25 Years After April 20, 1990: As the Empire Adapts, So Must We

by Berthony
Dupont (Haiti Liberte)
This week
marked the 25th anniversary of the historic Apr. 20, 1990 march by
over 150,000 Haitians across the Brooklyn Bridge (literally shaking it) into
downtown Manhattan.  The demonstration,
which surrounded the Federal Building on lower Broadway, completely overwhelmed
the New York City police, shutting down Wall Street and most other businesses
in lower Manhattan. The size, militancy, and unexpectedness of the massive
outpouring sent shockwaves through the U.S. political establishment.
            The march was a protest against the
Federal Drug Administration’s February 1990 recommendation that Haitians be
restricted from donating blood because they were supposedly a high-risk group
for AIDS. In 1983, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) unscientifically
grouped Haitians with homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and hypodermic-needle users to
create the infamous “4H” risk group. Backed by many doctors and scientists, the
Haitian community, already politically active from anti-Duvalierist
mobilizations, rose up to demand that the CDC rescind the designation.
Thousands marched throughout 1983 and 1984, and in April 1985, the CDC removed
Haitians from the AIDS high-risk list.
            The massive, unified response of
Haitians to the FDA’s resurrection of the CDC’s defunct policy was yet another
illustration of a specific feature of Haitian political culture: once a victory
is won, the Haitian people will rise up to defend against it being taken away.
            Napoleon was the first to discover
this truth in 1803, after he sent his brother-in-law General Leclerc at the
head of 25,000 troops the year before in an effort to reestablish slavery in
the French colony of St. Domingue. Declaring that “union makes strength,” our
ancestors joined together in a mighty force, the indigenous army, to chase the
French from the island and form Haiti, the first truly free nation in world
history, a slaveless society.
            After throwing off the yoke of the
30 year Duvalier dictatorship on Feb. 7, 1986, Haitians created another
historic mobilization when the U.S. and Haitian ruling class tried to
reestablish a neo-Duvalierist dictatorship by overthrowing President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Sep. 30, 1991. On Oct. 12, 1991, a year and a half
after the April 1990 march, some 100,000 Haitians again crossed the Brooklyn
Bridge and tied up traffic in Manhattan for hours to protest the coup. That was
the beginning of a three year mobilization, in Haiti and its diaspora, which
forced the U.S. to return Aristide to Haiti (although in a cage) in October
            But the empire, with its
“laboratory,” has studied these Haitian uprisings and learned to disguise their
tactics with more sophistication. Rather than an overt rollback, like that done
by Napoleon in 1802, the FDA in 1990, or Cédras in 1991, they learned to
disguise their counter-revolution in Haiti behind “the electoral process” and
“international community assistance.” This was how they carried out the
“electoral coup d’état” (as former Organization of American States Ambassador
Ricardo Seitenfus calls it) of November 2010 and March 2011, which resulted in
President Michel Martelly illegally taking power (the Haitian Provisional
Electoral Council – CEP – never approved the election). Martelly then took his
time in neutralizing Parliament, aware that he didn’t really need to do it (in
fact, it was better to wait to do it) until near the end of his term, so he
could kill two birds with one stone: have right-wing, pro-imperialist
candidates win both the legislature and the executive with one mixed, rigged
electoral process, one controlled CEP.
            That is how we have arrived at the
current imbroglio where the one-time leaders of the resistance to Martelly are
now being docilely led to the democratic slaughterhouse due to either their
illusions, delusions, or ambition.
            Many know the example, based on a 19th
century experiment, of a frog placed in boiling water immediately leaping out.
However if it is placed in cold water which is then very gradually heated, it
is possible to cook him alive. Pleased by the slowly warming water, the frog
realizes only too late that he is being boiled to death.
            We must ask if this is not what is
occurring to the Haitian people today. Are they being lulled into yet another
“electoral coup”? Will they accept that the “election/selections” have as
funders, organizers, and umpires the very nations responsible for past coups
(the U.S., France, Canada) and the military force which acts as their enforcer,
the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH)?
            The “laboratory” has learned to
bring about change very, very slowly and slyly in Haiti lest they stir the
sleeping tiger which is the Haitian masses’ outrage at any liberty being
repealed. We must become more sophisticated in understanding their new and
improved tactics and tricks. The “black man” Obama in the White House? It makes
no difference! A Haitian, Joel Denis, in the U.S. State Department? It makes no
difference! Former Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe replaced by Evans Paul? It
makes no difference!
            The only way to make a real change
in Haiti is to carry out Haitian elections in complete sovereignty and
independence. That means Washington’s front-man, Michel Martelly, has to go,
and Washington’s police force, MINUSTAH, has to go.
            To make this happen, we are going to
need to mobilize Haitians in the same numbers as moved on Apr. 20, 1990, a mere
25 years ago.
On Apr. 20, 1990, over 150,000 Haitians surrounded the
U.S. Federal Building in lower Manhattan after flooding across the Brooklyn
Bridge. Today, the empire’s strategists try carefully to avoid provoking
Haitian ire.
Credit: Daily News