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Re-installing Dictatorship: Answers to media questions about Haiti and the U.S.
by Marguerite Laurent, Esq.
Chair, The Haitian Lawyers Leadership
March 2, 2004
1. Why did the Bush administration consider the removal of Aristide to be a U.S. national interest?
Aristide had eliminated the Haitian army, which traditionally protected the interests of the right wing business elites in Haiti. Their interests are U.S. big business interests. Also, Aristide refused to fully implement Washington's neo-liberal economic policies when he returned to Haiti in 1994. Also, Haiti's cheap labor force, whether actually used or not, can be used as a threat - as leverage - against other labor forces. When the Chinese or Koreans try to unionize, then all you need is the threat to move to cheaper labor in
Haiti to put their demands in check and save millions of dollars for the transnational corporations.
2. In your opinion, what was the involvement of the United States in the removal of Aristide?
The U.S. led an economic aid embargo against Haiti starving the people and contributing to the disaffection with Aristide.
The U.S. gave massive funding to the elite, mostly Duvalierist opposition groups; carried out a well-orchestrated media disinformation offensive against the Aristide government; and, actively supported several prior paramilitary coup attempts by arming, training, giving shelter and financial support in the Dominican Republic and clandestine support, within the Haitian civilian police itself, to ex-Haitian army soldiers, collaborators and ex-FRAPH members. In addition, the old army was not demilitarized and was menacing and shadowing Aristide's every move.
The U.S. financed the first 1991-1994 coup d'état against Aristide. They returned him after three
years to stem the flow of Haitian refugees landing in Florida, incarcerated in the offshore U.S. penal colony known as Guantanamo Bay.
The U.S. continued their destabilization campaign against the Haitian peoples' struggle towards development by forcing Aristide, as a condition of return, to give asylum to the coup leaders and integrate high FADH and FRAPH officials back into the new civilian police. These corrupt people led to more corruption and made it even more unwieldy for Aristide to clean up past corruption or develop a Haitian justice apparatus to crack down on corruption and bring people to justice.
Then the U.S. promptly began to try to turn the new innocent police recruits against Aristide. The U.S. rep running the center quit because of the interference. The U.S. did not want eliminated the old Haitian army it held under its thumb to do its bidding.
Guy Philippe, for instance, trained by the U.S. Special Forces in 1994 in Equador, was put in, by Aristide, as chief of polic
e of the North at U.S. insistence. Guy Philippe later led three coup attempts. The first one against the Preval administration and two, one in 2000 and the other on December 17, 2001, against Aristide. Many people died. The U.S. is also implicated in these previous Guy Philippe attempts.
The fact that Guy Philippe could not have freely entered Port-au-Prince, despite the Duvalierist opposition, without the U.S. Marines first removing Aristide is testament to Aristide's popularity and solidarity with the Haitian people.
The U.S. conducted the coup d'état against Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004, themselves. Louis Jodel Chamblain and Jean Tatoune, both of FRAPH, and part of what CNN calls a "rebel force," are convicted of massacres during the first (1991-1994) CIA-sponsored, bloody, coup d'état against President Aristide. The U.S. played a pivotal role in helping Louis Jodel Chamblain flee Haiti and get asylum in the Dominican Republic. All three - Chamblain, Tatoune and Guy Philippe - are CIA asset
s who refused, like Toto Constant, to be subject to Haitian criminal laws and its courts of justice and got away with this because of their U.S. intelligence and diplomatic connections.
Nine hundred U.S. soldiers patrol the DR with the Dominican Guard. Yet, on Feb. 5, 2004, convicted murderers Chamblain and Philippe managed to cross the border into Haiti with U.S. weaponry such as M16s, M60s, armored vehicles, grenade launchers, etc.
The United States DEA charged Guy Philippe as a drug trafficker. Today he walks side by side with U.S. Marines in Port-au-Prince while the constitutionally elected Haitian president is flown out of Port-au-Prince under heavy U.S. coercion, if not outright gunpoint, by U.S Marines.
Toto Constant, FRAPH founder, to whom the U.S. gave asylum in Queens, N.Y., while indefinitely detaining his Haitian victims on Guantanamo Bay and other INS holding pens, is now reportedly back in Haiti. It is reported that Jean Claude Duvalier, the former "baby doc" dictator has
announced he will now return to Haiti.
Guy Philippe and his gang's first order of business after they were escorted into Port-au-Prince by U.S. soldiers was to "liberate" 3,000 prisoners - murderers and felons - in the Haitian National Penitentiary, including Prosper Avril, and unleash them onto Haitian society.
Today, the disinformation about Aristide's lack of popularity and lies about Haiti being more corrupt under Aristide/Preval/Aristide then under the old Duvalierist guard, which is now back, is fairly visible, and lying in graphic, bloody technicolor on Haiti's streets. But it's too late. All the small
successes of Haitian democracy since 1990 have been trashed in one fell Feb. 29, 2004, U.S. coup d'état swoop.
Aristide built more schools in Haiti during his term than had been built in the entirety of Haiti's history under the old guard. Now that old guard is retaking power thanks to 10 years of U.S. destabilization, then outright coup d'état. They could not have won
without the Feb. 29 shock and awe, dead-of-night campaign, against Aristide and his innocent wife.
Who is keeping the marginal flame and movement towards structural peace alive now in Haiti? Aristide eliminated the old army, helped bring illiteracy from 85 percent down to 48 percent, improved the health system, built public parks, started to decentralize power by establishing local governance through town meetings and local town governance, more so than any of the old guard for the almost 200 years it was in charge.
This done despite the U.S. embargo, obstructions and extortion, which forced the Haitian people, under the Aristide government, to pay the IMF/World Bank $30 million in loan interest due from old dictatorship governments. Loans that were never requested back from the Duvaliers, who are now in golden parachute retirement on the Riviera, or Raoul Cedras, now in Panama, or Guy Philippe, the real beneficiaries of U.S. aid in Haiti.
The Haitian people's daily struggles were mad
e even harder by the U.S. financing of opposition groups to Aristide who relentlessly challenged his legitimacy and exercised, with the help of the IRI, USAID, NED, the U.S. Embassy, OAS and the European Union, a virtual de facto veto of any legitimate Haitian government policies, plans and reforms.
Most notably, they blocked every effort to hold parliamentary elections, even though this tiny opposition, according to COHA and U.S.'s own polling, make up less than 4 percent of the Haitian electorate.
Despite all this, President Aristide was able to keep his popular support, so his opponents simultaneously ran the media disinformation campaign fabricating that Aristide had lost popular support and that those who supported him where "thugs." That is equivalent to saying that a little less than 8.5 million Black people are thugs.
The Haitian people have been brutalized, beaten and devastated by U.S. power for a century, beginning even before 1915 when the U.S took over from the French, by
“helping" to refinance "for Haiti" the 1825 French "reparations", and then invaded Haiti for missing payments to protect U.S. bank interests, fleecing dry the Haitian national gold reserves. Today, France, of course, is helping the U.S. to depose Aristide because he has requested their repayment of the Haitian people's $22 billion.
3. What type of relationship do you believe exists between the Democratic Platform and the rebel army?
There is nothing "democratic" about the old guard. They are oppressors, who practice social exclusion and apartheid akin to the KKK. They simply refused to be subject to paying taxes or put under any Haitian law. Group 184 was created in a meeting in the Dominican Republic, which gives shelter, arms and training camps to ex-Haitian soldiers and FRAPH murderers. Guy Philippe has said publicly, the Haitian business elite financially supports him.
4. How involved do you believe Aristide was in the various pro-Aristide groups that used violence against Haitia
n opposition groups, such as the chimeres, etc.?
Haiti was not demilitarized when Aristide returned in 1994. Old enemies of the people were allowed to keep their guns and have a space in Aristide's government. It was impossible then for Aristide to tell certain Lavalas opportunists to put down their guns when FRAPH/FADH was still armed. Then, the jostling for turf just went underground but was nonetheless alive and well and very lethal.
Aristide tried to negotiate some of these people out of Haiti and some into harmless position. The corruption continued. Besides, corruption was endemic before Aristide took over leadership.
No democracy in the world does not have corruption in it - as we well know in the U.S. But Aristide's problems where exacerbated, since the Haitian people didn't have a justice system capable of holding powerful or monied prisoners.
Amiot Metayer, for instance, a Lavalas hero, was eventually put in jail. But he broke out and resented the punishment and tu
rned, joining Jean Tatoune, convicted of a massacre in Amiot Metayer's own Gonaive and further complicated the government's crackdown. Butler and Amiot Metayer were always playing off both sides and were simply mercenaries. There are always opportunist who will use a legitimate cause to further their own personal agendas. As we see today in Haiti, as many people with personal grudges are using the cover of this U.S. engineered civil war and Coup d'etat chaos and anarchy to even personal scores, terrorizing, mutilating and killing but justifying it by calling it merely the death of the US/FRAPH demonized and devalued "chimeres."
No leader in the world, including Aristide, may be blamed for people's personal criminal predilections. In addition, the charge that Aristide failures may be measured by the fact that a few in the opposition where initially part of Lavalas is besides the point. For no one who is a real revolutionary for Haitian justice and empowerment would EVER throw their lot in with murde
rers like Guy Philippe, Jean Tatoune, Louis Jodel Chamblain, or the old Duvalierist guards. Period, no question marks.
All this slaughtering happening in Haiti today could have been prevented if the U.S. had really wanted to help democracy back in 1994 and given the Haitian people the police help President Aristide asked for to demilitarize the whole of Haiti, and if the U.S. had just supported, or simply had not obstructed the constitutionally elected president and Haitian governments. Now the old guard with the U.S. guns have won the fight that's always been going on.
The people are back in hiding. Democracy is dead in Haiti, flown out when the U.S. took away Haiti's peacekeeper. To date, President Aristide has survived 14 assassination attempts. Today, because of U.S./Euro control in Haiti with their FRAPH/FAHD enforcers and because of their neo-colonialist, pre-emptive regime-change policymakers and diplomats throughout the world, President Aristide's safety as well as the safety of the
majority of Haitian people, both in the U.S. and in Haiti, are right now in serious jeopardy.
Email Marguerite Laurent, Esq. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marguerite Laurent is an award winning playwright and performance poet, is a hip hop attorney who has represented many top Hip Hop artist over the last 15 years including members of Public Enemy and the Last Poets, and, a pro-democracy Haitian-American activist. From 1994 to 1995, she was a legal advisor to President Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti and is Chair of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership, a network dedicated to protecting the civil and cultural rights of Haitians living at home and abroad.