October is Black History month and it should be a time to celebrate the achievements of black heroes during the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade. And yet in Haiti, the small country that did more than any other to defeat slavery, a notable human rights campaigner, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, has vanished since August 12. Supporters, and even the UN mission on the island, are concerned that Pierre-Antoine has been kidnapped because of his outspoken criticisms of the occupying forces on the island and their association with the Haitian military.
This Friday campaigners from Global Women’s Strike will gather for the third week running at the foot of the Edith Cavell statue near Trafalgar Square as part of an international series of vigils. They are demanding the return of Pierre-Antoine, who was a leader of the pro-Aristide September 30 Foundation and critic of both U.N. and U.S. involvement in Haiti. He was last seen leaving his Port-au-Prince home shortly before midnight, according to Ronald Saint-Jean, leader of a coalition called the Group Initiative to Save Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine.
Pierre-Antoine is a high-profile member of the ousted President Jean-Betrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas Party. He is co-founder of the Fondasyon Trant Septanm, which works with victims of the 1991 and 2004 coups d’etat in Haiti. A trained psychologist, he created organisations to support street children in the country’s capital, Port au Prince, a centre for teenage mothers and Map Vivre, “(“I live”) a programme to help victims of the 1991 coup against Aristide. He had to flee Haiti in 2004 fearing persecution by the former military, supported by the US army.
The case of Lovinsky also highlights the continuing crisis faced by the government of René Preval. It is part and parcel of a destabilisation campaign aimed at overthrowing his democratically elected government. The February 2006 election was an extraordinary victory for the Haitian people in the face of an oppressive occupying UN force which provides a cover for the armed thugs of Guy Philippe who overthrew Aristide. Preval is supported by Aristide, even though he was still the democratically elected president when kidnapped by US forces in the 1991 coup.
Haiti occupies a unique place in the hearts and minds of those seeking black and human liberation. It is the world's oldest black republic and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States. At the time of the French Revolution of 1789, there were 790,000 slaves - one third of the entire African slave trade – working on the plantations of Hispaniola, the island of which Haiti forms a part. A decade before Abolition, a freed slave, Toussaint-Louverture, inspired by the French revolution, led a massive army of blacks to victory over the whites and free coloureds, securing native control over the colony in 1797. He defeated a massive British force, freed the slaves and tried to re-build Haiti's economy, but was eventually kidnapped and imprisoned by French forces.
Ever since that time, Haiti’s inhabitants have been singled out for punishment, by despotic leaders supported from the outside by former colonial masters. As Stephen Lendman writes, “Nothing is ever simple in Haiti, a country that for over 500 years has had very few periods of stability free from the oppressive heel of a foreign occupier or oppressive dictatorship.” Lendman has exposed how the Haiti Democracy Project (HDP) is “umbilically linked to the US State Department, backed by the corporate media tried to stop Preval from winning the election. It is now engaged in a demonisation and destabilisation campaign to undermine his administration”.
Haiti is presently the least developed country in the Western Hemisphere. Over half its people are unemployed, with many bordering on starvation. Aids is rife, especially amongst pregnant women. Seventy per cent rely on the land for their living. Eighty years ago forests covered nearly 60% of Haiti, now reduced to 2%. During Hurricane Dean last summer, Haiti was excluded from relief flights to the Caribbean because of “civil unrest”.
A World to Win joins with the millions of Haitians in their demand that Lovinsky should be brought home. We also call for the withdrawal of the UN forces from the island. Former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune must be released, should he still be in jail. Haiti must not rely on the IMF and the World Bank’s privatisation and “structural adjustment” programmes to rebuild its economy.
Secretary, A World to Win