Friday, January 27, 2006


Lazylafargue is going to sleep for a few months. We're overworked, money's tight, and other things are keeping us too busy to do more than an occasional post.

But PLEASE, visit Canada Haiti Action Network for updates and ideas on how to get involved to stop the mass murder of Haitian people—made possible by Canada, the US, France, and corporations like Gildan Activewear.

Also, visit Le Colonel Chabert and Lenin's Tomb. Please read them for updates on Haiti, as well as excellent commentary, passion, humour, and a love of people.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"The war against humanity is not over there but everywhere, all the time."

The connection which Lenin established—in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism—between imperialist exploitation of the dominated peoples and social-democratic ideological hegemony over the working class of the imperialist centers has already been forgotten. Social-democratic ideology (social-imperialist would be a more appropriate term) implies the existence of “socialism” at home and imperialism abroad...

...The global development of capitalism in an imperialist framework has decisive consequences for the destiny of socialism. Most important is the fact that the center of gravity of the exploitation of labor by capital (and, in the first place, by monopoly capital which dominates the system as a whole) has been displaced from the center of the system to its periphery. The mass of surplus value (in all its forms—absolute and relative, apparent and masked by price structures) extracted from labor in the periphery has been increasing steadily since the end of [the nineteenth] century. This simple fact explains why the periphery plays an increasingly active role in the global socialist revolution, by giving a new impetus to one of the possible outcomes of the uneven development of societies: the development of socialism starting from the lagging zones of capitalism...

...Social-imperialist collusion gives way to Third Worldist outbursts. For Third Worldism is a strictly European phenomenon. Its proponents seize on literary expressions, such as “the East wind will prevail over the West wind” or “the storm centers,” to illustrate the impossibility of struggle for socialism in the West, rather than grasping the fact that the necessary struggle for socialism passes, in the West, also by way of anti-imperialist struggle in Western society itself.

-from Samir Amin, Imperialism & Unequal Development (o.v. 1976).

"Let me speak for just a few minutes about the prospects of the opposition. I never said that the student opposition today is by itself a revolutionary force, nor have I ever seen in the hippies the "heir of the proletariat"! Only the national liberation fronts of the developing countries are today in a revolutionary struggle. But even they do not by themselves constitute an effective revolutionary threat to the system of advanced capitalism. All forces of opposition today are working at preparation and only at preparation--but toward necessary preparation for a possible crisis of the system. And precisely the national liberation fronts and the ghetto rebellion contribute to this crisis, not only as military but also as political and moral opponents--the living, human negation of the system. For the preparation and eventuality of such a crisis perhaps the working class, too, can be politically radicalized. But we must not conceal from ourselves that in this situation the question whether such radicalization will be to the left or the right is an open one. The acute danger of fascism or neo-fascism has not at all been overcome.

I have spoken of a possible crisis, of the eventuality of a crisis of the system. The forces that contribute to such a crisis would have to be discussed in great detail. I believe that we must see this crisis as the confluence of very disparate subjective and objective tendencies of an economic, political, and moral nature, in the East as well as the West. These forces are not yet organized on a basis of solidarity. They have no mass basis in the developed countries of advanced capitalism. Even the ghettos in the United States are in the initial stage of attempted politicization. And under these conditions it seems to me that the task of the opposition is first the liberation of consciousness outside of our own social group. For in fact the life of everyone is at stake, and today everyone is part of what Veblen called the "underlying population," namely the dominated. They must become conscious of the horrible policy of a system whose power and pressure grow with the threat of total annihilation. They must learn that the available productive forces are used for the reproduction of exploitation and oppression and that the so-called free world equips itself with military and police dictatorships in order to protect its surplus."

-from Herbert Marcuse "The problem of violence and the radical opposition" (1967) (via Afterthepurge)

Criminal overclasses.

"Our Governments Are Haiti's Gangs" (from Chabert)

"Haiti: the mildest hint of criticism" (from Lenin's Tomb)

"Haiti's Bourgeoisie Calls for Blood" (from Haiti Progres):

On Monday, Jan. 16, sweatshop magnate André Apaid's pro-coup "Group of 184" organized a small demonstration of about 200 people outside the headquarters of the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) in the capital's Bourdon district. The action was also supported by the "Group of Democratic Agreement," an alliance of nine political parties taking part in Haiti's upcoming elections, now scheduled for Feb. 7.

A week earlier, Haiti's bourgeoisie had called a general strike to protest the MINUSTAH's "inaction "in the face of the crime wave gripping Haiti (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 23, No. 44, 1/11/2006). According to bourgeois leaders like Apaid and Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry head Réginald Boulos, Haiti's crime all emanates from the capital's giant slum of Cité Soleil, which they claim is infested with "bandits."

"It is necessary that the UN peace-keeping force of MINUSTAH take action against the bandits of Cité Soleil to free the population there, which has been taken hostage," Apaid told Radio Métropole in an interview just before his picket line. "During this gathering in front of the MINUSTAH headquarters, we will send a clear messages to the UN Secretary General and to the Brazilian government that MINUSTAH has to take up its responsibilities vis-a-vis the degradation of the security climate."

The picket, predictably, brought out a number of presidential candidates, such as Serge Gilles of the Fusion of social democrats, Paul Denis of the Organization of Struggling People (OPL), and independent candidate Charles Henri Baker, another sweatshop owner and leader of the "184." The latter read two letters addressed respectively to Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and to Kofi Annan, and then gave them to MINUSTAH personnel.

"We completely support the Group of 184, which has called this picket," said Fusion's spokesman Micha Gaillard. "There must be peace in the head so that fear does not prevent us from going to vote... We agree with civil society [i.e. the bourgeoisie] which questions and wants to force Minustah to take up its responsibilities."

In his letter to Kofi Annan, André Apaid charged that Cité Soleil's "bandits" support "a presidential candidate," a veiled reference to former president René Préval, whose popularity is unrivaled by any of the other 34 candidates. This has "made impossible any true election campaigning," Apaid said.

The day before the picket, Kofi Annan issued an official statement condemning the bourgeoisie's "smear campaign" against the MINUSTAH and his special representative, Juan Gabriel Valdés. "Kofi Annan invites the provisional Haitian government to publicly condemn this smear campaign which aims to discredit the work of the UN in Haiti and which could carry serious consequences for the safety and security of Minustah personnel," the note said. "This campaign of unjustified criticism also threatens the construction of a society based on democratic values and could put in danger the holding of free and fair elections."

Also on Jan. 16, Haiti's National Popular Party (PPN) held a press conference denouncing Apaid and the bourgeoisie for overthrowing Haiti's constitutional government with the US, France and Canada and "leading the country into complete failure."

The PPN's Georges Honorat noted that the bourgeoisie accuses Cité Soleil of being the source of Haiti's rash of kidnappings. But over the holiday season, "more than a dozen kidnappings took place in [the bourgeois district of] Pétionville and not in the vicinity Cité Soleil," Honorat said.
He said that the people of Cité Soleil were not terrorists, but terrorized. The bourgeoisie had enforced their general strike (in fact, a lock-out) a week earlier by a terror campaign of "continuous shootings of automatic weapons" around the capital, thereby "forcing the population to remain in all day," Honorat said.

The PPN noted the complete disarray and confusion surrounding the upcoming elections. Honorat speculated that Washington, if unable to "select" a suitable candidate, will "proclaim Haiti a failed state thereby justifying a more total supervision and occupation."

Calling the upcoming elections a "masquerade,' the PPN warned that "there could be a repeat of November 29, 1987," when soldiers and Tonton Macoutes aborted national elections with bloody massacres. "The PPN urges those holding national identity [voting] cards to not take part in the 'selection/elections' to avoid being victims... Do not go to the slaughterhouse into which the occupiers want to lead you."

Honorat closed by saying that "the population must mobilize in a peaceful way throughout the country to demand the release of all the Lavalas political prisoners and the return of Lavalas political exiles, including President Aristide, for there to be truly democratic, free and honest elections."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Murder and Profit in Haiti: "Consultants Advisory Group™ (CAG) Spying in Haiti; Whistleblowers Detained for Reporting Human Rights Violations"

Excellent sleuthing from blogger Kathryn Cramer:

I seem to have uncovered a strange little black ops organization that's spying in Haiti and elsewhere. Not long ago, they were also looking to drum up some business in the US in the Homeland Security market. I got a few tips from whistleblowers. But all of the most substantial information has come from one of their own employees who wrote me a number of long letters.

This post covers a lot of ground, ranging from a mysterious company owned by US ex-pats placing spies disguised as journalists in the audience of Haitian presidential debates, to CAG arranging for the detention of people who wrote to me to ask for information about CAG and complain about CAG's involvement in human rights violations in Haiti. So bear with me. This is my second post about CAG, and part of an ongoing series on Top Cat Marine Security.

This has to be read in its entirety.

Read here, and previously here.


The U.S. State Dept. is reaching out to independent contractors to train other private contractors who will be deployed as “civilian police” -- hired guns for so-called peacekeeping missions taking place in Haiti and other geopolitical hotspots. The senior adviser selected for the task “must oversee pre-deployment training currently being conducted” by Dyncorp International, Civilian Police International and Pacific Architects and Engineers/Homeland Security Corporation, according a recently released procurement document.
(Stephen Peacock with NarcoSphere)


Suicide, accident or murder? What explains the bullet that passed through the head of Brazilian General Urana Teixera da Malta Bacillar at the deluxe Montana Hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Jan. 7?
(Haiti Progres via Chabert)


Pretoria - The possibility that a sniper of South African origin might have been responsible for the death of General Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, commanding general of the United Nations force in Haiti (Minustah), has been mentioned in security circles in this violence-torn country.
(Erika Gibson, News 24)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Urban warfare: "There is no home front. The conflict is not 'over there'."

The real security challenge of the 21st century is centred on terror cells. Today’s front line stretches from the streets of Kabul, to the rail lines in Madrid, to cities across Canada.

Our adversary could be operating in the mountains of Afghanistan, in the cities of Europe, or within our own borders.

There is no home front. The conflict is not ‘over there’. Our approach to Canada’s security and defence must reflect this reality. Merely modernizing Canada’s armed forces on old models will not suffice. We are now in the process of conducting a comprehensive international policy review for the first time in a decade. This review will help us clearly define our interests and articulate our values in the area of foreign and defence policy, aid and trade.
-Prime Minister Paul Martin, addressing troops at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, 2003.

Over the course of the past year and a half, my government issued our country’s first National Security Policy, launched the Canada Corps with its work in Ukraine, led the International Mission for Iraqi Elections, commanded the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the multinational force in Haiti

The image that captures today’s operational environment for the Canadian Forces is a “three-block-war.” Increasingly, there is overlap in the tasks our personnel are asked to carry out at any one time. Our military could be engaged in combat against well-armed militia in one city block, stabilization operations in the next block, and humanitarian relief and reconstruction two blocks over. Transition from one type of task to the other can happen in the blink of an eye. This ability of the Canadian Forces to wage three-block wars has been amply demonstrated in diverse theatres from Bosnia to Afghanistan. The Government’s reinvestments in the Canadian Forces will ensure that they continue to enjoy a well-earned reputation for versatility in these complex environments
-"Canada's International Policy Statement: A Role of Pride and Influence in the World. Overview", 2005.

It has already been mentioned here that Canadian air force personnel were training with the Israeli Air Force in Cold Lake during 'Operation Maple Flag':

While Major-General Walter Natyncyzk - who just returned from a year with American troops in Iraq - has been tapped to carry out reforms in the Canadian forces modeled after the United States Northern Command, with the regional army, navy and air force units answering to one Canada Command.

The crux behind the reforms is the capacity to face asymmetrical challenges - what the army calls the ability to wage "three-block war" in an urban setting. "Three-block war" is terminology lifted straight from the US Marine Corps' bloody invasion of Fallujah in April 2004. Air power is the backbone of this type of warfare, and no nation on earth uses airpower to enforce occupation more effectively than Israel.
-Jon Elmer, "Good Night Battle of Britain, Good Morning Gaza", 2005.

And here that Canadian ground forces are planning for simulated urban combat in Winnipeg this coming April in 'Exercise Charging Bison':

MORE than 500 army troops, backed by helicopters, armoured vehicles and artillery, will turn downtown Winnipeg into an armed camp as part of a military exercise to train soldiers for the modern battlefield.

Exercise Charging Bison will unfold for seven days and nights beginning April 30 next year in what is believed to be the largest urban warfare training exercise of its kind ever held in Canada.

There won't be live ammunition, but there will be laser weapons and a variety of blanks and 'simunition' -- or simulated munitions -- that make noise and smoke or discharge harmless projectiles.

The drill is designed to simulate the kind of complex conditions soldiers would encounter in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where conventional warfare is conducted simultaneously with humanitarian relief operations and nation-building, said Col. Kelly Woiden, commander of 38 Brigade.

Urban battlefields are sometimes known as "three-block wars" because troops could help people on one block, fight insurgents on another, and guard convoys on another, Woiden explained.

"We're going to create a realistic environment of the situation that individual soldiers can face today," he said. "You could be doing humanitarian relief one moment and then fighting a war the next. It is the most complicated terrain for a soldier."
-Winnipeg Free Press, "Army to Occupy Downtown: Spring exercise to turn city into 'battleground'"

These dry-runs are a rehearsal for future missions of 'humanitarian' relief, modelled on such humanitarian military missions as the occupation of Falluja or Gaza. Right now, in Haiti, where Canada has helped engineer a coup and bloody occupation, the government speaks of a mission " to meet the immediate needs of the people of Haiti, including ensuring that humanitarian assistance gets to those most in need; basic health and education needs are met; public order is restored; and human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected." These dry-runs may also be well suited for the occupation and pacification of a Canadian city should the need arise. After all, there is no 'home front' or 'over there'.

Anyone leaving “their house takes their life into their own hands.”

from WSWS (via Lenin's Tomb):

The UN occupation troops have locked down Port-au-Prince, establishing checkpoints at the major intersections as armored personnel carriers patrol the streets. Cité Soleil, an impoverished shantytown of 500,000 that largely supports Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party, has been made into a virtual prison according to Jean-Joseph Joel, the secretary-general of the local Lavalas branch.

Heeding the demands of Haiti’s business leaders and the coup government, Valdes suggested that another UN military raid on the neighborhood could be imminent. Many Cité Soleil residents fear a repeat of the massacre on July 6, 2005 that killed 50 people. The massacre resulted from a UN military operation to assassinate Emmanuel “Dread” Wilme, a popular community leader labeled as a “bandit” by UN forces (a monument has since been erected in Wilme’s honor by Cité Soleil residents).

Demonstrations erupted in Cité Soleil on Thursday, January 12 against the UN occupation and its collusion with the coup government that has jailed political opponents. One person was confirmed killed and 17 were injured in clashes with UN troops as of Wednesday last week. One of the wounded was a 12-year-old girl. “Every day, we are counting dead bodies,” said Joel.
A 30-year-old woman named Edline Pierre-Louis, who lost her unborn baby when she was shot by UN troops on July 6, protested the UN’s denial of the massacre. “The blue helmets [UN troops] are lying,” she told the Haitian Information Project. “They killed so many people, and I praise God that I am alive to call them liars.”

As witnessed by independent Canadian reporters Leslie Bagg and Aaron Lakoff, “multiple killings of civilians have been committed by UN forces.” In Cité Soleil they interviewed a resident named Dieunord Edme, who spoke of his wife, Annette Moleron, being shot and killed by UN troops on January 7 in an incident that also claimed the lives of four other women in a marketplace. The reporters witnessed a bloated corpse by a roadside that residents couldn’t retrieve because the UN military in Haiti (MINUSTAH) would fire on anyone that approached it. The reporters claim the corpse was left out in order to intimidate the neighborhood.

On Monday, January 9, Reginald Boulos, the president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Andy Apaid, the Haitian-American who owns Haiti’s oldest and largest sweatshop empire—both members of the Canadian and US-backed Group 184—called for a “strike” allegedly to protest the wave of kidnappings. Group 184, which played a prominent role in destabilizing Aristide’s government, has been funded by the International Republican Institute, a constituent part of the National Endowment for Democracy, the US agency established to carry out political operations formerly orchestrated by the CIA.

The New York Times reported, “The Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry called a strike to pressure UN peacekeepers to move against gangs—allegedly loyal to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide—who have carried out many of the kidnappings.” The “gangs” are the code word for Haiti’s poor, who largely support Aristide, and would most likely vote for René Préval, who served as Haiti’s president from 1996 to 2001. It is apparent that most of Port-au-Prince regarded the strike, in the words of one angry street vendor who closed his stall due to lack of business, as “a rich persons’ strike.”

Announcements aired over Radio Metropole threatened that anyone leaving “their house takes their life into their own hands.”

Lenin summarizes the enormous, and genocidal, condescenscion of the corporate media:

...we are told that "The world is at a loss to know what to do about Haiti. Everything from aid to foreign invasion has been tried. The result is anarchy." As if the requirement for aid was not created by colonialism and client-state imperialism, a process stretching right up until 1994. As if the 'aid' was benign. As if the foreign invasion were not part of the problem. As if these dirty brown people were simply beyond help, congenitally predisposed to violence and - who knows - probably rape and drugs and all sorts of evil things. This is frightening. To be amazed at how brutal the present is (as in "in this day and age") is a sure sign of naivete. And yet, I can't help feeling that the most weathered cynic would wilt and fume at such a performance.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Election Politics: foreign affairs.

Federal Election 2006

Foreign Policy Questions:

Why won’t our leaders talk about what we’re doing there?

Last Tuesday, Liberal prime minister Paul Martin made his pre-election stop in Victoria, meeting with supporters at a rally at the Hotel Grand Pacific. There, in what must have felt like a strange replay of countless such events across the country as we head towards the January 23 election, Martin delivered a short speech with a few feel-good messages and several attacks on conservative leader Stephen Harper. Harper, he says, would integrate our country even more deeply with the United States—something many Canadians don’t want to see happen.

And yet, one particular aspect of Canada’s foreign affairs points to exactly that sort of integration with the States. Our recent dubious record in Haiti, and our role in Afghanistan, was something Martin didn’t mention, and there was no opportunity for reporters to ask about.

In fact, there has been little mention of Haiti in the entire tightly managed campaign so far, even though Mark Bourque, a retired Canadian RCMP officer, died there in recent weeks, shot in the streets of Port au Prince. Not even the suicide this weekend of Urano Texeira da Matta Bacellar, the Brazilian leader of the UN forces in Haiti, caused a blip in Canadian political circles. Nor has the steady criticism from peace activists who question Canada’s involvement in either country.

A call to the Liberal party’s press office in Ottawa confirms the party is trying to keep Haiti out of the election. “It’s not a political thing,” says Kristen Connolly, who describes herself as the “press office answering-the-phone lady.” Questions should be directed to the foreign affairs department, she says. “It’s government comment as opposed to politics.”

That seems odd to a number of observers, including Victoria’s outgoing MP David Anderson, a one-time foreign-service officer. “No foreign affairs issues have come up in the campaign, which I find very surprising,” he says. “I find it very strange.”

The election should include a close analysis of Canada’s foreign policy, Anderson says, and yet, the closest we’ve come during this campaign is politicians talking about increasing the size of the armed forces. How, Anderson asks, can we talk about that without saying what we’d be increasing the forces for?

Right now, he says, it looks like that would be for deployments like those in Afghanistan and Haiti. “It’s an interesting election debate gap, but that goes back to my original point, that there’s hardly been an election.”

Or, as Susan Clarke from the Victoria Peace Coalition says, “The country is never really held to account on foreign policy during elections.”

It shouldn’t be this way, she adds. “We never got a chance to say anything about Haiti. It was all done behind our backs.”

And yet, the question remains for many Canadians: Just what is Canada doing in Haiti, and why is it a problem?

Over the past several months, Clarke and the coalition have been trying to raise awareness of the issue. They’ve brought a couple of speakers to Victoria, including the journalist Kevin Pina, who is from Oakland, California, but has lived for several years in Haiti, is married to a Haitian and has a child there.

There are multiple reasons, he says, why Canadians should be concerned about what’s happening in Haiti. For starters, it’s largely thanks to us and our efforts to unseat Jean Bertrand Aristide’s democratically elected government that the country is currently so unstable. Through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), we funded non-governmental organizations in Haiti that helped build opposition to Aristide. Then, during the so-called rebellion in 2004, Canadian armed forces were there to take the airport. Our forces held the country, along with soldiers from France and the United States, until United Nations troops could land. Since then we have contributed RCMP expertise to train Haitian police officers, and we are putting $25 million into a much-delayed election that many observers say is a sham. In 2000, when Aristide was elected, there were 12,000 polling places, Pina says. The plan for this election was to have somewhere between 600 and 800 places to vote. “That might ensure the photo ops they want of long lines at the polls, but it won’t guarantee participation.”

Pina is currently working on a documentary about the situation in Haiti: a work that includes scenes of UN troops raiding homes in the Cité Soleil neighbourhood, and gory shots of war dead. “A lot of what I’m showing is not being shown in the press,” he says. “I have been in the unenviable position of being the one reporting the side of the story nobody else will touch . . . I like documentary filmmaking for that reason, because the images at the end of the day don’t lie.”

Asked what Canadians need to know about Haiti, Pina says, “That your government is investing millions of dollars in an unelected, undemocratic regime.” Also, he says, on this one Canada is in “lock step” with the United States. And, oh yes, the decision to unseat Aristide, known as the Ottawa initiative, was made in Canada.

All of that makes it something that should be an election issue, argues the peace coalition’s Clarke. “I don’t know when is a better time to hold our country accountable for its foreign policy than during an election,” she says. “The Canadian people should have everything to say about foreign policy, just like the Americans want to have everything to say about their foreign policy. That’s a huge part of your persona as a nation.” M

Mixed Opposition

Whether or not Haitians get to participate in a free election anytime soon in their own country, the election that’s currently happening here could determine whether there’ll be a shift in our involvement there. So what do representatives of Canada’s various political parties think, and why aren’t they giving the Liberals a rougher ride on their Haiti record?

“We are very concerned obviously with developments in Haiti,” says Stockwell Day, the conservative’s foreign affairs critic, in a voice message. He’s also the MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla and once upon a time lived in Victoria and attended UVic (though it’s not clear from his website whether he actually graduated). He’s concerned, but he’s actually calling for more involvement, not less.

“We feel Canada should have more of a presence there, especially on the security side,” Day says. “Over the last several years we have been underfunding our military and we do not have the capability to provide the types of level of security that’s needed in a situation like Haiti right now because we’re also committed in other places.”

As for the NDP, last spring the party’s foreign affairs critic, Alexa McDonough, called on the government to do more to stop the flow of arms into the country and to address the basic needs of health care, education, jobs and infrastructure there.

Then there’s the Green Party, which called this past weekend for a formal review of Canada’s involvement in Haiti. This follows on the party’s October stance, which called on Canada to seek a delay in the elections until all political prisoners are freed and “intimidation of Lavalas Party supporters by the Haitian National Police is stopped.”

“It’s pretty outrageous that we’re involved,” says Ariel Lade, the Green candidate in Victoria and a member of the Victoria Peace Coalition. “These elections are going to be a sham unless Aristide and the Lavalas party are allowed to fully participate and not be harassed by the police that the RCMP are training.”

Election politics (minus ideology).

Courtesy of Victor Serge at And your little dog too:

"Outside the limit of our sight, feeding off us, perched on top of us, from birth to death, are our owners! Our owners! They have us. They control us! They are our masters! Wake up! They're all about you! All around you!"
"They Live!" (1988)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The birth of the father.

It is The Ladies' Paradise, as Zola rechristened the more prosaic Bon Marché: a concentrate of the metropolis, just as the metropolis is a concentrate of the world. In the new space invented by it - the shop-window, where inside and outside are no longer differentiated - the commodities of the bourgeois century finally appear in their full glory...

...What a delightful paradox: a bourgeois institution, which perverts bourgeois morality, impelling a Professor from the University of Lyon to demand 'police measures, to prevent minors under eighteen, of either sex, from entering' - and even 'a gendarme close to every sales counter.' The inventors of consumer society were too clever, and ended going too far. This overkill of consumers must be remedied, by situating them - like Faust in the witches' kitchen - at the right distance from the magic mirror of the commodity. Not too far, so that distance cools their minds and may induce them to pass on without buying; but not too close either, so as to avoid scandals.
Franco Moretti, Modern Epic (via Chabert)

This poisoned gift of bourgeois culture had, within it, its own remedy:

Aristide Boucicaut, father of the Bon Marché.

...bourgeois culture in France was divided within itself, not so much between upper and lower bourgeoisie or the forces of progress and stagnation as between two sets of values and attitudes, one that drove it to create what the other was bound to regret. If it was a culture that gave way to rationalized structures like the department store, it was also a culture that remained impregnated with strong relationships between family and business and one that believed in individual achievement. If it was a culture that carried within it a materialistic streak leading inexorably to a cult of consumption, it was also a culture whose sense of distinctions, self-restraints, and standards saw in much of this reason for fear and for horror.

The department store brought out bourgeois schizophrenia....

...The significance of the Bon Marché and its history lay in its ability to resove this dilemma by redifining traditions to fit new social contexts, thereby reconciling the divergent strains within bourgeois culture. Internally, a new idea of the firm integrated family values with bureacratic realities. White-collar workers wree fitted into bureacratic work slots in ways that retained their loyalty to the firm and its goals and assured their identity with middle-class values. Managers were formed who did not contradict the family origins of entrepreneurial firms. A sense of an internal House community was associated with the workings of a dynamic and rationalized system. All this was accomplished through innovative uses of paternalistic traditions, uses that eased owners, and later managers, into new business roles that they would now have to occupy. The method was systematic but almost elegant in its simplicity. Household relationships were redesigned to build an organizational work force of managers and clerks. The new relationships in turn provided the basis for the reorientation of the family firm. One followed from another just as tradition became imbedded in change. Externally, the projection of an image where the old and the new were inextricably intertwined—again based largely on imaginative uses of Bon Marché paternalism—revealed that one set of values need not disappear with the triumph of the other.

Michael Miller, The Bon Marché: Bourgeois Culture and the Department Store, 1869-1920.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Class War in Haiti

Haiti's Deadly Class Divide:
Class war takes on a new meaning in Cite Soley

by Leslie Bagg and Aaron Lakoff

Port-au-Prince, January 10/06 - Driving into Cite Soley on January 8th, the day Haitians were supposed to go to the polls in a presidential election, there is no mistaking the fact that we are entering an occupied zone. The streets are almost deserted, the atmosphere tense, and UN armored personnel carriers patrol the streets.

Cite Soley, one of Port-au-Prince's poorest neighborhoods, is home to around 500,000 people living in abject poverty. According to Jean-Joseph Joel, the Secretary General of the local branch of Fanmi Lavalas, the area's residents are virtual prisoners, and their movements restricted by armed police at checkpoints. Vilified as bandits or chimeres by the elite-run press, he says they face persecution if they do manage to escape the neighborhood. There is no work and signs of malnutrition are obvious in the children.

Since the February 2004 coup d'etat that ousted democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Cite Soley has been one of the battlefields where a war against Haiti's poor majority is being waged. Muliple killings of civilians have been committed by UN forces carrying out the will of the country's elite and of the international community. Dieunord Edme, a Cite Soley resident, shows us the place in the market where his wife, Annette Moleron, was gunned down by MINUSTAH (Mission Nations Unies Stabilization en Haiti) soldiers on January 7th during an operation that claimed the lives of four women in a marketplace. He shows us bullet holes in the metal roof over the market's stalls.

Victims of the deadly July 6th 2005 UN massacre, an event documented by the Haiti Information Project, which the UN denies ever happened, show us their scars. One woman lifts her shirt to show us where the MINUSTAH bullet entered her then pregnant belly, ! and the mark of the cesarean section performed to remove the baby that was killed. As we drive out of the neighborhood we pass a horribly bloated corpse by the side of the road. A MINUSTAH tank is parked nearby, keeping watch. Local residents say the man, who worked as a porter, was killed five days previously but every time someone went to try to remove the body, MINUSTAH started firing. It is apparent that they want to keep his body as a warning to others.

This ugly violence that has swept Cite Soley in the last week, and for many months prior, does not come out of thin air. Someone above the UN is calling the shots, and they wield lethal power. Reginald Boulos, the president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and sweatshop magnate Andy Apaid – both members of the Canadian and US-backed Group 184 – called for a one-day general business strike Monday. The stated goal of this strike was to put pressure on MINUSTAH to clamp down harder on crime! and kidnappings. As an announcement heard on Radio Metropole stated in a threatening tone, “Don't leave your houses. Let the police and the military do their work. Anyone who leaves their house takes their life into their own hands.”

However, more than anything, this strike has served to highlight the extreme class divide in Haiti, one that before the elections is becoming increasingly more deadly. Indeed, many of the more upscale businesses in the country did observe the strike. Driving through Port-au-Prince, we observed that the doors of major businesses such as Texaco, Shell, Scotia Bank, and upscale grocery stores remained shut. However, for the majority of Haiti's population who slave away to bring home a per-capita income of $200 per year, the day continued as if normal. Workers who toil in the informal economy – street vendors, runners, tap-tap (taxi) operators – lined the streets, unable to skip a day's work just because! the island's wealthiest said so.

Our experience in Cite Soley today showed us the other side of this business strike, and what the MINUSTAH clamp down looked like to Port-au-Prince's poor. Jean-Joseph Joel gives us his analysis of the situation. Because of its large population and tendency to vote unanimously, Cite Soley has the power to sway an election. Joel explains that MINUSTAH is under intense pressure from the business elite to make it possible for their presidential favourite, Charles Henri Baker, to have a winning chance in the elections. At the moment, the only candidate able to walk down the streets of Cite Soley is Rene Preval, the candidate supported by the mass base of Lavalas. Preval's posters are the only ones to be seen anywhere in Cite Soley – territory where the elite dare not

For General Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, the Brazilian head of the United Nations military mission in Haiti, the pressure may have been too much! . He was found dead in his hotel room on January 7th. He apparently committed suicide after a tense meeting with Reginald Boulos. Joel says that Cite Soley residents are nervous, as the subject of that conversation was pressure on MINUSTAH to crack down harder on Cite Soley before the elections. The fact that Bacellar was replaced by Gen. Eduardo Aldunate Herman, a Chilean Pinochet-era figure and alleged human rights abuser, does nothing to help Cite Soley residents rest easier.

Jean-Joseph Joel's hope is that the international community will change its position on Haiti and side with the majority of Haitians rather than supporting the elite and the UN mission here. However, it doesn't look like change is in the air. Pierre Pettigrew, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, and a man many Haitians know by name, has recently announced that Canadian forces will remain in Haiti, despite escalating calls for their removal.

Sources told us that two mor! e people were killed in the marketplace by MINUSTAH forces shortly after we left it on Monday. Residents speculated
that these killings were retributions for talking to the media, as we had been out for the whole morning conducting interviews with locals. The people of Cite Soley risked their lives so their story could reach the public in countries like Canada and the US, whose governments continue to support MINUSTAH's actions. It remains to be seen what effect their sacrifice will have.

[Leslie Bagg and Aaron Lakoff are two independent journalists and activists from Montreal. They will be in Haiti for the month of January, filing reports focused on the role of Canada in the country. They can be reached at]

See also Class War: The extermination of Lavalas. (via Chabert)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

This is only a recommendation.

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 11 - Residents of the city's most devastated neighborhoods responded with anger Wednesday after the city's rebuilding commission unveiled its most contentious proposal: giving neighborhoods in low-lying parts of the city from four months to a year to prove they should not be bulldozed.

The plan was presented at a standing-room-only meeting punctuated by catcalls and angry outbursts that often interrupted members of the panel. "Over my dead body" was uttered more than once.

"I'm going to suit up like I'm going to Iraq and fight this," said Harvey Bender, a laid-off city worker, who shouted out his comments before an audience at the Sheraton Hotel that numbered in the hundreds and spilled into the aisles and hallways.

Mr. Bender owns a home in New Orleans East, a predominantly black middle-class neighborhood of 90,000 residents largely destroyed by the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. Parts of the neighborhood might not survive, according to the plan, if they do not attract enough returning residents.

Speaker after speaker, black and white, prosperous and poor, dismissed a plan that Mayor C. Ray Nagin described as "controversial." But Mr. Nagin gave them hope as he walked a middle line that neither endorsed the plan nor opposed it.

"This is only a recommendation," Mr. Nagin said in remarks that preceded the formal presentation of the rebuilding plan. "We as a community will have the ultimate say in how we move forward."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Graft.

...every thesis is (bands erect) a prosthesis; what affords reading affords reading by citations (necessarily truncated clippings, repetitions, suctions, sections, suspensions, selections, stitchings, scarrings, grafts, pastiches, organs without their own proper body covered with cuts, traversed by lice). Thus does a text become infatuated. With another. This does not happen without profit or loss for the organism that undergoes grafting after having been solicited, collared.
Jacques Derrida, Glas.

[Matisse] later recalled that the Villa Brooks garden "was immense, with meadows as far as the eye can see. I worked in a part which was planted with very large trees, whose foliage spread very high. The ground was covered with acanthus. I had never seen acanthus. I knew acanthus only from the drawings of Corinthian capitals I had made at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. I found the acanthus magnificent, much more interesting, green, than those at school!"

These recollections evoke the 'Acanthus, Moroccan Landscape' (Les Acanthes, paysage marocain) canvas, one of Matisse's greatest landscapes. The classical associations of the acanthus are consistent with French thinking about North Africa as part of the former Carthaginian and Roman empires, still evidenced by the extensive ruins at Volubilis in Morocco, Tipasa in Algeria, and El Djem in Tunisia. (Colonial rhetoricians like Louis Bertrand were happy that France had reclaimed from the Arabs these territories of the original ‘Latin’ people).
Roger Benjamin, Orientalist Aesthetics: Art, Colonialism and French North Africa, 1880-1930.

l’Afrique nous offre, avec la joie de son ciel, dont nous sommes avides, l’activité réglée qui nous convient: nous n’y perdons point notre sens inné de la mesure, pour sombrer dans les aventures de toutes les mégalomanies. Ensuite, nous y restons en contact avec les traditions de culture qui ont formé notre race. Héritiers d’Athènes, d’Alexandrie et de Rome, nous sommes chez nous à Carthage, où les courans de civilisation partis de ces trois villes sont venus se confondre.
Louis Bertrand, “Nietzsche et la Méditerranée."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Murder and profit in Haiti.

Jean Saint-Vil, activist for Canada Haiti Action Network, has drawn together a fascinating chronology.

It situates the replacement of MINUSTAH General Heleno (who had publicly protested against the blind violence carried out by UN forces) with General Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, the recent appointment of Chilean war criminal General Eduardo Aldunate Herman after the mysterious death of General Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, and the deaths of other MINUSTAH forces, incluing Canadian Mark Bourque, in the context of increasing pressure by elites in Haiti and abroad to engage in intensified massacres of Haitians. The following is from Jean Saint-Vil:

"Je suis capable d’utiliser la force, je suis préparé pour ça, mais face à la situation du pays et surtout de ce que j’imagine être les intentions de l’ONU, je me refuse à utiliser la force de façon incontrôlée et contre des innocents".
(I am capable of using force, I am trained for this however, in view of the current situationin this contry and of what I imagine to be the intentions of the United Nations, I refuse to use uncontrolled force against innocents)
"Tant que je serai au commandement, cela n’arrivera pas. Il n’y aura pas de violence aveugle"
(As long as I will be at the command, this will not occur. There will be no blind violence)
General Heleno, March 3, 2005


January 2005: Publication of Miami School of Law Report (by Tom Griffin) in which the link between Labanyè and Apaid are exposed in detail.

(January-March 2005): Tom Griffin makes several presentations in North America about the findings of his human rights reports

April 1: Thomas Robinson (Labanyè), Apaid's gang handy man is killed

April 9: Former Haitian soldier Jean Rene Anthony (Grenn Sonnen) is killed

April 10: Ravix Remissainthe, former killed Haitian soldier used to overthrow Aristide and who declared that the interim government and the bourgeoisie had used him and betrayed him and his comrades

April 14: Filipino member of MINUSTAH, Sergeant Batomalaque is shot dead. One day after the Security Council mission arrived in the country .
June 3, 2005, Once again, General Augusto Heleno, the Brazilian Force Commander of the U.N. Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), complained publicly that the repressive actions he is being pressured to direct in Haiti are criminal in nature; he didn’t want to have to answer war crime charges at the International Criminal Court, he added. (Agence Haitienne de Presse 6/4/05 )

June 2005 Heleno asks his superiors in Brazil that he be replaced.

Before dawn 6 July 2005, more than 300 heavily-armed United Nations peacekeeping troops in Haiti carried out a major military operation in Cité Soleil, a densely populated residential neighborhood – one of the poorest comunities in Port-au-Prince and a stronghold of support for Lavalas and ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Eyewitnesses claimed there was not a firefight, but rather a slaughter. The operation was primarily conducted by U.N. forces, assisted by Haitian National Police.
Though the raid received little attention in the world press, local residents say the attack might have been the deadliest carried out by U.N. troops in Haiti between 2004 and 2005.

September 1, 2005, Lieutenant-General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira is replaced by General Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar.

December 9, 2005: Canadian member of RCMP force sent to Haiti, Mark Bourque is killed in Cité Soleil

December 25: Jordanian Soldier is killed by Sniper shot in Cité Soleil

December 29 : AHP reports that foreign sources in Haiti indicate the prime suspects in the recent killing of MINUSTAH personnel to Labanyè's gang (which was identified by the Miami School of Law, Human rights Reports as being linked and protected by Haiti's Sweatshop magnate Andre Apaid)...

....29 décembre 2005(AHP)- Des partisans d'un ancien chef de gang, Thomas Robenson dit Labanyè assassiné l'année dernière, seraient derrière les attaques meurtrières perpétrées contre des soldats de la MINUSTAH, a indiqué jeudi à l'AHP des sources étrangères à Port-au-prince."Les dernières attaques contre les casques bleus auraient pour objectif de porter la MINUSTAH à lancer une attaque musclée contre le bidonville de Cité Soleil considéré comme le quartier de tous les risques".

January 5, in the midst of widespread rumours that Haiti's right wing elite will get its wish granted for a massive attack on Cité Soleil, a reliable source informs me that Cité Soleil have been declared off limits to journalists - something will come down this week-end.

January 5:"we are waiting for him to give clear instructions to the troops under his command to cleanse Cite Soleil of the criminals, like they did in Bel-Air....Today, Valdes has two choices in front of him. He can choose to be held responsible for the failure of the elections that he was sent here to ensure the good working of, or he can choose to be responsible for the success of his mission here just because he will be able today and tomorrow, who knows, to make the courageous, the intelligent, and necessary decision to put an end to this climate of insecurity in the metropolitan area...
You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs. We think that Minustah' s generals need to make plans to limit collateral damage. But we in the private sector are ready to create a social assistance fund to help all those who would be innocent victims of a necessary and courageous action that should be carried out in Cite Soleil" Reginald Boulos, interview with Radio Métropole, January 5, 2006

January 6 U.N. Security Council meets to discuss Haiti....

January 7 Urano Teixeira Da Matta Bacellar is found dead at Hotel Montana.
(According to several press reports, this death comes in the heal of a heated debate with Mr. Valdes, the Civilian head of the MINUSTAH, the night before).

January 7 Chilian General Eduardo Aldunate Herman replaces Urano (temporarily) - Herman is currently accused in Chile of having participated in mass murders during the overthrow of President Salvador Allende, in 1973-74
See also various virulent verbal attacks of Réginald Boulos and Andre Apaid against the U.N. ..some of them made a few hours before the apparent "suicide" of Urano Teixeira Bacellar...
What's next...?
Some day the truth will come out...and there will be criminal charges laid !

"le Canada n'a jamais été un pays colonisateur" -Pierre Pettigrew.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

MINUSTAH, Gildan Activewear, the group of 184 and other crime lords.

Chabert has an excellent post on Emanuel 'Dread' Wilmé, the Lavalas supporter in Cité Soleil who, along with dozens of bystanders, including children, was gunned down by MINUSTAH (UN) forces. In the words of Marguerite Laurent:

Like all the others falling in Cite Soleil, Bel Air and throughout Haiti, like Charlemagne Peralte, Marie-Jeanne, Claire Heureuse, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haiti’s true freedom fighters shall be remembered and sung about long after this latest Coup D’etat’s killers have passed into history. (via)

But there are other interests at work in Cité Soleil. Thomas Robenson 'Labanyè', whose death this past year was celebrated by Cite Soleil residents, ran the death squads in Cité Soleil and was allied with the police and the Group of 184. Labanyè is dead, but the well-funded, well-armed allies of Labanyè live on. Of course, in the corporate media, the battles between people struggling against the occupation of their country, and their murder at the hands of death squads, is presented as gang warfare:

This racialized, overdetermined media image of the black gang itself, rather than any actually existing black people, stands as sentry and border alongside police forces.

But the story is not as simple as the corporate media would present. Labanyè was allied with, and funded by, Andrè Apaid, the sweatshop owner and long-time subcontractor for Gildan Activewear, who is one of the leaders of the group of 184:

By the end of 2002, it was clear that, despite the efforts of the U.S. and the opposition, they remained a small electoral force in the politics of Haiti. Most of their leaders had been marginalized within Haiti by the positions they were taking politically. In addition, their association with some of the worst elements of the former coup regime, who were now demanding the return of the army, further diminished their standing in the eyes of the Haitian people.

The IRI [International Republican Institute], realizing that their former strategy was not working decided to create a new opposition. They arranged a secret meeting, which became public in the Haitian press, in the Dominican Republic with assembly industry owner Andy Apaid, other business leaders, student activists, the Democratic Convergence, and other elements of the former regime, including those who were calling for the return of the army. Andy Apaid is a millionaire Lebanese American businessman in Haiti who bitterly opposed Aristide in his desire to increase the minimum wage and who was involved in a fraud on the Haitian telephone company through the “grey market” in international telephone transmission. He was ultimately fined 2,000,000 gourdes for the fraud.

So Apaid, who vied to be president, who is spokesperson for the group of elite Haitians and Duvalierists working with, and installed into power by, the US-funded coup is a patron in his own right:

"Numerous witnesses stated the Boston gang leader, Thomas Robinson, alias “Labanyè,” receives financial, firearms, and political support from wealthy business­man and politico, Andy Apaid and businessman Regi­nald Boulos. Cité Soleil witnesses and police officers reported that Apaid’s support of Labanyè keeps the police from arresting him.

Apaid, the leader of the Group of 184, a business-backed organization established to oppose President Aristide, told investigators that he has directed the Haitian Police not to arrest Labanyè but to “work with him.”

It turns out that Labanyè's allies may have been responsible for the killing of MINUSTAH soldiers in order to cancel the elections:

“Des partisans d'un ancien chef de gang, Thomas Robenson dit Labanyè assassiné l'année dernière, seraient derrière les attaques meurtrières perpétrées contre des soldats de la MINUSTAH, a indiqué jeudi à l'AHP des sources étrangères à Port-au-prince.
Labanyè qui a contrôlé deux des 34 quartiers de Cité Soleil, était le rival d'un autre chef de bande, Dread Wilmé, réputé proche de lavalas, tué, lui-même, en juillet dernier, lors d'une opération de la MINUSTAH qui aurait également coûté la vie à plusieurs autres habitants.

Les dernières attaques contre les casques bleus auraient pour objectif de porter la MINUSTAH à lancer une attaque musclée contre le bidonville de Cité Soleil considéré comme le quartier de tous les risques.”


"De nombreux observateurs ont fait savoir ces derniers jours que si des bandits issus de quartiers populaires sont impliqués dans ces actes de violence, il y a sans doute des mains politiques très habiles qui les alimentent pour tenter de persuader que les élections ne sont pas possibles maintenant en Haïti.

C'est dans ce même contexte que des partisans d'un ancien chef de gang anti-Ariside, (feu Robenson Thomas) dit labanyè, ont été accusés d'implication dans les attaques contre des casques bleus pour cherrcher à provoquer une intervention de la MINUSTAH dans le bidonville de Cite Soleil.

Le premier tour des présidentielles et législatives fixé par arrêté présidentiel au 8 janvier 2006, a été reporté sine die par le regime interimaire après 4 précédent reports."


"Labanyè qui a contrôlé deux des 34 quartiers de Cité Soleil, était le rival d'un autre chef de bande, Dread Wilmé, réputé proche de lavalas, tué, lui-même, en juillet dernier, lors d'une opération de la MINUSTAH qui aurait également coûté la vie à plusieurs autres habitants.

Les dernières attaques contre les casques bleus auraient pour objectif de porter la MINUSTAH à lancer une attaque musclée contre le bidonville de Cité Soleil considéré comme le quartier de tous les risques.

Un policier canadien et un soldat jordanien ont été tués dans cette région au cours de ces deux dernières semaines."

So the US funds and trains paramilitaries in Dominican Republic, works with the sweatshop owners to bring greater instability back to Haiti, then pro-occupation death squads kill some of the foreign occupation forces, including Canadian Mark Bourque?

Let's be clear. The present evidence, according to Agence Haïtienne de Presse, is that the killing of Mark Bourque (along with countless and in the Canadian press unnamed Haitians--please see here for more on the these murders) was done at the hands of a death squad funded by a sweatshop owner who was the spokesperson for the group that Canadian soldiers put in power illegally, who subcontracts for a Canadian corporation, and in whose interests Canada has been acting.

Chickens coming home to roost indeed:

"As of March 2nd, 2004 Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) states, “some Canadian companies are looking to shift garment production to Haiti.” DFAIT provides research and Haitian contacts through a variety of sub-agencies to Canadian companies that want to exploit low Haitian wages.

Montreal based Gildan Activewear is already subcontracting work to Haitian owned sweatshops, and they have opened a new factory in Port au Prince which employs 400 to 500 people. Gildan, one of the largest T shirt makers in the world, claimed recently to CBC radio to pay its workers a premium on the minimum Haitian wage. However unionized workers at Gildan’s Montreal factory earn more than 10 times the Haitian wage, and unorganized Haitian workers employed by Gildan recently told the CBC that their wages are not enough to live on. With recent increases in the cost of fuel in Haiti – the IMF demanded it be deregulated and the price has soared – Haitian workers have once again been demanding their minimum wage of 36 Gourdes per day be increased to keep up with inflation.

But what’s bad for Haitian workers - low wages and appalling conditions - are good business for the T shirt trade. At the time of writing, a blank Gildan T sells on Ebay for about $1.25. It’s a volume business, our appetite for T shirts. Gildan’s sales have nearly doubled, from $344 million in 1999 to $630 million in 2003. In the same period Gildan stock soared on the Toronto Stock Exchange from $5 to $44 per share. According to UNITE, Gildan has received over $3 million dollars of federal subsidies while it contemplated moving production offshore.

In 2002 Gildan donated $2000.00 to Paul Martin, campaigning then for the leadership of the Federal Liberal Party.

In February 2003, Gildan won an award for “social responsibility” given by the Association of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, (CME) and the government’s Canadian International Development Agency, (CIDA) which subsidizes Canadian companies to invest overseas. CIDA has been heavily criticized for lending to Liberal Party allies to subsidize projects of dubious social development value."

Elections or no, everything has gone according to plan for the real crime lords:

"Following the landslide victory of Aristide and his Famni Lavalas party in the 2000 elections, Canada (along with the U.S. and the E.U. at the behest of France) declared the elections flawed on the basis of a technicality and cut off $500 millions dollars in aid to the government while redirecting funding to anti-Aristide NGOs.

At the same time, gangs of former soldiers and death squad members (who were found to be
financed and organized by the CIA during the 1991-1994 military regime) were launching frequent attacks and even coup attempts from their base in the Dominican Republic.

Then, in January 2003,
Canada hosted the "Ottawa Initiative", a gathering of all the "major players" in Haiti, which did not include representatives from the democratically elected government, and reached a consensus that "Aristide must go".

As political tensions between the foreign-funded opposition and Lavalas supporters flared in early 2004, former police chief
Guy Philippe led an invasion by the paramilitary forces (likely armed by the US) from the Dominican Republic, misleadingly called a "rebellion" or even a "popular uprising" in the Canadian media. The paramilitaries quickly overran key cities and surrounded Port-au-Prince before the Marines and JTF2 completed the coup d'état/kidnapping."


"On July 14th, “North America’s largest t-shirt maker” Gildan Activewear announced that they will be closing their El Progresso assembly plant in Honduras, when the lease expires on September 30th. 1800 workers will be laid off, in addition to the approximately 100 workers who were fired for attempting to unionize in 2002-03 (1). Several organizations are shocked by Gildan’s decision to shutdown and relocate - like a “godsend” - to Haiti and Nicaragua, especially since reports are about to be released by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) and the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) that detail the findings of their extensive audits into factory conditions, wage and worker- related issues.

The WRC’s Scott Nova said “the evidence is overwhelming” regarding “serious violations”, part of a broader “systematic problem” in the realm of women’s and workers rights. Nova described how Gildan even conducted their own internal investigation concerning the violation of women’s rights reaching the “exact same” conclusion as the WRC. The WRC’s case, similar to the forthcoming FLA report, is “cut and dried”. Being an unaccountable corporation has its advantages, however, as Gildan has consistently denied any wrongdoing and appear to be operating with ‘corporate impunity’.

Although Gildan spokesperson Stephane Lemay has attempted to preemptively discredit the WRC audit, pointing out that Gildan refused the WRC access to the El Progresso plant, Nova counters that physical access to the plant “was not important” anyway, given that they conducted extensive interviews with “just under one hundred” expelled workers, as well as with Honduras government officials, off premises. In other words, the WRC didn’t need access to the plant to prove that Gildan was committing these crimes. The allegations that 1. Gildan illegally fired substantial numbers of workers for exercising their right to organize over a period of roughly two years, which “succeeded in preventing workers from forming a union” and 2. That Gildan violated Honduran law requiring workers to be paid for overtime, yielded conclusions that determined “substantial workers rights violations.”

According to Nova, there is “no debate over the facts”, and very similar conclusions were reached by the FLA, who, should Gildan refuse to honor the findings of their report or refuse to reverse the decision to cut and run from the El Progresso plant, will likely revoke Gildan’s membership. Lemay has stated that Gildan will adhere to the “corrective actions” recommended by the FLA, whom they are “bound contractually” to. The Maquila Solidarity Network’s Bob Jeffcot, and the WRC’s Nova, think it will be hard to enforce these corrective actions if Gildan cut and runs from its El Progresso plant. Says Jeffcot, “to close it down now is incredibly suspicious”, especially in light of the fact that approximately 100 workers are owed back pay “who deserve something irrespective of the decision to move.”

It is doubtful that Gildan will care whether or not they remain members of the FLA; they probably only joined to appease some shareholders, notably the Quebec Solidarity Fund. One week after Gildan joined the FLA, the Solidarity Fund announced that they will be pulling out their 11.1% share of Gildan, based on their own findings concerning the “cut and dried” facts of workers and women’s rights violations at El Progresso. (2) No longer having to concern themselves with ‘ethical considerations’ Gildan is proceeding into Haiti and the Dominican Republic (whose textile sector employs thousands of Haitian refugees, see below), where conduct is neither seriously monitored nor enforced, especially now that the legitimately elected government is gone.

Haitian labor unions have reported (3) that the 70 gourde minimum wage (paltry, but fought for and attained by the Lavalas government in 2003) is being rolled back (to its pre-2003 36 gourde level) now that a puppet/military regime is in place and are looking the other way while sweatshop owners exploit workers and expand operations in this more “favorable” environment. People like Andy Apaid, who is one of Gildan’s “local” subcontractors (4), according to former workers, never honored the minimum wage and would fire workers who dissented. In addition, feudal lords like Apaid would force workers to attend anti-Aristide “opposition” rallies under threat of termination or reprimand."

See also Lenin's post, Populism and Haiti.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The viciousness of irony.

From Chabert:

"As Haiti, governed by the hugely popular democratic Lavalas parliament and President Aristide, celebratrated the bicentenary of its independence as a nation in January 2004, an independence won by the revolt led by the Jacobins Toussaint L'Ouverture and Léger Félicité Sonthonax, the US, France and Canada's terrorist paramilitary gathered in the Dominican Republic preparing yet another invasion to re-enslave the Haitians.

The Corporate Media again pronounced Haiti an incurable "basket case.""

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Haitian Independence. January 1st, 1804