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Author Topic: Haiti: A (Counter) Revolutionary Bicentennial  (Read 22247 times)
Ayinde
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« on: February 18, 2004, 09:26:53 AM »

by Stan Goff
February 9, 2004.
Reprinted: February 18, 2004


As I write this there is an attempt to start a civil war in Haiti, engineered in the United States of America and supported by its lapdogs in Caricom and the Organization of American States. Former Haitian military men who have received "some form" of training and logistical support while hiding out in the neighboring US semi-colony, the Dominican Republic, are systematically attacking the Haitian National Police at primary strategic points along the entire route from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican Border near Ouanaminthe. Only Cap Haitien has not fallen so far as St Marc, Gonaives, and Trou du Nord a town at a key bridge between the border and Cap Haitien has been ransacked by right-wing paramilitaries, who are the armed wing of a US-funded "opposition" that cloaks itself in the name Convergence Democratique, and now falsely claims no connection with this activity.

The main road between Port-au-Prince to St. Marc to Gonaives to Cap Haitien to Trou du Nord to Ouanaminthe is often the only passable route cross country, and these seizures have effectively cut off the western coastal towns from the capital and isolated Cap Haitien, the second largest city in Haiti. At last word, these former Haitian military units--some of the same ones who worked for the notorious Duvaliers and for the savage Cedras-Francois junta--have abandoned St. Marc.

The ridiculous names like Gonaives Resistance Front that these right-wing paramilitaries have assigned themselves are already being echoed in the capitalist press, which also refers to them, idiotically, as "rebels," and to their activities as the activities of "crowds." A contact I spoke with hours ago who returned from Port-au-Prince today told me that the real crowds are those who are fleeing these fascist coup operations in the North and the massive PRO-Aristide demonstrations in the capital. This contact said the situation here is very similar in many respects to the US-supported attempt to overthrow another democratically elected government, that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

The paramilitaries have opened ships and stores for looting, capitalizing on the desperate poverty and hunger of Haitians to direct the energy of masses into looting, in order to neutralize them politically. But it has only worked locally. My contact said that contrary to what's going on here, the Haitian masses are "crystal clear" that this is a US-supported coup attempt.

If the legitimately elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide fails to take aggressive action to recapture these cities, there may be a successful coup within weeks. While the tactical target of this paramilitary action is the Aristide government, the political target is--as it always has been--the popular sovereignty of the Haitian masses. It is a tragic irony that this situation has developed this far on the bicentennial of the heroic Haitian Revolution, and that it is being led by an imperial power that wants to annihilate popular sovereignty wherever it raises its head.

To help the reader understand what is going on there, I am inserting my journal from the last Aristide inauguration, and I will make some comments afterward:

[link=http://www.trinidadandtobagonews.com/tt/2004/haiti3.html]Continue here...[/link]


http://www.trinidadandtobagonews.com/tt/2004/haiti3.html
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iyah360
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2004, 03:15:52 PM »

i need to say this. if one looks at many of the revolutions that occured in latin & central america, phillipines, haiti . . . the legitimate passion of the people for a just society created a vaccuum to be usurped by perhaps the true power behind the revolutions, in all of them the U.S. eventually benefitted by throwing off the yoke of the colonial powers of "old Europe"

one needs to ask if this is the same power behind the earlier French and American revolutions.
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Ayinde
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2004, 04:12:45 PM »

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Bush administration said Thursday it would send a military team to Haiti to assess the security of the U.S. Embassy there, but stressed that it is still looking for a political solution to the bloody uprising against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The Pentagon announcement that a small number of military personnel was being sent to Haiti came as Aristide declared he was "ready to give my life'' to defend Haiti, indicating he was not prepared to give up power.

Continue...

http://www.salon.com/news/wire/2004/02/19/haiti/index.html
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Oshun_Auset
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2004, 05:07:05 PM »

Quote
i need to say this. if one looks at many of the revolutions that occured in latin & central america, phillipines, haiti . . . the legitimate passion of the people for a just society created a vaccuum to be usurped by perhaps the true power behind the revolutions, in all of them the U.S. eventually benefitted by throwing off the yoke of the colonial powers of "old Europe"

one needs to ask if this is the same power behind the earlier French and American revolutions.


That is because the only revolution in the Americas that actually installed a new political system is Cuba's. If they aren't revolting against capitalism...the entire point is missed.
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Forward to a united Africa!
iyah360
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2004, 08:00:03 AM »



a picture is worth 1,000 words.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/americas/02/19/haiti.revolt/index.html
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Ayinde
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« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2004, 08:20:22 AM »

by Anthony Fenton
February 13, 2004


Judging by the corporate media's recent coverage of the crisis in Haiti, one might be led to believe that they are "aiding and abetting" an attempted coup d'etat aimed at the democratically elected Jean Bertand Aristide. On a daily basis, mainstream international media is churning out stories provided mainly by the Associated Press and Reuters that have little basis in fact.

On Feb. 10th, the Globe and Mail, Canada's main national daily, reprinted an AP article that relied on Haiti's elite-owned Radio Vision 2000. [1] This article contrasted the recent "violent uprising" in Gonaives, Haiti's fourth-largest city, with the 1986 uprising that saw the overthrow of the oppressive Duvalier dictatorship. The inevitable conclusion that the Canadian readership is steered toward is that Aristide is, or could be, a dictator, who may or may not deserve what he is about to get. This is hardly the kind of context that will compel citizens to lend support to the embattled Haitians.

The Globe's paul Knox has been reporting from Haiti since Feb. 11th, and has submitted two stories thus far, neither of which have strayed from the "disinformation loop" which sees the recycling of dubious elite-spawned information by the corporate press corps. [see Pina] The same context as above is given credence - that Aristide faces a legitimate opposition that has every right to support his violent overthrow. Knox quotes Charles Baker, a wealthy factory owner who says: "We are all fighting for the same thing. Aristide has to resign." [2]

Canada's other national daily, the National Post [also considered the more ‘right wing' of the two dailies] has no problem running headlines like the one featured on February 13th website: "Rock-throwing Aristide militants force opponents to cancel protest march." [3] Nowhere in the article is President Aristide's press release mentioned, which condemned the obstruction of the protest, and called for the constitutional right of peaceful demonstration to be adhered to.

Interestingly, the corporate media has neglected to mention that the "opposition" to which they refer and repeatedly give legitimacy to, only represents a meagre 8 per cent of registered voters in Haiti, according to a US poll conducted in 2000. According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs [COHA], "their only policy goal seems to be reconstituting the army and the implementation of rigorous structural adjustment programs." [4] As corporate journalists rely on the opposition for little more than inflammatory soundbites, information that would otherwise be sought to lend their efforts credibility is repeatedly overlooked.

US Congresswoman Maxine Waters issued a press release Feb. 11th, on the heels of her recent visit to Haiti, that called on the Bush administration to join her in condemning the "so-called opposition" and, specifically, Andre Apaid Jr., who is a "Duvalier supporter" that, along with his Group of 184, is "attempting to instigate a bloodbath in Haiti and then blame the government for the resulting disaster in the belief that the U.S. will aid the so-called protestors against President Aristide." [5]

She also took aim at the World Bank and IMF and their "continuing embargo" , which amounts to hundreds of millions of desperately needed funds. Rep. Waters outlined the following positive measures that Aristide has initiated:

"Under his leadership, the Haitian government has made major investments in agriculture, public transportation and infrastructure…The government [recently] doubled the minimum wage from 36 to 70 gourdes per day, despite strong opposition from the business community…President Aristide has also made health care and education national priorities.  More schools were built in Haiti between 1994 and 2000 than between 1804 and 1994.  The government expanded school lunch and school bus programs and provides a 70% subsidy for schoolbooks and uniforms"

Rep. Waters made clear assertions on Aristide's behalf that are otherwise absent from Bush administration commentary and corporate media deceptions regarding Haiti. Waters completed her statement with an important appeal, which called on the corporate media to "discontinue the practice of repeating rumours and innuendos," whereby they function as "international megaphones for the opposition. They lie shamelessly on a daily basis."

Another Congresswoman, Barbara Lee, directly challenged Colin Powell in a formal letter to him February 12th, after Powell had announced that the US administration is "not interested in regime change" in Haiti. Said Lee: "It appears that the US is aiding and abetting the attempt to violently topple the Aristide government. With all due respect, this looks like "regime change"…Our actions – or inaction – may be making things worse." [6]

In a press conference Wednesday, Aristide called for peace and a democratic resolution to the unrest ongoing in Haiti. He once again called on the opposition to rationally discuss things with his government so that they can work toward an equitable resolution.

Now would seem to be a good opportunity for broad-based social justice groups to galvanize around the critical issue of Haiti. Haitians are desperately in need of popular international support if they are to overcome the latest onslaught. With history as our guide, we should be extremely wary when one side of the US administration's mouth promotes "democracy and freedom" and a "peaceful resolution" to the situation in Haiti, while out of the other they support the interests of such players as André Apaid Jr. The statements of some US representatives are encouraging. Others are somewhat flaky.

In a conversation today with Congressman Gregory Meeks, his slippery position was made quite clear. Meeks's "primary concern is democracy" and the promotion of democracy does not entail "taking sides". This is a familiar position that is being trumpeted, whereby the US supports democracy but is not willing to actively support the democratically elected leader. The Miami Herald made note today that the Congressional Black Caucus, whose position is supported by Meeks, "is calling for an end to the violence in Haiti but not repeating its traditional support of Aristide." [emphasis mine]

These are some dangerous indications, considering that Haitian towns remain under illegal siege by former paramilitary members, who – according to Pina – "Gathered in the Dominican and are now brandishing brand new M16s." Pina also made note that the Dominican Republic is known to have recently received a shipment of 20,000 American made M16s.

Since a great deal of the current problems plaguing Haiti stem from dire economic issues, we should now turn to these. In his 1997 book, "Haiti in the New World Order", Alex Dupuy sums up the US disposition toward Haiti:

"For the foreign policy intelligentsia, the defense and promotion of democracy and the free market serve as the "grander vision" underlying U.S. policy objectives in the new world order…Democracy is not likely to take hold unless its corollaries – a free market economy and a free trade system – are also fostered." [7]

The logic of the State Department, according to COHA, sees Aristide as "little more than a ‘beardless Castro'", who was despised by Jesse Helms, a tradition that is being carried on by his "ideological heirs" in the State Department, Roger Noriega and Otto Reich. We should recall that this sort of attitude was prominent over a decade ago, when Aristide was first elected President.

In 1991, Aristide was overthrown by the brutal paramilitary, led by former CIA employees Emmanuel Constant and Raoul Cedras. The massive influx of refugees fleeing Haiti from the brutal FRAPH paramilitary regime, in addition to a groundswell of domestic support for Haiti, forced Clinton to "restore democracy" to Haiti in 1994. Aristide, having his way cleared by US troops, returned to Haiti recognized internationally as its legitimate leader.

Aristide's return was only made possible when he "embraced the Haitian bourgeoisie and accepted a U.S. occupation and Washington's neoliberal agenda."  As Noam Chomsky has detailed, "The Aristide government [was] to keep to a standard "structural adjustment" package, with foreign funds devoted primarily to debt repayment and the needs of the business sectors, and with an "open foreign investment policy." [8]

By then, the neoliberal agenda has become entrenched as part of the New World Order, which was designed to respond to "the South's plea for justice, equity, and democracy in the global society."  This agenda has led others such as Susan George to sum it up as such:

"Neo-liberalism has become the major world religion with its dogmatic doctrine, its priesthood, its law-giving institutions and perhaps most important of all, its hell for heathen and sinners who dare to contest the revealed truth." [9]

The World Bank predicted in 1996 that up to 70 per cent of Haitians would be unlikely to survive bank-advocated free market measures in Haiti. According to a 2002 Guardian article, by the end of the 1990's "Haiti's rice production had halved and subsidized imports from the U.S. accounted for over half of local rice sales." [10] As Haiti became the "star pupil" of IMF and World Bank, such policies "devastated" local farmers.

Structural Adjustment Programmes [SAPs], which have been forced upon Haiti, have in traditional style promoted the privatisation of state industries. According to Aristide in his 2000 book "Eyes of the Heart", privatisation will "further concentrate wealth" where 1 per cent of the population already controls 45 per cent of the overall wealth. As for why Haiti would agree to World Bank and IMF measures, Aristide provides context along a "dead if we do, dead if we don't" line: "Either we enter a global economic system, in which we know we cannot survive, or, we refuse, and face death by slow starvation."  [11]

While keeping in mind that the US effectively controls the World Bank and IMF [12], we should consider Susan George and the Transnational Institutes findings based on extensive research of these institutions: "The economic policies imposed on debtors…caused untold human suffering and widespread environmental suffering while simultaneously emptying debtor countries of their resources." [13]

George notes how the consequences of this "debt boomerang" which sees rich nations actually profiting from the enormous debt service rendered on the poor, as affecting all of us. While the people in the South "are far more grievously affected by debt than those in the North, in both cases, a tiny minority benefits while the overwhelming majority pays." [14]

The US administration, the World Bank-IMF couplet, and Haitian elites who stand to benefit from a neoliberal agenda, are all aware that Aristide favours genuine democracy over neoliberal reform. Aristide still stands behind the beliefs that swept him to power as the first democratically elected Haitian leader in 1991. As Kevin Pina told me yesterday, the popular [impoverished] masses who revered Aristide in 1991 "are still willing to fight for him. They are willing to die if it means Aristide can complete his term."

In Monterrey last month at the Special Summit of the Americas, a Third Border Initiative was committed to by the Caribbean Community and the United States. One of the primary aims of the initiative is to "make sure the benefits of globalization are felt in even the smallest economies,"  while coordinating ties that discourage terrorist activities and increase security for the area. [15]

We will only know for certain how this applies to the case of Haiti as things progress – or deteriorate. In closing our conversation yesterday, Kevin Pina asserted the following:

"Haiti desperately needs to establish democratic traditions. How is the pattern of instability supposed to be broken? What's to stop the next democratically elected President from being asked to step down? If people are falling for these distortions and lies they are doing a disservice to Haiti."

Citizens of Canada, the United States, and Europe all have a stake in this, to the extent that the fomenting of Haitian instability and continued Haitian misery is being carried out and financed in our names. By falling for the delusional picture of Haiti that is drawn by our corporate media, we are actively violating fundamental human rights along with Haiti's right to self-determination. Anything that can be done to expose this circulation of lies should be done so with an immediacy that above all appreciates the right of all Haitians to determine their own future.

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=4977
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iyah360
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« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2004, 08:55:36 AM »

"For the foreign policy intelligentsia, the defense and promotion of democracy and the free market serve as the "grander vision" underlying U.S. policy objectives in the new world order…Democracy is not likely to take hold unless its corollaries – a free market economy and a free trade system – are also fostered." [7]  

"Aristide's return was only made possible when he "embraced the Haitian bourgeoisie and accepted a U.S. occupation and Washington's neoliberal agenda."

The same forces which exploited the revolutions are the same forces which today are pushing this agenda. Democracy is not likely to take hold unless its corollaries – a free market economy and a free trade system – are also fostered.
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Yann
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« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2004, 02:53:37 PM »

Aristide Agrees to Haiti Peace Plan

By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - President Jean-Bertrand Aristide agreed Saturday to a U.S.-backed peace plan calling for shared power with political opponents. He said rebels will be disarmed, and a new government will hold elections.

Aristide appeared to lay down a condition, saying he would "not go ahead with any terrorists," referring to rebels who have led a two-week-old uprising that has killed more than 60 people and chased police from dozens of towns.

U.S.-led diplomats in the Haitian capital pressing the peace agreement met with opposition leaders shortly after Aristide's announcement, urging them to also agree to the deal. The opposition has complained the accord doesn't call for the deeply unpopular president to resign.

"The plan attempts to pull his (Aristide's) teeth but doesn't have the means," opposition leader Evans Paul said, noting the plan also does not call for foreign peacekeeping troops.

Amid the negotiations, the State Department ordered the withdrawal of all nonessential U.S. personnel and family members from the U.S. Embassy, citing continuing violence in the Caribbean nation.

The U.S.-backed plan requires the government and opposition to agree by Tuesday to a three-way commission of representatives from both sides and international delegates. It would also appoint a prime minister agreeable to both sides.

"We have agreed to have a new government with a new prime minister," Aristide said after a two-hour-long meeting with the diplomatic mission, led by Roger Noriega, the top U.S. envoy for the Western Hemisphere.

Saturday's breakthrough came a day after militant Aristide loyalists attacked anti-government protesters, hurling rocks and bottles, firing shotguns and swinging machetes. No police arrived to protect the protesters, and at least 14 people were injured. A journalist shot twice in the back was in serious condition.

Opposition leaders got news of the attack as U.S. Ambassador James Foley and five other diplomats were giving them a timetable for the plan. Two key points of the accord are disarming politically motivated gangs and setting rules for political demonstrations.

Aristide accuses the political opposition of supporting the armed rebellion, which erupted Feb. 5 and has killed more than 60 people, including about 40 police.

Rebel leader Guy Philippe said Friday the next rebel target is Haiti's second-largest city, Cap-Haitien, where he served as police chief before fleeing in 2000 amid charges that he plotted a coup.

Aristide's government spokesman, Mario Dupuy, said "the government hopes the mission will be able to detach the opposition from acts and actors of violence ... the opposition has a chance to prove it is not in favor of violence and terrorism."

Roger Noriega, the top U.S. diplomat for the Western Hemisphere, arrived with diplomats from a slew of nations in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean whose international force, combined with pressure from the popular rebellion, is being wielded to win an agreement.

The international community's message appeared to be that Aristide must accept the plan - which would require him to give up some power but remain president - or confront the rebels alone.

Scores of Americans, including missionaries and aid workers, left Haiti on Friday after the United States urged them to flee the mounting violence in government-held areas and threats of new rebel attacks over this Carnival weekend.

The airport was busy Saturday, but mostly with Haitians who said they were going to spend Carnival in Miami. There were a few seats on American Airlines' six daily flights to the United States.

Rebels have chased police from more than a dozen northern towns and cut supply lines, blocking the highway north at Gonaives, Haiti's fourth-largest city, with barricades of shipping containers.

Aid agencies warn a humanitarian catastrophe is imminent, as food, medical supplies and gas run out.

The United States blames Aristide's government for the crisis, saying it ignored mounting problems and did not halt police corruption, act on promises to negotiate with the opposition and end growing civil disorder.

Diplomats told opposition leaders Friday that the international community will not help end the rebellion without a political agreement, Paul said.

Paul said the ambassadors said they believed the Democratic Platform coalition "has enough moral force to persuade the rebels to lay down their arms."

That was an odd statement, he noted, since among rebel leaders are people who tried to kill Paul and other opponents under brutal military dictatorships 1991 to 1994.

The U.S.-led diplomats presented a time frame, with a commission composed of government, opposition and international community representatives to be set up by Tuesday and a four-point plan to be in place by March 17, Paul said.

Haiti's government and opposition leaders have been unable to agree on a prime minister since flawed legislative elections in 2000 were swept by Aristide's Lavalas Party.

Aristide, who won Haiti's first free elections in a landslide in 1990, has lost support since his re-election. Haiti's chronic misery has deepened since international donors froze aid.

The president, a former priest, has responded to growing opposition by using police and armed gangs to


http://story.news.yahoo.com/news

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Ayinde
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« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2004, 07:27:32 AM »

Haiti's political class has failed it, but the first black republic has also been squeezed dry by a vengeful west

As civil war encroaches, civil society implodes and civil political discourse evaporates, one of the few things all Haitians can agree on is their pride in Toussaint L'Ouverture, who lead the slave rebellion in Haiti that established the world's first black republic. "The transformation of slaves, trembling in hundreds before a single white man, into a people able to organise themselves and defeat the most powerful European nations of their day is one of the great epics of revolutionary struggle and achievement," wrote the late Trinidadian intellectual CLR James in his book The Black Jacobins. The transformation of that achievement into a nation riven by political violence, ravaged by Aids and devastated by poverty is a tragedy of epic proportions. Full Article


http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1153894,00.html
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Ayinde
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« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2004, 05:05:15 AM »

February 24, 2004  

by Gwynne Dyer

Haiti's trip to the brink of civil war began last September, when Amiot Metayer, the leader of a gang of street thugs called the Cannibal Army that enforced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's will in the northern city of Gonaives, threatened to reveal details of the murder of opposition figures. It was presumably in connection with some quarrel over the division of the spoils, but Metayer was promptly murdered. His widow then conducted a voodoo seance in which his soul appeared and identified his killers: local supporters of President Aristide.

Thereupon the Cannibal Army switched sides, changed its name to the Gonaives Resistance Front, and started killing Aristide's prominent backers in the city. Meanwhile in the capital, Port-au-Prince, non-violent demonstrators protesting Aristide's rigging of the 2000 elections were being murdered by government-backed vigilantes known as chimeres (monsters): 45 were killed between September and January. Then on February 5, the former Cannibals seized control of the whole city of Gonaives, killing and mutilating over a dozen policemen.

Since then they have seized more towns in the north and been joined by various unsavoury figures from former regimes like former police chief Guy Philippe and former paramilitary death-squad leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain. Aristide denounces them as "terrorists" while his own thugs continue to attack the non-violent protests of the civilian opposition in the capital.

Just change the names, and Haitians have been here countless times before: there has been only one peaceful and more or less democratic change of president in the country's 200 years of independence. Nowhere else in Latin America comes close to matching Haiti's dismal record of violence, poverty, corruption and oppression-and yet Aristide was supposed to be the man who finally changed all that.

A former priest who commands a devoted following among the poorest of the country's poor, Aristide was elected president in 1990 after the overthrow of the Duvalier family's 29-year dictatorship. He was overthrown himself by the army only seven months later, was returned to power by 20,000 US troops in 1994 -and proceeded to go bad. Foreign aid was squandered, democratic rules were abused, vocal opponents were harassed, silenced or killed, and street gangs loyal to Aristide were granted a monopoly on local crime in return for defending his rule.

It's awful, but it's also what Haitians have come to expect.

Eighty per cent of Haiti's ten million people are unemployed and the average income is $3 a day. The trees are long gone and the rich soil is eroding away into the sea at a frightening rate: much of the population survives only because of food aid. Average life expectancy is 53, the rate of HIV/Aids infection is the highest outside Africa, and most Haitians would like nothing better than to leave their country and live elsewhere. They know-or at least they believe-that it never gets better for long in Haiti.

But why is Haiti so much worse than anywhere else in the Americas?

Other countries in Latin America have had terrible dictatorships and serial coups in their pasts, but have managed to move beyond them. Other countries in the region have lived through lengthy US military occupations and emerged without fatal damage to their national pride and culture.

Other Caribbean islands also have populations of predominantly African origin, but they are peaceful, democratic, relatively prosperous places.

Haiti's great crime, for which it is still being punished, was to be the location of the one great and successful revolt by African slaves.

It was France's richest colony when the slaves who grew the sugar, inspired by the egalitarian principles of the democratic revolution that had just toppled the monarchy in France, rose in rebellion in 1791 and killed a thousand white planters in a single night. British, Spanish and French armies failed to suppress the twelve-year revolt, and in 1804 Haiti became the world's first black-ruled republic.

But practically everyone who had not been born a slave had been killed or fled by then, and Haiti was shunned by the rest of the world, where slavery was still legal. (The United States didn't recognise it until 1862.) People whose parents or grandparents had been taken as slaves from Africa and whose only common language was that of their former slave-masters, who had been denied any education and who had no social structure beyond that of the slave barracks, were left to create and run a country without resources or friends. They made a hash of it, and that burden still weights on their descendants today.

When slavery was abolished throughout the British empire by law in 1832, or by war in the United States a generation later, there was at least some help available for the former slaves. More importantly, they were still living in complex, modern societies that gave them models of how things are done as they tried to rebuild their lives as free men and women.

Haitians had none of that, and they are still paying the price two centuries later. It doesn't excuse how Aristide has misused the opportunity that he was given, but no matter how or when he goes, the prognosis is still not good.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storyprint.cfm?storyID=3550847
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Ayinde
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« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2004, 11:19:35 AM »

by Tom Reeves
February 16, 2004

Not quite a year ago, after returning from Haiti, I wrote for Z-net, "the United States government is playing the same game as in Iraq - pushing for "regime change" in Haiti. Their strategy includes a massive disinformation campaign in U.S. media, an embargo on desperately needed foreign aid to Haiti, and direct support for violent elements, including former military officers and Duvalierists, who openly seek the overthrow of President Aristide." Events in Haiti today show how bloody the U.S. game has become.

Even as Colin Powell insists the U.S. does NOT seek "regime change," the attempt to oust the legitimate elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide grows more violent by the day. During the past week, at least 50 people have been slaughtered, and probably far more, in Gonaives, Haiti's fourth-largest city - most by those whom Powell and pro-U.S. media call "rebels." The dead include three patients waiting for treatment in a hospital. Many of the 14 police killed had their bodies dragged naked through the street, ears cut off and other body parts mutilated. Gonaives and several small towns remain in the hands of a brutal gang of thugs, with direct ties to the U.S.-recognized and Republican-financed "opposition" - the Convergence and the Group of 184, whose spokesmen are sweat shop owners and former military officers. This "opposition" seeks to distance itself from the violence, yet continue to insist that the "uprising" is justified. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security admitted it's concern by announcing preparations for up to 50,000 fleeing Haitians in Guantanamo - indicating the U.S. is expecting to see carnage in Haiti on a grand scale.

Most recently, as the "rebels" blocked the road from the Dominican Republic and re-took two villages in the north, reinforcements arrived from across the border. According to Ian James of the AP, Feb. 14, twenty armed Haitian commandos, shot their way through the Dominican border, killing two Dominican soldiers. With them were former Cap Haitien police chief and army officer, Guy Philippe, and the head of the Duvalier death squad in the 1980s, Louis Jodel Chamblain. Chamblain was also a leader of the FRAPH, a group of para-military "attaches" during the coup years. A close associate of Chamblain, Emmanueal "Toto" Constant, has admitted its CIA funding and direction. Chamblain was revealed in documents reviewed by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York as one of those present during the planning, with a U.S. agent, of the assassination of the pro-Aristide minister of justice, Guy Malary, in 1993. The U.S. refuses to release documents it seized from FRAPH during the 1994 U.S. invasion - presumably to cover up the CIA ties to FRAPH. Philippe and Chamblain were among those from the Haitian opposition, recognized by the U.S. - the Convergence - who organized conferences in the D.R. funded and attended by U.S. operatives from the International Republican Institute (IRI).

All this is new only in its intensity and scope. The brazen coup attempt which resulted in a violent attack on the National Palace, only hours after Aristide had left it, in December 2001, brought only OAS and US demands that the Haitian government pay reparations for damage to opposition property, and that it prosecute those responsible. Aristide complied. Since then, Paul Farmer, Kevin Pina and others have documented many para-military attacks on police stations, clinics and government vehicles, and the largest power station in the country (Peligre), resulting in the deaths of many government officials and others. Some of these attacks clearly involved former military in alliance with paramilitary gangs like the Armee Sans Maman, openly linked to this month's Gonaive violence by the self-styled "Gonaives Resistance Front" and the "National Liberation and Resistance Front." Some also involved jeeps fleeing toward the Dominican border. In none of these documented instances of violence did the U.S. government or any of the U.S.-based human rights organizations cry out - reserving their criticism for the justly deplored murders of three and possibly five Haitian journalists over a period of four years, suggesting Haitian government ineffectiveness at best in the prosecutions, and complicty with the murders at worst.

It is not surprising, then, that Powell has now only demanded that Aristide's government respect human rights! He denounced the blocking by "pro-Aristide militants" of a "peaceful opposition demonstration." Residents threw up barricades because they said they feared violence in Goniave could spread to the capital - though rocks were thrown, no deaths or injuries were reported. Powell said nothing of the extreme atrocities committed daily by what he variously calls "rebels" and "criminals" against police and Lavalas leaders in Gonaives. One wonders what would be the position of the Bush government if a band of criminals in Kansas City had murdered fifty government supporters and police in the name of opposing the war in Iraq, and if national anti-war leaders refused to denounce this, insisting they hold a demonstration in Washington the same week. As Harold Geffrand, a small business owner who was among those manning the barricade against the opposition's demonstration, told the AP, "If those guys get power can you imagine what would happen? They would destroy and destroy and destroy." The Haitian government immediately condemned the blocking of the demonstration and said these acts were not sanctioned by Lavalas or its allies. The demonstration did in fact take place two days later - with about a thousand participants, as did a much larger pro-Aristide demonstration. Both groups were kept separate and guarded by Haitian police. Opposition leaders in the demonstration repeated their "nonviolence," but also their support for the goals of the Gonaives rebellion." (AP, Feb. 15)

The U.S. game in Haiti has always been a double game - public lip service for "democracy" - at the same time giving concrete covert aid to the most violent anti-democratic forces. Powell pressed Aristide to "reach out to the opposition," and insisted chillingly, "It would be inconsistent with our plan to attempt to force him from office against his will." Powell made plain, "We will insist that Aristide stops the violence, restores order and respects human rights." Yet the U.S.-led embargo continues to block tear gas supplies for the Haitian police, leaving police only the alternatives to kill looters and violent demonstrators, hence "violating human rights," in the U.S. eyes; or ignore them - thus failiing to restore order.

Meanwhile, the same U.S. government players who supported the Contras in Nicaragua - Otto Reich and Robert Noriega (See Kevin Pina's excellent series in the Black Commentator) - gave aid and comfort to those who back the Haiti contras, insisting that the right-wing dominated Convergence and it's elite, pro-business partner, the Group of 184, have a veto over any progress toward holding elections in Haiti. Over a year ago, Noriega and Reich were linked to the planning of a secret conference near Ottawa, at which the Francophone nations were urged by U.S. agents present to be prepared to call for direct intervention and a possible U.N. trusteeship in the wake of Aristide's departure after violence escalated in Haiti. The Canadian diplomat, Denis Paradis, who chaired the meeting was sacked when Canada's role came to light.

No wonder, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was caught in the middle. He waffled when asked about U.S. intentions: "I guess the way to respond to that is that, needless to say, everyone's hopeful that the situation, which tends to ebb and flow down there, will stay below a certain threshold and that there's - we have no plans to do anything. By that I don't mean we have no plans. Obviously, we have plans to do everything in the world that we can think of. But we - there's no intention at the present time, or no reason to believe that any of the thinking that goes into these things day - year in and year out - would have to be utilized."

I saw both sides of this double game when I went to Haiti at the time of Aristide's return in 1994. I saw the U.S. helicopter that landed Aristide at the palace and the U.S. soldiers who guarded the bullet-proof box from which he was allowed to speak. I interviewed U.S. officers in the Central Plateau who said they were specifically told to treat FRAPH as a loyal opposition, and not to confiscate large weapons' caches they stumbled upon. Most of the M-1s and M-14s seen in the hands of the Gonaives thugs today have been identified as coming from those Haitian army stockpiles left untouched during the U.S. occupation. A few M-16s, though, have begun to appear in Goniaves as well - identical to those given the Dominican army en masse just a few months ago by the U.S. government, in return for Dominican acquiescence in placing 900 U.S. troops alongside Dominican guards at the Dominican frontier - and for the Dominican agreement never to use the International Court to accuse and try U.S. citizens for war crimes. (Miami Herald, Dec. 6, 2002)

While virtually all U.S. media insist on parroting Powell and the Haitian opposition in referring to the Gonaives situation as a "uprising by the people," they also repeat the mantra that the "rebel leaders" were originally armed by Aristide as his local goons, and that he is therefore responsible for the attacks on his own police. Such half-truths are sprinkled through media accounts. In fact, those responsible for the Gonaives violence are tied to two local gangs - or clans - entrenched in Gonaives for many years. One gang, based in the slum of Raboto, was headed by Amiot Metayer, and called itself recently "The Cannibal Army." The other, based in Jubilee, included Jean "Tatoune" Pierre, convicted of the notorious Raboto massacre of Aristide supporters in 1994. Metayer's group claimed to support Aristide, but when human rights groups pressed the Haitian government to prosecute him for various crimes, he was arrested. Both Metyayer and Tatoune escaped from the Port au Prince penitentiary in August, 2002, in a daring bulldozer prison break. Late last year, Metayer was murdered, with the opposition and Metayer's followers blaming Aristide, but the government pointing at Tatoune's followers and the opposition. Metayer's brother returned to Haiti from the U.S. and joined Tatoune to begin a campaign against Aristide's party, Lavalas, and the government. They are among those who control Gonaives today - along with what the Washington Post (Feb. 10) calls "higher echelons of leadership from former Haitian army officers." Now they have been joined outright by FRAPH/CIA operatives like Chamblain, who was also convicted in absentia for the Raboto massacre.

Whatever Aristide's mistakes and weaknesses have been (and they are many), they pale when compared to the extreme brutality of those who are today implicated in the violence in Gonaives and elsewhere in Haiti. Andy Apaid is the notorious sweat-shop owner who speaks for the Group of 184, and who, with Evans Paul, leads the anti-Aristide demonstrations in Port au Prince. Apaid spearheaded a successful campaign last year to block Aristide's attempt to raise the minimum wage. It is about $1.60 per day - lower even than in 1995. Apaid insists the opposition does not condone violence, yet says that "armed resistance is a legitimate political expression" and that the "rebels" should remain armed until Aristide has stepped down. Apaid continues to hold U.S. citizenship, despite having received a Haitian passport, based on a fradulent claim to have been born in Haiti.

The two prongs of the Haitian attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government of Haiti parallel the two sides of the U.S. double game. One way or the other, the end game is to put in power those more amenable to U.S. policies and to the Haitian elite. It is not surprising that Marc Bazin, long the preferred U.S. candidate for the Haitian presidency, has again been floated in U.S. liberal circles as the "compromise" solution to Haiti's problems! Whether by outright violence or by the strategies of a "coup lite" (like the U.N. trusteeship proposed by the Paradis conference last year or the Caracom initiative brokered by Jamaca and the Bahamas with Powell's blessing) that would ease Aristide out to "avoid a bloodbath," what the U.S. wants for Haiti is what it wants for every country with a leadership not under its control - for Cuba, for Venezuela, for Iran or Iraq: a rose by any other name - "regime change."

The biggest question is why the American liberal establishment goes along with the right-wing Republicans in this - and why even most of the vanishing "left" in the U.S. is either silent or wrings its hands at Aristide's failures. An incredibly effective disinformation campaign in almost all U.S. media is probably the answer: Aristide has been constructed as a tyrant, and hence all opposition to him is justified. Amy Willenz' piece this week in the New York Times is the latest illustration of this. Willenz, who documented the U.S. game since Duvalier in The Rainy Season, reasons that Aristide has betrayed the Haitian people who brought him to power in the first place. To a great extent she is right because Aristide was playing his own "double game" - seeking to keep some shreds of his original platform to bring dignity and equity to Haiti's poor, while having to capitulate to U.S. demands for privatization and structural adjustment in order to hold on to power. Like Powell, Willenz, too, rejects violent regime change. But like Powell, reading between her lines one gets the clear warning. He must go voluntarily, or he will be pushed - no matter what the cost in Haitian lives, and no matter what the Haitian people want.

The time is now to stop the politically correct nonsense on Aristide. The time is now to heed the lone voice crying in the Washington think tank wilderness, that of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), which has consistently exposed the link between U.S. government and right-wing circles and the Haitian opposition, and warned that a contra-style take-over could be eminent. COHA quoted Haitian human rights activist, Pierre Esperance, already in 2002: "I don't know how this situation can last. The country could explode at any time." The time is now to support Rep.Maxine Waters and other brave Black Caucus members in their attempt to counter U.S. government and media half-truths which blame Aristide for everything and cover over U.S. connections to the revival of those who shored up Duvalier and perpetrated the coup a decade ago.

If progressives, at least, do not expose the U.S. double game, and demand support for the democratic government of Haiti, Haiti could succumb to that game. Haitians will have been set back yet again in their two-century struggle for sovereignty and dignity. The U.S. could win its double game in Haiti not in a matter of years, but within weeks.

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=2&ItemID=4997
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