trade on condition that it paid its former colonial master a massive ‘compensation’, with interest, for the loss of it slaves. At the end of the 19th century Haiti was still paying 80% of its national budget to France.

In 1915 Woodrow Wilson invaded Haiti, set up and trained a local army by an act of the U.S. Congress to cement their control and re-organised the economy in the interest of American capital. When the U.S. finally pulled out in 1934 U.S. troops had killed an estimated 15 000 Haitians and supported a succession of brutal, mostly military, Haitian dictators. The worst of these were the Duvaliers who were supported by the U.S., like Mobutu in the Congo, because they gave their massive corruption and violence and anti-communist spin.

The Haitian ‘debt’ to France was only finally paid off in 1947. But the U.S. began lending money to various Haitian dictators quickly running up a new debt burden for the country. In the late 1980s things began to change as a church driven mass democratic movement, in some respects not entirely dissimilar to the UDF at the same time in South African history, posed a major challenge to the armed power of the state. It was known as Lavalas (‘flood’ in Haitian creole). A Catholic Priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was finally elected as president in 1990 decisively trouncing the US backed candidate, World Bank economist and former Duvalier minister Marc Bazin. Coup attempts were, as in Venezuela more recently, blocked with massive public mobilisations. But in 1991 the military seized power with the support of the Bush Administration and the CIA, launched violent attacks on the churches and killed more than 5 000 Lavalas supporters.

In 1994 Bill Clinton returned Aristide to office under strict conditions that included adherence to American approved economic policy and an agreement to step down in 1995. Before stepping down Aristide dissolved the armed forces that had terrorised the country. In November 2000 Lavalas swept the polls with more than 90% of the vote and Aristide returned to power.

But in 2001 US trained forces began attacking the government. Aristide made some concessions to the IMF and began a slow process of privatisation and cutting wages but he didn’t abandon his programme to invest in the poor altogether and remained directly connected with a genuinely popular although flawed grassroots movement. In 2003 more than 90% of the country’s foreign reserves were going to Washington for debt repayments. Aristide asked the French to pay back the ‘debt’ paid to compensate France for the loss of its slaves – $21 billion. On 27 February 2004, in the year of the two hundredth anniversary of the Haitian revolution, French, U.S. and Canadian troop invaded Haiti. The next day Aristide was kidnapped by America soldiers and taken to the Central African Republic. It was claimed that Aristide has become a tyrant and that there was a looming humanitarian disaster. Tellingly there was also much talk, in the most blatantly colonial language, of ‘the civilizing mission of the international community”. Clearly the ‘international community’ does not include the Haitian poor. As the English philosopher Peter Hallward wrote in The Guardian 3 days later, “the leaders of the world have joined together to crush democracy in the name of democracy.” On 10 May 2004 US Marines blasted open the gates to the home of the popular Haitian folk singer So Anne, a known Lavallas supporter, shot her dogs and then arrested her. She was detained without trial for two years. One is reminded of the U.S. backed troops that deposed Chilean President Salvadore Allende in 1973 ripping up the books in the home of the great poet Pablo Neruda. So much for the civilising missions of Washington.

The U.N. military was deployed in June 2004 to replace the U.S. marines. There have been numerous reports of killings and sexual violence by U.N. soldiers. In particular there have been repeated and often credible accounts of massacres in the shack settlement of Cite Soleil. Haiti, remains under occupation.

February 7th is a significant date for today’s world wide protests because it is the anniversary of the overthrow of the murderously brutal U.S. backed Duvalier dictatorship in 1986 and because it is a week and a day before the UN Security Council is due to renew its Haiti mandate. Post-apartheid South Africa is generally thought to have a very poor record of solidarity with oppressed people in other countries but has done well to grant Aristide refuge. South Africa’s first act on the U.N. Security Council was to refuse to condemn the atrocious dictatorship in Burma. In a week and a day we’ll know if a more principled position has been taken in support of Haitian democracy. But the position taken here is unlikely to be more than a gesture.

But the bigger question is whether or not we can learn the lessons of the Haitian revolution. Can we, as the Congolese Historian Jacques Depelchin asks, be faithful to the spirit of this remarkable event in human history, a spirit that commits itself to what is right even if it requires the world to be remade? The interruption into the common sense of the day introduced by an utterly unexpected revolution of African slaves remains, if we are able to pay it the attention it deserves, a profound challenge to our acceptance of the common sense of our world. Today people around the world will be acting in solidarity with ordinary Haitians but, also, in solidarity with the idea that there is no good reason to accept the world as it is just because that is how it is.

Richard Pithouse