From Thugs to Freedom Fighters to Thugs
Haiti is Unraveling and No One is Saying Anything


Original article at:Counterpunch
December 14, 2004

Since the de facto overthrow of the democratically-elected Aristide
government on February 29 of 2004, the international community, along
with the UN peacekeeping force, has either turned a blind eye on the
human rights abuses perpetrated by interim Prime Minister Gerard
Latortue's regime or, at best, showered favoritism on the hapless,
extra-constitutional government. Much of the lawlessness now found in
the country is due to the ill-trained and out-of-control police
force, particularly when the peacekeepers tolerate brutal raids on
pro-Aristide neighborhoods and on those calling for Aristide's return
to the country, as well as tolerating the Gestapo-like tactics of
Latortue's Justice Minister, Bernard Gousse.

The increasing violence being unleashed on the streets of
Port-au-Prince and the squashing of political dissent by Gousse's
goons has ranged from the incarceration of Aristide supporters
(including the country's just-released and most highly revered
priest, Father Gerard Jean-Juste, as well as former Prime Minister
Yvon Neptune, former Interior Minister Jocelerme Privert, Senator
Yvon Feuille and former Deputy Rudy Herivaux) to shooting protestors
in the street without even the pretense of professional restraint.
For such abuses, among others, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) all
along has refused to restore normal relations with Latortue, while
the Organization of American States' (OAS) Inter-Commission on Human
Rights has condemned the ongoing abuses now occurring throughout
Haiti with frightening regularity. As one international human rights
monitor has observed, "The contrast between the Haitian government's
eagerness to prosecute former Aristide officials and its indifference
to the abusive record of certain rebel leaders could not be more

Yet, despite the growing international condemnation of the Latortue
government's kid glove treatment of the country's armed rebels--the
same cabal that Secretary Powell originally described before the coup
as "a gang of thugs"--neither the arbitrary actions of the armed
ex-militias nor the repeated violations of due process perpetrated by
Gousse have attracted the attention of MINUSTAH, the UN, or the
denunciation of the international community.

Surprisingly, not even Annan's personal representative in the
country, the highly regarded Chilean diplomat Juan Gabriel Valdés,
has vigorously condemned Latortue and his cronies. To the contrary,
Annan and his aides have bestowed a modicum of undeserved political
legitimacy on the new government by acquiescing, at every step, to
Secretary Powell's see-no-evil policy regarding the egregious
excesses of the Latortue regime and its multiple sins of omission.

Annan has shown little intent to protect the legitimacy of the
constitutional process nor has he insisted that Aristide be accorded
the respect due to a democratically-elected president. Annan also
joined Powell in demanding that Aristide negotiate with the
opposition (to which Aristide willingly agreed), thereby eventually
hoodwinking the former President into exile. Nor did Annan raise
questions regarding Aristide's imposed successor, the expatriate
Latortue, who later was to pathetically describe those who Powell
earlier had labeled "thugs," as "freedom fighters." Of course, these
were the same "freedom fighters" who terrorized the countryside
during General Raoul Cedras' 1991-1994 military regime, and were
responsible for upwards of 5,000 civilian deaths.

Greenlighting the Coup

The death knell for Aristide's unruly but democratic regime occurred
the moment Powell--soon echoed by Annan--declared that the
peacekeeping force would not intervene until a political settlement
was reached between Aristide and the opposition. In Powell's words,
"There is, frankly, no enthusiasm right now for sending in military
or police forces to put down the violence that we are seeing." He
continued, "What we want to do right now is find a political
solution, and then there are willing nations that would come forward
with a police presence to implement the political agreement that the
sides come to."

This statement was tantamount to green-lighting the coup because even
though Aristide agreed to every stipulation made by Powell and the
CARICOM states, the main opposition party, the Group of 184, would
not budge from its rigid commitment to the "zero-option" policy,
defined as a refusal to negotiate, at any cost, with the beleaguered
Haitian President. Therefore, the anti-Aristide opposition knew that
once the U.S. took this stand, it would be in de facto control of the
country. For his part, even after Aristide's ouster, Annan would
still not denounce the violent opposition and found it difficult to
describe the coup d'etat by its rightful name. In Annan's language,
"Haiti was a peculiar situation, but the change in leadership there
was not a coup d'etat...It was a deteriorating situation."

Annan's Deliberate Disregard and Lula's Complicity

There is no apparent reason why Annan's often dissenting voice has
been so amenable to Washington's scandalous coddling of Latortue,
whose incompetence is so glaring that he lacks the support of almost
all of Haiti's political movements, regardless of their orientation.
However, speculation is rife that the Secretary-General's days are
numbered, depending on how the current oil-for-food scandal plays
out. But even before that scandal fully matured, some believed that
Annan was anxious to heal the wounds with the U.S. caused by Iraq,
and that sacrificing his purity over Haiti was the price he was
prepared to pay. Sen. Norm Coleman, chairman of the Senate
subcommittee investigating the scandal, along with prominent
conservative columnists and political commentators, already has
called for Annan's resignation. While many of these calls are
undoubtedly premature, politically motivated UN bashing pot-shots,
Secretary-General Annan should, in any case, perhaps consider
resigning since he has abdicated his longstanding penchant for
principled positions in favor of mere political survival.

As for Lula

The terms under which Lula dispatched his troops to Haiti, namely,
that Brazil command the international peacekeeping force, may have
been too prestigious a recognition for Lula to resist. But MINUSTAH's
performance, led by Brazilian commander Augusto Heleno Ribero
Pereira, looks more like a Faustian bargain struck between Lula and
Annan to advance the international standing of the former and to woo
Washington on the part of the latter, rather than a sincere attempt
to alleviate the suffering of the Haitian people. The operation also
seems to be managed by an incompetent and unruly police force. As
noted by famed international human rights lawyer Brian Concannon, the
UN troops "do not have the stomach to confront the rebels or anybody
with a gun, but are very courageous in surrounding radio stations to
help the arrest of three unarmed legislators. . . they're very
courageous about going into poor neighborhoods and shooting people."

Lacking the political will to go after the rebels, MINUSTAH bears an
uncanny resemblance to the ineffective "blue helmets" of the UN in
the early 90s during the Bosnian crisis. In Haiti, as in Bosnia, the
so-called peacekeeping force, far from living up to its mandate,
actually made things worse by bestowing a patina of legitimacy over
the status quo. Though the Haiti mission increases Brazil's status as
a rising regional star, Lula has in effect given Powell or, in this
case, the real puppeteer behind Powell's Haiti policy, Assistant
Secretary of State Roger Noriega, an escape hatch; for it is now the
responsibility of the Brazilians to deal with the wretched mess that
characterizes daily Haitian life and, as of yet, they do not seem to
be up to the job.

Larry Birns is is director of the Center on Hemispheric Affairs and
Seth R. DeLong, Ph.D. is a COHA Senior Research Fellow.




Denounce Canada's role in Haiti: Canadian officials Contact Infomation

Urge the Caribbean Community to stand firm in not recognizing the illegal Latortue regime:

Selected CARICOM Contacts
zilibutton Slide Show at the July 27, 2004 Haiti Forum Press Conference during the DNC in Boston honoring those who stand firm for Haiti and democracy; those who tell the truth about Haiti; Presenting the Haiti Resolution, and; remembering Haiti's revolutionary legacy in 2004 and all those who have lost life or liberty fighting against the Feb. 29, 2004 Coup d'etat and its consequences
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