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Haiti: CIDA funded Camille Chambers (PAPDA) confronted at World Social Forum- Caracas, Ven
Excerpts from CHAN posts
Discussion, debate on Haiti on 5th day of World Social Forum
CHAN Delegation Dispatch excerpts from #2 and all of #4
Sunday, January 29, 2006
.....Another forum on Haiti ran parallel with the CHAN forum. It was organized by Plateforme Haitienne de Plaidoyer pour un Developpement Alternatif (PAPDA), one of the generously-funded NGO's in Haiti. That meeting featured PAPDA leader Camille Chambers. PAPDA is an organization that has a partnership with Alternatives and several other Canadian funded "progressive" Haitian NGOs.
Chambers was a guest speaker at the rally of tens of thousands that opened the World Social Forum on January 24. He told that rally, "The countries present in Haiti are merely performing a service for the United States." Agencia Brasil reported that "Chalmers called the mission "shameful" and called on the "solidarity of the Latin American nations to denounce it."
The PAPDA forum, which was presented as a dicsussion about the "imperialist intervention in Haiti" was attended by approximately 20 people including two CHAN activists. Chalmers made a lengthy presentation during which he criticized Aristide as well as providing a general but vague criticism of neoliberalism. Chalmers made no mention of the human rights situation, the political prisoners, or the actual nature of the military occupation. CHAN activists pointed out Chalmers omissions and challenged him to speak out against the repression and situation that finds an estimated 1,000 political prisoners. Chalmers could not bring himself to denounce the repression or affirm the high number of Lavalas political prisoners.
Chalmers was further pressed about the existing funding relationship between his and partner organizations with Canadian government-funded NGOs. He claimed that PAPDA doed not receive any funding from any foreign governments. CHAN activists reiterated the connection between CIDA funds that go to Canadian NGOs that are specifically earmarked for organizations like his. He would not concede the point, even though, as it was pointed out, he was flown to Canada by one of these organizations to legitimize Canada's role in the occupation which he claims to be opposed to.
During his presentation, Chalmers mentioned the role played by such organizations as the National Endowment for Democracy in playing a subversive anti-democratic role in Haiti. On this point, CHAN activists pointed out that a NED program officer said that the "problem" with Aristide and Lavalas was similar to the "problem" with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, that Aristide had to go because he enjoyed so much popular support and that the opposition was small and fractured. He also denied that Batay Ouvriye (which has admitted to receiving NED funds) had received any funding from the NED (National Endowement for Democracy).
Since he had earlier claimed that the U.S. led intervention in 2004 came at a time when there was a "popular movement" to remove Aristide (which he, presumably, was a part of), Chalmers appeared disturbed to hear the NED's on-the-record clarification of their pre-coup activities in Haiti. All told, the CHAN activists made a useful intervention in the PAPDA panel, and they were not alone in denouncing the true nature of the occupation. A Uruguayan speaker denounced the role that her government and military are playing in Haiti, and several other speakers challenged Chalmers' contradictory position............
The third forum of the Haiti solidarity movement at the World Social Forum was held yesterday. It was the second event organized by the Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN). More than 90 people attended. They heard a panel of speakers from Haiti, North America and South America who, together, are among the foremost proponents of Haitian
Two women from Haiti, one from the young generation, gave moving accounts of the struggle for survival in the poor neighbourhoods of Haiti's towns and cities. Women are playing a central role in the protest movements demanding a return of constitutional rule and of the elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Members of Global Women's Strike attended the forum, and two of its leaders spoke. They both made sharp condemnations of the decision of the World Social Forum organizing committee to facilitate the participation of non-governmental organizations that are complicit in the 2004 coup. Andaiye of Guyana told the meeting, "Solidarity in the fight for social justice must be international. It's not acceptable to be in solidarity with the Venezuelan people, but not in solidarity with the Haitian people; it's not acceptable to be for Iraq, but against Haiti."
Andaiye was particularly referring to those groups and individuals participating at the World Social Forum who paid lip service to the Bolivarian process, but had little to say, or had a reactionary position against, the peoples' struggle in Haiti.
"Last night," she said, referring to the rally of some 20,000 people where President Hugo Chavez spoke, "through no fault of President Chavez, we saw the World Social Forum place a representative on the table of dignitaries,
Camille Chalmers, who is opposed to the struggles of the Haitian people for sovereignty. This is not acceptable."
Margaret Prescod, also of Global Women's Strike, followed next on the speakers list. "Andaiye's comments on Camille Chalmers," she said, "speak to a deep problem in the World Social Forum--that racism and sexism is deeply embedded in its structures."
"I am originally from Barbados," she continued. "The Caribbean people have a deep stake in what is taking place in Haiti. Our lives depend on stopping the slaughter in Haiti, because if we don't, the other islands will become
killing fields too. So our lives depend on cleaning up the problem in the World Social Forum."
Prescod continued, "The challenge in solidarity work is to make the connection between Haiti and other causes. The problems we face are international in scope, and if we don't make the connections, Haiti will lose out."
Prescod also highlighted the need for accountability between the solidarity movement outside of Haiti and the Haitians directly engaged in the struggle. "Too often power relations develop between solidarity movements and people
on the ground. In my view, we need not just solidarity in the movement, but also accountability. There are people who claim to want to do something for Haiti, but they aren't willing to take leadership from Haitians. This must
Prescod added that women must not be bypassed in this process.
Euvonie Georges Auguste, Haitian exile and women's´ rights activist now living in St. Lucia, tied together Prescod´s points on lack of accountability and the work of organizations like that of Camille Chalmers´ when she spoke on the "absolute lack of connection between NGOs and grassroots organizers in Haiti".
Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine spoke on the same subject. He cited the work of other pro-coup groups that receive imperialist funding, such as Batay ouvriye. "These groups have significant support internationally. They know how to speak well, and they receive significant funding from such agencies
An elected municipal official from Haiti gave a fiery talk at the meeting. He was one of thousands of elected and popular leaders who were also victims of the 2004 coup. He faces threats and intimidation today. "My biggest
problem today is not with Gerard Latortue or with George Bush," he said. "I know they will never help us. My problem is with those who speak in my name but who work against our movement for freedom."
Mario Joseph, the foremost human rights lawyer in Haiti and the only one dealing with the country's more than 700 political prisoners, explained the living conditions of those prisoners today.
Two North-American researchers, Anthony Fenton, CHAN activist from Vancouver, and Jeb Sprague, from Long Beach, California, spoke about the unfolding connections between "democracy promotion" and the opposition to
Lavalas in Haiti.
Fenton spoke about the National Endowment for Democracy's increased budget in Haiti for FYI 2005 and the duplicity of the international powers in creating the situation in Haiti. Tens of millions of dollars have been poured into the elite opposition to Lavalas.
Jeb Sprague held a short moment of silence for imprisoned Father Gerard Jean-Juste. Citing Freedom of Information Act Request files, he detailed the role of the International Republican Institute (IRI) in forming a "socialist
coalition" between the OPL and other anti-Lavalas "left" organizations. The IRI is taking a lead role in co-opting Haiti's political elites and engaging in what Sprague calls a policy of "political encirclement" around the popular movement.
The day before, January 27, a few CHAN members engaged in a discussion with fellow Canadian activists on the topic of the recent Canadian federal election. The forum was organized by the International Socialists and
attended by 60 delegates to the WSF. Steve Da Silva of Toronto Haiti Action Committee told the meeting, "I don't agree with an earlier speaker that Canada is a more left-wing country than the United States. While Canadians
may be more wedded to the values of healthcare and social spending, the Canadian state is just as imperialistic and right-wing as the United States. The difference being that Canada is one-tenth the size."
Roger Annis of Haiti Solidarity BC told the meeting, "We have a problem in the labour movement in Canada today. We in the Canada Haiti Action Network have not been able to convince our NDP Members of Parliament that they should speak out against the coup in Haiti. This must change."
The fifth and final dispatch of the CHAN delegation to the World Social Forum 2006 in Caracas is forthcoming.