Remembering the Overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide


This is the third in a series leading up to the 10th anniversary of the February 29 2004 overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in Haiti. Read Part One here and Part Two here. – YE

On February 29, 2004 the US, France and Canada overthrew Haiti’s elected government.

As my first two articles in this series outlined, Ottawa helped plan the coup and was heavily implicated in the human rights disaster that followed.

But the most shocking aspect of the intervention was the role played by purportedly progressive non-governmental organizations. A slew of NGOs received tens of millions of dollars from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to advance Ottawa’s anti-democratic policy in Haiti.

A few months prior to the February 29, 2004 coup that overthrew Aristide for the second time, Montreal-based Rights & Democracy (R&D), which was widely viewed as an NGO even though it was created by an act of Parliament, released a report that described Haiti’s pro-coup Group of 184 as “grassroots” and a “promising civil society movement.” The truth is that the Group of 184 was spawned and funded by the International Republican Institute (funded by the U.S. government) and headed by Haiti’s leading sweatshop owner, Andy Apaid. Apaid had been active in right-wing Haitian politics for many years and, like former Group of 184 spokesperson Charles Henry Baker, is white.

In October 2005 R&D began a $415,000 CIDA-financed project to “foster greater civil society participation in Haiti’s national political process.” The Haitian coordinator of the project, who later became director of R&D’s Haiti office, was Danielle Magloire, a member of the “Council of the Wise” that appointed Gérard Latortue as interim prime minister after the coup ousted the elected president. Magloire’s status as a “wise” person, moreover, arose largely out of her positions at EnfoFanm (Women’s info) and the National Coordination for Advocacy on Women’s Rights (CONAP). Both were CIDA-funded feminist organizations that would not have grown to prominence without international funding. They were virulently anti-Lavalas (Aristide’s party) groups that shunned the language of class struggle in a country where a tiny percentage of the population owns nearly everything. Interestingly, EnfoFanm and CONAP expressed little concern about the dramatic rise in rapes targeting Lavalas sympathizers after the coup. In mid-July 2005 Magloire issued a statement on behalf of the seven-member “Council of the Wise” saying that any media that gives voice to “bandits” (code for Aristide supporters) should be shut down. She also asserted that the Lavalas Family should be banned from upcoming elections.

The Concertation Pour Haiti (CPH), an informal group of half a dozen Québec NGOs including Development and Peace, Entraide Missionaire and AQOCI (Québec’s NGO umbrella group), also called for Aristide’s overthrow. They branded the elected President a “tyrant,” his government a “dictatorship,” and a “regime of terror” and in mid-February 2004 called for Aristide’s removal. This demand was made at the same time CIA-trained thugs swept across the country to oust the government.

Throughout the coup period from March 2004 to May 2006 the CPH organized numerous events in Ottawa and Montréal that effectively justified Canada’s intervention into Haiti. They even backed the post-coup repression. In a January 27, 2006 letter — also signed by R&D — to Canada’s ambassador to the U.N., Allan Rock, the two groups echoed the extreme right’s demand for increased repression in the country’s largest poor neighbourhood, Cité Soleil. A couple of weeks after a business-sector “strike” demanding that U.N. troops aggressively attack “gangsters” in Cité Soleil, the CPH/R&D questioned the “true motives of the U.N. mission.” The letter questioned whether U.N. forces were “protecting armed bandits more than restoring order and ending violence.” Criticizing the U.N. for softness in Cité Soleil flew in the face of evidence suggesting the opposite. In fact, just prior to the CPH/R&D letter, Canadian solidarity activists documented a murderous U.N. attack on a hospital in the slum neighbourhood.

Documents obtained from CIDA reveal that, without exception, Haitians organizations ideologically opposed to the elected government were the sole recipients of Canadian government funding in the lead up to the coup. Civil society groups supportive of Aristide’s Lavalas simply did not receive development money. (Ironic, since as a movement of the country’s poor, Lavalas supporters should qualify as prime recipients of anti-poverty funding.)

Montréal-based Alternatives, one of Québec’s most left-leaning NGOs, also parroted the neoconservative narrative about Haiti. Sixteen months after the coup an Alternatives article accused, without a shred of evidence, prominent Bel-Air activist Samba Boukman and human rights worker Ronald St. Jean of being “notorious criminals.” This was exceedingly dangerous in an environment where the victims of police operations were routinely labeled “bandits” and “criminals” after they were killed.

Alternatives’ “progressive” credibility was also put to work countering opposition to Brazil’s leadership of the U.N. occupation of Haiti. “With the support of the Canadian government” in March 2005 Alternatives established a “trialogue” in Brazil between “the governments and organizations of civil society of Brazil, Haiti and Canada” on how to support the “transition” government. “Several ministers of the interim [coup] government of Haiti” assisted Alternatives in this task.

At the start of 2008 Alternatives co-published a report that clearly articulated its colonial attitude vis-a-vis Haiti. The most disturbing statement in the report titled “Haiti: Voices of the Actors” reads: “In a country like Haiti, in which democratic culture has never taken hold, the concept of the common good and the meaning of elections and representation are limited to the educated elites, and in particular to those who have received citizen education within the social movements.

According to Alternatives, Haitians were too stupid to know what’s good for them, unless, that is, they had been educated by a foreign NGO. The report, which was financed by the federal government, was full of other attacks against Haitians and the country’s popular movement.

After a great deal of criticism Alternatives’ director, Pierre Beaudet, eventually backed away from his organization’s disastrous position on Haiti. A week after the January 12, 2010 earthquake, he wrote an article (in French) stating that “the overthrow of Aristide organized by the United States, with the support of France and Canada, reflects a trend of ‘heavy’ interventionism and interference that’s generally at the expense of Haitians.”

In the lead up to the tenth anniversary of the coup some of the other NGOs will hopefully step up and admit – whatever their opinion of Aristide’s government – that they erred in supporting the overthrow of the elected government. At this point it’s simply beyond doubt that the military intervention has been harmful to most Haitians.

Yves Engler’s the author of Canada and Israel: building apartheid. His latest co-authored book is the New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite. For more information go towww.newcommuneist.com

Yves Engler’s Canada in Africa — 300 years of Aid and Exploitation will be published in September. He’s the author of The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s foreign policy.

October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria