Originally: Rough notes on events of Friday from Michelle Karshan
From Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison, National Palace (011509) 228-2058
Rough notes on Friday’s events that may have thus far not been reported. (The following is based on a combination of radio broadcasts of events and interviews (radio stations across the band), National Television reporting, conversations with US and local press present at events, and my own observations.
As I said in an earlier email, Thursday night popular organizations came out to stand vigilant in front of the National Palace, to guard the people’s choice. Cars circulated Thursday night and Friday morning (again when pro-government masses were taking to the streets) shooting indiscriminately into crowds (approx. 10 shot, approx. 7 dead. See below for some details).
Nevertheless, in sharp contrast to the violent demands of the opposition for the immediate overthrow of the government, the people took to the streets by the tens of thousands Friday to call for respect of the constitutional mandate of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Tens of thousands (seen on National Television and reports by press present) of pro-government supporters marched through the streets of downtown Port-au-Prince Friday morning to mid-day. Amongst them were women, children, elderly and students who identified themselves as the Collective of University Students, and parliamentary and local representatives from throughout the country.
The majority responds to the minority. With both hands thrust in the air displaying all five fingers on each hand to represent the five-year presidential term and the people’s will to see the President finish his term, people chanted, “Elections, YES! Coup d’etat, NO! Aristide for FIVE YEARS!”
People said if the opposition thinks they are the majority then why don’t they go to elections to prove it. (To date the opposition has sabotaged all efforts to hold elections.)
The people expressed their commitment to democracy and its processes saying that if after Aristide’s term of five years is over, whoever runs for President and is democratically elected, then their term will be respected, no matter who it is, but that the five years of this President must be allowed to finish its term.
Representatives of the Collective, a pro-government group of public and private university students, spoke to the press (aired on National Television) and said they also denounce the violent incident that took place at one of the universities last week but that they stand for education and that it is patriotic to go to school and as such they stand against the closing of the schools. Schools have been closed because of the demonstrations held by the opposition. They said yes to schooling, no to closing the universities!
The people who flooded the streets – diverse members of the popular movement — were heard on numerous radio stations across the band as well as on the National Television. People also came out in different towns and also were interviewed on the radio stations, particularly Radio Ginen. Some spoke of a class struggle between the rich and the poor. Many denounced the former army and reiterated the people’s determination not to go backwards. In response to Dany Toussaint’s comments Thursday, many people interviewed said the people are watching the former military, and now Dany is standing face to face against the people once again as the military did. They said they say no to going backwards, and reiterated that the people have chosen democracy as the way!
Saying that children need schooling, families need food and houses to live in, the people said they will not go backwards, only forwards in solidarity. They asked for respect for the people’s choice.
People said that the opposition is trying to boycott and sabotage the upcoming 2004 bicentennial celebrations – plunging Haiti into violence and paralysis. People said the masses are for Jean-Bertrand Aristide and will continue to mobilize for 2004.
People said, There will be no coup d’etat in the country again. The people are clear, the Haitian people have stood up. No to anarchy, yes to democracy! They cannot bring down the resistance of the people! No matter what, the President will finish his term.
Some people addressed the university students who were working with the opposition, asking them not to allow themselves to be manipulated by the opposition by gifts of visas or money. They also said they don’t want ambassadors to visit universities anymore because they are luring people with offers of visas.
Some people interviewed said that former military and FRAPH members had infiltrated the “student” march the day before (on Thursday) swelling the numbers of persons in their march.
People said they will remain vigilant in the streets throughout the country to demand respect for democratic principles.
Mario Dupuy, the Secretary of State for Communications, said, “We will protect the rights of all citizens?All people should help the police to pprotect the radio stations.”
He also said, “We will continue to mobilize and celebrate in peace our bicentennial of independence.” The police secured various radio stations.
I spoke with three journalists who each visited the hospital on Friday at different times during the day. They interviewed persons (two of the journalists told me they were persons who identified themselves as militants who were taking to the streets in support of the government) who were shot either Thursday night or Friday morning by cars circulating (some said without license plates) and shooting indiscriminately at people. One person was shot by the marketplace downtown, one on Rue Pavee, one woman was injured when she fled from a car that was speeding at people.
Kevin Pina interviewed these gunshot victims on film. (Press can contact me for his contact information). (Evens Sanon photographed these victims. Press can contact me for his contact information). (Amy Bracken of Reuters interviewed these victims). As I said, from talking with these journalists I estimated that approximately 10 persons were at the General Hospital as a result of these shootings. Approximately 7 of them died on Friday.
As for the gentleman (Andre Jean-Marie) I talked about in my earlier email, it seems that he had arrived in a car near the Palace Thursday evening to join other popular organizations in front of the Palace to give his support to the President, when he was struck by bullets. Kevin Pina describes the tragic incident as follows:
It is with great grief and sadness that I inform you of the assassination of
my dear friend Andre Jan-Marie the evening of December 11, 2003. He was
killed in a drive-by shooting near the National Palace by unknown
assailants who apparently followed his vehicle and waited for him to leave
his car. Andre had gone to the palace for a literacy campaign meeting
earlier that same evening but had returned to lend his presence to the
thousands of supporters camped in front of the palace to defend their
constitutional president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Andre was the coordinator of the government’s literacy program in
Petion-Ville and his only crime was that he was committed to teaching the
poor majority how to read and write. He was also a co-founder of the SOPUDEP
school that serves the poorest children in Petion-Ville. I am affiliated
with the school and can testify to the difference it has made to the
Andre is survived by his wife and two young sons. He is truly a hero in the
struggle for democracy on behalf of Haiti’s poor majority. He will always
live in hearts and dreams for a better Haiti. God bless you and keep you
safe Andre Jan-Marie.
December 13, 2003
Port au Prince, Haiti
Andre Jean-Marie, in his late thirties, was the official coordinator of the literacy program in Petionville. When the literacy centers noticed that parents were bringing their children with them to the literacy centers to also learn how to read and write, Mr. Jean-Marie and others discovered that these very poorest of the poor families could not access education for their children (see below). (This brings to mind the IDB loans, one of which is for expansion of schools, and which still have not been released to the government of Haiti).
As a result, Mr. Jean-Marie and others founded and oversaw a non-profit elementary school in Petionville (SOPUDEP). The building the school was in was seized by the government and turned over for non-profit use.
Just this week a peace and justice delegation from the Church of St. Joan of Arc in Minnesota met with this school and interviewed its director and Mr. Jean-Marie. They have this interview on film. The head of this delegation is Paul Miller. They returned to Minnesota today as scheduled. (Press interested in contact information for Paul Miller can contact me).
The Church of St. Joan of Arc described SOPUDEP in their delegation materials prior to arriving in Haiti as follows:
“SOPUDEP. A local community group that has started an elementary school in the former residence of a former Ton Ton Macoute member. The school provides education for children whose parents could not afford to send them to school and could not find a place for them in the over crowded classrooms of the already overwhelmed public schools system.”