Interview on CBC Radio's The Current

Roger Annis of the Canada Haiti Action Network spoke to CBC Radio One's The Current on April 21, 2011.  You can listen to the interview here, beginning at the eight minute mark of the thirty minute segment: Below is a letter sent to the program following the interview.

Vancouver BC
April 21, 2011

Hello CBC The Current,

I appreciated the opportunity to discuss on air today the situation in Haiti.

I neglected to mention several of the key facts of the electoral process that has just concluded in Haiti, notably:

* Michel Martelly received some 700,000 votes in the second round, out of a total of app. 4.3 million registered voters. That is 16 percent. This is hardly an endorsement by the “overwhelming majority” of Haitians, as many news reports, including the CBC’s Connie Watson, have misleadingly put it.
* The voter participation rate in the November 28, 2010 and March 20, 2011 electoral exercises was less than 25%. This contrasts with very high participation rates in all preceding presidential contests, in 1990, 1996 and 2000. Even the deeply flawed 2006 election that was marked by the de facto banning of Fanmi Lavalas enjoyed a high participation rate, estimated at 59%.
* Foreign financing played a key role in the campaign. The election process was financed by at least $30 million from the U.S., Canada and Europe. The winning candidate, Michel Martelly, says he received at least $7 million in financial support from “friends” in the United States. In Canada and undoubtedly most countries of the world, financing of a national election from abroad is quite simply not permitted.

Your host, Ms. Tremonti, appeared to take exception to my claim that Haiti’s business elite is associated with the violations of human and social rights that marked they years of the Duvalier tyranny in Haiti. It is true that some business interests took a stand against the Duvaliers’ rule and against the four-year military rule that followed the downfall of the tyranny (1986-90). But if one looks over the past 25 years, and this was the sense that I intended to convey, Haiti’s business elite has come to a near universal opposition to the movement towards social justice signalled by the people in every fair national election. This is why peaceful social change is proving so difficult to achieve. The elite and its foreign allies have opposed rises in the minimum wage, meaningful taxation of their enterprises, expansion of social services, policies to foster the growth of a national economy and so many other progressive measures.

Business interests were in the forefront of the Group of 184 organization that agitated for the 2004 overthrow of the government elected in 2000. And in the latest stage of the struggle to increase Haiti’s minimum wage, in 2008, they vigorously opposed an increase from $2 (!) per day to $5 per day. Amidst considerable controversy, the government of Rene Preval effectively vetoed a vote of Haiti’s national assembly for the $5 and imposed $3.

In the interview, I mentioned the growing frustration of the Haitian people with the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission. Here is a December 12, 2010 letter of protest against the functioning of the Commission signed by all 12 of its Haitian members (excepting co-chair Jean Max Bellerive): Here is a statement and follow-up statement of 40 Haitian social organizations in March, 2011 calling for the dissolution of the Commission and for its workings to be taken over by the national government:

I neglected in the interview to mention Michel Martelly’s desire to re-establish the Haitian armed forces. It was a notorious, human rights violating agency that was disbanded in 1995. The Washington Post of April 20 reports further details on this:

Fifty-three Democratic members of Congress have sent a letter to Hillary Clinton on April 19 expressing concern over the ongoing, appalling conditions in the earthquake survivor camps: Perhaps you could talk to one of these Congress members in a future program. Regretfully, we have no members of the Canadian Parliament who are following Canada’s and the world’s earthquake relief performance with any comparable vigilance to that of their U.S. counterparts.

Roger Annis