Haiti's Peron sells the border
sherrynstan at igc.org
Wed Jul 10 17:51:54 MDT 2002
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
July 10 - 16, 2002
Vol. 20, No. 17
ARISTIDE TRYING TO SELL 1875 KM2 OF HAITI
Who would have thought it could come to this? The government of
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide now wants to sell off a
strategic swath of Haitian territory, roughly twice the size of
the islands of Gonâve and Tortue combined. The territory would be
controlled by foreign businessmen and patrolled by foreign
troops. In return, Haiti would get sweatshop jobs.
The proposed sale is outlined in a hush-hush international
agreement exposed this week by the National Popular Party (PPN)
in press conferences on Jul. 2 and Jul. 9.
The 21-page "Trilateral Cooperation Agreement Between the
Government of the Dominican Republic, the Government of Haiti and
the Government of the United States of America" appears to be the
foundation for the "Hispaniola Fund," a scheme concocted in
recent years by Dominican and U.S. officials to convert the $800
million Dominican bilateral debt to the U.S. into capital to set
up "free trade zone" industrial parks along the Haitian-Dominican
In the accord, Haiti commits to "expropriate those lands and
buildings held by private proprietors" up to 5 km inside Haiti
along the entire length of the 375 km border. This 5 km corridor,
amounting to 1875 square kilometers, would be dubbed a "Border
Zone" of "Public Utility" to accommodate "the construction of an
international customs expressway and other bilateral border
projects." The Dominican Republic (DR) also commits to give up an
equal size territory along its border.
While dispossessing peasants to create lands of "Public Utility"
might at first look like privatization in reverse, the accord
makes clear that in the "Border Zone" is not for public use.
"Priority should be given to the construction of a private
international customs expressway linking the ports of Manzanillo
and Cabo Rojo and all customs posts in between," the accord
states, "as well as to private tourism projects in Anse-à-Pitres
and Bahia de la Aguilas. Priority should also be given to private
industrial parks, private dams for irrigation and energy,
construction and reconstruction of private seaports and
airports." (our emphasis)
The "Border Zone" would be the property of the "Dominican-Haitian
Investment Funds Bilateral Holding Corporation" (DHIFBHC) in
which Haiti and the DR would receive shares in exchange for the
territory turned over to it. Despite the misleading name, the
controlling shareholder of the "Dominican-Haitian Investment
Fund" would be the U.S., which would receive the lion's share of
shares in exchange for the the DR's bilateral debt and Haiti's
$427 million debt to the U.S.-controlled Interamerican
Development Bank (IDB).
Furthermore, the accord stipulates that the IDB will
"administrate the Dominican-Haitian Investment Funds Bilateral
Holding Corporation and its subsidiaries." It should be noted
that the U.S. government is presently vetoing the disbursement of
$213 million in approved IDB loans to Haiti.
Of course, much of the accord is devoted to listing the "100%
exemption from all taxes" which the DHIFBHC will enjoy, including
immunity from "corporate income taxes... payment of construction
taxes, taxes on loan agreements, and on the recording and
transfer fo real property... tax on the formation of corporations
and on the increase in their capital... municipal taxes... all
import duties... consular charges... taxes on exports and re-
exports... [and] business tax."
Most ominously, the accord calls for the "development of
mechanisms that promote and protect the investments made by
nationals of the Parties" and "to protect public order."
"The message is clear," said Ben Dupuy, the PPN's secretary
general, in the Jul. 2 press conference. "These gentlemen want
an armed force to protect their investments, and of course Haiti
has no armed forces now. But the Dominican army is big and will
surely be deployed. We've already seen proof of it. During the
ceremony and preparations on [Haiti's] Marie Bahoux plain, the
Dominican army was marshaled." He was referring to the Apr. 8
ground-breaking ceremonies near the northeastern town of
Ouanaminthe for a new "free trade zone" which would fall within
the proposed "Border Zone" (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 20, No. 4,
Apr. 10, 2002).
Furthermore, it is possible that U.S. troops might become one of
the protection "mechanisms," since the U.S. would be the most
dominant of the "Parties" controlling the "Border Zone."
"So practically we can say that this is territory we have ceded,"
Dupuy charged that Aristide must have signed the accord in secret
when he visited the DR on Jan. 16, and that the first fruit of
the accord was the Apr. 8 ground-breaking in Marie Bahoux.
"Perhaps this is why Luigi Einaudi [assistant secretary general]
of the Organization of American States [OAS] has become so soft
on the Aristide and his Lavalas Family party [FL] in recent
weeks," Dupuy speculated about the government's on-going OAS-
mediated negotiations with the Democratic Convergence opposition
front. "Einaudi is putting more pressure these days on the
Convergence to make a deal with FL. Perhaps this explains why
Einaudi now sees Aristide as a good student and has no problem
with the Lavalas."
Nonetheless, the accord is illegal, Dupuy asserted. Citing the
Constitution, he noted that Haitian "territory is inviolable and
cannot be transferred either completely or in part by any treaty
or convention" (Art. 8:1). Furthermore, Dupuy continued, any
treaty or international agreement signed by the president is
"subject to ratification by the National Assembly," which in turn
"cannot ratify any treaty, or convention, international agreement
which includes clauses contrary to the present constitution"
Finally Dupuy observed that the government is "obligated to
publicize by means of the spoken, written and televised press, in
Creole and French, all laws, proclamations, decrees,
international agreements, treaties, or conventions, that effect
national life" (Art. 40). To the contrary, he noted, this accord
"has been negotiated under the table."
If the accord were ever to be implemented, the "Border Zone"
would constitute the world's largest "free trade zone." The DR
already has 52 such tax-free, cheap-labor havens.
The accord also calls on the Haitian government to "compensate...
adequately and promptly" the thousands of people whom it would
expropriate. But such a notion is absurd. Already Aristide has
widely distributed unfulfilled promises around Haiti that his
government will compensate people ranging from opposition
politicians whose houses and headquarters were destroyed in riots
following a failed presidential assassination on Dec. 17, 2001 to
victims of landslides in hillside capital slums to depositors who
are daily losing their life-savings as dozens of shady
"cooperative" banks collapse.
Furthermore, the Haitian people are unlikely to ever accept such
a ceding of national territory. Throughout Haitian history,
various Haitian presidents have sealed their doom by proposing to
raise money and create jobs by selling off national territory
such as the northwestern port of Môle St. Nicolas for a military
base or the northern Island of Tortue as a walled-off tourist
resort (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 7, No. 11, Jun. 14, 1989). In the
coming weeks, we will see what the Haitian people's reaction is
to Aristide's planned "Border Zone."
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