Aristide Talks With Democracy
About the Leaders of the Coup
and U.S. Funding of the Opposition in Haiti
democracynow. org, March
Part II of Democracy Now!s exclusive broadcast
of Amy Goodman's interview with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide aboard his flight from the Central African Republic to
Jamaica. [Includes transcript]
Since winning independence from the French
200 years ago through a revolutionary slave revolt, Haiti has
seen 33 military coups. Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the man overthrown
in the two most recent ones.
In 1991, less than a year after becoming
the first democratically-elected leader in Haiti's history, Aristide
was overthrown by paramilitary death squads working closely with
US intelligence agencies. After a few years in exile, Aristide
returned to Haiti in 1994 in a US military plane to serve the
remaining few months left in his term.
In 2000, Aristide won the presidential
election a second time. Once again, a few years after being elected,
Aristide has been overthrown in a coup - by many of same men who
led the armed insurrection against him a decade earlier. People
like Louis Jodel Chamblain, the former number 2 man in FRAPH convicted
in absentia for 1994 Raboteau massacre and the September 11, 1993
assassination of democracy-activist Antoine Izméry; Guy
Philippe, a former police chief who fled Haiti in October 2000
after authorities discovered him plotting a coup with a clique
of other police chiefs who had all been trained by US Special
Forces in Ecuador during the 1991-1994 coup and Jean Tatoune another
leader of FRAPH, also convicted of massacre in Raboteau.
Two weeks ago after being taken by force
to the Central African Republic in what Aristide calls a US-orchestrated
coup d'etat, the Haitian president defied Washington this weekend
and returned to the Caribbean. He is now in Jamaica, just 130
miles or so from Haiti.
I was one of two journalists allowed on
the plane that took a delegation of US and Jamaican officials
to escort President Aristide and his wife Mildred back to the
Caribbean. As we crossed the Atlantic on our way to Kingston,
Jamaica, I had a chance to conduct an extensive interview with
President Aristide on-board the Gulfstream jet.
Today we play Part II of my interview
with Aristide, where he discusses his time as president, the first
coup, disbanding the military and more:
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: We had an army
of 7,000 soldiers controlling 40% of the national region. Not
only they led those coup, they had 32 coup d'etats, the last one
33. After the coup they led in 1991, they and members of a criminal
organization, well known FRAPH, killed more than 5,000 Haitians.
Some people don't like to hear 5,000 because for them it could
be double or more than that. Let's say more than 5,000 people
were killed by the army at that time with the help of the well-known
criminal organization called FRAPH. When i went back on October
15, 1994, it was obvious that the Haitian people couldn't go ahead
with killers. The Haitian people wanted people to protect them,
not people to kill them. So, the army was disbanded. Now they
reached a way to have more drug dealers, like Guy Philippe who
was arrested for drugs in Panama, sent back to Santo Domingo and
then back to Haiti with the assistance of those who pretend to
restore peaces to Haiti, Chamblain was already convicted twice
and now he is back. So having criminals, drug dealers, thugs who
were convicted to come back with an army, then when they guess
what we had through those 32 coup d'etats, leading Haiti from
misery to misery while we want to move from misery to poverty
with dignity, this is maybe what they have in their minds.
AMY GOODMAN: When the CARICOM U.S. Group
came and negotiated the U.S.-backed peace plan that you accepted
with Noriega, Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State representing
the United States, how did they refer to the opposition, how did
they refer to the people you just described as Jodel Chamblain,
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: The meeting we
had with members of my government and diplomats and heads of international
delegations in my office, Mr. Noriega referring to those thugs
terrorists said "I will call them killers", that's what
he said. I'm shocked when today I still see members of the international
community acting with those killers. More than that accompanying
Guy Philippe, a killer, to distribute food to people, so trying
to project another image of him when as a well-known drug dealer
and a killer he should be put in jail. So, it is scandalous. The
world needs to know that. The more they listen to what is going
on in Haiti today, the more they may join the Haitian people to
prevent the killers to continue to do the same, killing people.
AMY GOODMAN: Jean-Bertrand Aristide on
board the chartered jet as we headed over the Atlantic. The U.S.
Delegation headed by congress member Maxine Waters and the Jamaican
Member of Parliament Sharon Hay-Webster. Bringing the Aristides
to Jamaica, this as members of the Bush administration from Condoleezza
Rice to Donald Rumsfeld warned that Jean-Bertrand Aristide should
not return to this hemisphere. I asked Haitian President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide if he could talk about the killing of the justice minister
in Haiti in 1993; Louis Jodel Chamblain, one of the current so-called
rebels, was convicted of murdering Guy Mallory. This was Jean-Bertrand
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: From 1991 to 1994,
the Minister of Justice, Guy Mallory, Father Mallory's son, Antoine
Izmery, the people they killed [inaudible] lost their lives because
they were calling for democracy, the restoration of the constitutional
order for my return to Haiti. After I returned, we had a trial.
And Chamblain was convicted by a court of us. Twice. In spite
of that, nothing happened only impunity and assistance and heavy
machine guns were provided to him and the orders to have them
appearing as rebels, as if they were not anymore killers, people
already convicted. This is the cynical picture.
AMY GOODMAN: We have our September 11,
2001. Chile has their September 11, 1973, the day the Salvador
Allende died in the palace as the Pinochet forces rose to power.
You have two separate September 11ths, 1988 and 1993. Can you
describe what happened to you and your parish, your congregation
on September 11, 1988 at San Jean Bosco?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: We were praying,
we were celebrating our faith in god, and for us god means love,
peace, justice, freedom, solidarity. Getting together to pray
means empowering all those who share the same faith. If you stand
up for justice, then you cannot close the eyes to not see poor
people willing to have jobs, to eat with dignity. Once you stand
up for that, then you may have people not only rejecting you but
also putting fire in a church, burning people. This is what happened
that day, September 11, 1988. When we had it elsewhere, not in
a church but in a country like Chile and President Allende willing
to stand up for human beings, for the rights to eat, the rights
to go to school, the rights to have health care, and so and so,
people who don't care about human beings rejected that coup d'etat.
When on September 11th 2001, something tragical happened in the
United States called terrorism, we saw the world rejecting terrorism.
Asked if when, for instance, we have Guy Philippe, Chamblain,
well known as terrorists, drug dealer, convicted people, armed
by those who pretend helping Haiti to kill Haitians, it's like
if...it's not anymore terrorism. So, racism, somehow is linked
to that cynical game.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! "The
War and Peace Report" I'm Amy Goodman. As we continue with
the interview with President Aristide, I had asked the Haitian
president on board this flight where he and his wife traveled
for 17 hours to get back to Jamaica, you can go to our website
at democracynow.org to see the chronicle of this trip: brought
to the Central African Republic by the United States with dozens
of U.S. military, and security taken there, the early hours of
February 29, taken out of Haiti, not knowing where they were going.
They said told by the -- one of top men in the U.S. Embassy, Louis
Moreno who had come to the President's residence, that he would
be going to address the press. Instead, he was rushed on to a
-- he was rushed on to a U.S. plane. I asked Jean-Bertrand Aristide
if he could go back in time, as we look at the current rebel leaders
like Chamblain, convicted of the murders of not only the justice
minister in 1993, Guy Mallory, but the Haitian businessman Antoine
Izmery in 1993 about this significance of Haiti's September 11
in 1988, the massacre at the church, Jean-Bertrand Aristide's
church. He had been a priest. And that happened September 11,
1988. Five years later, September 11, 1993, the Haitian multimillionaire
businessman Antoine Izmery join add procession to remember the
victims of the massacre and he, too, was executed. I asked Jean-Bertrand
Aristide about this.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: On September 11,
1988, they burned the church, they burned people, killed people
as I explained. While I was in exile, Antoine Izmery went to the
church of Sacre Coeur on the same day, on September 11, to remember
what happened in 1988, to bring his solidarity to the parents,
relatives, friends of the victims and also to empower those who
are peacefully fighting for our return, which was clearly the
restoration of democracy to Haiti. And the same people who made
it happen in Saint-Jean Bosco made it happen again in Sacre Coeur.
The worst was already bad, but it's shameful when we see today,
the same hands, killing people, burning houses almost the same
AMY GOODMAN: Jodel Chamblain was convicted
of Izmery's murder?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Yes. Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet when we watch television,
where most people get their news and information, we almost never
hear them mentioned.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: We will not, since
last November, they brought to Haiti a good number of journalists.
We fought hard for the freedom of press. So we will continue to
respect the rights of every single journalist. But unfortunately,
what happened from November to today is a tragic event where it
seems money was spend to bribe journalists, not all of them, but
some of them, money was used to finance radio stations playing
the card of so-called opposition, linked to Chamblain, linked
to Guy Philippe, being their voices. When Jean Tautoune was convicted,
put in jail, escaped from jail, and giving interviews to those
radio stations, to TVs, which kind of impunity are we talking
about? Which kind of freedom for the press are we talking about?
Is it freedom for the press as a cover for impunity? Or as a full
place where you use your rights to talk, to criticize, to say
what you want? Yes. We had that in Haiti where journalists could
talk. But all the journalists who were in Haiti from November
to the coup or kidnapping were not there just to tell the truth.
But also some of them were there because they were paid to relay
the lives which strayed this information around the world, paving
the way for the kidnapping.
AMY GOODMAN: Who paid them?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Every year, for
the past couple of years, $56 million U.S. Dollars went to Haiti
to finance political parties, -- , radio stations, TV stations,
journalists, who got all visa from embassies, lying to discredit
our fragile democracy, our money from those $56 million U.S. dollars.
Recently, for the past year, it became $70 million U.S. dollars.
So, this is well known. It is not a secret.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you're saying the U.S.
government forces poured this money in.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: That money came
from abroad: U.S., Europe, through E.U., and organizations like
AMY GOODMAN: Do you see similarities --
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: And maybe this
is the last question for T.V.
AMY GOODMAN: Ok. Do you see similarities
with what happened with you and what is continuing to happen with
Hugo Chavez in Venezuela?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: They say that
IRI was behind a coup which happened in Venezuela and still behind
what is going on in Venezuela.
AMY GOODMAN: The International Republican
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Correct. They
say they have their hands through what is happening in Haiti.
Often, they organize seminars for the so-called opposition where
they had Guy Philippe, Chamblain and members of the Haitian opposition,
training them to kill, to talk after killing, to project an image
of democratic opposition with heavy machine guns on your shoulders,
blood on their hands, etcetera. So, this is, from my point of
view, the same hands behind the same things happening in two different
AMY GOODMAN: You have information that
people who support you are people who were part of Lavalas are
being threatened or killed in Haiti right now?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: A good number
of them are in hiding. But because they are cowards, but because
this is a strategy to spend time where they hay not kill you,
to come back in a peaceful way and continue to support democracy
calling for the restoration of the constitution of order. Others
were killed. I'm very sad when they say about those who were killed.
Others left the country by boat to go to Florida. And, unfortunately,
when the house is on fire, those who put fire in the house are
the same who send back the victims fleeing the fire put in that
house. Violation of international law and attraction to have more
people because as long as you continue to kill people in the country,
you invite them to come to your country because they will continue
to flee that occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: When you were ousted in 1991,
for the three-year periods, there was not only a mass movement
in Haiti, but a mass movement in the United States of support
and solidarity. Do you have any message you want to send to the
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I will say thank
you to all the American people who supported democracy with the
Haitian people and who continue to support the Haitian people
supporting democracy in Haiti. We want elections in Haiti. Free,
fair, democratic elections. That means one human being, one vote,
which is a democratic principle. We want to respect that principle.
I know how the American people care for that democratic principle.
They want to see their vote respected. As we in Haiti want to
see the vote of the people respected. By supporting us, the American
people support what they want to be supported in their own country
and because any democratic process, which is well protected, may
be good for any country where they want democratic systems. I
think somehow Haiti and the United States, we are linked by democracy
and democratic principles. As we are linked to all the countries
where they care for that democratic principle, one human being,
one vote, that's why I thank by expressing our gratitude to our
friends living in the U.S. or being U.S. citizens. We think they
find energy to continue to build solidarity with the Haitian people.
Once we have Haitians in Savannah, I having -- having solidarity
with the American people to free the American people. Once we
got our independence in Haiti, at that time Guyana by itself represented
almost half of the territory of the United States at that time.
So, we have in common many things. Historic ties. Principles,
democratic principles, which makes it good for us to continue
to work hard for democracies, which has to flourish not only in
one country or in two countries, but in our region.
AMY GOODMAN: Very last question. You were
going to Jamaica now, which is very close to Haiti. Do you see
yourself returning to Haiti?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I always paid
attention to the voice of the Haitian people. As I will continue
to pay attention to their voice. Paying attention to their voice
respectfully I will know what to do. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide, thank
you very much.