This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only.
The United States has delivered George Bush’s ghoulish brand of democracy to Haiti. The nightmarish components of Haiti’s ruling troika gathered last Saturday, in Gonaives, the country’s fourth-largest city–a macabre assemblage that seemed designed to assault the sensibilities of civilized humans.
As if to erase January’s bicentennial celebrations from Haitian and world memory, the fat man from Boca Raton superimposed himself on history. "From today on we will be celebrating our 200th anniversary of independence," said Gerard Latortue, until only a few weeks ago a talk show host in Florida, before that, an international business consultant, now the U.S.-picked Prime Minister of Haiti. "I ask you for a moment of silence for all the people who fell fighting against the dictatorship, and especially for Amiot Metayer," said Latortue, referring to the slain commander of the drug-dealing Cannibal Army. "(In the United States) they thought the people in Gonaives were thugs and bandits," said the puppet, pretending to be a Haitian Ronald Reagan. "But they are freedom fighters."
Amiot’s brother, Butteur, wore a suit to signify his newfound respectability and to dispel the memory of his followers’ mutilations of policemen’s bodies after the seizure of Gonaives in early February. Lending further dignity to the occasion was Jean Tatun, the mass murderer who escaped from a life term in prison to join his fellow U.S.-financed "rebels" at their Dominican Republic bases, last August. Guy Philippe, the Green Beret-trained, former police chief who fled to the Dominican Republic in 2000 to avoid drug and coup charges, met the visiting dignitaries at the helicopter landing zone. Philippe is a hit with the New York Times, which called him "personable" and "media-smart," and reported that the "rebel leader" promised to "put his forces under the prime minister’s orders."
Tatun, Mateyar and Philippe rubbed elbows with Bernard Gousse, Latortue’s new Justice Minister. Literally surrounded by criminals, Gousse is nevertheless intent on building a criminal case against Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Defense Minister and retired General Herard Abraham represented the rapidly reconstituting Haitian Army, whose sole purpose in modern times has been to repress the Haitian people. After a meeting with Abraham last week, Guy Philippe "boasted that Abraham had made no mention of the need for the rebels to disarm, let alone quizzed him about the modalities of any rebel disarmament."
Diplomat David Lee hobnobbed with the criminals on behalf of the Organization of American States. Lee attempted to justify his presence, saying, "We’re trying to encourage reconciliation"–but succeeded only in further confirming that the OAS is an instrument of U.S. policy. The actual meaning of reconciliation is that French troops, who are nominally responsible for northern Haiti, follow a laissez faire policy regarding the gunmen of Guy Philippe, Butteur Metayer, Jean Tatun and their ilk.
The Gonaives ceremony signals that the gangsters are the "good guys," not to be interfered with. That puts them off-limits to the 450-man Canadian contingent. "Any weapons that could potentially pose a threat to the multinational force will be confiscated," said Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Davis. "We will disarm the bad guys, but those people entitled to have weapons for any number of reasons yet to be defined will have an opportunity to carry them."
The American commander on the ground has no intention of disarming Latortue’s "freedom fighters."
The commander of a multinational force in Haiti insisted on Sunday it was not his mission to disarm militants, differing with earlier U.S. assertions that the force would confiscate weapons.
"This is a country with a lot of weapons and disarmament is not our mission. Our mission is to stabilize the country," U.S. Marine Corp. Brig. Gen. Ronald Coleman, head of the 3,000-strong U.N.-sanctioned force, told Reuters.
General Coleman’s helicopters provided limo service for the Gonaives ghoul-fest–a macabre exercise in nation-building that could only have been hatched by minds utterly consumed by racism. This is what Black government looks like to George Bush.
The gangster life
The rogues gallery summit in Gonaives horrified even some members of the anti-Aristide Haitian elite. "We strongly condemn this unholy alliance which the interim government has struck with the Gonaives rebels," said the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), which is closely tied to anti-Aristide politicians and their American allies (see December 4, 2003). "We note that such unholy alliances, in place since 1994 when President Aristide returned from exile, have weakened rather than strengthened law enforcement and governmental authority…" Latortue is "fanning the flames of lawlessness," said the New York-based group.
The NCHR told The Guardian that "five police officers have been detained on suspicion of killing five young men believed to be supporters of Aristide’s Lavalas Family party" in Port-au-Prince.
Relatives of the victims, ages 17-24, said the officers rounded up and executed the men over the weekend and then dumped their bodies throughout the capital, Aliazar said Wednesday. The officers were detained Monday and were being held pending an investigation. No charges have been filed.
Vast stretches of the country are either wholly without law, or worse, under the control of the most dangerous elements of society. Fort Liberte, in the north, "is in the hands of escaped convicts," according to United Nations spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs. "The town is virtually deserted. There is no market. Many houses have been burned. Prisoners control most parts of the city," said Byrs.
Convict-rule may be preferable to the tender mercies of Latortue’s friends. "In the seaside town of Les Cayes, armed rebels who helped oust Haiti’s first democratically elected leader carry out public executions, unchallenged by police or foreign troops," said news reports.
Throughout Haiti, mere suspicion of Aristide association may mark citizens for death–"reconciliation," gangster style. The Associated Press reports that Senator Yvon Feuille has "charged Lavalas members were being hounded across the country and even being killed."
"Everywhere Lavalas is a victim. Besides those physical massacres, we see there is a political massacre being prepared behind Lavalas’ back," he said. "Without Lavalas, there is no solution. Without Lavalas, there won’t be the peace we need so much."
He denounced what he said was a "white American and French colonists’ plan" to marginalize the movement that helped bring Haiti’s first democratic elections in 1990, which Aristide won in a landslide.
The repression is general in scope, yet sometimes maddening in its pettiness, as in the case of the 12-year-old Cap Haitian girl targeted for political retaliation because a death squad found a photograph of her giving flowers to President Aristide (see San Francisco Bay View, March 17). Death brings a shallow grave in places like the field of bones near Titanyen on the coast road north of the capital. There, a Miami Herald reporter found scattered on the ground "two skulls, three pelvic bones, dozens of femurs and tibias, fragments of a jaw with good teeth. Hundreds in all"–the overflow from Port-au-Prince’s morgues. No one knows who they are, or how they died.
Haiti Information Project
Journalists associated with the deposed Aristide government or the mass organizations of Lavalas enjoy none of the immunities accorded the corporate media in Haiti. They are fair game for the death squads–who since last Saturday are acknowledged partners in the U.S.-installed government. There is, literally, no safe place for real journalism in Haiti, thanks to the Bush regime.
But "Truth, crushed to earth shall rise, again." The Haitian Information Project (HIP), begun in the months before the coup in cooperation with the Marin Interfaith Taskforce, in northern California, has fielded teams of young journalists from the ranks of the oppressed. ( renders every assistance possible to HIP.) The Project’s reporters must operate in what one of them calls "a witch-hunt environment, where the term ‘chimere’ is used as a code word to justify slaughter."
The Haiti Information Project filed this report to from somewhere in Port-au-Prince:
The local media contribute to the hysteria of repression. For example, Radio Metropole recently broadcast claims of a Lavalas plot to assassinate Latortue, with no evidence and no rebuttal. People pay with their lives in the wake of rumors like that.
The "Boca Raton government" contributes to this climate of terror. Anyone who ever organized any kind function for Lavalas is now the target of death threats. There is absolutely no political space open to Lavalas. At least 2000 people are still hiding from the death squads. There are nightly raids by the death squads into the neighborhoods of Bel Air and Cite Soleil. These guys somehow manage to slip past the peacekeepers.
Prisoners are held in the local police stations throughout the capital and the countryside. None are being transferred to the National Penitentiary. It is extremely difficult for families to discover if their loved ones are in custody, or have been made to disappear.
The National Police look more and more like an army. Before the coup, maybe ten percent of the National Police were from the disbanded military. Now, they are totally military. This is being referred to as the militarization of the police. Although the U.S claims that they are against the former military taking power, they are militarizing the police "to the teeth."
Bodies found on the streets are not an accurate measure of the victims of the death squads. When Lavalas militants fall, other militants take the bodies away to give them a proper burial, so that they won’t be taken away and burned, and so the families will have a chance to grieve.
All of this terror is supported by, created by the Bush Administration. People are very clear about that, and refer to the foreign presence as an occupation force. People do not consider what is going on in Gonaives to be a real disarmament. The killers only turn in old, inferior weapons. Where are the brand new M-16s? The question is: Do they still have arms stockpiled in the Dominican Republic?
The Haiti Information Project correspondent pointed to the harsh police measures against the last large Lavalas demonstration, March 11, as proof that "this ‘Boca Raton government’ is very afraid because they have no base of support. The last thing they want is Lavalas supporters throwing up five fingers in front of the Marines. [The gesture signifies the five full years of Aristide's elected term in office.] The last thing they want is for the movement of the poor to reassert itself. If they had elections today, Aristide would win."
Retaliation by Rape
The last time Aristide was overthrown, in 1991, an estimated 5,000 of his supporters were murdered and an untold number of women subjected to "political rape." Many women fear the curtain is descending again, reports DeNeen L. Brown of the Washington Post:
In the three years until the United States restored Aristide to office in 1994, survivors’ groups and human rights activists said, thousands of women became rape victims as military and paramilitary groups terrorized people they considered Aristide supporters….
As a new government is formed following the latest political violence and instability, the women in the group say it is unclear whether those who were raped after the 1991 coup will find justice…. In the darkened law office in Port-au-Prince, several women sat alongside Deluce. They want to serve as witnesses in the political rape cases, but identified themselves by using only their initials, fearing reprisals if they speak out.
"It was for the return of democracy that we were raped," said M.V., 44, a tiny woman wearing a black print dress and pearls. "We want the minister of justice to give us justice. We don’t want this to happen again for women of Haiti."
The cell connection
One thing is clear: during this period of repression, Haitians will not be so isolated as a decade ago. The cell phone is their link to the outside world, and to news organizations like Pacifica Radio KPFA-FM’s Flashpoints. Program executive producer Dennis Bernstein spoke with Andralese Lafortune, a 49-year-old high school teacher from Gonaives who is in hiding.
"During the last coup, we didn’t have any way to reach the outside world," Lafortune recalls. "For three years we suffered under a repressive regime, while many were killed and tortured. But we had no voice then. We were muzzled."
Digital technology means the killers cannot operate in total darkness, even under the cloak of the superpower. Haiti activists in the U.S. have been able to respond to the crisis in "real time," eroding the corporate media’s information monopoly and thus undercutting their ability to act as a megaphone for the Bush men.
However, fascist-minded Haitian Americans are cyber-wise, too. Emboldened by the gangster’s return to power, U.S.-based thugsters have issued threats to Aristide supporters on American soil. According to Marguerite Laurent, Chairperson of Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, pro-gangster e-mailers are circulating detailed information on potential targets.
In light of the current bloodbath in Haiti against the ousted President’s supporters, this is extreme. Threats are being made against pro-democracy Haitian-Americans living in the U.S. Their names, sometimes U.S. addresses and passports are included in the list of "marked persons" who must be shut down!
Combined with the last "addresses" e-mail Mr. Johndannies sent to us…it seems a very strategic plan to gut whatever is left of the pro-democracy advocates not now in Latortue’s jails in Haiti. Nothing should be taken for granted here.
Well said, since the "Boca Raton government" is a wholly Bush-owned property.
Solid African American support
The Bush-Powell-Rice deceit and assault on Haiti was received as a slap in the face of Black America. Seldom in modern history has a foreign policy issue so galvanized African American opinion, from the grassroots to Capitol Hill. Although corporate media attempts to declare the Haiti issue settled, the American Urban Radio Networks has joined with Black World Today On-Line Newspapers and other Black media to publicize a 30-day "Lend a Helping Hand to Haiti" campaign.
The campaign’s reach is deep and wide. "We come seeking ways to restore stability and wholesomeness to the people affected by the political unrest," said Rev. Justus Reeves, Minister of Missions for the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC). "Our dedication is to serve as a bridge of hope to those whose lives have been destroyed."
The PNBC has set up a Haiti Relief Fund to collect monies during the campaign, in cooperation with Ron Daniels, of the Haitian Support Project, and a host of civic and religious groups.
Kerry: Another ugly American
Florida Governor Jeb Bush this week gave backhanded credit to the Congressional Black Caucus for standing up to brother George’s Haiti atrocity. In the process, the Governor displayed naked contempt for democracy in Black hands.
We have watched the painful struggle in Haiti over the past 10 years, as Jean-Bertrand Aristide squandered his opportunity to build a foundation for progress. Democracy means more than elections. It means respecting the rule of law and supporting a vibrant, robust civil society. Aristide destroyed these principles in Haiti and replaced them with corruption and violence. Groups such as the Congressional Black Caucus, who claim to support democracy yet focus on Aristide’s election, exacerbate his betrayal of the Haitian people.
George Bush didn’t invent U.S. aggression against Haiti; that’s been U.S. policy toward the Black republic since 1804. As we wrote in our March 11 Cover Story, "American foreign policy structures are designed to undermine popular movements and governments at every point of contact… These U.S. foreign policy ‘structures of subversion’ are institutionally connected to the Democratic Party and organized labor, and must be dismantled, root and branch."
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a principal American tool of subversion, the "Trojan Horse" that guided and financed the coup-makers in Haiti and the 2002 attempted overthrow of Hugo Chavez’s popularly elected government in Venezuela. Unless the Democratic Party and organized labor sever their ties to the NED–and thereby delegitimize it–U.S. subversion will continue under the guise of "spreading democratic values."
John Kerry this week signaled that he’s a coup-maker, too. His bald bid for the Cuban Florida vote–while simultaneously chastising Bush for the Haiti coup and the attempted coup against Chavez!–puts Kerry in a doublespeak class of his own. We submit the full text of Kerry’s statement as a sordid example of unprincipled–and incompetently executed–deception:
With the future of the democratic process at a critical juncture in Venezuela, we should work to bring all possible international pressure to bear on President Chavez to allow the referendum to proceed. The Administration should demonstrate its true commitment to democracy in Latin America by showing determined leadership now, while a peaceful resolution can still be achieved.
Throughout his time in office, President Chavez has repeatedly undermined democratic institutions by using extra-legal means, including politically motivated incarcerations, to consolidate power. In fact, his close relationship with Fidel Castro has raised serious questions about his commitment to leading a truly democratic government.
Moreover, President Chavez’s policies have been detrimental to our interests and those of his neighbors. He has compromised efforts to eradicate drug cultivation by allowing Venezuela to become a haven for narco-terrorists, and sowed instability in the region by supporting anti-government insurgents in Colombia.
The referendum has given the people of Venezuela the opportunity to express their views on his presidency through constitutionally legitimate means. The international community cannot allow President Chavez to subvert this process, as he has attempted to do thus far. He must be pressured to comply with the agreements he made with the OAS and the Carter Center to allow the referendum to proceed, respect the exercise of free expression, and release political prisoners.
Here’s the switch-up, the point at which Kerry tries to scramble back to the sane side of the table.
Too often in the past, this Administration has sent mixed signals by supporting undemocratic processes in our own hemisphere–including in Venezuela, where they acquiesced to a failed coup attempt against President Chavez. Having just allowed the democratically elected leader to be cast aside in Haiti, they should make a strong statement now by leading the effort to preserve the fragile democracy in Venezuela.
Thus, Kerry methodically lays out the rationale for a U.S. overthrow of Chavez, then blames Bush for actually trying to do it. This man is dangerous. If elected, he will fight tooth and nail to preserve the NED and the entire apparatus of U.S. subversion around the globe. He is no friend to the people of Haiti, Venezuela, or anywhere else in the developing world.
Hugo Chavez has offered President Aristide an unqualified welcome, once his sojourn in Jamaica is over. As went to press, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) was under unimaginable pressures from the United States to give the "Boca Raton government" of Gerard Latortue an audience at Caricom’s Intercessional Meeting in St. Kitts–despite the puppet’s previous, pretentious threat to sever Caricom ties over Aristide’s visit to Jamaica.
The Bush men pressured Nigeria to offer asylum to Aristide, not only because it is an ocean away but also, no doubt, because Nigeria is home to Liberia’s Charles Taylor and other fallen "despots"–great propaganda value for Administration spin-makers.
In an interview with Democracy Now! on Tuesday, TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson, a close confidant of Aristide and resident of St. Kitts, ventured that Bush’s campaign to drive Aristide out of the Western Hemisphere "will collapse of its own weight, and it should, upon the idiots in the State Department and the White House who tried to implement such a fool hearty, callous plan." Robinson praised Jamaican Prime Minister and current Caricom leader P.J. Patterson for distinguishing "himself in making a place for President Aristide in Jamaica, and he has met for that with threats by this administration directly from the White House."
For all their bombast, said Robinson, it is fear that motivates Gerard Latortue–the "new president from Boca Raton…something of a buffoon"–and the thugs in Washington and Haiti who support him:
They fear that Mr. Aristide has enormous public support in Haiti. Were they not so afraid of that, they would have no great interest, no sense of urgency about making sure that he was well outside the Caribbean. This we have done to a democratically elected leader, and it certainly shows that no democracy can be given birth in Haiti until we all reckon with what happened there, that we have removed a democratically elected leader who still enjoys enormous support and were a new election held today, Mr. Aristide would be overwhelmingly elected again….
The only person we’ve tried to banish from the region is the democratically elected president of the country who was toppled by people bearing American arms and doing America’s bidding. And that’s what you saw in Gonaives, the public meeting of the three forces here, the United States, the thugs, and the new unelected, American-installed president of Haiti.
The issue is democracy. You cannot sustain or look towards a democratic future erected from the ashes of a democracy that an external power has destroyed. You simply can’t forget the context story and move on. [Aristide] has a year and a half left in his term. The election that brought him to this term, he won by 94% and by all accounts, fairly. Both occasions. And as evidence of how popular he is, the United States has gone to such great and foolish lengths to banish him from the region. You simply cannot start again without reckoning with that, the Lavalas people still overwhelmingly support President Aristide and they comprise the overwhelming majority of the Haitian people. We have to come to terms with that. That is democracy and the Bush Administration apparently doesn’t like it in Haiti any more than they liked it in Florida.
encourages donations to the Haiti Information Project, whose reporters risk their lives daily to tell the truth about life in Haiti under the rule of criminals and foreigners.
To fund this project make checks payable to: MITF/Haiti Info.
Marin Interfaith Taskforce
P.O. Box 2481
Mill Valley, CA 94942
Voice (415) 924-3227 Fax (415) 924-3227
THE BLACK COMMENTATOR is one of CounterPunch’s favorite websites. We encourage all of you to bookmark the site and become regular visitors. The editors can be reached at: email@example.com