Page 1 of 1
Patrick Elie: Two Interviews (October 2004/December 2005)
Posted: Tue Oct 19, 2004 8:45 am
A coup made long in advance
October 17, 2004
Patrick Elie interviewed by Anthony Fenton
This interview took place on October 9th, 2004. Patrick Elie is Haiti's former Minister of Defense, was at one point responsible for anti-narcotics, and is former head of security. Presently, he heads the Jean Dominique Echo Foundation.
Fenton: In your recent article "The Coup D'etat of April 3, 2000" you write: " Jean Dominique was our "army of one," the political immune system of the popular democratic movement. For the abomination of February 29, 2004 to succeed, he had to be permanently removed from the scene. We must fight relentlessly for his killers to be brought to justice and for the truth to come out about this brutal assassina
tion. We stand convinced today, that if the triggermen and local planners were Haitians, the masterminds of the crime are the same who engineered the February coup and who have always considered targeted assassination as a normal tool of foreign policy."
Given the events of today, how clear is it who's behind both of these events, and putting into context what's happened this past week or so by way of violence and repression, clarify what you mean by who is behind this destabilization and who is behind this political assassination
Elie: I think not only Haiti, but people who have been involved in politics in Latin America especially, and studied the history there, can see that there is a long history of involvement of U.S. offices like the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] in the removal or destabilization of governments that don't fit the interests of the U.S. We have examples in Guatemala, we have examples in Argentina,
and most recently, we've seen how President Chavez in Venezuela has been treated. Fortunately, he was able to resist this destabilization campaign, but in our case we didn't resist. Maybe one should try to understand how and why it was different in Haiti than in Venezuela, but in Haiti, I'd say from 1987 to now it's been the third coup d'etat. One tends to forget that there was a first one in November 29, 1987, which I could describe as a preventive coup d'etat. This time, the Haitians were ready to vote en masse for a candidate who was totally different from Jean Bertrand Aristide, but the problem for the U.S. was that by voting en masse and electing a President, the Haitian people, and I'm talking about the poor majority, would have gained conscience of their own power and their own importance as political actors. And, as you know, the army, which is nothing but the tool, the puppet of the U.S. DIA and CIA, massacred the voters and cancelled the election before organizing their own sham election. So,
in the case of the last coup [February 29th, 2004] it was so obvious that the U.S. intervened directly, actually snatched the President away in the middle of the night, so when I say that the same people are behind the coup d'etat are behind the assassination of Jean Dominique, just as they were behind the assassination of Antoine Izmery, I'm talking about the strategists of the organizations like the CIA and the DIA, which people do not speak enough of, which is probably the most powerful intelligence agency in the U.S., and has a larger budget than the CIA.
Fenton: To what extent is the DIA involved right now? Who have been their 'point men' these past four years?
Elie: Who their point men are in Haiti is not something that is easy to identify in the sense that these people specialize in covert operations, but traditionally the U.S. CIA and DIA acted through the Haitian military. Often the military was even trained and indoctrinated in the U.S. proper, in what
is called the School of the Americas, and that's how and where they were recruited. But of course the CIA didn't act only through the military, they acted through some local politicians. These days, with the army being disbanded by President Aristide, it is logical that the U.S. services have gone through the Haitian police to penetrate the security apparatus of Haiti, but also, as I think it should be clear for every observer, they have not renounced using the ex-military and ex-paramilitary death squads who were obviously trained in the Dominican Republic [DR], and then infiltrated into Haiti.
I don't know if your familiar with the DR, but it is a country which has a very strong repression apparatus; it's a very policed society and the idea that 80-200 men could be armed, trained in the DR without the assent of the government or the army there is totally preposterous. This was done with the complicity of the Dominican services, and they are but the proxies for the U.S. CIA and DIA. So, there aga
in you see that the tools of the politics of the U.S. down in Haiti always go back to either the army or the death squads or, generally, the repression forces.
At the beginning of this chat you were referring to the latest in Haiti, the violence and the ensuing repression. I think that this is also classical textbook technique to justify the destruction of a popular movement. What you do is that in the name of that movement you organize some violence against, for example, the political opposition or against the police, and then this justifies an all out repression.
Lately, as you've heard, it's been said that three policemen, or even more, the numbers vary all the time, even though actual corpses have not been presented; but three policemen have been killed by Lavalas grassroots organizations. One has to wonder why Lavalas, who have been trying to strike a kind of alliance with the National Police in front of the ex-soldiers, would now attack the police and find itself under repression by both
the police and the ex-military; it would be totally stupid, and on top of that, for at least a month now the bourgeoisie through the Group of 184 as well as some other political parties have been pressuring for the neutralization of Lavalas, and asking for more repression, and what we are seeing now is just the execution of that plan by the Haitian forces of repression, but also, it seems, with the help of the UN forces who are in total breach of their purported mission, if the UN is now acting as a dictatorship-supporting force, this should be denounced very strongly.
Fenton: The events of September 30th seemed to be and have been reported to be a clear provocation, where this special unit of police fired indiscriminately into crowds of demonstrators, whereupon these masked individuals appeared and fired back, killing these police in the crossfire.
Elie: Yes, for me it was clear, and I've heard reports also that it was ex-army members coming out of the Ministry of
Interior going out and shooting at the crowd. You know, since February 29th, Family Lavalas, especially the grassroots organizations of Bel Air and Cite Soleil, have organized at least four or five demonstrations. They're the only political group or sensibility that can actually put people out in the street. At any rate, none of these demonstrations were marred by violence, so it's difficult to ascribe this violence to Family Lavalas. What is happening is that every demonstration was stronger than the preceding one. Obviously, especially in view of the total ineptitude of the de facto government, the resistance was gaining momentum and it had to be stopped, and that, I think, is the reason for the events of September 30th. It had to be stopped, it was too obvious that the Haitian people are for the return of legitimacy in their country, the respect of the vote of the Haitian people, and respect of Haiti's sovereignty. So, it had to be stopped, and the only way to stop it is through violence and repression
Fenton: Repression, which they've been employing with vigor since February 29th. Meanwhile, the United Nations has only been able to fulfil 50% of its originally projected troop mandate. American, Canadian and French troops all more or less left by the end of July, leaving a situation that seems like an interesting pretext for the discussions concerning the reestablishment of the former military…
Elie: It's interesting to see how the France and the U.S. mostly, but Canada almost as a puppet of U.S. policy, went into Haiti and created this mess, because a mess it is, although not on the scale of Iraq, of the same nature, and then left the 'hurt baby' in the hands of the UN. I think that the UN is running a high risk of losing even more of its credibility if they don't play this quite right. What they've [the de facto regime] been trying to do from the very beginning is to try to get the UN to do the dirty work, go out in the popular neighbourhoods and start sh
ooting, the way the U.S. troops do it, and have done it in Bel Air, especially in the beginning of March of this year. The UN has to be very, very careful about that.
We have talked to the UN representative in Haiti, specifically warning him about this role that they were trying to force the UN into, and unfortunately they seem to be falling into this trap. I say 'they seem' because as I said I'm not in Haiti at the moment so I don't have detailed reports of the latest events, especially with all of the arrests which were made in Bel Air where they made really by and with the help of the UN or by Haitian forces; that remains to be seen. But clearly there is a huge danger of escalation of the violence if the current trend becomes clearer, and this is something that international public opinion should be warned about because with the general complicity of the mainstream media they're going to be killing Haitians by the hundreds and it won't even make the last page in the newspaper or even be menti
oned on TV or on radio. And this would be a catastrophe because as you well know and as history has proven, the escalation of violence, the introduction of violence into politics only breeds more violence, and we've had enough of that already.
Fenton: It's well documented by now the number of deaths that have taken place since February 29th, and the corporate media has reported none of these. You look at how they flocked down there to cover the floods, and there has subsequently been a complete absence of the political context as well…
Elie: You know what strikes me also is that all of these disinformation campaigns about the 'militias' of Lavalas and the political assassinations that were going on are all being proven a lie, but nobody goes back and analyses the facts. Had President Aristide created an armed militia, in reality, in Haiti the ex-military and the death squads would not have stood a chance. All we're seeing is the violence being visited upon the p
artisans of President Aristide and it is obvious that this 'army' of 'chimeres' that they were talking about doesn't exist, even when people do exercise when possible the legitimate right to self-defense, which is a sacred right. But the so-called army, especially in Port au Prince is being proven a total, total lie. Every day you read in the newspaper be they French, Canadian or U.S., the Aristide militia, you know, the bandits armed by Aristide, the chimeres; that is a total urban legend.
Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 12:04 pm
Fenton: I've been going back a number of years, reviewing UN documents to 1999, specifically when the U.S. unilaterally ended operations. Kofi Annan seems to have been either hooked into this change of policy [which appears to have been spearheded by Jesse Helms as chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee], or possibly willfully complicit in the ensuing economic embargo on Haiti on extremely dubious grounds.
Elie: The UN is becoming increasingly, proving to be what General de Gaulle called it 'that thing' called the UN. They are not exerting their essential mission, which is to bring or facilitate peace and justice in countries. More and more they look like a puppet or in the hands of the powers that be, especially the U.S., or they are being treated as completely inconsequential when that serves the interests of the U.S. Now I don't think that in 1999 a military UN presen
ce was necessary in Haiti. We were well on our way to the establishment of real democracy; there was peace in the country; what were needed of course were the economic conditions to be improved. What happened, as you reminded us, was that since under President Preval, a de facto embargo was imposed on the country, which made for economic and daily life situation becoming increasingly difficult.
As you pointed out, the destabilization started then; it was to be followed by a mock election that would have ensured the removal of Lavalas by not allowing the Lavalas constituency to vote, and this plot was denounced and exposed by Jean Dominique which resulted in Lavalas winning the election. Even though one can recognize that they were not perfect elections, they did reflect the will of the majority of Haitians. So having failed to organize "selections" in Haiti rather than elections, then the next step was to actually destabilize and finally hit the government established by the Haitian people. So, it was
an escalation and one could see it coming by reading the press, by reading the internet, by witnessing the creation of 'think tanks' like the Haiti Democracy Project, one could see something in the making, and personally I followed quite closely what was happening in Venezuela and I could see the same blueprint being applied to Haiti.
A key factor also, as I said in my paper on Jean Dominique's assassination, was the total monopoly of the press, especially radio that is so important in Haiti, the monopoly by the bourgeoisie and sectors which are under the control of the U.S. So, these radios did an incredible campaign of lies and distortion, and amplification of the so-called opposition to President Aristide until this so-called insurrection came about and finally, the U.S. and France coming directly with Canada tagging along, to actually kidnap the President and establish their own puppet government. We've seen the plan well executed, except that they didn't count on the Haitian people's resista
nce, and I think that this resistance is going to be stronger and stronger.
Fenton: In Venezuela in 2002, I'm not sure if you've seen the film "This Revolution will not be Televised"…
Elie: Yes, I've seen it.
Fenton: The way it played out there was strikingly similar in terms of the media, and even the resistance, how they [the elite media] tried to construe and portray the people demonstrating as firing arbitrarily into crowds, complete fabrications and distortions.
Elie: Exactly, it's the same blueprint; they've refined it since the day of Arbenz in Guatemala. Back then [1950's], they had to organize their own radio to kind of poison the mind of the people. Now they can count on - with all those radio stations that belong to the Haitian bourgeoisie - to do the job for them inside, and that's one thing that Jean Dominique had denounced, this use of the radio, and I think it's one of the reasons that he was dealt wit
h by assassination.
Fenton: Jean Dominique, then, was sort of the equivalent of Venezuela's Channel 8?
Elie: Could be, yes, but even more than that he was a reference for the Haitian people. A hundred radios could be saying the same thing but the Haitian people would go to Jean Dominique to have the final say, what is really going on and how we should respond to what is going on. Maybe people outside of Haiti cannot understand, that the elimination one person could have such dire consequences, but I can assure you that that is what happened.
Fenton: So it was no surprise that the opposition would try to 'muddy the waters' and make it appear as though Aristide himself had something to do with Jean Dominique's death?
Elie: Exactly, and, mind you, I'm not saying that the trigger pullers [were not Haitian] or even that they was no local involvement in planning this assassination, but the puppet master, the grand designer of
this operation has to be found in some dark corner of Virginia, Williamsburg or Langley.
Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 12:05 pm
Fenton: A few minutes ago you mentioned the Haiti Democracy Project [HDP]. They and a 'post-coup' organization called PROMOBANK [made up of several former coup-financiers] as well as many powerful U.S. Senators and corporations are plugging certain legislation called the HERO Act, maybe you could discuss this a little bit as well as the HDP in general, with the website recently put up by HDP founder Boulos that is enticing people [corporations] to invest in the textile and assembly sectors in Haiti because of the low wages, $1.60/day and Haiti's "comparitve advantage."
Elie: It's obvious that they have big economic interests behind that, but obviously this type of so-called development is only going to benefit a small fraction of the Haitian elite who will keep selling the Haitian workforce cheaply. Any fool can see that the only way you are going to keep people at such a salary of
misery, $1.60 per day, is by keeping the unemployment rate incredibly high and also by using repression to keep the people from organizing in unions and things like that. We know that that is not the way for Haiti; we know also that nothing but a true democracy is going to allow the mobilizationof the Haitian population to solve Haiti's problems. We know that this is not going to work, and I think the investors are going to be thinking twice before putting their money in a country that is sure to be unstable as long as the government does not have popular legitimacy. It's not going to work.
The U.S. has started Haiti into a new cycle of instability. It took us 190 years almost to get to the point where election by the majority, rather than by coup d'etat or a palace coup, was the way to change government. By doing what has been done recently, culminating on February 29th, we are being thrown back approximately a hundred and some years into political instability, into violence as the main way of ach
ieving regime change. And, it's going to be a long descent into instability unless Haiti is able to turn the tide, which can only be done of course with the help of international public opinion.
Fenton: Among these potential investors is a Montreal-based company by the name of Gildan Activewear. In their annual report they boast about their new manufacturing hub being set up in the Dominican and Haiti, where "labour-intensive sewing operations will be based primarily in Haiti." This is a $60 million investment where they are going to have a textile industry, with assembly and they're planninganother similar "hub" in this area as well. This company is connected to Canada's new Foreign Affairs Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, who is also, evidently, connected to rebel leader Paul Arcelin, such that they met on February 5th, the same day that Gonaives was attacked. Also, Andy Apaid, of the Group of 184, is the main Gildan subcontractor in Haiti; he was in Montreal on September 17th.
ie: Yes, I heard about it and he's been one of the key figures of the so-called opposition, so you see it all ties up and gets back to some vested interest into the continuation of the exploitation of the Haitian workforce.
It's the same way as in Central America, in the Maquiladoras, and we know that the people don't want this kind of development. Of course, if the people of the third world are waging this fight without the help of the public opinion of the countries where these investors are, where these politicians, who are their accomplices are, it's going to be a very hard fight for us. I think that, more and more, we need to develop ways to cut open the lies, not only in Haiti, but also in places like France, Canada, and the U.S.
Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 12:07 pm
Fenton: In the mainstream media they of course denied or refused to explore any link between the Democratic Convergence and the "rebels," meanwhile, less then two weeks after the coup, Arcelin, the Democratic Convergence representative in the DR, admits that he and Guy Philippe had been planning to overthrow Aristide for two years in the DR.
Elie: Every time the legitimate government was denouncing this complicity between the so-called "democratic opposition" and the armed group who were killing people and destroying property in Haiti, the press said that it was all a plot by the legitimate government. But now these people are claiming responsibility, and what is striking is that they are claiming responsibility for murders and assassinations that not one of the human rights organizations is asking for justice for the victims of these killers; it's very striking and revolting. We are t
alking about death squads, we are talking about people who have ordered terror and assassinations in Haiti and suddenly they are becoming legitimate political players. I think that this should be pointed out to Canadian public opinion. Mr. Arcelin should be the subject of a judicial inquiry for what has been done in Haiti over the last two years, especially in the Plateau Centralle, where, as you know, tens of Haitians have been killed by the Guy Philippe and Jodel Chamblain people. This area is very close to the DR, so it's rather easy for an armed group that has safe haven in the DR to keep crossing in, do their thing, which is to kill people and destabilize, then go back in the DR.
Fenton: The interim puppet Prime Minister has praised the government of the DR; I think he's gone there a couple of times since being installed. Do you know anything about this relationship?
Elie: I don't know about the particulars of the relationship, but the DR has, if you will - b
eing part of the same island as Haiti - been a key player in Haitian affairs, often acting as proxy for the U.S. So, of course, the puppet government must have the support of the Dominican government in order to carry out their plans. They're going to be very close to this Dominican government.
Fenton: Obviously people like Raoul Cedras, Emmanuel Constant, and Michel Francois were heavily involved in drug trafficking during the last coup period. Is there any indication that they are involved today, or others, such as Prosper Avril, who was "liberated" on March 1st when the prisons were emptied by the "rebels"? What do you know about their activities today?
Elie: Well, what we've been seeing is the remilitarisation of the repressive apparatus in Haiti, most especially the Ministry of the Interior. As you probably know, an ex-general was put in charge of this ministry, and quietly ex-officers of the Haitian army are coming back and organizing this ministry along the
lines of how it has always been organized during the dictatorship; this is a development that one should be watching carefully because its going to have long term implications. I would not be at all surprised that the likes of Michel Francois and Cedras would eventually be coming back to help organize even better this network and system of repression.
As for involvement in drug trafficking, you know, it should be obvious by now that the so-called U.S. war on drug trafficking is nothing but a hoodwink that they put over the American and international public opinion. The war against drugs is just a new tool of American foreign policy and they'll use drug traffickers, they will themselves get involved in drug trafficking so long as it advances their policies and they will also use drug trafficking or terrorism as a pretext to intervene and remove whoever is not serving their interests. I don't think the fact that Michel Francois, for example, has been duly condemned in Florida, although in absentia, for
his involvement in drug trafficking, I don't think that at all would keep the CIA or the DIA from using him once more in Haiti to do what he does best, which is terrorize the population and eliminate the grassroots political leaders. If need be, he will again be exfiltrated from Honduras, where as you well know, he has been given safe haven. So, nothing would surprise me coming from the U.S. DIA or CIA. We are anticipating some of these killers and drug traffickers coming back and playing a significant role in trying to shore up the present de facto government.
Fenton: What about some of these former Lavalas officials who have been detained in Florida; Oriel Jean for example who was detained in Toronto and extradited on unrelated charges through the DEA
Elie: One thing one should not try to hide is that, yes, there was corruption in or around the government in Haiti. Drug trafficking will do that to you; it's a very powerful enticement, a very powerful tool to inf
iltrate the government, to infiltrate the security apparatus. Somebody like Oriel Jean obviously was involved in some shady deals, but I don't think, first of all, I wouldn't describe Mr. Jean as a 'high level' Lavalas official. He was playing a key role in the close security of President Aristide; that doesn't make him a 'political cadre.' We've seen in other countries generals having to answer to accusations of drug trafficking; it doesn't necessarily reflect on the government, but it is a fact that drug trafficking is a key element of corruption and also of destabilization in Haiti, but one has to wonder: where is the engine that pulls the train of drug trafficking? This engine is right smack in the middle of the U.S. So, it is another case of drug trafficking being used as a political tool, first, to corrupt some officials, and after that it's necessary to use this very corruption to attack, politically, a regime that you don't like.
Fenton: On that note, they've been hav
ing a hard time pinning anything directly on President Aristide. The Miami Herald would like us to believe that he was corrupt.
Elie: I can say the same thing as I think President Aristide has said, 'let them come with the proof,' you know, there is nothing easier than to say that somebody was involved in drug trafficking. Now, there should be proof, so let them come with it. As I said before, drug money is everywhere, legitimate businessmen are handling drug money, politicians have been corrupted by it sometimes at high levels, but that doesn't make the regime or government a 'narco-regime.' This is actually distorting the reality; we knew that these accusations would start flying. You see, nowadays the key words of American foreign policy are no longer "communist" or "Marxist"; the new keywords are "drugs" and "terrorism" so you're going to see these words used and overused every time they want to destabilize a government or effect a so-called regime change. We've heard the 'd-w
ord' being used first, and now, last week, referring to Family Lavalas, the 't-word' being used, 'these are terrorists that must be eliminated,' they are doing an "Operation Baghdad," which is implying a kind of new axis of evil between Baghdad and Port au Prince, so this is a gross distortion of reality, and as I was saying it is announcing a very brutal repression of the Haitian resistance. That's one thing we should keep our eyes wide open about and start denouncing if we want to save lives in Haiti and if we want to save enough space for the Haitian people to freely express their political will and what they want for their country, and what kind of regime they want in their country.
Posted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 12:08 pm
Fenton: I've been looking back at some of the Latin American press. In Canada, for example, there was no debate over whether or not troops would be sent to occupy Haiti, whereas in Brazil, Argentina and Chile there was considerable opposition. In Argentina, for example, protestors were burning U.S. and UN flags over this. How does the gap between the relative lack of consciousness in the U.S. and Canada and the presence of consciousness and solidarity in Latin America get bridged?
Elie: There is a saying in Haiti where 'even in hell you can find somebody to help you.' I think that the presence of UN troops rather than the French legionnaires or the US Marines in Haiti and UN troops formed in majority of soldiers from Latin America, offers an opportunity for the Haitian people to state their case and keep that UN force from becoming just another repressive force. You know how in Latin
America Brazil, Argentina, Chile have suffered from the kind of regime change that we are suffering from now, so I think that both their public opinion but even the troops deployed in Haiti are going to at the very least have mixed feelings about doing to another people what they [themselves] have suffered so much from.
There has been quite a lot of hesitation and reluctance from these troops to participate in the kind of repression that they want to draw them into. I do think this offers an opportunity for the Haitian people and the friends of the Haitian people to further inform the Latin American people in these different countries of the real situation in Haiti of what is really being done and have them pressure both their government and the UN proper into not being an accomplice of the repression of the Haitian people and the establishment of a dictatorship. Contrariwise, pressure them to help bring back a political climate, a climate of security in the country where the will of the people, their
political will, can express itself freely and I am sure that if these conditions are realized the Haitian people will overwhelmingly elect a government and a President that will concern the choice it has made since 1991.
Fenton: There was an article written recently, speaking of these elections, that the puppet regime is going to great lengths to sort of engineer sham elections, what with this biometrics registration, fingerprinting and the like.
Elie: Yes, and it's funny because this is the second time they are trying that one. In 2000 they were going that route also, which is a way to disenfranchise about 80% of the Haitian population, and the person who single-handedly blocked that was Jean Dominique. Now he's no longer around, and they might succeed in organizing these sham elections. You mentioned biometrics, they were into electronic voting, and when you know that in Haiti, even in Port au Prince, there is a strong rationing of electricity, so how in the wor
ld in the rural areas of Haiti people will be able to vote electronically, that is, without mentioning the cultural aspect of an electronic vote which is totally alien to the Haitian population, so that also should be denounced very strongly. What they are trying to do is impose on the Haitian people a so-called democratically elected regime that would have been elected by a fraction of the Haitian population. Of course this is not going to work. What will happen if they do succeed in such an operation is they will open up the way for more destabilization as this illegitimate government is going to impose, I am sure, an economic policy and a social policy that the Haitian people are not going to accept.
Fenton: What are you involved in, working on when you return to Haiti?
Elie: What we are trying to do is create a large front to be able to save this plot against the Haitian people. What the enemy is trying to do is isolate Lavalas, and it has, in a way, been able to
do that relatively; a lot of the people from the petit bourgeoisie who had their frustrations with the government of President Aristide, were, if you will, lured into the opposition but now they are realizing that it was all being done for a very small sector of the Haitian bourgeoisie and for foreign interests, and that they have been the unwilling accomplices of this destabilization. They are now slowly opening their eyes and we have to bring these people into a very large movement against this government and against this kind of regime that foreign powers, especially the U.S., wants to impose on Haiti.
Of course, for that to be possible we have urgently to break this new wave of repression where more and more people are afraid to speak up, more people are afraid to assemble under the guise under a 'technocratic' government; we are really under a dictatorship, so the most urgent thing to do, and that's what we are going to try to do, is stop this establishment of dictatorship before it takes root
so profoundly that we are thrown back to the years of the Duvalier, and I think what we are asking of the real friends of Haiti is to help us maintain that space where we can express ourselves and organize, and we are sure, we are confident that with such a space, even such minimal conditions, we will be able to do the rest and bring back constitutional legitimacy in Haiti.
Fenton: It's been very slow going in Canada to get political opposition to speak out against this, even as our parliament has resumed recently, I'm not sure what's gone on in Montreal or the Quebec legislature, but it seems necessary to develop something; we would need some sort of generalized means of raising public awareness.
Elie: It's difficulty for me to assess precisely what the situation is here but we have a very serious effort to counter all this work of disinformation that has been done over the last three years to get the Canadian people with us in Haiti, back with th
e Haitian people, which we have enjoyed over the years, quite a bit of support from public opinion, with the Canadian people. I think that we have lost over the years quite a bit there concurrent with the campaign of disinformation. The most important thing now is to bring the reality to the Canadian people and to force the politicians into a change in their foreign policy toward Haiti.
Fenton: Is there anything you'd like to add for Canadian readers/listeners?
Elie: Only that I've read recently that Mr. Pettigrew is trying to recruit the Haitian Diaspora in Canada into coming on board with that operation of theirs, and I think that this should be opposed; the opportunity must be taken by the Haitian Diaspora to restate that only a government that has the support of the Haitian majority can bring about true economic and social progress in Haiti and that they will support only such a policy, otherwise they are going to be accomplices of a dictatorship imposed from a
broad. So one should be quite watchful about this new initiative that Mr. Pettigrew, seemingly, is preparing.
Fenton: He was just christening Canada's $20 million new embassy in Port au Prince, and you know his riding is in Papineau where an estimated one in seven voters are of Haitian descent; notably, he was very quiet around February other than this meeting with Arcelin [though even this meeting wasn't reported on until after the coup]. Interestingly, Arcelin's sister-in-law, Nicole Roy-Arcelin ran against Liberal leader [and now PrimeMinister] Paul Martin in the recent federal election, of all people, as if that was a PR move to deflect attention away from the issue if it were to arise at all; this all seemed very suspect.
Elie: If Mr. Pettigrew has one in seven citizens in his riding who are of Haitian descent then that offers a good opportunity also to put pressure on him, and I think that this will only happen if people get the right information; I've seen
during this current period how powerful information was, can wreak havoc or can, contrariwise, can bring people to make the right decision.
Fenton: In the context of the war on terror, something that Canada is "committed" to and something that John Kerry [and of course Bush] is committed to, he's really flip-flopped on his positions…do you think there are any opportunities for Haiti in the possibility of his being elected on November 2nd?
Elie: You know, I don't think basic American foreign policy will change if Kerry is elected, but I do think that the re-election of George Bush would be a catastrophe; it's not so much that one would vote for Kerry if one could, but one would vote to get rid of Bush. You have to choose between two evils, to choose the lesser one if you can have an influence on that. For us in Haiti, I think if Bush is re-elected what will happen is immediately the repression and violence will rise at least five notches so that's why we can only
wish for Mr. Bush to be sent back to Texas, but we can only wish that, in the meantime we must prepare for the eventuality of his re-election in which case maybe we will have to adapt to the new conditions there, which will be a more violent dictatorship.
Taking us to democracy like cattle to a killing house
Posted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 6:58 am
ZNet | HaitiTaking us to democracy like cattle to a killing house
by Patrick Elie; December 14, 2005
Interviewed by Anthony Fenton, Justin Podur, and Andréa Schmidt
Patrick Elie is a Haitian activist, based in Port-au-Prince, with a long history of involvement in the Lavalas movement. He served as Haiti's drug czar and Minister of Defense during Aristide's first presidency. On September 26, 2005, as Haiti entered its first electoral race since a US- and Canadian-backed coup d'état cut short Aristide's second term as president, we spent an afternoon with Elie. Our conversation covered a wide range of topics: elections under occupation, the war on drugs, the repression and disintegration of the Lavalas movement, Canada's intervention in Haiti, his critique of Fanmi Lavalas and vision and strategy for popular
Haitian resistance to come. Here are some excerpts from that interview.
QUESTION: Do you think these elections stand any chance of resolving the fundamental problems or disparity between the majority of the poor and the wealth of the elite in Haiti today?
ELIE: There's no chance that these elections will do anything but deepen the crisis. Of that I'm pretty sure. This is a system that has hit a wall, and we keep hitting our head against that wall. That system is dead. As it is dying, it is inflicting immense suffering on the Haitian people. But it has no chance to renew itself.
And more and more, I tend to compare it to the system they had in South Africa, where a minority had not only the economic power, but also held the political power. And what we are seeing now is an attempt by these economic so-called elite, after the Lavalas movement, after the emergence of the masses on the political scene, to try and win back the monopoly not only on economic power but also on political p
And I don't think this is going to succeed. It's not. It's only going to prolong the agony of this system. And we have, as a people, to build the replacement to that system. We have not only to destroy it, help bring it down, but we also have to have a project. And this is what is most important at the moment.
QUESTION: Let's go back a little bit. You are in a unique position because you were the drug czar and you created the national police. How did both institutions evolve, through the second coup up to the present.
ELIE: Let's talk about the drug situation first. When I was put in charge of the fight against drug trafficking by President Aristide back in 1991, I was a bit naive in the sense that I really thought that we had to buy into this war against drugs that the US has been pushing. Because it so happens that the drug traffickers in Haiti are not interested in democracy, and they do hamper democracy.
But I came to realize with time that even though this f
ight has to be waged at the national level, by identifying the top barons of drug trafficking and neutralizing them, if we don't have also a diplomatic action, if we don't try to get together with the countries of the region so that we can denounce the fact that the US is not only the engine pulling the whole drug trafficking train along… I compare it to what they did with alcohol: prohibition was not at all about the health of the population. All [the war on drugs] is, is a power gain, it's a tool of social control, it's a tool of foreign policy, a new tool of foreign policy after the disappearance of the Soviet Union. Now you are not a communist, you're a narco-state. And it's also, within the US itself, the way the state is reinforcing itself, building a police state and able to pass laws that are incompatible with freedom and a number of amendments of the US constitution. But using that war against drugs scheme, they're able to force these things on the American people as they are forcing them on the C
olombian people and the Haitian people. So it's a more complex issue than I saw at the origin. I was only seeing that my job was to eradicate drug trafficking, but it's much more complex than I saw it.
And of course, given the economic situation in Haiti, which as you can very well see is dire, drug trafficking is always going to be a huge problem for us and we'll draw a lot of our resources to eradicate this traffic if the US keeps on with the policy it has with the issue of drugs. So this is a problem which no government is going to come and solve by snapping their fingers.
As for the Haitian police, one has to remind oneself when we look at what it has become over the years, that this police was created when Haiti was for all intents and purposes under occupation – under military occupation by the US. [And it was created] at a time when our economic resources, which were already very small, had been completely wiped out by the coup d'état and the following embargo years. So, we did not ha
ve complete control of the process of setting up the police.
And what happened is – the way I describe it is that the police turned out to be a kind of bastard child that came out of our own will to create a democratic police, and the US's will to create a police that would replace the army as a tool to secure US interests and eventually act as an arbiter of political life in Haiti.
I've seen this police go more and more toward behaving like the old army. The corruption seeped in slowly and now, especially after February 29 2004, what we see is the militarization of the police. If you've been around the city, you see that most police that you meet are armed with war-type weapons: assault rifles, battle rifles, and this sort of thing. It is truly a police that has its own people as the enemy. You've heard, I suppose, about the number of raids these police have waged on poor neighborhoods, killing dozens of people.
So we do have a serious problem with this police. If we do succeed in
having a truly democratic government, it is a problem it is going to have to address as a priority. And we are running the risk, as the political process has been confiscated by the so-called international community and by the traditional economic elite, that they will rebuild the army.
I was listening the other day to Charles Baker, who is one of the leaders of the 184 [Group 184: the coalition of “civil society” led by Haiti's business élite that served as the domestic political force behind the February 2004 coup d'état] now is running for president. He wants to increase the police size to 40,000 members and create an army of 20,000. So he's going to double the size of the Haitian public service simply by putting it into repression. Right there, you can see the project. There's going to be no money left for education, no money left for health care, and of course, no money left to help the Haitian peasant produce the food that we need. Consequently, the misery is going to deepen, and you're go
ing to need those killers to keep the poor people in check.
QUESTION: The head of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reinsertion for the UNDP talks about July 6th, when they killed Dred Wilmé in Cite Soleil, as a victory for Haitian National Police and MINUSTAH. Can you put that into context?
ELIE: Well, you see, DDR programs are based on the assumption that there was some kind of an internal conflict – semi-civil war. And it's made to bring about a more serene environment. So it MUST be extended to both sides of the divide.
And yet what we've seen is that on the one hand, the so-called rebels, ex-FaDH, ex-FRAPH, have been given immunity, many of them have been able to keep their weapons and are now participating as a political party, an armed political party, in this campaign. And others have been, after handing in a couple of rusty rifles, been incorporated into the police, been given jobs.
On the other hand, the other so-called army has been given nothing but [the] bulle
ts [that have been shot at it]. People who had jobs were fired, and people who are being described as combatants, people who know the terrain, people who know how to use fire-arms—which is the same rationality they had taken to incorporate these ex-FaDH into the police—nothing like that has been extended to the guys in Cité Soleil and Bel Air. And obviously they know the terrain, [so] they would have been the best kind of guys to bring some order in these areas.
And as I mentioned, for them, not only has there been no reinsertion, but thousands of poor people who had found jobs in the Haitian public or para-public sector during President Aristide's and President Préval's tenure were summarily fired when this government came to power. It was the first thing they did. And now it's wondering why there is no social appeasement. All this government and the UN is offering the poor people of Cité Soleil is total acceptance and submissions of the poor conditions they are living in and which have gotten only w
orse since February 29, 2004. So there is no DDR, it's a mostly—it's what I'd say is a reward process for the one who helped overthrow the democratic, freely-elected President of Haiti.
QUESTION: The head of DDR basically acknowledge that the FaDH are still organized, but that the UN can't actually do anything about it until they rear their heads. But he wouldn't be explicit about what party they are backing and whose armed militia they are.
ELIE: There is something ominous about this particular election. You have four candidates for the presidency and political parties who are ex-FaDH. You have Colonel Himmler Rébu, Guy Philippe, Major Dany Toussaint, and Frank Romain, who everybody should know because he's been doing his killing since Papa Doc Duvalier late-50s. Also, there's a political party called MUP. Even though the candidate himself is not an ex-FaDH, the power behind this party is also General Prosper Avril [who from 1988-1990 headed the military dictatorship that ruled Haiti af
ter Baby Doc's departure]. So I would tend to think that the ex-Duvalierist network and the FaDH network would back up these parties.
And to the ex-military, you also have to add the ex-death squad members of FRAPH, because Jodel Chamblain, who's been judged and sentenced twice for his involvement in countless murders, is running for candidate in the party of Guy Philippe. Because they completely erased his trial for Izméry's murder, and they've sprung him loose on the Raboteau massacre. So now he's running for office. This is the kind of situation we're in and they tell us that they are taking us to democracy, just like they're taking cattle to the killing house.
QUESTION: We're interested in your critique of Lavalas.
ELIE: Well, we have to have a bit of historical background to understand my position on Fanmi Lavalas. Fanmi Lavalas does not have a monopoly on Lavalas. Lavalas is a large movement of the Haitian people. Fanmi Lavalas is a political organization that was built to go af
ter political power.
Now, to understand what happened, how the movement sort of slid away from its original objective, one has to take account of first that it is a movement that had no prior experience. We had been under dictatorship for thirty years, so it was new movement, very dynamic, but also completely inexperienced. And by going after power in the election of 1990, the movement exposed itself to the repression that would follow. And that repression exerted terrible casualties on this movement, either by killing the grassroots leaders or forcing—or enticing—them into exile. So when President Aristide came back, that movement had been weakened. He came under occupation, and the movement was only a shadow of itself in terms of grassroots organization. And also the conditions were different.
Then, also, we know about Préval's presidency. What we can say about it that is positive is that Préval kind of opened the Lavalas movement and his presidency toward the peasants, because Lavalas w
as really first based in the cities. It carried along the peasants because the peasants and the poor in the cities are related, but it didn't have an organic tie with the peasants. Under Préval that was opened as a possibility that offered new blood and an anchor for the movement.
Unfortunately, in the meantime, Fanmi Lavalas was created as a political organization. But a lot of the people who came to it, especially the cadres, did not come as they did in the first wave of Lavalas, out of political conviction. They came and joined because they knew that this machine was going to win. They came for the personal advantage that running for office and being part of a political power structure brings to you. And it is this mentality that slipped into Fanmi Lavalas, and became hegemonic—even though there are very good militants, very honest people in Fanmi Lavalas, the tone was being given by these opportunists. Unfortunately, President Aristide was never able to rein them in.
During the three y
ears of President Aristide's power, I must say that I could see in the people themselves, especially in the poor people, resentment toward Fanmi Lavalas, resentment against these guys who were running around in these huge cars, building houses, getting rich. This resentment tended, generally, to spare President Aristide himself. But the policy that was being followed and the head-honchos of Fanmi Lavalas—the senators, the deputies, the mayors—were being resented by the population because they were nothing but traditional Haitian politicians under a new disguise.
So many of these people actually participated in sabotaging the presidency of President Aristide. One thing that happened that for me was terrible was the fact that the policy of opening toward peasants that had been undertaken by Préval was ditched by President Aristide. And we started losing the power base in the countryside, which made it easy for the likes of Guy Philippe and Chamblain to come in and do their military-type raids. If the Ha
itian peasant had felt at the time a unity with the regime, these guys would not have walked 200 yards into Haitian territory. The peasants would have run them out. But that did not happen. The peasants were more or less indifferent to the power struggle that was going on because they didn't feel that it was about them.
Again, my critiques toward Fanmi Lavalas, as a party or a political organization, is that it relied too much on President Aristide's personal charisma and popularity, and never actually built a real network and a real structure to direct the party or the political fight. So when the enemy hit on February 29 and was able to kidnap the leader, the leadership either ran or didn't have a clue of what to do, how to adapt to the new situation, and how to serve as cadre to the popular resistance to this new situation. The result is that you had an army with soldiers that were very determined, especially in the poor neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince or of Cap. But the generals were either ou
tside of the country or fending for themselves.
And the other thing is that there was no strategy put forward by Fanmi Lavalas. They only had a slogan; “Bring President Aristide back.” And I'd like to compare it to the situation back in the war of independence when the French came in and snatched away Toussaint Louverture. The masses then did not say “Bring Louverture back,” they developed an alternative toward independence which had become indispensable because it was the only way to secure the abolishment of slavery. But they developed new tools. And this was what was [on the agenda] in this occupation: to develop new tools, new strategy. And that has not been done.
For example, the total confusion that you have today regarding the participation or non-participation in the election is a result of that lack of vision, that lack of an ability to think strategically. If you're not going to an election, you have to be able to mobilize people for beyond the election.
Given the fact
that what the so-called electoral council has created is not an electoral card but a national identity card, which makes you a Haitian and if you don't have it, you do not exist, I was of the opinion that we should have mobilized for every Haitian to have this card and separate that from the decision to go and vote in a rigged election. First of all, it would have allowed us to remobilize, and second, it would have shown the world and ourselves that it's not because we're not interested in politics that we do not go in vote in these rigged elections—because look, we went and got this national identity card. But we're not voting in this election because it's rigged, it's not about us, it's not about our problem.
Yet Fanmi Lavalas leadership did not take this strategy. They kept with a slogan. And now a month before this process is over, they run into this election in a balkanized way. Which is exactly what Langley wanted. If there was still going to be a Lavalas movement, it had to be broken into l
ittle rivulets. And so far, I'd say, they've been able to do it.
QUESTION: This leads us to another question about vision and programs for the future. Under conditions of long-term occupation it makes it hard to plan for a country. What sort of vision must a popular movement develop in order to be able to move forward?
ELIE: The crisis we're facing, it's so deep that there cannot be a ready-made answer to that challenge. When President Mbeki was the only head of state to come to the celebration of Haiti's bi-centennial, and when South Africa was the country that extended its hand to President Aristide in exile, this got me thinking. South Africans had been kept out of the electoral process altogether for tens of years. And yet they were able to have a significant political impact, a significant diplomacy nevertheless, even though they didn't have a single mayor, a single deputy, a single senator. So I said, this is somewhere we can learn from: build grassroots organizations, network them,
and evolve a political agenda from these grassroots organizations. It's going to take more time than simply organizing an electoral campaign. But it's going to have the ability to resist the reaction that we're going to meet, the opposition we're going to meet from the powers that be locally and internationally. Because it's going to become the property of the people themselves. They're not going to be simply relying on a Messiah who turns out to be powerless without the people behind him.
I think we have to build for at least the mid-term, so that when we regain our sovereignty it will be for a long time. We've lost it twice in ten years, so obviously something is wrong. And since I don't believe that we can regain our sovereignty with military action, the only way we're going to do it is by mobilizing, organizing, and by being able, also to wage a diplomatic campaign, an action on public opinion, networking with countries like Venezuela where you have a strong grassroots movement aside from M
r. Chavez himself, who is a charismatic leader, but you do also have a grassroots movement that is the best guarantee against the kind of operation that we've seen performed here on February 29th. They couldn't do it in Venezuela. And why is that? Because you had this ability to mobilize and resist.
QUESTION: What is your perception of the role the Canadian government has been playing throughout this process?
ELIE: I must tell you that having lived in Canada for many years, I was a bit taken aback by Canada's attitude in this crisis.
Canada was never truly a champion of the peoples' right to self-determination: they tolerated the Duvalier dictatorship with no problems. I remember even being arrested in Canada for demonstrating against Duvalier. Yet I had never seen Canada acting really as a neo-colonial power in Haiti. For example, during the first coup against President Aristide, Canada had a more supportive attitude toward those who were fighting for the return of constitutional or
This time, really, Canada has been acting a bit like the busboy of the US. It's like Haiti was used as a making up gift to the US after Canada's position on the Iraq war. But maybe there's also the possibility that Canada, who had never had colonies, if I remember well, might decide to try its hand at nation-building in Haiti. It's a project the size of which Canada thinks it can handle.
Now there's also the question that has been raised of some special Canadian economic interests in Haiti, most notably the gold mine. And I think that this would be a catastrophy in Haiti. We don't need people coming here with cyanide like they've done in Guyana, and adding to our environmental problems. The greatest wealth that we have in Haiti is the Haitian people, and they should be put at the top of the list of priorities, not the gold that is in the ground and should remain there. Our wealth is above our land. It is our people, what they can plant, what they can produce, what they can create. D
on't talk to me about iridium or gold, then come here with cyanide, waste the countryside, and take your money and leave. This is a project that I'm going to denounce and oppose as much as I can. And I know that Haitians, especially in the area where the Sainte-Genéviève company want to dig a gold mine, are opposed to this project.
I can tell the Canadian public that the Haitian people have a PhD in resistance. They're going to resist. They have a strong culture. And they're not going to become a toy or modeling clay in the hands of some Canadian politicians.