Labor, Neoliberalism, and the 2004 Coup in Haiti, Jeb Sprague, 2008

By Jeb Sprague, Haiti Analysis, Feb. 12, 2008

This paper was originally prepared for a presentation at the 32nd Annual Conference of the South-West Labor Studies Association, Mach 10-11, 2006 at UCLA. Earlier rough draft versions were published in Labor Notes Magazine in 2006 and on the Narco News website in 2007. Here is the final version of the paper (which appears only on HaitiAnalysis).




The February 2004 overthrow of Haitian democracy was often portrayed in the mainstream media as the result of a popular uprising, driven by a civil society that harnessed widespread discontent with the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Such characterizations not only mischaracterize the local situation, but also turn a blind eye to the role that foreign states as well as transnational donor institutions and NGOs played in fomenting conflict and amplifying the political weight and international profile of the groups calling for an ouster of Haiti’s constitutional government. Just one segment of this multi-faceted donor influenced discourse involved early on the issue of labor and the Aristide government’s policies toward trade unionists and workers.


This paper will argue, through the example of labor in Haiti, that elite-oriented institutions (with deep pockets) from DC to Brussels, helped to facilitate the undermining of Haiti’s popular Lavalas movement and elected government. This occurs during an era of neoliberalism (neoliberalism  being the project of leading dominant groups to bring everything under the logic of the market: to bring their proxies into power, to promote the privatization of state assets, the rolling-back of labor, and the undermining of regulations on capital).


This paper will draw for its theoretical approach on the global capitalism school of thought (associated with scholars such as sociologists William I. Robinson and Leslie Sklair) and the marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci’s idea of an extended state which encompasses ‘civil society plus political society’.[1] In a capitalist society, the legitimacy of the “state proper” clearly rests upon the backs of civil society. In this vein, Robinson argues that over recent decades polyarchic donor backed programs–worth hundreds of millions of dollars–have worked to build up like-minded civil societies and political parties across the developing world in order to secure apparatuses of the state for transnationally oriented elites. These are elites who seek to deeply integrate their economy with the global capitalist economy. Polyarchy refers to the limiting of democratic elections to selecting between different groups of elites and their parties.  U.S. foreign policy in the 1970s and -80s and an increasingly wide array of agencies (from the EU, UN, etc.) have come to promote polyarchic policies.


By the late 1980s the Cold War came to an end and a new era of neoliberal globalization began.  Rising democratic movements posed a new challenge for elite policymakers. One DC "democracy promotion" expert that I spoke with has explained how Haiti was one of the first crises that they faced, with the rise of a grassroots democratic movement upon the fall of the Duvalierist regime in 1986. Rather than the Cold War strategy of propping up authoritarian regimes, more enlightened U.S. and other powerful policymakers sought to influence a broader array of civil society, to create more palatable "democratic" allies in the developing world (Robinson, 1996).  

Quasi-government agencies from core countries "provide funding, guidance, and political sponsorship to a host of organizations’ in the intervened countries. They target ‘local political parties and coalitions, trade unions, business councils, media outlets, professional and civic associations, students and woman’s groups, humans rights groups and so forth."[2]


Robinson observes that "these local groups brought into the democracy promotion program are held up in the public and international spotlight as independent and as non-partisan…" On the one hand there is often a transnational convergence of interests’ observes Robinson. They have an affinity of interests. At the same time, "it is vital that groups receiving US [or core donor] support act autonomously or this defeats the whole purpose." Through gaining these agents of influence, a civil society that is non-threatening and palatable to donors is amplified.


In regards to Haiti, throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s democracy promotion program monies through US, Canadian and European aid agencies were channeled almost exclusively to anti-popular civil society, such as the anti-Lavalas organizations that will be discussed below. In a few rare instances donors supported left critics of the government.


In some cases these donor support networks took the form of actively building the political opposition, such as many of those within the opposition to Haiti’s popular government; in others it was simply supporting and funding sectors and leaders who were sharp critics of the Haitian government.[3] This support was vital during the lead up to the 2004 coup, when the fractious opposition coalesced into a political bloc with the support of transnational elites and powerful foreign states.

As this paper will show, a number of local and transnationally oriented labor leaders took on an anti-popular strategy before and after the 2004 coup; this is linked I argue to not just the politically fractious situation in the country but also the overwhelming resources that elites and powerful institutions can bring to bear in order to undermine resource starved popular movements and governments. Within the country many groups exist in desperate situations, so the allure of foreign backing and recognition is strong. While the elected Haitian government (also in a desperate situation) made many compromises (even angering some of its previous supporters), it also promoted policies of justice (legally holding accountable paramilitaries and their financial backers for the first time in the country's history) and invested greatly in social investment projects that clashed with the interests of some powerful groups. It thus became a ripe target for Washington and others seeking regime change in the post 9/11 era. In this paper I will look at how this process played out, and specifically with regards to labor.




On February 16, 2004, a group of foreign trade union officials arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, amongst them Inter-American Regional Labor Organization (ORIT) General Secretary Victor Baez, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) Assistant General Secretary Mamounata Cissé, Fernand Daoust of the Fonds de solidarité’s (FTQ) and other union leaders from France, Guyana and the Global Union Federation. The purpose of the delegation was to assist eleven recently arrested trade unionists of the Coordination syndicale haïtienne (CSH), accused by Haitian authorities of carrying arms and working to bring down the government. The CSH was notable for its anti-Lavalas politics (the political movement of Aristide) and for its connection with Haiti’s elite opposition organizations.


The labor delegation drew international media coverage. Katia Gil a member of the delegation and the general coordinator of programs at ORIT explained, ‘We went to visit them in jail. We went with many newspapers and press, local and international agencies.’[4] Not long after it had arrived the labor delegation was able to secure the release of the eleven trade unionists who had been briefly held by authorities.


These sort of public displays of international labor solidarity gained speed in the last few months of Aristide’s tenure, as conflict between pro-government and anti-government groups heightened.


But just thirteen days after the delegations arrival Haiti’s popularly elected Fanmi Lavalas (FL) government was overthrown. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, after being flown aboard a plane to the Central African Republic, declared U.S. marines had kidnapped him. Most significant, the resulting mass post-coup persecution of Haitian trade unionists and especially public sector workers was almost entirely ignored by the same labor groups that took part in the boisterous campaign against the Aristide government. Thousands would die in some of Haiti’s poorest neighborhoods during the post-coup campaign of repression, launched by an unelected regime supported by the U.S.


Also ‘Following the coup, more than 12,000 public sector employees who had been hired under the Aristide government were immediately fired without compensation’, wrote Isabel Macdonald, a Canadian journalist and academic.[5] The Associated Press reported on May 12, 2004 that Telecommunications d’haiti (Téléco), the 90% government owned public telephone company, had announced plans to lay off 2,000 workers amounting to half its workforce. In response, ORIT, the ILO, the ICFTU, and CSH were completely silent.


In May 2004 an investigative report from a labor-religious delegation to Haiti initiated by the San Francisco Labor Council spoke of a witch-hunt against supporters of the former government and reports from the ‘FTPH (Fédération des Transporteurs Publics Haïtiens), of criminal attacks on over 100 of the buses that they had purchased for use in the bus cooperative operated by the union.’[6] Sasha Kramer, a PhD student from the United States, took photos of the damaged public buses. With death threats and arbitrary placements on police ‘wanted’ lists, numerous public sector employees and trade unionists, such as teachers, port workers, and bus drivers, were targeted. The 26-month rule of the foreign backed interim government that followed the 2004 coup resulted in an untold number of dead victims and political prisoners. Numerous human rights investigations (Harvard Law, Miami University, Lancet Medical Journal, National Lawyers Guild, and the Quixote Center) documented and decried the mass state sponsored campaigns of violence and persecution but ironically the donors and mainstream media that were so often critical of Aristide now exhibited restraint and silence.


In contrast to the Aristide period, in which the government instituted numerous popular programs but suffered from a deficiency in security and stability (with a major lack of government resources due to the U.S. Bush regime initiated aid embargo), the post-coup regime flushed with foreign cash launched a coordinated campaign of mass layoffs, jailing and killings in which state security forces were strongly engaged daily.


While foreign labor institutions such as the ICFTU were vocal in their criticism of the elected Aristide (some even before he was inaugurated in February 2001), hardly a single critical statement was released from international labor over the two years of a violent unelected interim regime (2004-2006).




Haiti’s first democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown for the first time in September 1991. A military junta took power as human rights groups documented a huge wave of killings and repression directed against Haiti’s poor majority. In order to gain the support of the international community for the restoration of his government, Aristide’s government-in-exile accepted austerity stipulations from the United States and international financial institutions (IFIs). Upon his return to office in 1994 tariffs on imports were forced to drop causing further degradation to Haiti’s rice productivity. But Aristide steadfastly refused to comply with the privatization program demanded of him by donor states and institutions. Although he made compromises in appointments to government office of technocrats and others in the privatization camp.


After the election of René Garcia Préval in early 1996, IFIs along with the more middle class and professional oriented faction of Lavalas, the Organisation du Peuple en Lutte (OPL), were successful in pressuring the new administration–under Prime Minister Rosny Smarth–to begin a process toward privatization.


In reaction to this, in November 1996, within the now dividing Lavalas numerous popular organizations along with Aristide and ti legiz formed the Fanmi Lavalas (FL) grouping as a reinvigorated popular and poor based movement that put national sovereignty and national production at the top of its agenda. Made clear at its founding in Jacmel, FL was to oppose the privatization of public enterprises which they observed provided a valuable source of jobs and national production. USAID through a National Democratic Institute (NDI) run program immediately began sponsoring political and civil society groups that ran counter to the new FL.


But FL faired well in the April 1997 legislative elections (which the OPL blocked from being observed) and then again in the April 2000 legislative elections (although that time 8 FL senate seats were contested due to vote counting methods). But in November 2000 Aristide was again democratically elected to a second term, inaugurated in February 2001. Economist Jeffrey Sachs explains that from the start Aristide’s second administration was financially destabilized from Washington DC; it began with the U.S. representative at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).[7] The Haitian opposition, advised by handlers from the International Republican Institute (IRI), refused to take part in negotiations with the new administration. Soon former military men were launching violent raids across the country targeting FL supporters and officials. Attacks were coming from all directions: “death by one thousand cuts” as one Haitian social-justice activist described to me.


The embargo on aid to Haiti’s government (backed by Canada, France, the United States, and the IFIs) also led to a slow strangulation of the Haitian state, starting first with its investment priorities, cutting off urgent medical loan, and then a backlog and slowing in payments to government workers; with an extremely large chunk of its national budget dependent on foreign aid.


On the eve of Aristide’s second administration in early 2001 an IMF report complained that ‘the slow pace of structural reforms in other crucial areas, in particular the privatization of public enterprises’ has deprived ‘the population of some of the benefits of the liberal trade policy.[8] Since FL’s inception its popular organizations had opposed the privatization program advocated by the IFIs and FL’s main opponent the OPL.


IFIs were intent on a total privatization without the numerous FL-proposed constraints, such as a partial ownership by victims of the 1991 coup. IFIs and transnational corporations active in Haiti also opposed numerous FL proposed subsidies on gasoline and rice for the poor. With the Argentine crisis looming at that time, donors clearly correlated the disbursement of aid and loans with the acceptability and cooperation of a government on undertaking the ‘proper’ liberal policices. The IFIs and donors also surely remembered FL’s role in halting the privatization plans in 1997 and Aristide’s own refusal of ‘untrammeled privatization’.


By late 2002 with a fall in the value of the Haitian currency and a rise in international fuel costs, Haiti complied with US embassy and IFI pressure to end its fuel subsidies program. Neoliberal policies, promoting fiscal rectitude (cutting state expenditures) and privatization, clashed with the sovereign and popular agenda promoted by FL. At the same time FL constantly accepted compromises and promoted many market reforms, such as the opening of a free trade zone in the north of country. Yet, government spending on fuel subsidies and literacy programs were seen as essentially wasted money by donors. Aristide’s mobilization of the poor and the concerted effort to hold accountable paramilitary gunmen and their elite financiers in a court of law, were seen by powerful elites as unacceptable. To rectify the situation powerful local elites treated the elected government as an enemy, and found allies among the powerful foreign embassies in Port-au-Prince. The opposition political class drawn from the middle class and elite circles benefited.




The previously mentioned CSH labor confederation began in the late 1990s to organize labor towards an anti-Lavalas platform, tied closely with foreign donors and the private sector. The CSH included the formerly Duvalier-sanctioned and U.S. government-funded Fédération des ouvriers syndiqués (FOS), as well as the anti-Lavalas and heavily U.S.-financed Centrale autonome des travailleurs haïtiens (CATH). By 2002, the CSH, the ‘ICFTU/ORIT’s fraternal organization in Haiti’ according to Victor Baez, formed the labor contingent within the Group of 184.[9]


The Group of 184, a coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), business elites, and foreign financed human rights groups, was the principal civil society organization that agitated for the downfall of the elected Aristide government. Similar to the CSH coalition for labor, for the media foreign donors backed the creation of the Association National des Medias Haitiens (ANMH) which brought owners of the largest Haitian commercial media stations in Port-au-Prince together against the government.


Even though the Group of 184 was headed by one of Haiti’s most notorious sweatshop owners, Andre Apaid, Jr., the Secrétaire general of CSH, Fritz Charles, observed that, ‘We adhere to the Group of 184 because it is a broad organization of the civil society which preaches a social pact where we want to play our part, where we want to also support the claims present in our trade-union agenda, ratified by our general assembly.[10]


By 2000, the CSH and opposition political parties had grown to dominate much of the foreign discourse in regards to civil society in Haiti. From Brussels, the ICFTU played the leading role in circulating reports within the European labor movement

An ICFTU statement on November 23, 2000, over two months prior to Aristide’s inauguration, titled ‘Return To Dictatorship?’ relied on sources from the OPL and labeled FL as ‘much feared.[11] Another deeply partisan ICFTU Bulletin in May of 2001, without actually discussing labor, cited OPL leaders Sauveur Pierre Etienne, Gérard Pierre, and Paul Dennis, as well as a leader of the Convergence Démocratique, Evans Paul. The ICFTU strangely relied on opposition political leaders from Haiti’s elite as opposed to trade union representatives.[12]


Fritz Charles explained that the CSH received assistance, support, and computers from ORIT and the International Labor Organization (ILO), which, though viewed as a labor organization is in fact a tri-partite body of the UN that groups together trade union bodies, employer organizations and governments.[13] Katia Gil of ORIT recalled, ‘Since 2000, we have had support from international solidarity funds from the ICFTU to help in a trade union education program, organizing workers in Haiti…we helped to build the CSH, and we provided part of the support for the CSH infrastructure, in order to create a place where the Haitian workers [the CSH] could plan and manage their own process.[14]


The ILO financed six seminars for the CSH conducted by André Lafontant Joseph, Secrétaire general of the private school teachers union, the Confédération nationale des educateurs d’Haiti (CNEH).[15] Joseph was also the author of a major research report funded by the ILO on the Haitian labor movement.[16] According to the report, ORIT amongst others ‘encourage[d] more than about fifteen organizations to constitute the trade-union Coordination Syndicale Haïtienne (CSH).[17]


While the ICFTU and ORIT would not reveal their financing amount for the CSH, according to Ana Jiménez of the ILO’s San Jose office, the ILO provided ‘technical cooperation…. a program that has the objective of fortifying the Haitian union movement, in particular the Coordination syndicale haïtienne (CSH). This program is assumed within the ordinary budget of the Office…which does not surpass US $70.000.[18] The ILO also ran two outside funded projects in Haiti--a project in Gonaïves worth US $413,00 and a Canadian government financed project worth US$ 382,374.[19]


The American Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) also worked closely with the ILO. Harry G Kamberis, senior advisor of the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, recalls, ‘Through our representatives at the ILO we supported what the ILO tried to do as well.[20] The CSH, like many other opposition groups affiliated with the Group of 184, had something the Haitian government did not have--foreign aid.


Kevin Skerrett, a researcher at the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) who visited Haiti as a Canadian labor delegate in early 2004, observed:

“There is not much evidence to suggest that the CSH actually operates as a trade union at all. I have not seen any reports that they have engaged in any collective bargaining, or even have democratic meetings of affiliated unions during which policy positions are democratically decided. A number of the trade unionists that I spoke with in Haiti and in the post-coup exile-diaspora have suggested that the CSH was only formed in the late 90s, and with significant involvement of US and foreign agencies. While it continued to operate as a sort of ‘advocacy’ group for Haitian workers, it is not clear that they became anything more than a small number of people that were part of the political opposition first to the Préval (1996-2001) and then Aristide (post-2001) governments.”



The CSH, promoted as a coalition of Haiti’s trade unionists, provided a key platform for Haitian and transnational elites and donors in broadening the anti-Lavalas coalition. The anti-popular labor contingent formed one important column of the elite coalition.




The most prominent criticism of the Aristide government’s labor policy came about in 2002 when ‘landowner’s thugs’ in the rural area of Guacimal killed two trade union supporters. The violence was not only exploited by anti-FL groups in order to portray the national government as anti-labor but the negative criticism it sparked vastly overshadowed the scant, if any, media coverage of the numerous government sponsored projects that benefited workers in Haiti.


While informing the public of some real ongoing human rights violations and labor disputes, reports often overemphasized the level of control and responsibility that the Aristide government would have had. For example the often-leveled accusation was that the Aristide government was involved in anti-labor activities because of the killing of two supporters of the labor organization Batay Ouvriye in the rural area of Guacimal in 2002 near the northeastern town of St. Raphael.[22] Two trucks filled with Batay Ouvriye organizers and supporters, along with a few journalists, arrived in Guacimal apparently to organize with local workers.


Observers such as Alex Dupuy, Michael Deibert and the UK-based donor-support organization, the Haiti Support Group, have all portrayed the two killings at Guacimal as representative of an anti-labor policy on the part of the Aristide government; not just a violent localized incident, but rather a crack down backed by the Aristide government.


The local FL mayor, Fernand Sévère, was accused of supporting anti-union activities. However one government authority claims that Batay Ouvriye arrived at the locality with ‘military weapons’; he adds that two local CASEC and ASEC officials were wounded by gunfire.[23] Deibert later wrote that the attack was carried out by ‘lavalas partisans,’ while Haïti Progrès who had a reporter on the ground (that was injured) reported that an attack was carried out by a local ‘landowner’s thugs.[24] It is clear that the local police responded by immediately arresting over a dozen of those involved including the two wounded journalists.


But how ever the events transpired in Guacimal it can hardly be viewed as part of a wider national government policy of labor-killings and violent anti-labor persecution as there is no set of similar occurrences to point to or any similar event for that matter even on a lesser scale. According to Reuters journalist Guy Delva, who lambasted the actions of the local police in Guacimal, the Aristide government was widely supportive of labor and concerned more so than any other government prior-or-since with aiding workers.[25] To suggest that the Aristide government sanctioned a campaign of anti-labor violence says more about the political motivations of those making the accusations than actual real events evidence supports.


Furthermore, Justin Podur, drawing on Hallward’s Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment explains how Batay Ouvriye and other transnational donor oriented 'progressives' fell into the strategy of elites. Podur explains:


“First, DTF [Damming the Flood] explores the question, raised by the peasant NGO PAPDA, the Trotskyist NGO Batay Ouvriye and others, of Aristide and Lavalas’s capitulation to neoliberalism. Aristide allowed the opening of free trade zones. He acquiesced in some privatizations (and his Lavalas successor, Rene Preval, also did so). Batay Ouvriye presents this as a betrayal. To Hallward, however, this is a misreading of how much power Lavalas and Aristide had. Political action has to be developed and understood in a context of the overall balance of forces. Ignoring that balance can have perverse effects, as DTF argues about Batay Ouvriye’s position on the coup: ‘It is one thing to criticize and protest against a government elected by the great majority of the people, it is another to denounce it as an evil to be destroyed at all costs. Although it is easier to make certain criticisms when you have none of the responsibilities of power, leftwing labor groups are clearly entitled to pressure any government to adopt more progressive policies... But BO not only attacked Lavalas, they attacked it in ways that played straight into the hands of their own worst enemies, and they did so with a bitterness that can only be understood in terms of a distorted sense of betrayal and resentment.”

[26] (pg. 188)


While labor conditions in Haiti undoubtedly remained poor; the foreign embargo on aid to Haiti plunged its economy into further abyss. Nonetheless, the Aristide government made penny-pinching efforts toward backing programs that aimed to provide the most basic necessities: a national literacy campaign, healthcare programs, school construction and a subsidized rice program. The minimum wage was increased in the face of great opposition from 36 gourdes to 70 gourdes a day in early 2003; a provision of the labor code that sanctioned child domestic service was repealed; legislation prohibiting human trafficking was passed with an enforcement team on the job; numerous new schools and health facilities and programs were instituted; Haiti’s first medical University was built.


The former press secretary for the FL government, Mario Dupuy, explains that while the embargo on aid ‘starved our budget, it allowed us the freedom to take a sovereign independent course that was unprecedented.[27] But as the funding crunch presented a dimming prospect for the government to properly function, Aristide acceded to drop fuel subsidies in 2002 and in 2003 allowed the creation of a free trade zone (FTZ) in a northern town along the Dominican border – hoping to reengage the IFIs and unlock the desperately needed funds for health programs, road construction and other projects. 

Groups such as the Haiti Support Group lambasted the Aristide government for allowing the creation of the FTZ but even so the right of workers to organize in the FTZ was guaranteed and it brought in jobs to the vulnerable economy which paid higher than the local-Haitian elite owned factories. Paul Farmer commented at the time:


“People say Haiti would be better off without the IMF and the World Bank and the IDB, but there’s no topsoil left in a lot of the country, there are no jobs, people are dying of AIDS and coughing their lungs out with TB, and the poor don’t have enough to eat. These are problems in the here and now. Something has to be done. Haiti is flat broke, and I don’t see what else the government can do but turn to the IFIs. It’s the job of the true friends of Haiti to protect it from the hypocrisies of the IFIs.”



But as the Aristide government grasped for an end of the aid embargo, the ICFTU and others were broadly successful in portraying a repressive government at odds with human rights. The February 2004 ICFTU delegation that arrived just prior to Aristide’s ouster, as Katia Gil recalled, ‘visited many people, but only those involved with the opposition to the government of course'.[29] Meanwhile the CSH leaders attempted to rally Haitian trade unionists in a call for Aristide’s resignation.[30] Opposition oriented civil society groups also had excellent access to the opposition dominated media, which Isabel Macdonald has shown to have pre-planned a total blackout on the news coverage of pro-government demonstrations.[31]


By comparison organizers from the Confédération des travailleurs haitiens (CTH) and other unions from the pro-government transport, educational and port sectors were almost never quoted in the foreign press or donor reports; many were instead marching in the streets to back the government they had voted for.


By mid February 2004 large businesses and organizations associated with the opposition had already sponsored a ‘general strike’. As sectors within the formal economy, banks, gas stations, supermarkets, and specialty shops kept their doors closed, according to one observer, the bustling informal economy remained open and doing brisk business.[32] In an interview, Duclos Benissoit, a founder of the Federation of Public Transport Workers (FTPH) who fled into exile after Aristide’s overthrow, discussed the strike.

“The people who stick their necks out, vocal resisters were targeted first. I was one of those people. I was opposed to any kind of ‘strike’ called by the bosses. Unless called by labor, I told consumers to ignore the other ‘strikes.’ (Big business and national forces) didn’t like this.”



By 2004 the Haitian economy and the Aristide government were greatly weakened by an ex-military assault, increasingly militant opposition and international political pressure. Claiming to respond to the crisis, on February 29, 2004, United States marines along with Canadian and French troops moved on key facilities across Port-au-Prince, as US diplomats secured Aristide’s pressured removal.


Following Aristide's ouster, union leaders facing reprisals for their backing the elected government were forced into hiding as death squad members of the former military roamed the countryside and cities. But some foreign trade unionists in solidarity with Haiti and based outside of the country such as the Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean (OWTU) were able to respond. Just two days after the coup Errol McLeod, President of the OWTU, condemned the overthrow as it ‘was totally wrong for the US, France and Canada to determine that President Aristide was ‘unfit to govern.’[34] The regional bodies, of which CTH has representation within, the WCL and CLAT responded that even though Aristide had committed errors, ‘he has been elected democratically and that he has been driven away by an opposition supported by rebels who already have caused serious troubles in the past.[35]

Yet many of the most powerful donor groups active in Haiti (most of them from North America and the EU)  had one clear uniting factor: a one sided support for the anti-popular  and pro-putschist forces.




On March 1, 2004 the AFL-CIO released its sole statement on the overthrow of democracy in Haiti, stating that the ‘current crisis in Haiti represents a failure of U.S. foreign policy.’ However weeks later the AFL-CIO and its offshoot the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), also known as the Solidarity Center, began talks with the Batay Ouvriye (BO) worker’s organization, the same anti-Lavalas group at Guacimal that was primarily active in the garment industry and had agitated for the Aristide government to ‘leave the country.’[36]


As U.S. labor solidarity activist James Jordan has explained (who has spent time interviewing the BO leadership), Batay Ouvriye has been involved in many important labor campaigns in the country and had legitimate criticisms of the Lavalas government, but at the same time they exist in an extremely desperate situation. By joining the campaign to undermine Haiti’s elected government, BO could gain powerful foreign institutional support. 


By mid-2005, ACILS had won two grants for a program with the Batay Ouvriye. The first grant for US $350,000 was awarded to ACILS in May of 2005 through the United States Department of States’ Democracy Rights and Labor Department, while the second grant for US $99,965 came in September of 2005 from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which in turn receives its funding also from the State Department.[37] Teresa Casertano, regional director of the Americas for ACILS, managed the grants. She explained, ‘We provide a service that is an educational service, to train them, to share with them our knowledge and skills on trade union organizing…Organizing members, doing new member orientation, collective bargaining, contract enforcement, shop stewards.’[38]


As part of the grant requirements ACILS was to submit quarterly evaluation reports to its funding sources the NED and U.S. State Department. Casertano recalled, ‘We wrote a proposal that was submitted. A very standard format with objectives, activities and evaluation procedures…So there was a grant agreement based on that, the State Department dispersed funds for those activities described…The specific grant has a quarterly reporting requirement…We then write that up and we submit it as a quarterly report.’ In this particular program with the Batay Ouvriye, the U.S. State Department asked to extend the program, as Casertano observed, ‘They did ask us to extend it from a year long to 18 months with the same amount of funding and we agreed.[39]


Kamberis further explained the cooperation between the State Department and ACILS: ‘The State Department has annually a labor officer conference that we are invited to come and speak at and also when they have labor officer training programs they send the officers over to speak with us. We design our own programs and run them. But we do talk with the State Department. We exchange information and we help them with information on their annual labor and human rights reports.[40]


ACILS’ predecessor also run through the AFL-CIO, AFILD, was a well known participant in United States campaigns against adversary governments and labor movements during the cold war, promoting labor movements that were acquiescent to US backed dictatorships. However, Kamberis argued that there is a difference today between the activities of ACILS and its Cold War predecessors:

“Since the end of the cold war the global trade union movement has become less ideological. What you see in Haiti [the support for opposition labor organizations] is just a coincidence...We are supporting the efforts of workers to organize. For example with the World-Bank, we worked to build labor rights conditionalities and that’s what we have achieved in Haiti to help workers…I would say that working with the Batay ouvriye does advance U.S. Strategic interests, because it helps to advance freedom of association in Haiti and that is a U.S. government objective, to allow workers to freely associate.”



The AFL-CIO has a long history of active engagement with unions in Haiti, going back to the Duvalier era. In June of 1986, the State Department, at a White House briefing for the chief executive officers of major corporations, requested AIFLD’s involvement in Haiti because ‘of the presence of radical labor unions and the high risk that other unions may become radicalized.[42] Members of Duvalier’s secret police and the Tonton Macoutes heavily infiltrated unions such as the AFL-CIO backed FOS. Kamberis recalls, ‘We had programs under the Duvalier government that addressed the same thing: worker exploitation whether they were or were not Anti or Pro-Duvalier. That was not for us the issue.[43]


In regards to labor during the Aristide period, one high level ACILS official described the unions who backed the democratically elected Aristide government as ‘revolutionary ideologues.’ No such terminology or opinions halted the AFL-CIO from backing pro-Duvalier, pro-Cedras or pro-Group of 184 labor, or, on the ultra-left, anti-Lavalas trade unions such as Batay Ouvriye. AFL-CIO programs in Haiti financed by the U.S. State Department have long only sponsored labor groups or factions seen as being either overtly pro-US or groups whose activities can suit U.S. interests in the country.




While donors regularly condemned the Aristide government, the opposite was true for its unelected successor, the interim government of Gerald Latortue and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Boniface Alexandre. The interim authorities were installed with huge financial backing from the United States, Canada, donors and international financial institutions such as the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank.


Interim officials quickly discharged Haiti’s large businesses from paying many of their taxes and launched the Cadre de Coopération Intérimaire (CCI), a macro-economic adjustment program largely formulated by international donor institutions and the local groups they back. According to Mark Schueller at the University of California, Santa Barbara who studied the CCI, it was created by 250 mostly foreign experts in Washington DC and committed the new government to a neoliberal agenda of economic austerity measures.[44] Meanwhile Haiti’s government ministries were placed under foreign financial supervision.


Correspondingly, CTH and other trade union organizers spoke of a mass wave of repression and firings. Workers and core organizers of unions associated with the civil sector or backing the government such as the CTH, the Fédération des transporteurs de poids lourds en haiti (FTPH) and public teachers organizations, such as the Federation of associations of teachers in the north and northeast (FAENNE), were specifically targeted.


Ginette Apollon, head of CTH national commission on women, recalls, ‘Latortue’s police came after us. They broke into our offices and arrested a dozen of our members.’ Many trade unionists were arrested and some killed, she explains. Months after the end of the interim government, in August of 2006, some CTH workers remained in jail without being charged. ‘They were arbitrary arrests persecuting workers who opposed the coup,’ she observes, ‘The judiciary has been stacked with illegal appointees.’[45]


Paul Chéry, Secrétaire general of the CTH, remembers how he was forced into hiding after armed men from the interim government threatened him ‘with death threats in front of [his] children.’[46] In the north of Haiti, public school teachers were targeted. Jacob Jean François, a organizer with FAENNE, observed that members of the ex-military and the OPL intimidated and assaulted public school workers.[47]


But the ICFTU, ORIT, ILO and the AFL-CIO, much like their counterparts in other donor fields, chose not to investigate the mass persecution carried out by the interim authorities. When questioned on their failure to investigate the mass layoffs and repression, Casertano of the ACILS responded, ‘We make public statements. We make plenty of statements.’ Gil of ORIT commented, ‘We have not looked into that.’[48]


In Canada, while the Canadian Labor Congress (CLC) denounced its government’s role in legitimizing the 2004 coup d’état, it failed to investigate the massive layoffs and persecution of public sector workers and trade unionists.[49] An April 2004 statement from the CLC committed itself to ‘monitoring’ the human rights and workers rights situation in the coming months in Haiti, something that never occurred.[50] Rights & Democracy, a Montreal-based political group funded almost entirely by the Canadian government, were extreme critics of the labor situation in Haiti under Aristide but went completely silent on the interim government’s mass persecution and violence.


The blind eye turned towards the repression of the interim government might be partially explained by the vested interests that donors had in many of the opposition groups and the programs and policies that the Aristide government stood for and carried out. For example, political parties of western Europe had strong ties to their countries large and influential trade unions, such as Germany’s Social Democratic Party, continuously sponsored opposition political parties in Haiti such as the OPL.[51] Similarly in the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s only land neighbor, the governing Partido Revolutionario Democratico (PRD) allied itself in Haiti with small Haitian opposition parties such as Congrés National des Mouvements Démocratiques (KONAKOM) led by Victor Benoit.[52]

In probably the most bizarre relationship, a Canadian labor union the Fonds de solidarité (FTQ) and one of its top officials Fernand Daoust aligned themselves closely with Andre Apaid, Jr. and the Group of 184. By mid-2007 Apaid was publicly fingered by the former head of the ex-military death squads, the Front pour la Libération et la Reconstruction Nationales (FLRN), of financially backing their 2004 invasion.[53]


The Québec Federation of Labour (FTQ) and the Centrale des syndicats du
 Québec (CSQ) heavily supported anti-Aristide labor and passed resolutions condemning the Aristide’s governements alleged anti-union activities. Journalist Yves Engler writes, ‘The FTQ and CSQ union federations and a half dozen NGOs are part of an informal group known as the Concertation Pour Haiti (CPH). Prior to the coup, they branded Aristide a ‘tyrant’ and his government a ‘dictatorship’ and a ‘regime of terror.’ In mid-February, 2004, CPH representatives told the Canadian Press, ‘We think there will not be a solution without Aristide leaving.’ Engler observes that the demand was made as ex-military Haitian death squads swept across the country to depose Aristide.[54]


The FTQ official and one-time president Fernand Daoust led an obsessive campaign against Haiti’s elected President. In February 2004 Daoust as a member of the ICFTU delegation attended a Group of 184 demonstration.[55] Astonishingly the FTQ owns twelve percent plus stock options of Gildan, a Canadian clothing company whose main subcontractor is Apaid.[56] Both Gildan and Apaid were publicly angered with Aristide over his raising the minimum wage.


The FTQ and Daoust’s power within Canadian and international labor circles seems to have played a key factor in silencing dissent over the coup and heightening the ICFTU’s own rhetoric. The FTQ was also a member of an informal coalition of development agencies known as the Concertation Pour Haiti (CPH), which received backing from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).[57] CPH called for the overthrow of Aristide on Feburary 16, 2005.[58] Daoust sits on both the board of the Paul Gérin-Lajoie Foundation (named after the former head of CIDA) and on the Conseil de l’Université de Montreal with Bernard Lamarre of the company SNC-Lavalin.[59] SNC-Lavalin is a business partner of the FTQ and has been a major beneficiary of post-coup reconstruction contracts in Haiti.[60] Following the 2004 coup the FTQ and Daoust were able to block the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) from passing resolutions against the coup.6[61] Most scandalously the FTQ sent out a press release on 1 March 2004 the day after the overthrow of democracy in Haiti, in which FTQ general secretary said ‘Helping Haitians building democracy in their country now has to be the prime priority of the international community.’[62] Not only did the FTQ aid in the destabilization of Aristide, they helped in the post-coup whitewash process.


While the international community and elite donors ignored the repercussions of the coup on Haiti’s poor, massive layoffs and persecution at the hands of the interim government had a severe social impact. Thousands of civil enterprise workers were laid off, accused of working under patronage ‘ghost’ jobs for a corrupt Aristide government. But months after the installation of the interim government, Anoop Singh, Director of the Western Hemisphere Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), conceded that that expenditure cuts, supported by the IMF, had in fact ‘adversely affected the ability of the authorities to deliver basic public services.’[63] The austerity measures meant a mass lay off that had real and ascertainable effects upon the functionality of state services.

In regards to mass layoffs in the post-coup period, Leslie Voltaire, a former government minister, observed that, ‘The interim government lays off two thousand or three thousand [government workers] and puts five hundred of their own partisans into jobs. So they satisfy both the international community and they put their own people, their students and militants that work for them into jobs. The partisans of the Group of 184, they give them jobs.’[64] Voltaire acknowledges that there were patronage jobs under Aristide but that many people fired were working real jobs that poor communities relied on for income and training. According to some Haitian labor leaders, the interim government laid off between eight and ten thousand civil sector workers, many from the poorest slums of Port-au-Prince.[65] However, this does not include the thousands of elected officials (often with staff) that also lost their jobs following the coup.


A former police officer with the Unité de sécurité présidentielle (USPGN), Guy Edouard, provided the author a detailed list of nearly five hundred police officers that lost their jobs following the coup because of their loyalty to the elected government.[66] Edouard believes that Youri Latortue, a former police chief and nephew of the interim Prime Minister, led an effort to vet out, persecute and kill members of the police force that were loyal throughout to the elected government.


Even under these conditions workers continued to collectively organize. Agence Haitïenne de Presse reported on a number of demonstrations that dismissed-civil sector employees launched:

“Employees who were ‘unjustly dismissed’ from public administration over the last two years organized a non-violent march in the streets of Port-au-Prince to urge the new authorities to reintegrate them and to liberate all political prisoners…These citizens were fired solely because they were deemed partisan to the Aristide government following his forced departure on February 29, 2004, the demonstrators said. Several of those dismissed from their positions with the national telephone service (Téléco), the national old-age insurance office (ONA), and the national port authority (APN) were subsequently arrested when they asked for damages.”



Unlike the numerous small but heavily foreign donor backed labor groups (that took part in the protests against the Aristide government), the groups that opposed Aristide’s removal, the CTH, transport unions and civil sector workers such as the Syndicat des ouvriers et employés de la Téléco (SOETEL) received virtually no attention from foreign donor agencies and only rarely from the media.




Numerous Haitian trade unionists interviewed for this piece viewed the 2004 coup d’état and the post-coup repression as part of a larger neoliberal program, meant to promote the policies of multinational companies, privatization and dependency. They recognize a clear political consensus between transnational donors and civil society elites in Haiti.


Driving around Port-au-Prince, CTH organizers point to the various hospitals and schools constructed by the Aristide government. ‘This is the story that was never told,’ observes a female organizer with CTH.[68] Although their voices and opinions have rarely been heard or discussed in mainstream discourse, much of Haiti’s grassroots labor movement–with few resources at their disposal–continue to organize independently.


The return of elected government, with a second term for Préval in 2006 brought some respite. By mid-2007 CTH had re-launched organizing campaigns in Haiti’s ports and a new effort in the garment sectors, hoping for a sustained period of peace and stability.

In June of 2007 transport workers formed the Initiative de Secteur de Transport, an ad hoc strike committee representing 18 transport unions. They launched a two-day nation wide strike protesting measures of the Preval government to increase their registration sticker tax and fine fees as well as the non-subsidization of fuel, which they say is making living costs unbearable.[69] Spokesmen of the ad hoc group criticized the Préval government for becoming too close with big business and ‘the people that supported the de facto government and 2004 coup.’[70] The strikers gained wide support with the Fédération des Transporteurs du Nord, the Fédération des Transporteurs de l’Artibonite and the south based Association des Propriétaires de Conducteurs du Haïti behind them.


In 2007 the Preval government began financial compensation for former Téléco employees illegally fired by interim authorities, albeit while moving forward on its own new privatization plan. On June 23, 2007 Préval announced his support for the privatization of Téléco, APN and various other civil sectors, which have been targeted for privatization by the IFIs for many years now.[71] A government group that studies and promotes privatization, le Conseil de Modernisation des Entreprises Publiques (CMEP), led by Michel Presume, has resurfaced.


Préval has criticized the APN for putting too much of its budget towards its employees and keeping shipping costs too high; Téléco for not being able to compete with multinational telecommunication companies.[72] But Téléco workers say that the interim government had them provide early on the resources and infrastructure for the launching of competitors in Haiti, such as the Digicel Caribbean group, and that there has been a long term campaign to ‘sabotage public institutions to justify their privatization and then sell at a cheap price.’[73] Through the combined factors of corruption, coup d’etats, aid embargos and lack of funds Haiti’s civil enterprises have clearly suffered and have again been put on the chopping block. In early July 2007 over a thousand workers from Téléco were fired from their jobs as IFIs and powerful players in Port-au-Prince push now hard for full privatizations.




Recent history in Haiti confirms that there exist acceptable civil societies and government bureaucrats that benefit from donor clientilism, and then on the other hand there exist popular political projects and grassroots organizations.[74In an era of global capitalism, where political intervention and polyarchic processes are becoming transnationalized (operating functionally across borders), new relationships and conflicts arise.


Haiti’s economic dependence make these relationship and conflicts all the more desperate and provocative (for instance with all major foreign donor backed labor programs going toward anti-Lavalas groups during the 1990-2006 time period). As donor-backed elite civil society benefits from an out of proportional weight of prestige and power, contraire to their actual popular standing amongst the population, those popular groups working outside the hegemony of middle strata and elite donor/NGOs are rarely heard of or even acknowledged in mainstream media.


Grassroots organizers in Haiti are constantly presented with new dilemmas. In November 2006 the World Confederation of Labor (which the CTH is a member of) and the ICTFU both dissolved and joined together to form the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). While it is unlikely this transnational labor federation will do much advocacy for grassroots labor in Haiti, organizers from Haiti’s labor unions face significant pressures and the allure of foreign aid if they take up a position aligning with transnational elite interests. With the constantly in flux situation of Haitian labor, these desperate conditions look set to continue. An array of popular grassroots organizations exist in Haiti; a clear challenge is for their story to be told and cross-border solidarity to be gained.


Acknowledgment: I wish to thank for their feedback and comments CSULB History Professor's Dr. Kaye Briegel and Dr. Dennis Kortheuer.



[1] William I. Robinson. A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production Class, and State in a Transnational World. (Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, 2004); Antonio Gramsci. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1971).

[2] William I. Robinson. ‘Democracy, Polyarchy, and U.S. Policy Towards Latin America’. Yale University, 7-8 April 2006.

[3] Anthony Fenton. ‘Declassified Documents: National Endowment for Democracy FY2005’. Narco News. 15 February 2006. Fabiola Cordove, a program officer at the NED (NED) in Washington D.C. observed, ‘Aristide really had 70% of the popular support and then the 120 other parties had the thirty per cent split in one hundred and twenty different ways, which is basically impossible to compete [with]’; Following the 1991 military overthrow of Aristide’s first Administration in 1992 and 1993 The American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), financed by the US Department of State, ran a program worth $900,000 in funding that supported the CATH and other conservative unions in Haiti.

[4] Katia Gil. Interview with author, telephone. March 6, 2006.

[5] Isabel MacDonald. ‘DDR in Haiti: The UN’s cleansing of Bel Air ahead of elections’. Haiti Action Committee, 2005; Isabel MacDonald. Interview with wakeup with co-op radio. 2006.

[6] ‘Statement on the Current Situation of Workers, the Labor Movement, and Human Rights in Haiti’. Dominion, 2004. Jeffrey Sachs. ‘The Fire This Time

[7] Jeffrey Sachs. ‘The Fire This Time in Haiti was US-Fueled’. CommonDreams. 1 March 2004; Leslie Voltaire. Interview by author. Port-au-Prince, August 2006. Voltaire, a former Minister for expatriates under the Aristide government, explains that the Aristide government lost what should have been at least a fourth of its annual budget because of the government aid embargo backed by the United States and IFIs. From looking at national budgets from the time it appears that the percentage was even higher.

[8] ‘Haiti: Selected Issues’. IMF. 2001. Pg. 41.

[9] ‘ICFTU/ORIT Urgent International Mission will go to Haitï on 16 and 17 of February’. ICFTU. 9 February 2004.

[10] Translated from the ‘CSH: Reporte de actividades por la CSH: Haiti (2002-2003)’. January 10, 2003; Andy Apaid Jr., ‘owns Alpha Industries, one of Haiti’s largest cheap labor export assembly lines established during the Duvalier era. His sweatshop factories produce textile products and assemble electronic products for a number of US firms including Sperry/Unisys, IBM, Remington and Honeywell. Apaid is the largest industrial employer in Haiti with a workforce of some 4000 workers. Wages paid in Andy Apaid’s factories are as low as 68 cents a day. (Miami Times, 26 Feb 2004). The current minimum wage is of the order of $1.50 a day.’

[11] Haiti: From Bad to Worse’. ICFTU. 5 February 2001. In comparison to its overtly critical stance during the second Aristide Administration (2001-2004), not a single ICFTU or ORIT bulletin decried the huge amount of labor rights violations at the hands of the Boniface-Latortue interim government (2004-2006).

[12] 'Tripartite Declaration of Principles concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy’. International Labor Organization.

[13] Kim Scipes. Interview with author. March 2006.

[14] Katia Gil. Interview with author. Telephone, March 6, 2006.

[15] Fritz Charles. ‘Bref Rapport des activités du secretariat executif de la Coordination syndicale haïtienne (CSH) pour la périod allant de mars 2002’. ORIT. July 2003.

[16] André Lafontant Joseph. 'Le Mouvement Syndical Haitien'. ILO. 2003; Evel Fanfan. ‘Proposal: Community Based Human Rights Advocacy in Haiti’. AUMOHD. January 2006; Tom Luce. Interview by author. Telephone, January 2006; Following the 2004 coup, Joseph’s union allegedly worked to undermine the public school teacher’s union (of the CTH) in the north of Haiti.

[17] André Lafontant Joseph. 'Le Mouvement Syndical Haitien'. ILO. 2003. Pg. 53. «53 La première est à l’actif de l’ORIT, de la Fondation Friedrich Ebert et le Centre Pétion Bolivar qui à la faveur d’un processus de dialogue et de réalisation d’activités conjointes, ont pu encourager plus d’une quinzaine d’organisations à constituer la Coordination Syndicale Haïtienne.»; Ginette Apollon, Paul Chéry, Interview with Author, Port-au-Prince, August 2006. Some Haitian labor leaders decry the ILO study, which they say was filled with political bias and was manipulated to make it appear on paper that smaller opposition oriented unions (within the CSH) appear as if they had much larger numbers of workers than they really do.

[18] Ana Jiménez. E-mail to author. 2006.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Harry Kamberis. Interview with author. Telephone, February 2006. Kamberis headed ACILS at its founding from 1997 to 2004 after which he moved to Senior Advisor status. He retired in 2007. Barbara Shailor replaced Kamberis in 2004 as head of ACILS. For a recent analysis of the AFL-CIO’s foreign policy, see Kim Scipes. ‘Labor Imperialism Redux? The AFL-CIO’s Foreign Policy Since 1995’. Monthly Review. May 2005: 23-36.

[21] Kevin Skerrett. Interview with author. Telephone, February of 2006.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Bel Angelot. Interview with author. August 2006.

[24] Michael Deibert. ‘Time to Support Haiti’. Henry Jackson Society. 25 April 2006; Haiti Progres. June 6, 2002; Alex Dupuy. The Prophet and Power (Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2006); Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment (Verso, 2007). While trade unionists would surely of had legitimate complaints during the tenure of Aristide and any other Haitian government, Dupuy provides an uneven analysis similar to that of the ICFTU. He makes no mention of the wide scale and systematic interim government backed persecution and firing of workers following the coup d’état, nor the effect that the interim government’s austerity measures had on the public sector work force. His sole point that he raises in regards to labor, is that ‘FL supporters also attacked and threatened members of several independent union who had grievances against the government for violating workers’ rights.’ (Pg. 161-162) For a more even handed analysis see Hallward’s book.

[25] Hallward. Damming the Flood.

[26] Justin Podur. ‘Bursting the Dam of Containment’. Znet. 14 June 2008.

[27] Mario Dupuy. Interview with author. Miami, August 2007; ‘3000 logements sociaux avant 2004’. L’Union. 21 November 2002; ‘Inauguration de 48 centres Alpha a Trouin’. L’Union. 31 July 2003; ‘Coopération haitiano-Cubaine: un modèle dans la Caraïbe!’. L’Union. 14-16 November 2003. Rarely covered in the foreign media, the Aristide government launched a round of social investment initiatives known as the Alpha programs. The first alpha program based around literacy had begun in 1991 and was reinstituted in 1994. In 2001 the program was strengthened to become nationally cohesive. At the start of Aristide’s second administration L’Union, the Fanmi Lavalas government newspaper, reported on the construction of thousands of homes for the poor and the launching of a large literacy program run with the support of Cuban instructors and material.

[28] Let Haiti Live: Unjust U.S. Policies Towards its Oldest Neighbor (Coconut Creek, FL: Educa Vision, 2004).

[29] Katia Gil. Interview with author. Telephone, March 2006.

[30] Secrétaire general Fritz Charles. ‘Communique de la Coordination Syndicale Haitienne (CSH): Le terrorisme d’Etat en Haïti’. Coordination syndicale haïtienne. 28 February 2004.

[31] Isabel MacDonald. ‘The Freedom of the Press Barons’. The Dominion. 1 February 2007.

[32] Kevin Pina. ‘Haiti’s Large Businesses Shutter Doors as the Poor Markets Remain Open’. 2004.

[33] ‘Journeying in the struggle together: An Interview with Haitian labor leader Benissoit Duclos’. SF Bay View. 2006.

[34] ‘No to U.S. Intervention in Haiti’. Oilfield Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU). March 1, 2004.

[35] ‘The WCL Calls for Rapid Stabilisation of the Situation in Haiti’. Infor Caribe Newsletter of the Caribbean Workers Council CWC. March 2004.

[36] ‘Crisis in Haiti’. 11 March 2004. AFL-CIO Executive Council; Jeb Sprague. ‘Batay Ouvriye’s Smoking Gun’. Znet, June 2006; Joe Emersberger, Jeb Sprague. ‘$449,965 in NED/State Department funding for ACILS ‘Solidarity Center’ Program with Batay Ouvriye’. Znet. 30 September 2006. Batay ouvriye had some legitimate complaints in regards to the Free Trade Zone (FTZ) but the IFIs strategy of using an aid embargo to force its policies (FTZ, et cetera) upon the Haitian government is absent from their analysis. Batay Ouvriye has also spread the false claim that CTH was a member of the CSH and labeled Aristide a ‘dictator’.; Ginette Apollon, Paul Chéry, Interview with Author, Port-au-Prince, August 2006. CSH officials attempted to recruit one CTH official during the 2002-2003 period and in one Group 184 declaration included CTH as a member. However, CTH officials say that their confederation was never a member of the CSH or the Group of 184. They say that the G184 often portrayed groups as members that were not members or just had a few dissident members that attended. They explain that the majority of CTH backed the government and many marched in pro-government demonstrations in February 2004. In any case by the end of 2003 the CSH/Group 184 list no longer included the CTH.

[37] Harry Kamberis, Teresa Casertano, Barbara Shailor, Interview with author, Telephone, February 2006; NED grants for FY 2005, In The Name of Democracy. For an in-depth analysis of the relationship of the ACILS with the NED, see Kim Scipes. ‘An Unholy Alliance: The AFL-CIO and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Venezuela’. ZNet. July 10, 2005.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Beth Simms. ‘Populism, Conservatism, and Civil Society in Haiti’. Policy Report. April 1992. By the early 1990s there was a concerted U.S. effort to influence the CTH and CATH. As a result there was a split within CTH, the group that opposed the U.S. backed anti-Lavalas push formed what is today the current CTH.

[43] Harry Kamberis. Interview with author. February 2006. The estimates on the total amount of state sanctioned killings under the Duvalier Regimes (1957-1986) that I have found range from 30,000 to 60,000; Kim Scipes. ‘AFL-CIO Foreign Policy Leaders Help Develop Bush’s Foreign Policy, Target Foreign Unions for Political Control’. Labor Notes. March 2005; Tim Shorrock. ‘Labor’s Cold War’. The Nation. May 19, 2003.

[44] Mark Schueller. ‘Haiti’s CCI: The Tail Wagging the Dog?’. HaitiAnalysis. 2007.

[45] Ginette Appollon. Interview with author. Port-au-Prince. August 2006.

[46] Ginette Apollon. Paul Chéry. Interview with Author. Port-au-Prince. August 2006. The author has conducted Interviews with various other labor organizers from unions that were persecuted following the coup; Kevin Skerret. ‘A Situation of Terror: Haitian Union Leader on the 2004 coup’. Znet. 4 November 2005.

[47] ‘Teachers Persecuted by Private School Propoents AUMOHD Staves off Bogus Arrest Warren Against Union General Secretary’. AUMOHD-HURAH. 26 November 2005; Tom Luce. Interview by author. Telephone, January 2006.

[48] Katia Gil. Interview with author. Telephone, March 6, 2006; Harry Kamberis, Teresa Casertano, Barbara Shailor. Interview with author. Telephone, February 2006.

[49] Executive Vice President Marie Clarke Walker, Speech for Canadian Labor Congress.

[50] ‘CLC Statement on Haiti’. 1 April 2004.

[51] Throughout 1996-1997 the OPL was the primary political party backer of a privatization program. In February 2001 as Aristide was being inaugurated, the OPL hosted a ‘counter-inauguration’ in front of opposition officials in which Gerard Gourgue, a 75-year-old lawyer, was dubbed ‘provisional president’; Dominique Esser, Email to author, May 2006. Dominique Esser, a New York based human rights advocate, argues that the persecution of workers ‘is a non-topic if it happens to elements of society that are not supported by those wealthy parties that are strongly intertwined with international union heavyweights.’

[52] Hugo Tolentino. Interview with author. Santo Domingo. August 2007. Tolentino was one of the PRD’s current Vice Presidents and served as Foreign Minister during the majority of Hipolito Mejia’s administration.

[53] Betrayal and Insurrection: Guy Philippe Interview with Peter Hallward, HaitiAnalysis, 2007.

[54] Yves Engler. ‘The Politics of Money: Haiti and the Left’. February 2006

[55] Yves Engler. Interview with Fernand Daoust. Montreal. September 2007.

[56] Montreal la presse. business section. 2004. Gildan was about to go bankrupt in 1994 but the FTQ, which sees itself as having an investment arm, . The a Quebec nationalist identity union, work to protect and invest in Quebec companies. In late 2003 FTQ made a big announcment that they would sell all their stock because Gildan had left Montreal and was now operating factories with poor worker rights in Honduras and Haiti. But as of 2007 FTQ still owns a huge percentage of the stock of Gildan (La Presse Montreal, February 2007)…

[57] Alterpresse. Concretation Pour Haiti.

[58] Alterpresse

[59] Paul Gérin-Lajoie Foundation website and University of Montreal website.

[60] Yves Engler. E-mail to author. 2007.

[61] Kevin Skerret, Interview by Yves Engler, March 2004.

[62] The FTQ rejoices at the liberation of imprisoned trade unionists and wants to help Haitians construct democracy in their country. According to the Yves Engler who has researched the FTQ extensively this is the only time the FTQ has ever in its history advocated the overthrow of the government. FTQ has permanent organizers circulating into Haiti doing delegations and training for long periods of time working with. FTQ’s Gangon explained that ‘In a meeting with Batay Ouvriye they asked us for money and did not want any interaction outside of money.’ CISO, a CIDA funded organization, is close to starting a financial relationship with Batay Ouvriye. CLC does not do projects in Haiti, specifically because the FTQ is supposed to head up policy toward the francophone countries. But in Haiti the French language is spoken by the elites, so inherently FTQ is working with french speaking labor elites as opposed to the kreyol speak trade unionists. For three reasons FTQ also had opposition to Arisitde: (1) Aristide was promoting Kreyol, (2) FTQ was getting money from CIDA/via CISO, (3) FTQ is connected in with the Catholic church whose elite hierarchy opposed the liberation-catholicism and recognition of voodoo by the Aristide government.

[63] Anoop Singh. ‘Statement of Anoop Singh Director Western Hemisphere Department International Monetary Fund at the Donors. Conference on Haiti Washington D.C., July 20, 2004’. International Monetary Fund, 20 July 2004.

[64] Leslie Voltaire. Interview with author. Port-au-Prince. August 2006.

[65] Wadner Pierre, Jeb Sprague. ‘Haiti: Capital Residents Describe a State of Siege’. Inter Press Service, February 2007.; cf. Jeb Sprague, Wadner Pierre. 'HAITI: Pain at the Pump Spurs Strike Actions'. 19 June 2007.; Jeb Sprague, Wadner Pierre. 'HAITI: Workers Protest Privatisation Layoffs'. Inter Press Service, 24 July 2007.; Jeb Sprague. 'Invisible Violence: Ignoring murder in post-coup Haiti'. FAIR. July/August 2006.

[66] Guy Edouard. Interview with author. Port-au-Prince. August 2006.

[67] ‘Haiti: Civil servants unjustly fired take to streets of Port-au-Prince to call for their reintegration,’ L’Agence Haïtienne de Presse, July 10, 2006.

[68] Port-au-Prince, August 2006.

[69] Changeux Méhu, Benissoit Duclos. Interview with author. June 2007; Jeb Sprague, Wadner Pierre. ‘Haiti: Pain at the Pump Spurs Strike Actions’. Inter Press Service. 19 June 2007.

[70] Ibid.

[71] ‘René Préval confirme l’application de mesures de redressement dans les entreprises publiques’. Agence Haitïenne de Presse, 25 June 2007.

[72] ‘Privatisation prochaine de 3 instiotutions publiques autonomes et formation d’une commission pour étudier la situation des institutions s’occupant de sécurité sociale’. Agence Haitïenne de Presse. 25 June 2007.

[73] ‘Débat autour de la privatisation de la Téléco.’ Agence Haitïenne de Presse. 26 June 2007.

[74] I would argue that grassroots civil society threatens the interests of elites and transnational capital through it’s unpredictable and popular based organizing.


Posted June 23, 2023