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Impressions from Haiti

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Issue: 17 Section: Accounts Geography: Latin America Haiti Topics: Canadian Foreign Policy, police

April 6, 2004

Impressions from Haiti

by Anthony Fenton

Haitians at a post-coup Lavalas protest signify their support for Aristide's completion of his five year term as president. Later on at the same demonstration, several attendees were shot. photo: Haiti Information Project
PORT-AU-PRINCE—It has only been a month since Jean Bertrand Aristide was overthrown by US and French forces, but Haiti has been quickly disappearing from news headlines. This, despite widespread reports of human rights abuses at the hands of a "militarized police force" and an illegal occupying force made up primarily of American, French and Canadian soldiers.

I recently met with dozens of people in Haiti who are currently hiding from the police or the occupying forces, fearing for their lives. These people are predominantly Aristide supporters or former elected officials of Aristide's governing party, Famni Lavalas. Roughly forty such people are having their names read daily on elite-owned radio stations, as part of a "hit-list" that calls for the "arrest" of these people. The well-understood implication is that arrest is a euphemism for "execution" or "disappearance".

Meanwhile, in the mainstream media it has been reported that the Bush Administration has recently "expressed optimism about the situation in Haiti" where the atmosphere is apparently "calming down" as the new Haitian government seems to be "getting up and running." This is the same Haitian government - flown into Gonaives on March 20th in US Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters - that praised the convicted murderers in Gonaives as "freedom fighters" in front of Canadian representative to the OAS David Lee and numerous members of the foreign military occupation as well as mainstream journalists.

On of the most striking experiences of my recent trip to Haiti was observing the willingness of Haitian "civil society" (the US-funded Democratic Convergence and Group of 184), the US and Canadian Embassies, and the interim Haitian government, to look foreign observers in the eye, and lie. And lie they do, denying that a coup took place, denying that Aristide was anything but a corrupt dictator, and denying that human rights abuses are taking place on a wide scale in the aftermath of the events of February 29th.

OAS and CARICOM employees I spoke to (who wished to remain anonymous) wryly asked: "if the US has nothing to hide, why don't they just allow an investigation to take place" into the departure of President Aristide? CARICOM, the African Union, along with the Congressional Black Caucus and the NDP of Canada are calling for just such an investigation. The Department of State, the Bush Administration, Paul Martin's Liberals, the US, and the UN's Kofi Annan all refuse to agree to an investigation, despite the mountain of evidence that demonstrates the case of Haiti as the latest in a long line of imperial destabilization and counterinsurgency campaigns on the part of the US. Indeed, simple observation of the public record shows a systematic campaign on the part of the US to destabilize the country by blocking aid, while channelling funding to a wealthy but unpopular opposition.

From my recent trip to Haiti, every indication suggests that the scene there is very similar to Latin America and the Caribbean during the 1980s, under Reagan. At the heart of US-funded campaigns of terror in the region was a contempt for those who dared to pursue genuinely democratic policies in the region. This racist contempt runs deep, and the attitude has naturally carried itself forward into the 21st century. Commensurate policies are being rigorously pursued by the inheritors of Cold-war policy - John Negroponte, Roger Noriega, Otto Reich, Colin Powell, George Bush and many others in Haiti most recently, but also in Cuba, El Salvador and Venezuela.

Several demonstrators were shot and at least two were killed at the March 11 pro-Lavalas demonstration. photo: Haiti Information Project

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