Now countries from all over the world, from China, Nepal, and the Philippines, to countries in the Americas that might be considered “friends,” like Chile, Bolivia, and Brazil participate in the United Nations MINUSTAH army that has occupied Haiti since the Febru- ary 29, 2004 coup that overthrew president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, elected with over 90 percent of the vote in 2000.
Haiti has a unique history because it is an African country in the Americas, plus it is Kreyol/French speaking. In other regards, however, Haiti is not that unique, espe- cially in relationship to the United States. Since the days of the Monroe Doctrine, the US has considered all of Latin America its exclusive “backyard.” It has maintained a region- ally consistent imperial policy to guarantee subservient governments and business arrangements that submit fully
to the discipline of global financial markets at the expense of democracy and human rights.
The recent history of Honduras, in particular, paral- lels that of Haiti. In Haiti, after a grassroots movement overthrew the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, this Lavalas (“flood” in Kreyol) movement elected Aristide as president in 1990, only to see him overthrown in 1991. Elected again in 2000, President Aristide was overthrown in 2004, when US armed personnel kidnapped him and his family and
flew them to the Central African Republic into forced exile. During Haiti’s ten years of democracy, Lavalas administra- tions built more schools than had been built in the country’s entire previous history, and provided uniforms, books and lunches to students who couldn’t afford them. They also
built parks, housing, health care centers, and the Aristide
University Medical School, among other accomplishments. In its place, an 8,600 strong (at its height 13,300) UN MI- NUSTAH army and police force has occupied Haiti ever since.
In Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, a wealthy landowner representing the traditional Liberal Party, became president in 2006. Zelaya evolved his thinking, however, to implement policies that supported poor, landless, and working class people and sought measures for environmental protection against mining companies and agribusiness. He pushed for Honduras to join ALBA, the regional cooperation alliance founded by Hugo Chavez. Most importantly, Zelaya pro- posed a process to rewrite Honduras’ deeply undemocratic
1982 constitution, enacted immediately after the lifting of ten years of military rule. As a result, Honduran military forces kidnapped Zelaya and flew him into forced exile in Costa Rica on June 28, 2009.
In 1984, Edward Herman and Frank Brodhead wrote a book called Demonstration Elections, describing the template through which the US government uses elections as a tool of imperial control. Rather than serve the inter- ests of the people voting in the election, their purpose is to create the illusion of democracy—to provide a civilian face to an occupation and “demonstrate” to the outside world, especially the US public, that the people under attack really support the “elected” puppet government, that the country is stable and worthy of diplomatic recognition and, in particular, foreign investment. Demonstration elections act as a camouflage for the ongoing efforts to defeat popular and revolutionary movements that threaten US hegemony.
LIBRE presidential candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya on TV 5 days after the election explaining how the vote counting fraud took place and demanding a recount.
In Haiti a series of “demonstration elections” have taken place since 2004 in which the Fanmi Lavalas Party founded by Aristide has been prohibited from participating, because it is clear they would win. The politically sophisticated Hai- tian majority has managed to have an influence however. In 2006, they took over the streets to make sure the candidate they had voted for, René Préval – a former member of the Lavalas movement and president from 1995 to 2000, would be declared the winner – only to be betrayed by him and the promises he had made to win their votes. In 2011, they massively boycotted the “elections” that made US favorite Michel Martelly president, denying him any credibility to the huge majority of Haitians.
Honduras held a demonstration election in 2009 that brought to power Pepe Lobo of the reactionary Nationalist Party. Infuriated by a history of repression, the coup and the illegitimate elections that followed, massive numbers of Hondurans protested, demonstrating throughout the country during the months following the removal of Zelaya. The National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) emerged out of these street demonstrations and became a nationwide grassroots movement that included women, youth, workers and labor unions, LGBTs, teachers, students, campesino (rural farmworker) groups, and indigenous and Afro-de- scendant people.
In 2011, the FNRP voted to create a political party to participate in elections and formed the LIBRE Party. The word LIBRE means “free” in Spanish, but also comes from the full party name of LIBertad (Liberty) and REfundación (the refounding of the country based on a new constitution). LIBRE chose as its presidential candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, former president Zelaya’s wife, who had stayed be- hind after the coup and helped lead the protest movement. Zelaya was allowed to return to the country in May, 2011 in exchange for the Organization of American States recognition of the Lobo presidency.
The Honduran elections of November 2013 took place in an environment of repression and intimidation of LIBRE candidates and their supporters, with at least eighteen can- didates and campaign workers killed during the campaign. Nevertheless a record turnout of enthusiastic voters partici- pated because of LIBRE and another new party, the Anti- Corruption Party. Unfortunately the elections concluded with old-fashioned results—they were stolen by fraud. Many international election observers praised the transparency of the elections, but behind the scenes the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) transmitted vote totals that did not match the tally sheets given to the party representatives at every polling center at the close of voting. LIBRE’s review of the tally sheets indicated Xiomara Castro won, but the official results announced the winner as Juan Orlando Hernandez, the leader of the National Party. The TSE refused to review the tally sheets, the physical evidence of the fraud. Also the National Party perpetrated the fraud by buying the table monitoring credentials of several smaller parties, as well as the votes of many poor people who would otherwise have voted for LIBRE.
LIBRE didn’t have representation on the Electoral Tribunal, which was controlled by the National Party. As president of the Honduran Congress, Hernandez had ap- pointed the head of the Electoral Tribunal, the chief pros- ecutor whose job it is to prosecute fraud, and the head of the Supreme Court which refused LIBRE’s petition to annul the elections.
Honduras doesn’t have an occupation army per se, but it is the site of the enormous US-built Soto Cano (formerly Palmerola) air base used as a staging ground for the contra war against Nicaragua in the 1980s, and several smaller US bases built as part of the so-called War on Drugs. In addi- tion, Hernandez has led the creation of a new 5,000-officer Military Police, with the first thousand funded and on the ground. So Hondurans face enormous military and police repression.
In a lame duck session of the outgoing Honduran Con- gress, controlled by the National Party, in January 2014, the Deputies elevated the Military Police to make it a constitu- tionally authorized permanent force, which can only be dis- banded by changing the constitution with a super majority and ratifying the vote in the following congress. This is just one example of how this lame duck session institutionalized reactionary policies prior to LIBRE, with thirty-six depu- ties, entering the new Congress. Other examples include giving 87 new contracts to private companies; consolidating the entirety of the Honduran government into seven gov- ernmental agencies, which limits the balance of power; and severely limiting freedom of speech by making it illegal for journalists to whistle blow on corruption or abuse of power by Honduran officials.
Of course, what this all boils down to is money and the drive to privatize the world through export driven, cut gov- ernment neoliberal economic policies. Jean-Claude Duvalier was allowed to succeed his father, Papa Doc, without elec- tions in exchange for Haiti opening its doors to US corpo- rate-owned sweatshops, with one result being the manu- facture of baseballs moving to Port-au-Prince. The Clinton Foundation and the US State Department helped fund the Caracol industrial park/sweatshop development in Haiti’s north in 2012 as a response to the 2010 earthquake, al- though that region was unaffected by the quake. The Clinton Bush earthquake fund invested $2 million in the new luxury Oasis Hotel so foreign travelers will have an “oasis” from the misery faced by the majority of Haitians, as hundreds of thousands still live in post-quake tent cities. Hundreds of millions of dollars donated for earthquake relief still sit in banks, unspent.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean has, as they market it, a “private paradise in Haiti. This exclusive destination offers pristine beaches, breathtaking scenery and spectacular water activities… The inviting beach, coral reefs and exciting ame- nities provide a perfect place to relax and have fun.”
Tiny Honduras is one of the largest clothing manu- facturing countries in the world and has a special labor code for its export industrial zones, with fewer protections inside than for workers outside the zones. Its “Model Cities” proposals would create completely privatized cities with all services—as well as the police and the legal systems—pri- vately owned. Ruling elites and international corporations are grabbing land for biofuel production, tourism, dams, and the mining of minerals. Massive resistance from those trying to protect their lands, livelihoods, and ways of life has resulted in widespread repression and violence.
Haitians and Hondurans now both find themselves caught in a globalized neoliberal economic trap enforced by the presence of a military occupation in Haiti and a number of US bases in Honduras. Both are governed by fraudulent- ly selected presidents who are selling their patrimonies to the highest bidder. In Haiti the most popular political party is no longer allowed to even participate in elections.
Hondurans voted in record numbers last November only to be robbed of their victory, as the international main- stream media legitimizes the fraudulent electoral process in both countries. The US ambassador, only two hours after the polls closed and with barely a quarter of the votes counted, called for the results to be recognized. She indicated that
A demonstrator in San Pedro Sula protests the election re- sults. His t-shirt reads “I’m also indignant. Twitter hashtag: I didn’t vote for JOH [Juan Orlando Hernandez]”.
legal mechanisms existed to challenge the count, a totally unrealistic statement considering that the National Party controlled all relevant governmental institutions. By com- parison, the US has still not recognized the Maduro govern- ment in Venezuela that clearly won the popular vote in April 2013.
Given how recent history has unfolded in Haiti, one can only suppose that the more popular LIBRE and the Anti- Corruption Party become, the more they will be suppressed. Nevertheless, both countries have strong and dynamic grassroots movements that have a lot of fight in them. They have much to teach us and deserve our support.
* This subtitle comes from a letter to the author from Clyde Jackson, a prisoner in the Pelican Bay State Prison Se- curity Housing Unit/SHU/solitary confinement. He enjoys political dialogue and would appreciate correspondence: Clyde Jackson C-33559, D2/B-107 SHU, PO Box 7500, Cres- cent City, CA 95532.