Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Haiti: A Primer in Injustice


Wednesday, 10 March 2004 17:49
By José Pérez
Many of the readers of this column may not remember Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba was the democratically elected head of state for an independent African nation who earned mass support among the majority of his impoverished constituents with his genuine anti-colonial platform.

Naturally, the same ideology that won him the adoration of his people also marked him as a target for “The Man.” Lumumba eventually was faced with a radical separatist movement led by a power hungry thug. Naturally, that ambitious rogue enjoyed the financial support of “The Man.” 

According to a Central Intelligence Agency station chief, Lumumba was eventually “delivered” to that same thug by, you guessed it, “The Man.” Eventually, with his people’s elected government stolen, Lumumba was tortured and killed by a firing squad.

Many historians are not very religious but most do believe and swear by the ancient credo “History repeats itself.” It is because of times like these that this writer has to agree. A little over forty years after the rise of and robbery of Lumumba’s nationalist dream, the same thing is happening all over again – with almost little deviation from the original script – to Haiti’s President: Jean-Betrand Aristide.

Aristide won much of the same support of Haiti’s poor Black masses that Lumumba did in the Congo. He also received much of the same hate from “The Man” that Lumumba did. Like Lumumba, Aristide has been abducted and is being held under guard while his fate is being bargained on. 

Like Lumumba, Aristide has been the target of corporate media lies that are meant to both cover up and justify punitive actions by “The Man.”

Let us begin with the first lie: Aristide won the 2000 Presidential election in Haiti by fraud. 

When detractors go out of their way to talk about the “flawed election” of 2000, they are actually talking about the parliamentary elections held that year. During those legislative elections, only eight seats were questioned. Those seats were questioned because the winners in each of those instances won by a plurality of votes, not a majority. In other words, the winners did not garner more than half of the votes cast but they did garner more than their opponents. The real problem for the opposition arose because each of those seats were won by Lavalas party members. Lavalas is the party of which Aristide was the head of. 

Crying foul almost before the dust finished settling on election day, the opposition began a campaign of political tantrums made almost legendary by its stamina. They continued to scream “fraud” so often that, eventually, some of them actually started to believe it. 

Contrary to the fabricated image of a brutal Latin American dictator conjured up by mainstream mass media and hostile administrations, Aristide offered – on my occasions – to hold new parliamentary elections. Like a spoiled child, the opposition refused to participate in any new elections. Instead, they preferred to call for the immediate removal of Aristide from the President’s office. 

Of course, the opposition did not satisfy itself with merely calling for his ouster – they also worked for it too. With the aid of right-wing Haitians living aboard and the complicity of some foreign governments, the opposition’s monetary, military, and – most dangerously – media strength grew as its electoral strength weakened.

To whit, members of the opposition have acknowledged the popular support of Aristide. In a story published by The Miami Times in 2002, opposition member and former Jean-Claude Duvalier cabinet member Daniel Supplice admitted that the Aristide administration was “the most popular government Haiti’s ever had.”

With that financial help, the opposition was able to assemble a cast of cutthroats and killers, thieves and thugs with one thing in common: a sadistic disregard for the value of human life. 

Among the more infamous leaders of the “opposition” are the following death stars as profiled by the London-based Haiti Support Group:

• Louis Jodel Chamblain – former co-leader of the Revolutionary Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress (FRAPH). Formed by the military junta that overthrew President Aristide during his first term in office in 1991, FRAPH (which also means “to hit”) wreaked egregious havoc on the people of Haiti between 1991 and 1994 when President Aristide was restored to power. Chamblain was convicted (in absentia) and sentenced to a life term of hard labor for his involvement in the assassination of a pro-democracy activist. Like his infamous FRAPH co-leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant (who is enjoying the pleasures of freedom living in the United States), Chamblain escaped from Haiti to avoid the rule of law. Chamblain reappeared in Haiti recently to help overthrow the constitutionally-sanctioned Aristide government. 

• Guy Phillippe – the rebellion’s most camera-hungry personality was an officer in the same Haitian army that overthrew Aristide during the 1991 coup d’etat. While Haiti was being ruled by the aforementioned junta in the early nineties, Phillippe was one of several officers that was trained by the United State’s Special Forces in South America. After the newly-restored President Aristide disbanded (but did not disarm) the army upon his return, Phillippe managed to secure a post with the newly formed state police. He fled Haiti in 2000 when it was discovered that he (along with other police officials) was plotting another attempt to overthrow the government. 

• Jean-Baptiste Joseph – another former soldier, Joseph was the leader of the Assembly of Soldiers Retired Without Cause (a sort of militant VFW) in 1995. The Assembly was intimately tied to the Mobilization for National Development (MDN), a “neo-Duvalierist party” that is described as “leading member” of the Convergence Democratique, the primary alliance of opposition groups that pushed so hard for the outright violent removal of President Jean-Betrand Aristide. Like Phillippe, Joseph was accused of conspiring against the government. He was arrested but broken out of jail in a violent attack on the central police station in Port au Prince a few days later and never brought to trial.

• Jean Tatoune – was a former “local leader of FRAPH.” Ten years ago, on April 22, Tatoune (whose real name is Jean Pierre Baptiste) led a attack on a Gonaïves slum named Raboteau, which was a pro-Aristide enclave. When the carnage was done, “between fifteen and twenty-five people were killed in what became known as the Raboteau massacre.” Convicted and imprisoned for the attack, Tatoune escaped from jail in Gonaïves in 2002 and cast his lot with Amiot Metayer’s Cannibal Army. Amiot was gunned down several months ago and his brother Butter has assumed control of the group.

Another prominent member of the opposition is U. S. citizen Andre Apaid of the Group of 184. Born in the New York City suburb of Queens, Apaid is an affluent businessman that is – like many affluent Haitians – very anti-Aristide. 

According to Mary Turck, editor of Connection to the Americas, the Convergence Democratique (along with other non-affiliated opposition groups) has been funded by the U. S. National Endowment for Democracy. In fact, the Resources to the Americas website reports that the NED “set up the Haitian Conference of Political Parties (CHPP), a coalition of 26 ‘opposition’ groups.” The Resources website described the majority of the represented groups as “right-wing” with many under the leadership of former cronies of both Duvalier regimes as well as that of ex-dictator General Henri Namphy. 

In addition to pressure from the aforementioned, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide also was subjected to undue pressure from the neo-liberal economic entities of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The economic model of neo-liberalism is one that insists upon the removal of trade barriers that normally protect immature industry, big cutbacks on social spending such as education, healthcare, and welfare, the stripping of workers’ rights, and the privatization of national resources and assets. 

The typical modes operandi of both the World Bank and the IMF is to lend money to poorer countries in exchange for the implementation of neo-liberal economic policies. Taking into account that Aristide’s power base has always been among the poor Black masses of Haiti, he was put in between the largest of rocks and the hardest of places. In order to get the money that his constituency needed, he would have to “sell out.” If he held firm to his nationalist principles and populist ideologies, the neo-liberal organs would not approve the much-needed loans.

Of course, it was all moot. After finally being approved for a badly needed loan of approximately $300 million dollars, the United States moved to block the disbursement of the loan on grounds that Haiti held “flawed” elections in May of 2000. The irony of the United States penalizing another country for “flawed” elections in 2000 is rooted deeply in profound hypocrisy.

Also hypocritical is the United States going to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight for democracy while working to overthrow a democratically elected government in the Caribbean. 

In a telephone interview earlier this week, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas stated that she was “outraged” by the actions of the Bush administration in Haiti. 
Initially choosing to stay out of the fight being won by forces it supported, the White House ignored pleas by Representatives Jackson Lee, Maxine Waters and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Caribbean Community, and even President Aristide himself to help quell the rebellion and restore order. Described by Congresswoman Waters as a “wrong-headed policy”, the Bush team stood by and effectively let the legitimate government of Haiti be usurped by a band of bandits and mercernaries.

Further troubling are the rising allegations that not only did the U.S. military compel Aristide to resign and leave (under the threat of being turned over to Phillippe) but also that the Haitian President is being guarded by American and French soldiers in the tiny Central African Republic (a pseudo-nation state described as a French stooge).

What is probably most disheartening about all of this is that the information contained herein represents a mere fraction of what freedom-loving Americans should know about but do not. That, all by itself, it is as sad as it gets.

Sunday, March 7, 2004

Waters, Jackson Lee Speak Out About Haiti

Waters, Jackson Lee Speak Out About Haiti
by José Pérez
Exclusive to Black Voice News (CA)

Piti, piti, wazo fe nich li is a Haitian proverb that says that "little by little, the bird builds its nest".

Like the proverbial bird, Maxine Waters has built a reputation as a no-nonsense fighter, an inexhaustible advocate, a passionate champion of those vulnerable entities in a world that sometimes praises the underdog and always rewards the mighty. Her battles have taken her from the high to the low, the backsliding to the on the go.

Right now, there are few people more vulnerable than the poor Black masses of Haiti. Their ancestors made history when they became the first humans to wage a successful slave revolt when they defeated the armies of Spain, Great Britain, and France.

Two months ago, Haiti celebrated its bicentennial with a grand program in Port au Prince. In attendance was an exuberant crowd numbering well into the tens of thousands if not more. With them was United States Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Yet the accomplishment of being the world‚s first Black republic did not earn Haiti praises and accolades. Instead, Haiti’s proud patriots were punished with two hundred years of economic embargos, egregious exploitation, and media manipulation.

Just a few days ago, the democratically-elected government of President Jean-Betrand Aristide was overthrown by a sad cast of well-equipped murderers and rapists. Reports have emerged that Aristide was kidnapped. Although the White House denies the charge, Waters believes "that there was foul play."

"I am very worried about President Aristide," said Waters in an interview with The Black Voice News.

Waters’ Congressional colleague Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas found the news of the ouster to be "devastating" and added that the entire episode was "a travesty."

The legislators‚ concerns are well-founded as Waters was able to speak to Aristide after he was forced into exile via mobile telephone.

Prior to Aristide’s hasty forced departure, Waters and human rights activist Randall Robinson each had spoken to him every day for two weeks.

By now, millions of people know that President Aristide's government was overthrown but very few know who is responsible nor why. Congresswoman Waters stated that it was the "same business class [that] does not want Aristide to share [leadership] of Haiti."

"It is the same business class that sells all of the essential resources and does not want to pay taxes," said Waters. "They will not support any government that holds them accountable."

In addition to the economic motivation, the Representative feels that the President's opponents have a related political agenda as well.

"They want[ed] Aristide out so they can control the elections they know they can't win fairly."

Aristide's foes have benefited from the aid of both the Bush administration and affiliated right-wing organizations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy. Congresswoman Waters has gone on record on numerous occasions recently blasting the White House and the State Department for what she describes as their complicity with the anti-democratic rebel forces.

Last week, the Congressional Black Caucus held an emergency meeting with President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condi Rice imploring the current administration to take decisive action to help protect a fledging democracy in America’s backyard. Instead being promised a crack team of Marines to ride in like the cavalry to help the constitutionally legitimate government of Haiti fight off would-be tyrants, the CBC was told that ships were being sent to Haiti to prevent an exodus of refugees.

"That's all the President cares about," said Waters about Bush.

Through all of the sad turn of events in Haiti that have marked the days and weeks that followed the euphoria of the bicentennial festivities, the CBC has been adamant about where it places responsibility. "We're holding the President accountable," said Waters. Jackson Lee stated that the CBC would "not let this go."

Describing the United States as a "moral compass," Representative Jackson Lee said that "we owe the world" a better example of ethical leadership. This would have been an obvious and appropriate opportunity" to support democracy in the Americas said Jackson Lee.

The Representative from California also feels that Aristide "has been a victim of the major press." Saying that "the lies [are] absolutely unbelievable," Waters boils at the constant war of misinformation she feels is being waged against Aristide's Lavalas party.

One example of the sort of information that Waters feels that the American corporate media is not sharing with the people of the United States concerns the successful efforts of the Aristide government and a local grassroots group to turn the former mansion of an infamous Duvalier stooge into a primary school for the children of a small town. This was originally reported by the online BlackCommentator after "a prominent U. S. journalist" was not able to convince his editors to print the story.