ezili_sm_button
writings_sm_button
perform_sm_button
bio_sm_button
workshops_sm_button
contactus_sm_button
guest_bu_button
merchan_bu_button
  ezilidanto@margueritelaurent.com  

The Crucifixion of Haiti
by Nikolas Barry-Shaw, June 2, 2005

ZNet Haiti
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=55&ItemID=7994



Part I: Historical Background & Political Struggles - December 1990
to February 2004


INTRODUCTION: MAKING SENSE OF HAITI


Today, like so many other times since its birth as a nation in 1804,
Haiti bleeds. It bleeds because the powerful nations of the world
are once again making an example of Haiti, forcing Haiti spend its
time on the cross. Understanding this unfolding tragedy requires a
critical examination of Haiti’s past, a task scrupulously avoided by
the mainstream press. Rather, the corporate media offer up nothing
more than decontextualized snapshots of the undifferentiated “chaos”
and “turmoil” that wrack Haiti today. As a consequence of this
ahistoric perspective, commentary and analysis frequently consist of
shallow (and not so subtly racist) references to Haiti’s deficient
political culture (Voodoo, corruption, sectarianism, etc.), which may
well thwart our benevolent intentions once again.(1)

Contrary to the depictions of the corporate media, however, Haiti’s
so-called chaos is far from undifferentiated, and “our” intentions
far from benevolent. Rather, the killings and violence, which have
intensified since September 30, are part of a systematic effort by
the interim government and the former military to silence and subdue
the supporters of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his
party, Fanmi Lavalas. Furthermore, the U.S., France, and Canada
played a pivotal role in creating the conditions for Aristide’s
removal (ultimately accomplished by U.S. Marines) and have resolutely
supported the new government in its brutal endeavours since. These
events are not a break from the norm: Even the most cursory look at
Haiti’s history reveals the preponderant influence of external powers
on the development of this impoverished Caribbean nation. In
particular, the Haitian military and the United States government
have figured prominently in the political struggles of Haiti
throughout the 20th century.

Haiti’s history is a history of foreign exploitation and domestic
class struggle, of gut wrenching violence and debilitating
corruption; above all, however, Haiti’s history is a history of
resistance. As such, the pattern of American intervention in Haiti
must be viewed in the larger context of post-WWII U.S. imperialism
directed against progressive movements and in support of oligarchies
throughout Latin America.(2) While space constraints preclude a full
review of the history of U.S.-Haiti relations in such a perspective,
it is informative to note here the origin of the Haitian Army and
review some of the outrageous claims made against Father Aristide
during his first presidency by the U.S. media before looking at the
most recent coup d’état and the state of affairs in Haiti today.

"AN ARMY TO FIGHT THE PEOPLE"


Born of the only successful slave rebellion in history, American (and
French) antipathy to Haiti goes back to the country’s very
beginning. The invasion and occupation by the U.S. Marines from 1915
to 1934 is significant, however, for two reasons: 1) it reveals the
motives that guided U.S. involvement in Haiti prior to the Cold War,
broadly the same concerns that guide U.S. policy today, and 2) it
left deep scars on Haiti and created the military, an institution
that would dominate Haiti’s political life long after the end of the
occupation. According to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, the goals of
the occupation were to “pacify” the peasants, control the customs
houses, and diminish European influence in Haiti. Noam Chomsky
describes the many “successes” of the mission: “[T]he acceleration of
Haiti’s economic, military, and political centralization, its
economic dependence and sharp class divisions, the vicious
exploitation of the peasantry, the internal conflicts much
intensified by the extreme racism of the occupying forces, and
perhaps worst of all, the establishment of ‘an army to fight the
people.’”(3) Other achievements of the occupation included
reinstituting virtual slavery and dissolving the National Assembly in
order to impose a U.S.-designed constitution allowing foreign
ownership of Haitian land. Such was the political and institutional
legacy of “Wilsonian idealism” and American efforts to “bring
democracy” to Haiti (scarcely different from today’s noble venture),
a legacy whose firm grip on the country would loosen only by 1986,
with the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship.(4)


"VITAL COUNTERWEIGHTS": THE U.S. GOVERNMENT AND MAINSTREAM PRESS VS. DEMOCRACY


Following the flight of “Baby Doc” Duvalier from the country in 1986,
Haitians endured a period of “Duvalierism without Duvalier”,
punctuated by coup d’états, voting day massacres, and military
governments, until the elections of December 1990, when a diverse
array of grassroots organizations called Lavalas (“flash flood”)
swept Jean-Bertrand Aristide into the presidency. The rich in Haiti
and the U.S. government had expected their candidate, former World
Bank economist Marc Bazin, to win easily and were stunned by the
victory of Aristide, a priest and advocate of the poor. Seven months
of Aristide as president yielded a virtual halt in human rights
violations, an accompanying reduction in “boat people” fleeing Haiti,
a successful anti-corruption campaign, a higher minimum wage, and on
September 30, 1991, a military coup. The brutality with which the
military and their allies dealt with the Lavalas movement is well
documented: Massacres, political assassinations, rapes, beatings and
arbitrary arrests were all commonplace. The army, aided by the
paramilitary group FRAPH (Front Révolutionnaire pour l’Avancement et
le Progrès Haitiens), killed some 5,000 people from 1991 to 1994.

The coup followed the familiar script whereby the wealthy Haitian
elite organized and financed the operation while the military did the
dirty work. The U.S. government was also deeply implicated in the
coup: The leader of the coup, General Raoul Cedras, and other
high-ranking Haitian military figures, had been on CIA payroll prior
to and during the coup, and the FRAPH had been organized and funded
by the CIA, according to leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, in order to
act as a “vital counterweight” to the Lavalas movement.(5)

As long as the U.S. government has opposed revolutionary, nationalist
or even reformist regimes in Latin America (1954: Arbenz in
Guatemala, 1964: Goulart in Brazil, 1973: Allende in Chile, 2002 to
the present: Chavez in Venezuela), the U.S. press has sought to
justify this opposition. Most commonly, the media have resorted to
the venerable practice of demonizing the leaders of “enemy”
governments: The leader is labelled “authoritarian” or
“heavy-handed”, and a fomenter of “violence” and “class warfare”;
Subsequently, when the U.S.-trained military overthrows the elected
government and replaces it with a bloody military junta, commentators
in the press blandly lament that the government was the cause of its
own demise, while the more reactionary elements laud the initiative
of the military for having come just in time to “save democracy” from
“Communist totalitarianism”. In this connection, the outlandish
accusations levelled against President Aristide stuck to the script
quite closely, blaming the President for his overthrow while
obscuring the role of U.S. in the coup. For instance, Newsweek
described Aristide as "an anti-American demagogue, an unsteady
left-wing populist who threatened private enterprise and condoned
violence against his political opponents." Other media repeated
opposition claims that he was building a new “fascism”, that he was
“worse than Duvalier” or that he was a drug trafficker.(6) All these
claims were totally baseless: Human rights abuses reached their
lowest level in Haiti’s history and Aristide initiated a successful
crackdown on drug transhipment. While Aristide would occasionally
condemn the massive inequality in Haiti, he would just as frequently
exhort business to cooperate and help the poor. More generally,
Aristide could hardly be blamed for the tensions and conflicts
created by a society where the top 1% of the population receive 46%
of national income whilst the vast majority live in squalor.

TAMING THE PRIEST


While the U.S. nominally joined the international community in
applying sanctions against the military junta, the real pressure was
being applied on Aristide. The U.S. embargo was extremely porous and
neither Bush I nor Clinton was inclined to close any of the gaps.(7)

Meanwhile, at U.S.-initiated negotiations between Aristide and the
military, the former priest was frequently pushed to make concessions
to his adversaries, even as they slaughtered his supporters in
Haiti. The rationale was that Aristide was a “divisive” leader who
had “polarized” the country (again, familiar rhetoric when it comes
to Latin American leaders who don’t sit well with the bourgeoisie),
thus making it necessary to form a more “inclusive” government before
Aristide could return. Yet gathering 67% of the votes can hardly be
said to indicate polarization, unless we dismiss the opinions of the
“illiterates who voted for Aristide” as the Haitian elite would have
it. Indeed, the U.S., by forcing Aristide to negotiate with the
military and their elite allies, was implicitly recognizing each
party’s demands as equally valid. When the flood of Florida-bound
refugees escaping from Haiti finally forced Clinton to act, Aristide
was restored to power by U.S. Marines in October 1994; His return,
however, exacted a heavy price in terms of justice and democracy:
amnesty for the military; “broadening” of the government to include
opposition members who had supported the coup; implementation of
“structural adjustment”, the economic plan favoured by opponent Marc
Bazin; and an end to Aristide’s five year term in 1995, effectively
treating his three years in exile as time spent in office.
Yet Aristide proved himself to be no political pushover: “[I]n
September 1995 Aristide dismissed his prime minister for preparing to
sell the state-owned flour and cement mills without insisting on any
of the progressive terms the imf had promised to honour”(8) and
before the end of his truncated term, Aristide disbanded the
murderous army. This was probably the greatest contribution Aristide
ever made to the cause of democracy in Haiti. After Rene Préval took
over the presidency in 1996, Aristide split with those in
Organization Politique Lavalas (OPL) comfortable with implementing
the neoliberal policy package (i.e. the “sweatshop model of
development”: liberalization of trade, deregulation of the private
sector and privatization of state-owned enterprises) and formed Fanmi
Lavalas (FL). From this vantage point, Aristide was free to
criticize the reforms forced upon him, while his opponents carried
them out, putting him on solid political footing for the upcoming
elections.(9)

ARISTIDE'S TRIUMPHANT BUT "FLAWED" RETURN


The current crisis in Haiti began in May 2000, with the notoriously
“flawed” legislative elections. A plethora of national and local
positions were voted upon, and Aristide’s FL emerged with a crushing
victory, taking 89 of 115 mayoral positions, 72 of 83 seats in the
Chamber of Deputies and 18 of the 19 Senate seats contested (There
are 27 seats in the senate). The OAS (Organization of American
States) and other observers estimated the turnout at over 60% with
“very few” incidents of either violence or fraud. The impact, as
Peter Hallward remarked in New Left Review, was tremendous:
The 1995 elections had already ‘completely discredited the so-called
traditional political parties-especially those that collaborated
with the military regime between 1991 and 1994’, effectively
eliminating them from any further role in electoral politics. In
May 2000, members of the original Lavalas coalition who had turned
against Aristide suffered the same fate. For the anti-Aristide
opposition, the elections proved that there was no chance of
defeating the fl at the polls for the foreseeable future.(10)
Faced with a massive defeat in the May elections and the imminent
prospect of another loss in the upcoming presidential election, the
opposition and their imperialist allies did the only thing they
could: they cried foul. The propaganda effort to discredit the
elections and, by extension, FL began with the OAS (commonly regarded
as a tool of U.S. foreign policy in the Americas) reversing its
earlier assessment of the elections on the basis of a technicality,
claiming that the counting method used for 8 Senate seats by the CEP
(Coalition d’Election Provisional) was “flawed”. The Constitution of
Haiti stipulates that the winner must get 50% plus one vote at the
polls; the CEP determined this by calculating the percentages from
the votes for the top four candidates, while the OAS contended that
the count should include all candidates.(11) These concerns about
the validity of the elections were disingenuous on many fronts:

Firstly, the OAS had been working with the CEP to prepare the
elections since 1999, and thus was fully aware of what counting
method was going to be used beforehand, yet failed to voice any
concerns at the time. Secondly, using the OAS’s method would hardly
have changed the outcome of the elections. Taking an example given
by James Morrell, an anti-Aristide policy hack, in the North-East
department where two Senate seats were being contested, gives an idea
of just how “flawed” the elections were. In this riding, to get the
50% plus one vote demanded by the OAS, 33,154 votes were needed,
while the two FL candidates had won with 32,969 and 30,736 votes
respectively, with their closest rival getting about 16,000 votes.

Thus, were this election to have gone to a second round as called for
by the OAS, the two FL candidates would have needed 185 and 2,418
votes respectively, while their opponent would have needed some
17,000 votes.(12) Finally, the results of the disputed legislative
elections were consistent with the returns obtained for the mayoral
elections and Chamber of Deputies, about which the OAS raised no
objections.

The aspersions cast on the elections by the OAS would be the rallying
point for all efforts by the opposition and their imperialist allies
to overturn the Fanmi Lavalas government. The opposition denounced
the elections as fraudulent and their representatives on the CEP
resigned in protest. The disparate strands of the opposition--OPL
and other “left” dissidents formerly associated with Lavalas, along
with business leaders, ex-Duvalierists and other elements of the
right--united in the summer of 2000 under the banner of the
Convergence Democratique (CD) and announced they would boycott the
upcoming November presidential elections. This proved to be an empty
gesture; over 50% of the electorate turned out despite the boycott to
deliver Aristide the presidency with over 92% of the votes. While
the CD and allied embassies in Haiti would claim the turnout was much
lower, between 10% and 20%, an October 2000 USAID-commissioned poll
taken by Gallup just before the election supported the official
returns, showing that more than 3 out of 4 people were “very likely”
or “somewhat likely” to vote; in the same poll, over 50% named
Aristide as the political figure they “most trusted” in Haiti, with
the next closest, CD member Evans Paul, receiving only 3.8%.(13)

BUSINESS AS USUAL IN AMERICA'S BACKYARD


For their part, the U.S., Canada, and the EU (at the behest of
France), along with multilateral lending institutions such as the
World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, cut off all aid
and loans to Haiti, plunging its fragile economy into crisis. The
end of the aid embargo was contingent on a political solution, the
U.S. declared, yet the opposition had no intentions of resolving the
matter (democratically, at least). “From the start, the cd’s main
objective was Option Zéro: the total annulment of the 2000 elections
and a refusal to allow Aristide to participate in any subsequent
vote.”(14) After Aristide was inaugurated, he persuaded 7 of the 8
Senators to resign and offered to hold new elections for the disputed
seats, but the CD refused, knowing full well that they would lose new
elections just as they had the previous ones. In each subsequent
negotiation, Aristide and FL would offer more and more concessions to
the CD, and each time, the CD would reject them. The opposition’s
intransigent stance was steadfastly supported by the U.S., which
funded the CD, as well as various other anti-Aristide organizations,
through USAID and the NED (National Endowment for Democracy). One
such outfit was the staunchly neoliberal Group of 184, an association
of various “civil society” groups, led by sweatshop owner Andy
Apaid. This manufactured “political deadlock” was the pretext used
by the U.S. and the other imperialist countries for their economic
strangulation of Haiti, right up until Aristide’s overthrow.

During the post-WWII era, economic strangulation and political
destabilization, combined with increased aid and training programs to
the military, have been the standard U.S. strategy for overthrowing
errant Latin American governments. Since the 1960s, according to
declassified internal documents, U.S. military aid and training has
served to reorient Latin American militaries to “internal security”
and other “U.S. objectives”, namely “to protect and promote American
investment and trade”, thus producing an indigenous force ready to
intervene on the behalf of “U.S. interests” once the target
government begins to weaken.(15) When implementing this third and
crucial element of the strategy has proven impossible, the U.S. has
funded and organized proxy forces in a bordering client state to
“liberate” the country. This alternative was used against Nicaragua
in the 1980s, with the Contras launching attacks from their staging
post in neighbouring Honduras, and has been resorted to again in
Haiti.

On July 28, 2001, former members of the army and/or FRAPH death squad
led by former police officer Guy Philippe, mounted attacks against
police stations located along the Haiti-Dominican Republic border,
killing at least five officers. Guy Philippe had received US military training in Ecuador during the 1991-1994 coup, and was incorporated into the Haitian National Police (HNP) in 1995. His tenure at the HNP was marked by reports of summary executions by police under his command and accusations of drug trafficking.(16)

In October 2000, Philippe fled to the Dominican Republic after being
discovered plotting a coup against the Préval government with fellow
police chiefs. From exile, Philippe, along with FRAPH
second-in-command Louis Jodel Chamblain, would lead attacks on the
Presidential Palace, on December 17, 2001, and against a
hydroelectric dam in Peligre on May 6, 2003. These and numerous
other cross-border attacks left dozens of police and Fanmi Lavalas
members dead.(17) The Dominican government, meanwhile, did nothing
to halt these attacks and ignored repeated extradition requests by
the Haitian authorities for various human rights abusers hiding out
there. Stan Goff was part of a delegation organized by the
International Action Centre in March 2004 that visited the Dominican
Republic and discovered, through interviews with a former general in
the Dominican army, customs agents, and other sources, that former
Haitian military and paramilitary men had been discreetly integrated
into the Dominican army and had trained at a base close to the
Haitian border. Moreover, according to Goff, “The Dominican
government is a colonial government, and nothing else . . . [n]one
of this could have happened without the complicity of the United
States, without the facilitation by the United States, without the
funding and support of the United States.” Indeed, Goff indicates
that the U.S. embassy in the Dominican Republic was aware of the
paramilitaries’ presence and even trained and armed them. He quotes
retired Dominican general Nobel Espejo as saying that 20,000 M-16
sent by the U.S. in February 2003 were never received by the army,
weapons of the type used by Philippe’s men;(18) the M-16s were part
of a military assistance program called “Operation Jaded Task”,
ostensibly intended to train the Dominican military in
counterinsurgency.(19)

HUMAN RIGHTS AS A COVER FOR IMPERIALISM


The Western media played an integral part in the campaign against the
Lavalas government, raising spurious questions about Aristide’s
democratic credentials as the imperialists’ and their various
“international” bodies’ strove to overturn him. To this end, the
media resorted to the same libellous rhetoric used prior to and
during the 1991-1994 coup: Aristide was portrayed as a corrupt, power
hungry leader who had taken power in “flawed” or “fraudulent”
elections and used violence to suppress political opposition to his
rule. While Aristide’s opponents revived and embellished many
timeworn accusations about his authoritarian tendencies, his extreme
corruption, his involvement in “narco-trafficking” and so on that
were uncritically reported as fact by the mainstream press, perhaps
the most serious claim made was that Lavalas had provided arms to
gangs and used these “Chimères” to attacks its opponents and quell
dissent. Now, like most good lies, there was a kernel of truth to
these accusations: Supporters of Aristide had used violence against
opposition demonstrations and some were members of criminal gangs.

Robert Fatton, a bitter critic of Aristide and his supposed
authoritarian tendencies, gives an interesting interpretation the
gangs’ motivations: "Lavalas's Chimères and followers are threatening
the opposition because they believe that it is purposefully
exacerbating the crisis to generate a chaos that would nurture the
return of the military. They fear that CD's ultimate objective is to
overthrow Aristide, and they are committed to using violence to
prevent such an outcome.”(20) In light of recent events in Haiti,
their fears seem to have been well founded. As for Aristide’s
alleged support for the Chimères, not a shred of evidence has ever
been produced. Indeed, Haiti’s current interim Ministry of Justice
has settled for working with the U.S. Justice Department to find
proof that Aristide siphoned money from the state coffers into
offshore personal bank accounts, apparently abandoning efforts to
link the deposed President to the violence that occurred under his
rule.

The media gave a grossly one-sided account of what was happening in
Haiti, consistently emphasizing violence against the opposition while
ignoring attacks against Lavalas from the Dominican Republic and from
within Haiti. Thus, the story of Haiti was cast as a “crisis of
human rights” rather than a political struggle between the former
military and the Haitian elite on one side and the Lavalas government
and their supporters on the other. Shrill cries from the CD and
“civil society” frequently equated Aristide and the “Chimères” with
the Duvalier dictatorship and their Tonton Macoutes. As Peter
Hallward observes:

In a comparative perspective, however, political violence during the
Lavalas administrations was far less than under previous Haitian
regimes. Amnesty International’s reports covering the years 2000-03
attribute a total of around 20 to 30 killings to the police and
supporters of the FL--a far cry from the 5,000 committed by the junta
and its supporters in 1991-94, let alone the 50,000 usually
attributed to the Duvalier dictatorships. Examination of Lavalas
violence would also suggest that it was, indeed, largely a matter of
gang violence. There are armed gangs in Port-au-Prince, as there are
in São Paulo, Lagos or Los Angeles; their numbers have swelled in
recent years with the deportation to the island of over a thousand
Haitian and Haitian-American convicts from the American prison
system.(21)

A MADE-IN-CANADA COUP

As the screws tightened on Haiti, the Canadian government, in the
person of then-Minister of La Francophonie Denis Paradis, organized a
"high-level roundtable meeting on Haiti" to discuss "the current
political situation in Haiti." Tellingly, the “Ottawa Initiative”,
held January 31-February 1, included no Haitian officials, who only
learned of the meeting after Paradis leaked the details of it to
L'Actualité reporter Michel Vastel in March 2003. According to
Vastel, Paradis told him that the themes discussed included
Aristide's possible removal, the potential return of Haiti's
disbanded military, and the option of imposing a Kosovo-like
trusteeship on Haiti. The furor this reportage caused in Haiti led
to Paradis being stripped of his position as Secretary of State for
Latin America, and replaced as Minister of La Francophonie. Paradis
would later claim the actual topic of the meeting was the
“responsibility to protect” doctrine espoused by Paul Martin, whereby
the international community has an obligation to militarily intervene
in “failed states”, for the good of the people, of course. In
hindsight, as independent journalist Anthony Fenton notes, the
distinction is rather slight: “Whether or not military intervention
was discussed explicitly, as Vastel contends, or implicitly, as
Paradis insists, the important fact is that military intervention did
take place, Aristide was removed, the Haitian army has effectively
returned, and a de facto trusteeship is being imposed on the Haitian
people.”(22)

The intense pressure on Haiti from the aid embargo, the
imperialist-funded opposition, and the former military and
paramilitaries came to a head in February 2004. The CD and the Group
of 184 held a series of anti-government rallies, and a coalition of
gangs led by Butter Metayer and former FRAPH leader Jean Tatoune
mounted a “rebellion” in Gonaives, later reinforced by Guy Philippe’s
invasion. The media depicted the situation as a popular revolt
against an authoritarian and corrupt regime, showing little
compunction about the fact that notorious human rights abusers were
leading the attacks, if even bothering to note the leadership’s
sordid past at all. The media also frequently exaggerated the size
of opposition rallies while ignoring often larger counter-demonstrations by Lavalas supporters; civil society opposition was said to be “broad-based” including people from across the political spectrum, while it was virtually never mentioned that
Aristide still retained support from likely the majority of the
population. In a USAID poll from March 2002, 60% of those responding
named Aristide as the politician they most trusted and 61.6% said
they sympathized or were members of FL, while only 13% indicated the
Convergence or any of its constituent parties.(23) Since the coup,
members of the U.S. and Canadian embassies in Haiti have confirmed
this result, telling journalist Anthony Fenton in July 2004 that if
elections had been held then, Lavalas would have won them.(24)
The “rebels” rampaged across Haiti, going town by town, slaughtering
police and burning down public buildings, rapidly closing in on the
capital city, Port-au-Prince. Aristide’s request for “a couple dozen
peacekeepers” from the international community to help restore order
and prevent the former military from once again taking over the
country fell on deaf ears. Jeffrey Sachs recounts the events of the
night of February 29, 2004, with Guy Philippe’s men waiting on the
outskirts of Port-au-Prince:

According to Mr. Aristide, US officials in Port-au- Prince told him
that rebels were on the way to the presidential residence and that
he and his family were unlikely to survive unless they immediately
boarded an American-chartered plane standing by to take them to
exile. The US made it clear, he said, that it would provide no
protection for him at the official residence, despite the ease with
which this could have been arranged.

Indeed, says Aristide's lawyer, the US blocked reinforcement of
Aristide's own security detail and refused him entry to the airplane
until he signed a letter of resignation.

Then Aristide was denied access to a phone for nearly 24 hours and
knew nothing of his destination until he was summarily deposited in
the Central African Republic.(25)

The U.S. government tersely dismissed Aristide’s claims as
“ridiculous”, without evidence or a plausible counter-explanation of
what happened.(26) As usual, the media, displaying their
uncompromising professional rigour, quickly let the matter drop.
Canada played a lead role in the kidnapping/coup d’état: Joint Task
Force 2, an elite commando squad in the Canadian Armed Forces, was on
the ground in Haiti on February 29, 2004, securing the airstrip from
which U.S. Marines would abduct President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Canada, along with France and Chile, also provided troops for the
subsequent U.S.-led and U.N.-approved occupation, which dubbed the
invaders the Multinational Interim Force (MIF).Part II: Post-Coup Haiti - March 2004 to January 2005

THE DISASTER SINCE THE COUP


The human rights situation in Haiti is dire. The February 2004
insurgency that culminated in the kidnapping of President Aristide
has ushered in a wave of abuses against Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas
party and its supporters. This campaign of persecution has been
waged by the rebels with the active support of the de facto
authorities installed by the U.S. and with the complicity of the
occupiers.

Numerous human rights groups have documented the widespread abuses
that have occurred, and continue to occur, since the overthrow of
Aristide. Scores of former government officials, members of popular
organizations, slum dwellers, peasants and other supporters of
Lavalas have been killed, and many others beaten, threatened and
forced into hiding for fear of their lives. A report by the
Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) gives a chilling
insight into the scale of the violence: “The Director of the State
Hospital Morgue in Port-au-Prince reported that the morgue had
disposed of over 1000 bodies in the month of March alone. Although
some of these may have died of natural causes, in a normal month the
morgue disposes of 100 cadavers. The Director said that many of the
1000 disposed bodies arrived with hands tied behind the back and
bullet holes in the back of the head.”(27)

In March 2004, the National Lawyers Guild’s (NLG) delegation to Haiti
reported that 40 to 60 bodies had been dumped at the Piste d’Aviation
in Delmas 2, a neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince; they found a “massive
ash pile and pigs eating flesh of human bones that had not burned.
The group photographed fresh skulls and other human bones, some still
tangled in clothes or with shoes and sneakers nearby. The delegation
observed that the fuel for the fire was misprinted Haitian
currency.” The Piste d’Aviation was a dumping ground for bodies
during the military junta of 1991-1994.(28)

Amnesty International (AI) has reported: “In February and March, the
Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Commission documented some 300
cases of killings in Port-au-Prince alone, although they estimate
that the true number of killings could be as high as 500.”
In accordance with findings of virtually every other human rights
delegation, AI remarked that “the identity of the victims and the
nature of the threats and other abuses committed were mostly
consistent with a pattern of persecution, especially of those close,
or perceived to have been close, to the former Fanmi Lavalas
regime.”(29)

Unfortunately, the situation in the countryside, where 2/3 of
Haitians live, could very well be worse. The local police forces
have been decimated by the rebels, who are now acting as the de facto
authorities: “[The rebels] have occupied police stations and former
military barracks. On several occasions, judicial authorities issuing
arrest warrants have given them to these groups to enforce, as they
are the sole ‘police’ force in the area.”(30) Access to the rural
areas has been restricted, especially in the rebel-dominated North,
but there have been many reports (in some cases documented) of
assassinations and arsons against people supportive of Lavalas.

As a result of the wave of violence against Lavalas and their
supporters, massive numbers of people have become refugees in their
own country, fleeing to Port-au-Prince, where they change locations
each night so as to not get caught, or to the mountains, subsisting
any way they can.(31)

The behaviour of the rebels is no surprise to anyone familiar with
the past history of their leadership, a group of notorious human
rights abusers drawn from the top ranks of FRAPH and the former
military. Guy Philippe has been quoted as saying that the man he
most admires is Pinochet, and Louis-Jodel Chamblain was convicted of
leading the Raboteau massacre of 1994. Men such as Jean “Tatoune”
Baptiste and self-declared General Remissainthes Ravix have similar
personal histories. The rank and file of the rebels are members of
the former military, convicted human rights abusers freed from the
jails emptied during the coup, and criminal gangs that sensed which
way the political winds were blowing.

U.S.-STYLE "NEUTRALITY" AND THE POLITICS OF THE LATORTUE REGIME


With the overthrow of Aristide, the U.S. set up a “neutral” and
“technocratic” caretaker government to organize inclusive elections
and “restore” democracy (after the US and its proxy forces had
finished dismantling it). Yet far from being a neutral political
player, the de facto government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue “is
the dream team of the Haitian opposition parties . . . sweep[ing]
away all vestiges of the Aristide-ism and turn[ing] the country in a
more conservative, and decidedly more pro-U.S., direction”, according
to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.(32) Tom Reeves describes the
political history of new government’s personnel: “Latortue was a
member of a previous coup-installed government in 1988. The
U.S.-installed government includes far-right officials from the
previous coup regime of Raoul Cedras and from the regimes of the
infamous Duvaliers. The Minister of Interior is Herard Abraham, a
former Haitian general who intends to re-establish the Haitian
military. The bulk of the Cabinet are exiled technocrats who worked
for the World Bank, IMF, USAID and the UN. They are champions of
structural adjustment and other neoliberal policies.”(33)

The Latortue government has dismantled social programs directed to the poor established during the Préval and Aristide administrations. Subsidies on fertilizer for poor farmers have been cut, with a consequent doubling of fertilizer prices, increasing the hardships already faced by Haitian farmers. Latortue’s government has stopped funding to literacy programs and eliminated subsidies for schoolchildren and schoolbooks. The Haiti Accompaniment Project has reported that: “large land owners accompanied by armed paramilitaries have seized land that was given to peasant families as a part of the Land Reform projects carried out by the Préval and Aristide
administrations (300 hectares had been distributed to 6000 families).

These actions came immediately after de facto Prime Minister Gerard
Latortue criticized the Lavalas land reform program in Jacmel.” AI
has reported similar occurrences. The public sector has also come
under attack: an estimated 10,000 state employees, including 2,000 at
the state telecom company, have been fired with no compensation for
their perceived support of Lavalas.(34) Doctors and nurses at the
General Hospital in Port-au-Prince went on strike in January because
the government had not paid their salaries for three months,
resulting in a severe deterioration of the already inadequate health
care system.(35) The Latortue regime has, however, offered economic
support to the large businesses of Haiti in the form of a three-year
tax holiday.

Unfortunately, the de facto government’s hostility to Lavalas and the poor goes beyond these economic attacks. “In his first public statement, [Latortue] announced that Aristide's order to replace the military with a civilian police force violated Haiti's constitution; he promised to name a commission to examine the issues surrounding
its restoration,” reports Paul Farmer, an American doctor working in Haiti.(36) In a revealing speech made in Gonaives on March 19, the de facto PM praised the rebels as “freedom fighters” and called for a moment of silence for all those who “fell fighting against the dictatorship”. Latortue’s Justice Minister Bernard Gousse, a right
wing anti-Aristide campaigner, has blithely stated that he does not intend to disarm rebels or recapture the escaped convicts and has been single-mindedly pursuing Lavalas and its supporters. Indeed, the US-installed government has already staffed the top posts in the HNP with former military men(37) and incorporated 500 members of the former military into the HNP, with 500-1000 expected to be hired
within the next year.(38)

Under the passive gaze of the interim government, the former army has
illegally reconstituted itself, establishing bases across the country, including one in the upscale district of Petionville in Port-au-Prince. The soldiers in Petionville are supported by its wealthy residents and routinely assist HNP operations in the poor
neighbourhoods, as well as carry out their own. In addition, the soldiers have demanded payment in back wages for the 1995-2004 period and occupied public buildings and threatened the government to this end. The Latortue government, ever obliging, has since offered $30 million from the public purse in compensation.(39)

POLITICAL REPRESSION AND ONE-SIDED JUSTICE


With the resurgence of the brutal Haitian army and the hostility of
the interim authorities to Lavalas, the largest mass-based political
movement in the country, political freedom in Haiti has been severely
curtailed.

At least four pro-Lavalas radio stations have been burned and ransacked in Cap-Haitian and St. Marc, and journalists perceived as supportive of Lavalas or critical of the de facto government have been threatened, kidnapped or beaten by the former rebels. Fearing for their safety, a number of journalists in Haiti's northern and
central regions have gone into hiding, according to the Haitian Journalists Association. The de facto government has also constrained press freedom by illegally shutting down Radio TiMoun and Tele-TiMoun, two media outlets established by the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, and arresting one of Tele-TiMoun’s cameramen.(40) The Haitian media, meanwhile, no longer defend freedom of the press with the same vigour. According to Joseph Guy Delva, the head of the
Haitian Journalists Association and Reuters correspondent, and an Aristide critic, if a journalist was arrested during Aristide’s government, there would be a public uproar from print and radio journalists. Now, says Delva, when a journalist is arrested, “the
newspapers and radio stations applaud.” The reason for this sudden change of heart is pathetically transparent: Approximately 20 of the 25 radio and print outlets in Haiti are owned by members of the Group of 184 and uncritically disseminate the anti-Lavalas propaganda of the government.(41)

Political opponents of the Latortue government and supporters of Lavalas are routinely arrested in violation of their civil liberties: On September 16, “police officers raided the offices of the Confederation of Haitian Workers labour union and arrested nine union members, all without a warrant. The official justification for the
arrest was that the defendants were ‘close to the Lavalas authorities.’ Hours later, masked men in military attire attacked the office of the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of the Haitian People.”(42) Numerous Famni Lavalas leaders and activists have been arrested without a warrant and left to languish in jail,
denied their right to see a judge within 48 hours to contest their
detention. Police “weapons sweeps” into pro-Lavalas neighbourhoods
of Port-au-Prince have yielded few weapons but many arbitrary
arrests. As IJDH reports: “The prisons are dangerously overcrowded
and unsanitary. Many prisons were destroyed by the insurgents,
especially in Cap Haitian, Gonaives, Les Cayes and Jeremie. The
large influx of prisoners, including many political prisoners, are
crowded into the remaining areas. There is not adequate food,
potable water or healthcare, and many prisoners have become seriously
ill.”(43) Beatings and other forms of abuse by prison guards are
commonplace. While backlogs in the justice system were a problem
that existed under Aristide as well, and thus cannot be blamed
entirely on the de facto regime, the Latortue government is knowingly
exacerbating conditions in the prisons by illegally arresting their
political opponents en masse in order to silence them.
The “justice” system, on the other hand, has been exceedingly kind to
friends of the new government. Louis-Jodel Chamblain, previously
convicted in absentia for the 1993 assassination of businessman
Antoine Izmery, as well as involvement in the Raboteau massacre,
tearfully surrendered to the authorities on April 22 (Under Haitian
law, those convicted in absentia are entitled to a new trial upon
their return to the country). Chamblain stated that he would
sacrifice his freedom so that “Haiti can have a chance at the real
democracy I have been fighting for.” Even before the start of the
trial, the hope for an impartial judgement was slim: Minister of
Justice Bernard Gousse admitted that the surrender had been
negotiated, and declared that Chamblain “had nothing to hide.” Gousse
went on to praise Chamblaim’s decision to surrender as “a good and
noble one” and suggested that he might be pardoned “for his great
service to the nation.” Intimidation was also an important factor:
In March 2004, the judge who had convicted Chamblain of the massacre
in 2000 was beaten by the former FRAPH commander’s thugs in
retaliation. Of the five witnesses called by the prosecution, only
one appeared at Chamblain’s hasty overnight trial, and he admitted to
not being an eyewitness to the crime. Chamblain was thus acquitted
in a trial Amnesty International denounced as “an insult to justice”
and a “mockery.”(44)

"OPERATION BAGHDAD": POPULAR RESISTANCE AND ELITE PROPAGANDA


The poor masses of Haiti have not been passive victims of violence
and repression. On the contrary, “[o]ne of the most striking
findings from [the Haiti Accompaniment Project’s] trip was that
despite stepped up repression, many groups in Port-au-Prince and in
other parts of the country were preparing for ongoing long-term
mobilizations to call for the return of democracy to Haiti.” On May
18 a pro-democracy demonstration in Port-au-Prince was fired upon by
police and broken up with the help of US Marines, killing at least
one person. Police initially claimed that they had not been given
proper notice for the demonstration, but subsequently admitted that
the demonstration had been announced well in advance and they had in
fact been given proper notice by the organizers.

A large demonstration on September 30 marking the anniversary of
first coup that ousted President Aristide in 1991 was similarly met
with police violence, this time complemented by a vast propaganda
effort on the part of the government and the elite-owned media. More
than 10,000 residents of Port-au-Prince’s sprawling slums were
marching towards the National Palace to demand an end to the
persecution and the return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide when police
opened fire on the unarmed demonstrators. Gerard Latortue, in a
radio interview on October 1, was unrepentant: "We fired on them.
Some died, others were wounded, and others fled." Latortue also
indicated that the authorities would take action against further
protests.(45)

Later, grasping at straws for a cover, government officials would
claim that three police officers had been killed and beheaded by
Lavalas supporters during the September 30 demonstration. When
journalists and human rights groups asked the names of the officers
killed and demanded to see the bodies, the government refused. The
beheadings were described as the beginning of “Operation Baghdad”, a
Lavalas-organized insurgency against the interim government, by
Democratic Platform member Jean-Claude Bajeux in a sensational yet
totally unfounded account soon after picked up and repeated ad
nauseam by Latortue and the Haitian and international press.(46)
Lavalas spokespersons’ denials of the existence of any “Operation
Baghdad” and their condemnation of the violence, meanwhile, have been
studiously ignored in mainstream media accounts. Meanwhile, an
investigation into the reported “Operation Baghdad” by the Haitian
human rights group CARLI (Comité des Avocats pour le Respect des
Libertés Individuelles) led it to conclude that no such operation
exists. CARLI’s investigation did confirm that two officers had been
decapitated, but by former soldiers on September 29, and noted that
it was only until after the September 30 demonstrations that the
government and the media began to blame Lavalas supporters. The
media further stirred anti-Lavalas sentiment when it reported on a
funeral service held for five HNP officers. Although only two had
died in actual violence, the government/media portrayed it as a
funeral of five heroic officers who died at the hands of pro-Aristide
militants.(47)

The September 30 shooting of unarmed demonstrators by the police
sparked a wave of unrest in the capital, with more protest marches,
clashes with police and armed resistance by slum residents to the
deadly police incursions into their neighbourhoods. Rather than the
result of a mythical Lavalas effort to destabilize the new
government, the violence since September 30 in Haiti has
overwhelmingly been the product of the de facto government’s brutal
efforts to stifle popular protest in the capital.

SILENCING THE SLUMS OF PORT-AU-PRINCE


The reaction of the installed government to the continuing (largely
non-violent) opposition of the population has been to intensify the
terror and repression, a policy continuing to this day. Raids by
masked “anti-gang” police into the slum quarters of Port-au-Prince,
already frequent, have become a daily occurrence, with a concomitant
increase in arbitrary arrests and summary executions. Reed Lindsay
in the Observer (UK) reported on November 1 that: “policemen wearing
black masks had shot and killed 12 people, then dragged their bodies
away. At least three families have identified the bodies of relatives
at the mortuary; others who have loved ones missing fear the
worst.”(48) Amnesty International’s November 11 alert was equally
gruesome: On October 26 in Fort National, “[i]ndividuals reported to
be members of the police burst into a house and kill[ed] at least
seven people,” while the next day in Carrefour Pean, “[f]our young
men are killed in the street in broad daylight by individuals wearing
black uniforms and balaclavas. Witnesses identif[ied] their vehicles
as police patrol cars.”(49) The HNP raids are frequently accompanied
by ambulances that are used to carry away the bodies; those wounded
by police violence often don’t seek medical attention, since the HNP
arrest anyone, especially young males, found in the hospital with
bullet wounds.(50)

The deadly consequences of the post-September 30 campaign are most
evident in the reports from the morgue: Independent journalist Kevin
Pina reported that on October 15 “[t]he General Hospital had to call
the Ministry of Health today in order to demand emergency vehicles to
remove the more than 600 corpses that have been stockpiled there,
that have been coming in from the killing over the last two weeks
alone.”(51) Since October 21, entry to the state morgue has been
prohibited, except for visitors pre-approved by the General Hospital
administrator, apparently due to the unwanted attention brought by
journalists and human rights investigators to the large numbers of
bodies coming in. Interviewing morgue employees in mid November,
however, lawyer Tom Griffin discovered “that since September 30, 2004
. . . the HNP rarely even bring people killed by violence to the
morgue. They stated that the police simply take the bodies of those
they kill directly to undisclosed dumping grounds, sometimes stopping
by the morgue only to borrow the dump truck.”(52)

campaigns_button
different_button
Ayiti Flag Day
May 18, 2005
Ezili Danto Witness Project: Direct from Haiti - Jean's Report on the May 18, 2005 Demonstration
Ayiti Flag Day
May 18, 2004
At least 9 demonstrators killed during huge march on Haiti's Flag
Marguerite Laurent
HLLN
May 19, 2004
UG group solid with Haiti
Thursday,
May 19th 2005
Stabroeknews.com
Haiti Occupation and Solidarity
by Jean St.Vil
Zmag.com
May 16, 2005
Paper Tiger, Rising Dragon
China's Deployment in Haiti Treads in Familiar Footsteps
by Pranjal Tiwari
May 19, 2005
 
 
 
BACK
Ezilidanto | Writings | Performances | Bio | Workshops | Contact Us | Guests | Law | Merchandise
2003 Marguerite Laurent