Haiti: Occasional Musings – 14, “the wasps have been knocked out of the nest”*

UPDATE
President Aristide today held a press conference in which he announced that Lavalas’s participation in the next elections – mobilization begins!

Two years after his March 2011 return to Haiti, former President and Fanmi Lavalas leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide made his first appearance in public. President Aristide had been called to court by the investigative judge, Yvickel Dabr̩sil, to answer questions around the April 2000 assassination of of his friend and fellow Lavalas member, journalist and activist Jean Dominique. Full details of the events surrounding the murder of Jean Dominique and the search to find those responsible has been well documented Рsee here and here. The assassination of Jean Dominique should be read as part of an historical silencing of human rights and Lavalas activists such as Father Jean- Marie Vincent, murdered in 1994; Father G̩rard Jean-Juste who died in 2009 of cancer believed to have been contracted during his imprisonment on false charges in 2005; and Lovinsky Pierre Antoine who disappeared on the 12th August 2007.

The court’s imposition on President Aristide as well as former President Rene Preval, again requires a closer reading to understand it as a political act and part of an ongoing attempt by the present ‘Duvalierist government of President Michel Martelly to discredit and once again prevent Fanmi Lavalas from participating in Haitian politics and in particular from the forthcoming elections. It was therefore not surprising that TV National Haiti [TNH] could only file a 60 second report that mentioned the reasons for the hearing but with no commentary and no mention of the thousands who accompanied President Aristide to and from the courts.

Yesterday”s massive outpouring of the popular masses, in many ways marked an important juncture in Haitian politics vis a vis Fanmi Lavalas’s continued importance and strength. Aristide’s supporters, many who slept outside his house throughout the night of the 7th / 8th May, ignored the government’s ban on holding a protests to which they responded, its not a protest its a march! With cries of “bare pa bare n’ap pase” barrier or no barrier we will pass, and “Aristide se wa nan peyi a” Aristide rules”, tens of thousands reclaimed the streets. People also marched in Gonaïves, in Cap Haitian, and in Les Caye. I’ve been on probably hundreds of marches in my life but the sheer spontaneous joy expressed by marchers was incredible and inspiring. Yes, there was anger at the present administration, at the UN and the discrediting of Lavalas but the overwhelming feeling was one of commradship and joy. From around 8am crowds began to gather near the courthouse in Champ Mars which had been condoned off by police. At 10am, when I entered the courthouse, there were perhaps a few thousand supporters scattered around the nearby streets. By the time Aristide left the court house some 2 hours later there were tens of thousands lining the streets as far as one could see. As the motorcade exited the courthouse premises, Aristide made the first of two surprise but brief appearances from his car, and greeted the crowds. Instead of returning directly to his home in Tabarre, President Aristide moved slowly through the surrounding streets and onto Champ Mars and then to Bel Air neighbourhood where he made a second stop standing on the car roof to greet the crowds. Yes, this was about a beloved hero , but to dismiss this as simply about President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is too miss the symbolic meaning which he embodies, that is a different Haiti to the one designed by the USA and the present administration which is essentially a factory of cheap labour and cheap resources for global capital, to one of hope, dignity and independence. Fanmi Lavalas is a movement of people and as such it is not dependent on any one individual.

The title for this piece is a quote by one of the marchers reported in the Washington Post.