Haiti


Hank Levin sends this report on Haiti from the Center for American Progress (3/1/04):

HAITI More Chaos, More Questions

With the departure of Haitian President Jean Bertrand-Aristide, questions are swirling about the Bush Administration's past and future role in the crisis. While Aristide faced legitimate questions about his leadership and human rights record in Haiti, he was democratically elected to a six-year term in 2000. That "counted little as rebels gobbled up territory" – but it also seemed to count little to the Bush Administration, which ultimately echoed the demands of the "drug traffickers and death squad leaders" who pushed for Aristide's removal. While Secretary of State Colin Powell initially repudiated the coup, Powell changed his position, calling on Aristide to undertake a "careful examination" of whether he should step down. Soon after, the White House "hardened its position" and essentially demanded that Aristide step down "in a harsh statement that placed much of the blame on the Haitian president for the deadly crisis." (See this American Progress review of issues and background to the crisis.)

WHAT'S NEXT?: With international peacekeepers being sent to Haiti, questions still remain about whether the U.S. has any plan to restore law and order on the island. Will there be police training? Will there be a resumption and expansion of international aid? Already, many are skeptical. As Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) said, "The problem for Haiti is that it's not oil-rich. It's a people of African descent. And they're not campaign contributors. I hate to say that, but I believe if the people's circumstances were different, I think they'd see a very different reaction from this Administration."

COMPLICIT IN THE OVERTHROW?: U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) said on ABC's This Week that the Administration is "just as much a part of this coup d'etat as the rebels, as the looters, or anyone else" because they "made it abundantly clear that Aristide would do best by leaving the country, which means that the rebels, the looters ... [were] given to believe that they should never, never, never accept Aristide as the president." Not only did the Administration demand Aristide's removal, but it refused to send peacekeeping troops until Aristide left. Said Rangel: "All we had to do was to send 200, 300 troops over there and tell those people to put down the arms." And at least one news agency reports that the caretaker of the Haitian presidential palace witnessed Aristide being forcibly removed from the palace by U.S. troops. Rangel's point was reinforced by one diplomat who noted that when Aristide was negotiating with rebels over the last two weeks, "it was clear that Washington had its own agenda during the mediation." Specifically, "the United States refused to talk about sending in peacekeepers to help thwart the gunmen's uprising in the countryside as part of a peace plan." As the diplomat said, "When they were refusing to address the security concerns, it was clear they had other things in mind," the diplomat said. "It was clear to me two weeks ago that Aristide was a goner."

WEAKENING TIES IN THE LAST FEW YEARS: Knight-Ridder reports that the "U.S. cut off aid to the Haitian government after flawed legislative elections in 2000, leaving wobbly institutions like the National Police to flounder, then turning around and condemning the government for letting drug traffickers use the country as a pit stop." Additionally, the Administration "pushed the Inter-American Development Bank to freeze loans to Haiti - even though the bank had lent money to the country during the reign of the dictatorial Duvalier family."

"THE COUNTRY WILL BE BETTER OFF": The Administration has said that Haiti will "be better off [because Aristide] relinquished power." But AP reports that "mayhem erupted in Port-Au-Prince as Aristide left." The Miami Herald notes that "greater strife could fill a post-Aristide vacuum" and that "the prospects for peace after a departure by him appear poor." Why? Because, as the NYT reports, "the armed men trying to seize power in Haiti are led by death-squad veterans and convicted murderers." The rebels are led, in part, by the Haitian Front for Advancement and Progress – FRAPH for short. This is the same group that "was an instrument of terror" after Aristide was overthrown in 1991, "killing thousands over the next three years."

EVIDENCE OF U.S.-REBEL CONNECTIONS: Despite the rebels' sordid history, the FRAPH and its leaders have had troubling connections to the American military and intelligence services. For instance, Human Rights Watch notes that "FRAPH reportedly was founded with CIA assistance and 'Toto' Constant, its director, has repeatedly stated that he received regular CIA payments." This was corroborated by Knight Ridder which reported that Constant acknowledged he was on the CIA payroll. The current rebel leader, Guy Philippe, who is "infamous for human rights abuses," was trained by the U.S. military. And the NYT reports the rebels' "assault weapons and crisp camouflage uniforms suggest they have outside support." The Haitian Army and its National Intelligence Service, which was disbanded after Aristide returned to power but whose remnants are part of the rebellion, were agencies "created and financed by the C.I.A. that committed acts of terror and trafficked in cocaine." (For more, see Human Rights Watch's new report on the history of some of the rebel leaders.)

Quoth Randy Black: "The video of Aristide being welcomed off the plane in Africa did not appear to show him as the prisoner that they two shameless Democratic activists portrayed. He appeared happy, the African welcoming committee folks looked pleased, everyone shook hands... what's the big deal? I note that Jesse Jackson was a huge influence on Clinton's decision to invade Haiti in 1994. We don't seem to have heard from Jesse this go around. I wonder why?" RH: Unfortunately, it is a big deal, as was shown at an especially heated hearing of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Committee on International Affairs. As always, the hearing brought out a lot of information. Thew key witnesses for the Bush administration were Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Adolfo Franco, Assistant Administrator of AID. They were the target of sharp attacks, especially by Jeffrey Sacks, now director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University. He virtually called them liars. It is amazing what a tangle of organizations is involved. One it the International Republican Institute, which apparently operates out of the Dominican Republic with funds provided by the US Institute of Democracy.

CARICOM plays an important role in the Caribbean and in the negotiations about Haiti. It rejected the official US explanation of the departure of Aristide. It recalled the US u¡invasion of Grenada, and said a wave of fear was sweeping the region that the events in Haiti inaugurated a new period of. US int4rvention throughout the area. Aristide was depicted as a man who wished to help Haiti's workers and was thwarted by businessman, one of them a US citizen. Curiously, Cuba and Fidel Castro were not named, even though an Administration concern was that Aristide was playing Castro's game. The Black Caucus played an important role in the committee hearings. Its members are usually exemplary in their behavior, but they are almost all Democrats, and they were using the hearing to make political hay, which they would argue is a legitimate part of congressional agriculture..

The result was a distortion of the facts. Instead of recognizing that Haitians have shown themselves to be incapable of governing themselves, they were praised as a resourceful people with a glorious history. The president of the University of Haiti was one witness. His institution was described as prestigious, something I had hitherto not noticed. The CIA came in for the usual attacks: it was charged that the CIA engineered the deposition of Aristide. It was surprising how many of those participating in the hearing had been actively involved in Haitian affairs, notably Maxine Waters (D, California), who was especially forceful in her presentation of the case against the deposition by the US of Aristide. Whatever the merits of he case, it is unfortunate, as I predicted, that the arguments about Iraq would now be accompanied by arguments about Haiti. In both cases, Iraq and Haiti, the final outcome will decide how US actions are judged, but even that may not be fair,

Randy Black says of the Blood River which separates Haiti and the Dominican Republic: "It is told by the folks who conduct the tours of the National Museum in the DR's capital that the Blood River is so named because of, not one war or battle, but because of many. This may not be accurate, but it is what they tell tourists, myself included.

Having ridden out of Haiti on a commercial plane more than once, I can tell you from experience, the Haitians are not "of this world" when it comes to cleanliness or personal hygiene. Rumor has it that they bath annually, if that often. Having seen the way they are treated by Dominicans, it would seem that they share my views. It's a long story, but Haitians "send" their "mules" to Miami at least twice a week for "supplies" aka, goods to be sold on the Haitian black market, via commercial jets, while keeping their relatives as "collateral" until those relatives return to Haiti. The practice has gone on, according to the pilots and crew, for a generation. The practice is a huge money maker for the commercial airlines. Been there, seen it".

Randy Black says: "Having visited Haiti on several occasions, I believe it is evident that Haitians cannot rule themselves. Their history is one of battle after battle. It's no coincidence that the river between the DR and Haiti is called the "Blood River." In neighboring Dominican Republic, Haitians are treated as "one step above dogs.". And Aristide? What happened to his Roman Catholic roots? Was he not a Priest? Was he excommunicated, or banished, for "violent behavior and the promotion of hatred?" RH: A good question. Aristide claims he represents the people. He has two different groups of enemies: the conservative opposition and the thugs who have taken parts of northern Haiti. Much of the Catholic Church in Latin America now supports liberation theology, i.e. defense of the poor. What is the present relation of the Church to Aristide?

Randy Black found this comment on Haiti and its prosperity:under French rule:
1697-1791: (Haiti) Saint Domingue becomes the richest colony in the world. Its capital, Cap Français, is known as the Paris of the New World. It is also a regime of extraordinary cruelty; the 500,000 slaves taken by the French are flogged, starved, and buried alive for minor offenses.
http://www.language-works.com/Haiti/history.htm
Source: The Caribbean and the Bahamas byJames Henderson, Cadogan Books, London, 1997
Haiti was dealt a bad hand in the poker tournament of life. Haiti's countryside is beautiful, the people are relatively gentle when they are not fighting the French, Spanish or others - take your pick, their cultural history, their art and music truly unique, and their superstitions boggle the mind.

One of the many books that kept me warm during many cold nights in Siberia a decade ago was Michener's Caribbean, the fictionalized history of the region covering about 700 years. Ironically, it took Mr. Michener about a page per year to cover the topic. But the book is delicious. When I was struggling to stay warm in an unheated Khruschev-era dorm late at night, minus 40 outside, Caribbean allowed me to imagine that I was once again warming myself on a sunny beach on Hispaniola.

RH: It would be interesting to see how French books describe the French regime in Haiti. There is a marked difference between Spanish accounts of the history of Spanish America and those in English. My great mentor, Salvador de Madariaga wrote a big, scholarly trilogy to set the record straight, as he saw it. Cap Français in now Cap Haítien. Probably the rivalry between the old and the new capitals has some role in the present unrest.

I wondered how French rule in Haiti was presented in French textbooks. Randy Black agrees: "It might be interesting to have a native French speaker interpret French literature on Haitian issues and history. Unfortunately, my French is limited. I can read Guy de Maupassant in French, on a good day, but then I don't have many good days.

Mexican history, as taught in Mexico, is another matter. Some years back, I had a close friend, a lecturer of history at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Knowing that I was a Texas native, she once asked me about Texas history, from the viewpoint of a Texan. I discussed Colonel Travis, Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, the Alamo, Goliad, the Battle of San Jacinto, Gen. Santa Anna and so forth, the usual Texas patriotic stuff that all Texas school children study, whereby she interrupted me and claimed I had it all wrong.

She claimed that there were no battles for independence ("Remember the Alamo, Remember Goliad"), but that the USA simply "bought" Texas from Mexico, according to Mexican historians. These facts were those taught to her as a school girl in Mexico City in the 60s. Nothing but a financial transaction! She was, of course, referring to the The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, in my mind, but she also claimed that the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836 had nothing really to do with the issues; simply that the facts were that Mexico freely chose to sell Texas to the USA. I wonder if that is still the viewpoint of Mexican education?"

RH: The contrast between Texan and Mexican versions of that war is a glaring example of the history textbook
problem. Has anyone like Christopher Jones written about the Civil War from the Southern viewpoint? Again. the Canadian version of history is quite different from the American. Most Americans know only the US version of history.

This op-ed comes from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), authored by COHA Research Fellow Jessica Leight. It appeared in the South African daily newspaper This Day (2/25/94), as well as in three other dailies in that country. It is interesting that South Africa is interested in Haiti.

Haiti: Thrown to the Wolves: Over the past two hundred years, Haiti has been no stranger to political violence, coups and the perversion of democracy. This was a sad betrayal of its proud heritage as the worlds first black republic and the Western Hemisphere's second oldest independent nation, having won its freedom in 1804 after a nine-year uprising by the island's slaves against their French colonial masters. However, this initial revolutionary triumph gave way almost immediately to the harsh realities of grinding poverty and a dreary succession of repressive governments that came to office by coups rather than honest elections. This dreary legacy culminated in the brutal father-and-son dictatorships of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier, who enjoyed Washington's enthusiastic blessings throughout most of their brutal tenure.

Randy Black reports "A few years back, I had the opportunity to scuba off Bonaire in the southern Caribbean. My American Airlines return flight to Miami was cancelled but the airline folks kindly rebooked me on ALM (Dutch Antillean Airlines) from Bonaire, via Port au Prince, to Miami so that we could make our connection back to Texas on time. The ALM MD-80 was piloted by a young Dutchman who I swear was not old enough to shave. When the plane landed in Port au Prince, the eight of us who got on in Bonaire and were continuing on to Miami, were taken into the Haitian terminal waiting area. It was explained that they were still processing the passengers who were getting on in Haiti and that the flight would be full. About 15 minutes later, we saw an old DC-3 (World War II era tail dragging transport) taxi out and take off. An hour went by and we were loaded. This time, however, we were seated in First Class, as opposed to the seats in the rear cabin that we had occupied from Bonaire. I had watched as the Haitians loaded first from a separate waiting area, and by the time we were loaded, the curtain to the rear cabin had been shut. Further, the stewardesses were drawing straws. Why, I asked. One stewardess explained that they were drawing lots to see who would HAVE to give the pre-flight safety announcements and serve the Haitians in the rear cabin. When I asked why they drew lots, she explained that Haitians evidently dont bath more than once a year and that it was very stinky in back. About then, the captain came back and said it would be about another 20 minutes before takeoff. Again, I politely asked, Why? He said, Did you see the DC-3 take off an hour ago?

The captain said, The DC-3 goes to Miami with us weekly. We want him to land in Miami about the same time we do, and since we fly a lot faster, we give him about an hour and a half head start, more or less depending on the winds forecast, since he flies lower and slower. Were on a round-robin trip today. Another group of locals went up day before yesterday. They will be on our return flight this evening. They go to Miami to buy goods for sale in Haiti. Rich Haitians fund the weekly plane tickets of these mules plus pay for the DC-3 and the extra baggage fees. This practice has been going on for years. They will have so much baggage that it wont fit in the cargo hold of this MD-80, so we take the DC-3 along to carry the excess baggage back to Port au Prince. They bring back everything from disposable diapers to televisions. This is a VERY profitable flight operation for our airline. Always has been.
I offered the comment, How do so many Haitians get visas for this adventure and what keeps them from simply using the flight as a way to stay in the US permanently? Ah, the rich Haitians take care of the paperwork with your Embassy (wink, wink) and tell the mules that if they dont come back, their relatives will be killed. They only hire people for this trip who are leaving behind a close relative. During the fight back, I peeked through the curtains. The smell was one Ill never forget".

The occupation of Haiti is certainly a strange affair. It was supposed to be a UN-approved international operation, but the Black Caucus in Congress denounces it, and Caricom refuses to send troops. The nearest thing the US could get to represent the area is a contingent of troops from Chile, which realizes that Haiti is just a pawn on a large chessboard. Cuban exile Alberto Gutierrez writes from Miami: "Curiously Jesse Jackson, Maxine Waters, Al Sharpton, Charles Rangel, the Black Caucus and Co. care not only about the fate of Aristide but also about other foreign Blacks. However they ignore the tragedy of the Cuban Blacks under Castro. Racial discrimination in Cuba is a fact, and I can prove it : How many "negros" belong to the ruling elite ? What is the percentage of "negros" behind bars for common and invented political crimes? Why are "negros" not allowed to work in "sensitive" jobs linked to foreign tourists? Those "concerned" US Blacks who supported Nelson Mandela have never said a word about Biscet, or Antúnez, or many, many other "negros" condemned to rot in the prisons of Castro. Long ago I did my best to understand the issues of the US Blacks, but finally I realized that most of their leaders were nothing but a bunch of hypocritical opportunists who constantly profit from the racial disparities. It is in their interest to maintain the status quo. They are simply despicable!" RH: Alberto is very angry. I am uninformed about the status of Blacks in Cuba. One would think that some enterprising jouralist could go to Cuba and write a documented report. What about the academics who go to Cuba? Heve they published anything? I have before me a two-page list of top Cuban officials in the latest edition of Current World Leaders Almanach, but there is of course no indication of their race.

In the flood of information about the Haitian crisis, little has been said about the Dominican Republic, except that it closed its border to prevent an influx of Haitian refugees. Alberto Gutiérrez says that "the River of the Massacre, or Blood River forms the northern border between Haití and Dominican Republican. During the Haitian occupation of the entire Hispaniola Island from 1822 to 1844, the Haitians who lived in the Dominican side often were "the dogs one step above dogs". In 1859 Dominican President Pedro Santana sought annexation to Spain, facing a number of additional conflicts with Haiti." RH: The Haitian occupation of the whole island has left deep resentment in the Dominican Republic, where Haitians have been the victims of persecution. The River of the Massacre refers to one incident.

The Council on Hemispheroc Affairs (COHA) has issued (3/10/04) along release, "Haiti Under U.S. Tutelage and Control ", It ridiculed Colin Powell and asserts that the shots are being called bu Noriega and Reich. Here is an extract: "It’s a win for Secretary of State Powell’s confused, contradictory and hypocritical policy, but does it advance authentic U.S. national interests? Powell’s vision for Latin America is now indistinguishable from that of his junior hemispheric policymaking ideologues, Roger Noriega and Otto Reich. The battle for the Secretary of State’s soul has ended in a rout for those who had highly regarded the man they thought he was, in contrast to the man he turned out to be.

The conflagration on the island hasn’t ended; it will continue to burn down the country’s constitutional structure and eat away at what small chance Haiti had to evolve into a stable democratic society. Less through confusion than by design, by belatedly introducing this country’s and other foreign forces into Haiti, Washington has guaranteed that Haiti’s now deeply scarred society is unlikely to easily recuperate from the wounds inflicted on it by an array of villains, both foreign and domestic. While many in both of those categories are destined to face the scrutiny of objective critics in the months and years to come, none of their reputations are more likely to be tarnished by the role that they played in bringing down President Aristide’s constitutional rule, than Secretary of State Colin Powell. In effect, he willingly became the captive of the Bush administration’s obsessive right-wing ideologues—the fateful sons of former Senator Jesse Helms—led by Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, Deputy Assistant Secretary Dan Fisk, and White House aide Otto Reich.

First there were Powell’s earlier and highly criticized efforts to assure the American public of the reliability of what turned out to be either fake or exaggerated intelligence findings regarding the intent and capacity of Saddam Hussein to resort to weapons of mass destruction, which provided the justification for Washington’s controversial decision to go to war against Iraq. Now we have just witnessed the extraordinary shifts and duplicity of what only charitably can be described as Powell’s Haitian diplomacy. His behavior has destroyed any illusion that the Secretary of State could be relied upon to control the two changeling political appointees who had been pushed upon him by Miami’s clout with the White House- Noriega and Reich. In the end, Powell’s already fading reputation for moderation was not to be found when it came to Haiti"

Ross Rogers, Jr. forwards : "The Daily Mislead" <latest@daily.misleader.org>(82/9/04) "Bush Hides White House's Complicity in Haiti": Its possibly accurate account of the removal of Aristide is similar to that given by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. The difference is that The Daily Mislead is a project of MoveOn, the Berkeley-based project heavily funded by George Soros. whose sole aim is to overthrow President Bush.. We have discussed the active involvement of foreigners in national affairs. I assume Soros is now a US citizen, but his intervention strikes an odd note. Soros made his fortune largely by playing the foreign exchange market, nearly destabilizing the pound sterling. I have the impression that there is something destructive rather than constructive in his operations.
See http://daily.misleader.org/ctt.asp?u=2179519&l=20234


 

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