Haiti: US Backing Overthrow
by George Friemoth
MITF Report, Spring 2004
(Marin Interfaith Task Force
on the Americas)
In international circles, no country can
be seen as backing the overthrow of a democratically elected president.
That is a big 'no no' under international law. Yet, the US is
managing to do so by pursuing with vengeance its unjust, indecent
and ruinously counterproductive strategy against Haiti's President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the democratically elected government
Washington's vendetta against Haiti, generally,
and Aristide in particular has historical roots. It goes back
200 years when the US was stunned by Haiti's abolition of slavery
some 54 years before our Civil War. Haiti's example became an
inspiration for the abolitionist movement in the US and around
the world and hastened the demise of slavery worldwide.
When Aristide became president he did
the unthinkable in that he abolished the Haitian army and questioned
the US neoliberal agenda. Washington's response was vitriolic
and it imposed an embargo against the poorest country in the hemisphere.
In 1996 the US cut off S500 million in loans and aid that the
international community had determined was absolutely necessary
for Haiti's survival after the 1991-1994 coup.
For the past four years the US goal has
been to get rid of President Aristide and his popularly elected
Lavalas government by actively and tacitly organizing and supporting
an opposition, call the Democratic Convergence (DC). The DC is
made up of Haitian elites, intellectuals and business people who
are angry with Aristide for such things as raising the minimum
wage and insisting they pay taxes for the first time in their
Millions of US taxpayer dollars have flowed
into the DC through the International Republican Institute (IRI)
to build up an opposition to overthrow the government The IRI
receives funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, which
is in turn funded by USAID. The IRI consists of a small group
of extremists, with strong ideological ties to the Bush Administration
and former Senator Jesse Helms, who simplistically see Aristide
as the Caribbean's next Fidel Castro. They unfortunately still
guide US hemispheric policy, with the likes of Roger Noriega,
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs (once
an aid to Helms) along with radical right colleague Otto Reich
(former Ambassador to Honduras during the Contra War in the 80's),
Special Presidential Envoy to the Western Hemisphere.
On New Year's Day, as hundreds of thousands
of Haitians danced in the streets celebrating their bicentennial
anniversary, and dignitaries from around the world thanked Haiti
for opening the door to independence for oppressed people everywhere-the
celebrations were stained with threats of violence from the Washington-backed
opposition and calls for Aristide to step down. What started in
December as violent opposition with public protests is now leading
to an openly antidemocratic insurrection, as anti-Aristide forces
turn Haiti into a hellish war zone.
Adopting an inflexible policy of non-negotiation,
armed groups have recently taken over several cities demanding
the resignation of President Aristide. These groups claim affiliation
to the opposition, the DC and the Group of 184 that recently joined
together under the banner of the Democratic Platform. Spokespeople
for the opposition have congratulated the armed groups for their
Andre Apaid Jr. heads the Group of 184;
he is one of Haiti's richest men, owning 15 factories, operating
sweatshops, evading taxes and being rabidly anti-Aristide. Apaid
is a Devalier supporter and demands a return of the military.
He allegedly holds an American passport and obtained permanent
residency in Haiti through deceptive means. There is compelling
evidence that Apaid brainstormed the current violent campaign
to oust Aristide and enjoys the tacit if not overt support of
the US Embassy in Port-au Prince.
The US media and Bush Administration officials
would like people to believe that the Aristide government is prolonging
the political stalemate and failing to establish a "climate
of security," but they neglect to acknowledge that it is
the intransigence of the US-sponsored opposition that has crippled
democratic processes in Haiti.
The opposition's refusal to participate
in the electoral process is understandable since they know they
have no chance of winning any elections in Haiti.
In regard to failing to provide a "climate
of security" for democratic process, the US Embassy ordered
the US forces not to disarm the dismantled Haitian military in
1994. So today it is estimated that there are 7,000 ex-military
and paramilitary personnel with countless guns and other weapons.
Later, when Aristide attempted to bring in 100 police trainers
through an agreement with the OAS Special Mission in order to
help professionalize the national Police and teach disarmament
tactics, the US denied the training funds. Recently, the US denied
Haiti's request for weapons, including tear gas, leaving the police
highly vulnerable in dealing with the current marauding forces.
The Haitian people, realizing that there
are only 4,000 police for a country of 8.5 million, have taken
to the streets in massive numbers to repel the armed rebels. For
them, preserving their democracy and allowing President Aristide
to serve out his five-year term are of primary importance.
Given the opposition's ideological and
financial ties to the US-they have been generously funded through
the IRI - the Bush Administration could stop the bloodshed tomorrow.
An open condemnation by Washington of the obstructionism could
have an electrifying positive effect in Haiti. Yet, that is not
likely given the mindset of those who run Secretary Colin Powell's
hemispheric branch in the State Department. The best thing Americans
can do is to pressure the Bush Administration to reverse its destructive
course and send a clear message to the State Department: NO COUP
URGENT ACTION: Please contact Secretary
of State Colin Powell: Phone: 202-647-5291 or 7098; Fax: 202-6472283
Source: The Council of Hemispheric Affairs
Press and February 10, 2004.