Open Letter to Barack Obama
(Candidate for President of the United States)
From Unions, Political and Grassroots Organizations in Haiti
Dear Mr. Obama,
We -- citizens of Haiti, political militants and unionists of the grassroots movement for democracy in our country -- solemnly address ourselves to you on the eve of the election that will most likely make you the next president of the United States.
The millions of workers and youth, and great majority of Blacks, in voting for you will express their demand for a change from the policies pursued over the past many years that have plunged millions of workers into misery and increased social differences -- including those of race -- making the United States appear to be an enemy of all peoples of the world.
In Haiti today, these policies are having the following results: 60% unemployment rate of the active population; 80% of the population lives below the poverty level; life expectancy has fallen below 50 years; and, the infant mortality rate is 80 per 1000, while on the neighboring island of Cuba it is only 7 per 1000.
Our people, in addition to facing low salaries, privatizations, quasi-absence of public services, jobs cuts, etc., must also see the meager resources of their country pillaged by the IMF and World Bank. These organizations demand the payment of the external debt, a debt incurred by Duvalier and other dictators: the Haitian state will pay US$58.2 million in 2008 and $50 million in 2009 -- that is, $1 million a week that disappears in smoke while people are dying of hunger.
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Our country is living through an extraordinary catastrophe. According to official reports, Haiti is the poorest country of the continent. In fact, however, it is not true that our country is poor; it has been impoverished by the policies followed for the past many decades by the various governments acting against the interests of the nation.
Our country has been even further humiliated by another military invasion over the past four years. Last April these soldiers, which the UN says are sent in peace, opened fire on people protesting the brutal increase in the prices of products for basic needs, leaving six dead and 190 wounded.
On top of all this, we must add the consequences of four hurricanes that have plunged the country into a state of misery and unimaginable destitution -- while the MINUSTAH troops occupying our country and controlling the wheels of the administration and police say that they are not there for humanitarian purposes.
Any Haitian citizen can answer that the result of four years of MINUSTAH occupation is a considerable retreat in terms of national sovereignty, most notably from the point of view of reconstruction of the State institutions that would allow Haitians to live a secure life with the possibility of a future.
Not long ago Président Préval accused the U.S. occupation of 1915-1935 and colonialism itself of being responsible for the situation in Haiti.
Dear Mr. Obama,
We are Haitians. Our country is part of the Great Antilles of the Caribbean. It was the first country to liberate itself from slavery and to have proclaimed itself, on January 1, 1804, to be the first Black Republic.
You understand that we cannot be indifferent to the fact that a Black man might become president of the United States. We have had a large Haitian community in the United States since 1960, and we estimate that there are now more than 1 million Haitian immigrants in the United States, constituting a social, economic and electoral force. Many of them, like thousands of young people and workers, in voting for you will be expressing their desire for the policy change vis-à-vis our country that you announced in your electoral campaign. Still to this day the cases of violence perpetrated by the MINUSTAH troops are known, public and indexed, and on October 14 the UN Security Council renewed the MINUSTAH's mandate.
Dear Mr. Obama,
In the coming weeks, you will most likely take over the reins of the State. You have just declared that the policies of the U.S. government must change towards Haiti. The U.S. government sits as a permanent member of the Security Council, with the right of veto. You therefore have the enormous responsibility of having the power to modify the policies of the previous administrations.
The Haitian people, strong in their traditions and in their struggle for sovereignty, are steadfast supporters of the establishment of relationships based on equality and of cooperation between nations. Relationships based on submission can only lead to more conflicts and wars.
We -- the undersigned citizens and militants, all of us supporters of democracy, the sovereignty of nations, and the establishment of a world without oppression or exploitation where peoples and nations can cooperate in peace and equality -- are paying close attention to the changes under way in the United States.
With this letter we inform you that on December 12 and 13 we are organizing in our country, in Port-au-Prince, a conference of militants and citizens of our country to discuss together the ways and means for us to recover the sovereignty of our country -- which is incompatible, in our eyes, with the maintenance of MINUSTAH troops.
We are launching a veritable emergency appeal to re-establish cooperation between peoples.
We thank you, Mr. Obama, for the attention you will give to this issue.
October 31, 2008
The following Haitian organizations have endorsed this Open Letter to Barack Obama (names and acronyms listed in French original):
CATH : Centrale autonome des travailleurs haïtiens, Louis Fignolé St Cyr, Secrétaire Général
POS : Parti ouvrier socialiste haïtien, Marc Antoine Poinson, Secrétaire à l'organisation des départements
FESTREDH : Fédération syndicale de l'électricité d'Haïti, Dukens Raphaél, Porte parole
KORTA : Fednel Monchery, Coordinateur Général
GIEL : Groupe d'Initiative des enseignants de lycées, Léonel Pierre, Secrétaire Général
ADFEMTRAH : Section des femmes de la CATH, Julie Génélus, Secrétaire Générale
GRAHLIB : Grand rassemblement pour une Haïti libre et démocratique, Ludy Lapointe Coordonateur Général
FOS : Fédération des ouvriers syndiqués, Raymond Dalvius, Responsable des relations publiques
GRAMA : Groupe de réflexion en action pour une meilleure alternative, Coordinateur général, Joseph Varnel
KONOSPOL : Kolektif oganizasyon sosyopolitik , Lukem Royel
CONAFTAV : Coalition nationale des femmes travailleuses, D. Benoit
KJKFF : Konbit Jen K. fou fey, Jonh Laurenvil
Zafé Fanm : Darline Sensuel
KOSEFANM : Elisabeth Augustin
KOPDA : Konbit peyizan pou developman, Ansajo Réginal Legerme
FANM GRAMA : Caroline Gaspard
AJAM/A : Association des jeunes avancés de Marmelade, Fénélus Sinel, Trésorier général
CONAREM : Coordination nationale citoyenne pour la revendication de masse, Jean Lesly Préval, Secrétaire à l'organisation
ANAMMAPME : Jean Oscalhome Florvil
MPPG : Jean Phalière Rezil