An interview with Celina Noel, Women’s Coordinator for the Peasant’s Movement of Papaye(MPP), one of the largest and oldest rural worker’s movements in Haiti.
Recently,we had a chance to talk with Celina Noel, coordinator of women’s projects for the Peasant’s Movement of Papaye (MPP) about the political situation in Haiti.
Although the situation has, as she said, gotten worse day by day, she finds hope in the power of solidarity.
How is your work affected by the political situation in Haiti right now?
We are living in a very delicate moment in Haiti right now. We have a de facto government that stole the last election. And now Aristide is keeping himself in power with guns and with money. He’s destroying the people and the popular organizations who are trying to stand up for their rights.
Has the MPP had any specific problems with the government?
We were planning a march to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We’re one of the oldest and largest popular organizations in the country. We’ve been around for more than 30 years, fighting for human rights, fighting for the people in the countryside. We don’t agree with the government. The police and the chimeras [supporters of Aristide’s Lavalas party] did a lot of things to our members who came to participate in the march. They told us we couldn’t do our march. A lot of our members were beaten by the military and by the chimeras.
During the march?
No, we didn’t do the march. They were just beaten in the area around our headquarters.
And does that kind of violence and intimidation happen as much in the countryside as it does in the capital?
Of course. There are chimeras in every department of Haiti. Aristide uses the chimeras to make money and to subjugate the people. The police turn into chimeras when they want to assassinate people. It’s with guns that Aristide keeps his power. The people have to take care of themselves. There are no services, no schools, there are people without food, there’s no medicine.
Is it worse now than it was in the 80s?
Well, the situation, gets worse and worse every day.
Education, health, the economy… with the irresponsibility of the state–which doesn’t even cast an eye on the people, doesn’t have the people as a priority in any way shape or form–there’s a degradation that happens, step by step. For example, Haiti is an agricultural country, and 80 percent of the people live in the countryside. But there’s no agrarian reform in the country. For all the people who work the land, there’s no agricultural policy, no credit, no technical assistance. And there’s other food that comes to market from Santo Domingo or another country. Local production isn’t valued.
There’s no hope. There’s no “encouragement,” as we say in French, no support for the people who work the land. There’s a huge migration of people from the countryside, but when they get to the capitol, they’re not going to find a better life. What they find in the city is unemployment, misery, and violence.
You say that people in the countryside have no hope. Do you have hope?
Our hope is as an organization. For those who are suffering and have the desire to organize themselves, the only solution is unity, solidarity between the poor, to fight, to keep fighting against the horrible situation until we arrive in another country that’s more where equality, social justice and hope can thrive.