REPORT: HAITI MORE VIOLENT THAN BEFORE
FRAN QUIGLEY COMMON DREAMS - A new and extensive investigation into Haiti's human rights situation has found conditions in the country have sharply deteriorated under an interim government that replaced ousted President Jean Bertrand-Aristide in February 2004. "Life for the impoverished majority is becoming more violent and more inhuman as the months pass since the elected government's removal," the report concludes.
The investigation team led by Thomas Griffin, a former federal law enforcement officer and now an attorney practicing immigration law in Philadelphia, conducted its interviews and observations in Haiti during November 2004. Their 60-page report, published by the Center for the Study of Human Rights at the University of Miami School of Law, includes documentation of masked Haitian National Police routinely committing summary executions of civilians, an outline of U.S. involvement in the current government, and graphic photos of victims of violence. . .
Among those interviewed for the report were United Nations police, who confessed to investigators their inability to stop the violence in the streets of the poorest neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital and largest city. Such poor neighborhoods are the norm in Haiti, where 65% of the population lives on less than $1 per day. One UN commander complained that all he has done in Haiti is 'engage in daily guerilla warfare.'
BLACK COMMENTATOR - At 12:30 in the morning of May 10, approximately 20 U.S. Marines executed a military assault on the Port-au-Prince home of 69-year-old Annette Auguste, a.k.a. Souer Anne. Auguste¹s residence is part of a compound that includes four other apartments that were also invaded by the U.S. military forces. The troops covered the heads of 11 Haitians with black hoods and then forced them to lay face down on the ground while binding their wrists with plastic manacles behind their backs. The victims of this terrifying U.S. military invasion included five-year-old Chamyr Samedi, 10-year-old Kerlande Philippe, 12-year-old Loubahida Augustine, 14-year-old Luckman Augustine, and seven adults.
The Marines blew up a vehicle and a substantial part of Auguste¹s three-story house, leaving behind c4 and c5 explosives paraphernalia including blasting caps and igniters. Not a single member of the Haitian National Police force or the de facto Haitian government was present when the U.S. forces attacked the residence, said the arrestees. All the detainees except Auguste were released after questioning.
According to Haitian law, as is the norm in any democratic country, no arrest can be made without a proper warrant issued by judicial authorities. The Haitian Constitution requires that warrants only be executed between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. The lack of any legality within the context of Haitian law and the fact this was executed unilaterally by U.S. military forces raises serious questions of national sovereignty and the role of the U.S. military in Haiti today. . . Ms. Auguste is being held incommunicado at a U.S. military-controlled 'special section' of the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince.
RICE THREATENS JAMAICAN GOVERNMENT OVER ARISTIDE
[From Democracy Now]
RANDALL ROBINSON: I have learned from a White House source that Condoleezza Rice has pointedly threatened the Jamaican Government, telling it to expel President Aristide or face the consequences. The administration wants President Aristide out of the region. As this is a clear measure of how much broad support the president still enjoys as the democratically elected leader of Haiti inside the country, because the U.S. apparently views his mere presence in Jamaica as a threat to their control along with the thugs and the installed government in Haiti. Jamaica has not buckled. . . He remains, and will for the indefinite future in Jamaica, in spite of these clear threats from Condoleezza Rice made to the government of Jamaica.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Randall Robinson, what kind of specific pressure are you aware of that the U.S. Government is bringing on Jamaica?
RANDALL ROBINSON: I don't know that the specific actions that the U.S. would take, or were made, were spelled out. It was clear that Ms. Rice told the Jamaican Government that if Aristide was not expelled immediately, and anything happened to any American forces in Haiti, that the consequences of that would be exacted against a president or against Jamaica by the United States with full force. Now, one doesn't know what that means, but we know what America is capable of doing. It's abducted the President. It executed the coup. It took him to a country with which it has no relations, nor does any African country to speak of, that the State Department warns all people not to go to. We brought him back to Jamaica, to his home region and the U.S., of course, has brought full weight of its authority upon Jamaica to have him expelled immediately. Hearing that his simple presence there would cause people in Haiti to rally to salvage their democracy.
JUAN GONZALEZ: The Associated Press reported yesterday that a summary execution of Aristide followers have continued to occur. . .
RANDALL ROBINSON: The French and American troops are standing by while the summary executions are carried out. . .
US-LED OCCUPATION FORCE TARGETS HAITI'S SLUMS
KEITH JONES, WORLD SOCIALIST - The US-led international "stabilization" force that descended on Haiti after Washington engineered a coup against the Caribbean-island country's elected president has begun moving aggressively into urban areas loyal to deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The force's stated aim is to restore order by disarming both pro-and anti-Aristide groups. But its targeting of the slums of Port-au-Prince underscores that the principal goal of the stabilization force is to quell popular opposition to Haiti's new US-installed regime.
Last weekend US Marines repeatedly made bloody forays into Belair, a poor neighborhood near the presidential palace. The Marines reported that they killed two gunmen after coming under attack on the evening of Friday, March 12. But Belair residents told Reuters that as many as 11 bystanders had been killed in crossfire and relatives of several persons shot by the Marines insisted to the Associated Press that they had not been involved in political violence. US Marine Major Richard Cruson vehemently denied the Belair residents' claims, but conceded no weapons had been recovered from the alleged gunmen.
Last Sunday, a Marine was shot and wounded in Belair while US forces exchanged fire with chimères, armed gangs supportive of Haiti's deposed president. The next day, 120 Marines swept through the neighborhood. Some were on foot, others in armored vehicles mounted with machine guns. International news agencies reported many Belair residents were defiant, taunting the US forces as occupiers and shouting "Vive Aristide."
By midweek, French troops were setting up roadblocks in the Cité du Soleil to search for weapons. The Cité, the original base of Aristide's popular support, is a massive slum aside Port-au-Prince harbor. Many of its 400,000 residents live in one-room shacks lacking both electricity and running water.
The stabilization force's intrusion into the shantytowns and poorer neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince stands in sharp contrast to the hands off approach both it and the new government have adopted toward the rebel army that the Bush administration and Haiti's self-styled democratic opposition-a disparate coalition dominated by the country's traditional business and political elite-used to topple Aristide.
JEAN CHARLES MOISE, PACIFIC NEWS SERVICE - I am the mayor of Milo, a district of about 50,000 people near Cap Haitian. When I was elected nine years ago, at the age of 28, I was the youngest to serve in that office in Haiti's modern history. I've traveled in the United States on speaking tours, telling Americans about how we were building democracy in Haiti under the Aristide government. In late February my district came under attack by anti-Aristide forces and I fled for my life. From where I am now -- hiding in the woods -- I see the old Haitian army is back. Those they don't kill, they lock up in containers, because they burned down the jails. The kind of containers you put on ships.
~~ One has to ask, why is all of this happening? Is this because we used to have only 10 public high schools but now we have over 150? Is it because we made a democracy where people could go in the streets, protest, and be free to say whatever they want? Is it because black people in the country now, people who were poor and always kept out of the political life of the country, they have come out and have been participating in democracy? Is that why they have unleashed this terror on us? Is that what we are paying for?
We ask these questions: Is it because the United States blocked international assistance to Haiti to make people rise up against the president, but they never did? Is it because people here are continuing to support their president? Is that why we are getting all this repression? We have to ask those questions.
We wonder whether it is because the army that used to exist before was disbanded by President Aristide. Instead of defending the people, that army used to carry out a war against us. Is it because that army is no longer there that someone has rearmed it and brought it back to Haiti with very powerful weapons?
~~ I cannot understand how a group of disbanded military has access to such sophisticated equipment and heavy weaponry. They have two helicopters and they have two airplanes. They use the helicopter to transport their troops and they use them at night with spotlights to look for people in hiding. They are in the air and they have their troops on the ground.
These are the questions we ask ourselves as we hide from those with the gu
HAZEL TRICE EDNEY, NNPA - An attorney for former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, now in exile, says he believes President George W. Bush sought to finish the agenda of his father by removing rather than protecting the embattled president last week. "Dick Cheney was the secretary of defense, Colin Powell was the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and George Bush, the father, was president at the time of the first military coup against President Aristide," recalls the attorney, Ira Kurzban of Miami. "Is there a settling of scores in some sense? They thought they got rid of him the first time, but Clinton brought him back. And now they want to make sure, before the November election, that they get rid of him a second time."
REED LINDSAY, OBSERVER, UK - For the second time in less than two years, the Bush administration is fighting accusations that it backed the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government in Latin America. Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has charged the US with forcing him from power at gunpoint. US Secretary of State Colin Powell dismissed that as 'absurd'. But there is growing international disquiet. As with the unsuccessful US-endorsed coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in April 2002, Washington faces charges that it is reverting to Cold War tactics to dispose of leaders it does not fancy.
Even before Aristide's departure became an alleged kidnapping, some Latin American leaders were warning that the US role in Haiti was ominous. 'The removal of President Aristide in these circumstances sets a dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments anywhere and everywhere,' Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson, the chairman of the 15-nation Caribbean Community - Caricom - said last week. 'We are bound to question whether his resignation was truly voluntary, as it comes after the capture of sections of Haiti by armed insurgents and the failure of the international community to provide the requisite support, despite the appeals of Caricom.' ...
PETER HALLWARD, GUARDIAN, UK - With the enthusiastic backing of Haiti's former colonial master, a leader elected with overwhelming popular support has been driven from office by a loose association of convicted human rights abusers, seditious former army officers and pro-American business leaders. It's obvious that Aristide's expulsion offered Jacques Chirac a long-awaited chance to restore relations with an American administration he dared to oppose over the attack on Iraq. It's even more obvious that the characterization of Aristide as yet another crazed idealist corrupted by absolute power sits perfectly with the political vision championed by George Bush, and that the Haitian leader's downfall should open the door to a yet more ruthless exploitation of Latin American labor...
One of the reasons why Aristide has been consistently vilified in the press is that the Reuters and AP wire services, on which most coverage depends, rely on local media, which are all owned by Aristide's opponents. Another, more important, reason for the vilification is that Aristide never learned to pander unreservedly to foreign commercial interests. He reluctantly accepted a series of severe IMF structural adjustment plans, to the dismay of the working poor, but he refused to acquiesce in the indiscriminate privatization of state resources, and stuck to his guns over wages, education and health.
OAKLAND ROSS, TORONTO STAR - Haiti's ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is launching criminal charges against at least four U.S. government officials, saying they plotted his overthrow late last month and then abducted both him and his wife. The individuals named in the action include Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as well as the United States' second-ranked diplomat in Haiti, Luis Moreno, and Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega.
Following his ouster on Feb. 29, Aristide has repeatedly said the U.S. government masterminded his overthrow and kidnapped him and his wife by forcing them on to a plane that flew them to Africa. They left Haiti as an armed rebellion swept through much of the troubled Caribbean country.
In a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft, the deposed president's Miami-based lawyer is calling on the U.S. Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the events surrounding Aristide's hurried departure from Haiti. The lawyer, Ira Kurzban, said there is "a prima facie case" that Aristide and his wife Mildred, a U.S. citizen, were forced to leave Haiti against their will and that several U.S. criminal laws were broken by the officials named in the action. He said U.S. diplomats also coerced the Haitian ruler into writing a letter of resignation prior to his departure for the Port-au-Prince airport sometime before dawn on Feb. 29.
DEMOCRACY NOW - The feared Haitian army, disbanded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is making a comeback. We take an in-depth look at the paramilitary leader who now claims to be in control of the Haitian police and military: Guy Philippe, a former Haitian police chief who was trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s.
For many Haitians, it is like a real life nightmare is once again becoming a reality. The feared Haitian army, disbanded by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is making a comeback. And what is particularly disturbing to veteran Haiti observers and human rights organizations is the man who now claims to be in control of the Haitian police and military. He says the man he most admires is former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. He praises the former dictator as the man who "made Chile what it is.'" Next to Pinochet, his second greatest hero is Ronald Reagan. The man is paramilitary leader Guy Philippe, a former Haitian police chief who was trained by US Special Forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s. . .
Human Rights Watch reported Friday that during Philippe's term as police chief of the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas from 1997 to 1999, international monitors "learned that dozens of suspected gang members were summarily executed, mainly by police under the command of Inspector Berthony Bazile, Philippe's deputy."
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article5810.htm Interview with Aristide's lawyer, Miami-based Ira Kurzban.
MICHAEL RATNER, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS - Aristide is still lawfully the president of Haiti. International law does not recognize governments imposed by coup.... Apparently Aristide was forcibly taken out of Haiti -- that violates international treaty and subjects the U.S. to proceedings at the International Court of Justice.
BRIAN CONCANNON, BUREAU OF INTERNATIONAL LAWYERS, HAITI - Guy Philippe, the U.S.-trained self-proclaimed new army chief, was implicated in running drugs, executing suspected gang members, attacking the National Palace and trying to blow up a hydro dam. Even before he started killing his former police colleagues. Louis Jodel Chamblain, co-founder of Haiti's brutal FRAPH death squad, was convicted for several atrocities committed during Haiti's last dictatorship, in 1991-1994. Both are now living up to their legends, hunting down and executing government supporters, emptying the jails, spraying whole neighborhoods with gunfire....
PETER HALLWARD, GUARDIAN - Jean-Bertrand Aristide was re-elected president of Haiti in November 2000 with more than 90% of the vote. He was elected by people who approved his courageous dissolution, in 1995, of the armed forces that had long terrorised Haiti and had overthrown his first administration. He was elected by people who supported his tentative efforts, made with virtually no resources or revenue, to invest in education and health. He was elected by people who shared his determination, in the face of crippling US opposition, to improve the conditions of the most poorly paid workers in the western hemisphere. Aristide was forced from office on Sunday by people who have little in common except their opposition to his progressive policies and their refusal of the democratic process. With the enthusiastic backing of Haiti's former colonial master, a leader elected with overwhelming popular support has been driven from office by a loose association of convicted human rights abusers, seditious former army officers and pro-American business leaders.
It's obvious that Aristide's expulsion offered Jacques Chirac a long-awaited chance to restore relations with an American administration he dared to oppose over the attack on Iraq. It's even more obvious that the characterization of Aristide as yet another crazed idealist corrupted by absolute power sits perfectly with the political vision championed by George Bush, and that the Haitian leader's downfall should open the door to a yet more ruthless exploitation of Latin American labor.
AMERICAS WATCH - Ira Kurzban, the lawyer who represents President Jean Bertrand Aristide just announced that he had just learned that the Central African Republic has shut off President Aristide's phone service. He said that armed members of the French and CAR military are guarding President Aristide and he is not free to leave. Aristide's safety is in danger.
INFORMATION CLEARINGHOUSE - South African ambassador to the United Nations, Dumisani Kumalo, says President Aristide did not request asylum or exile in South Africa, nor did the South African government deny him asylum or exile as alleged by the US State Department and The New York Times
JAMAICA OBSERVER - Rebel leader Guy Philippe yesterday declared himself the new chief of Haiti's military, which was disbanded by ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and said he would arrest Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. "The country is in my hands!" Philippe announced on Radio Signal FM. He summoned 20 police commanders to meet with him yesterday and warned that if they failed to appear he would arrest them.
"This is one of darker moments in Haiti's history," said Brian Concannon, who had successfully prosecuted another rebel leader, Louis-Jodel Chamblain, in absentia, for a 1994 massacre. "I'm extremely afraid for all people who have fought for democracy because they all could be killed."
Meanwhile, in the Central African Republic, Aristide came under pressure from the country's government to shut-up on his claim that he was essentially kidnapped and forced out of Haiti by US soldiers. They fear that Aristide's claims could complicate the country's relationship with Washington.
In Port-au-Prince, US Marines yesterday guarded Neptune's office in Petionville suburb, where Philippe was headed with hundreds of supporters in a convoy impeded by cheering crowds who walked alongside. When local radio reported Neptune was evacuated by helicopter, the convoy went to another part of the city. Neptune is a top member of Aristide's Lavalas party and his former presidential spokesman...
JAMAICA OBSERVER - TThe deed is done. Haiti has been raped. The act was sanctioned by the United States, Canada and France. For despite the fig leaf of constitutionality with which these Western powers, and supposed bastions of democracy, have sought to shroud the act, what happened in Haiti yesterday was nothing short of a coup d'etat. Indeed, having pressured President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into resigning and going into exile, these powers have firmly placed their imprimatur on a politics that rewards violence and a process that abjures principle in favor of narrow ideological positions and personality preferences.
It is a lesson that Caribbean countries, and particularly Caricom states - which may feel a certain coziness about their democracy - ought to take seriously. For if they thought otherwise, democratically-elected leaders are easily expendable if they, at a particular time, do not fit the profile in favor with those who are strong and powerful...
The truth be told, Mr Aristide was never the flavor of the Parisian set, the inside-the-beltway crowd of Washington or the new Canadians. And hardly was Mr Aristide ever going to be the favorite of the types in Haiti who fomented yesterday's coup d'etat, who engineered his previous overthrow in 1991, and who have been the fulcrum of real power in pre-Aristide dictatorships, even if they did not directly hold the reins of Government.
For all his faults and flaws, Mr Aristide represented something very fundamental in Haiti. A possibility. The possibility of the assertion of Haiti's majority. Its underclass.
Stripped to its core, this, fundamentally, has been what the demonstrations and unrest in Haiti these past several months, have been about. Indeed, no one who has followed the debate, as articulated by the official Opposition, has heard the enunciation of a cogent and coherent position, except the demand for Mr Aristide's resignation.
That demand was superimposed on allegations of corruption and irregularities in the elections of 2000, which were boycotted by the Opposition. The truth, though, is that no one has credibly questioned that Mr Aristide's victory represented the will of the Haitian electorate. And if election irregularities were a substantial part of the reason for Mr Aristide's removal, then the United States would perhaps wish to examine the conduct of its own poll at around the same time that Mr Aristide was facing Haitian voters.
JOHN HORVATH, HEISSE, GERMANY - What was missing was one simple question: what was the uprising all about? Perhaps the reason why journalists, especially those from the US and other "allied" countries, failed to dig deep into what was going on is because they know what they would find: that the US was behind the ugly overthrow of a democratically elected government, a move akin to the Iraq invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
Some might argue that this comparison is going a bit too far. But is it? With the exception that there isn't oil in Haiti and that Kuwait is not a democracy, the American power grab in Haiti is no different than what Saddam attempted to do in the Middle East. In both cases, a bullying state regards itself as the region's de-facto superpower, and feels that it has a right to assume control, either directly (as Iraq did in 1990) or indirectly (as the US has just done).
GUARDIAN - [The London] Times quotes a Haitian diplomat who points out Mr Aristide's resignation statement was faxed to the Haitian Embassy in Washington and its New York consulate by, er, the US State Department. "It's a funny thing," says the diplomat.
SCOTSMAN - "White American, white military. They came at night. ... There were too many. I couldn't count them." - Aristide
BOSTON GLOBE - MAKE NO mistake about it: Jean-Bertrand Aristide's resignation yesterday as Haiti's elected president was a defeat for democracy. It was a defeat that the United States, so eager to inject democracy into the Middle East, could have prevented as recently as last week, when Aristide asked for foreign security forces to protect Haitian democracy from the armed insurgents threatening to overthrow it.
WAYNE WASHINGTON, BOSTON GLOBE - "The problem for Haiti is that it's not oil-rich," said Representative Kendrick B. Meek, the Florida Democrat whose Miami district is home to the largest Haitian immigrant community in the United States. "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."
Bill Fletcher Jr., head of the TransAfrica Forum, a policy group focusing on African and Caribbean issues, was particularly critical of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's role in pursuing the Bush administration's policy on Haiti. Fletcher said black officials should not have expected Powell to urge the administration to move more forcefully in Haiti simply because he is black. "We have to stop believing," Fletcher said. "We have to stop thinking that Colin Powell wants to do the right thing. If the brother wanted to do the right thing, he would have resigned."
MICHAEL CHOSSUDOVSKY - The armed insurrection which contributed to unseating President Aristide on February 29th was the result of a carefully staged military-intelligence operation. The Rebel paramilitary army crossed the border from the Dominican Republic in early February. It constitutes a well armed, trained and equipped paramilitary unit integrated by former members of Le Front pour l'avancement et le progrès d'Haiti (FRAPH), the "plain clothes" death squadrons, involved in mass killings of civilians and political assassinations during the CIA sponsored 1991 military coup, which led to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide
JEFFREY SACHS, FINANCIAL TIMES - The ease with which the US thereby brought down another Latin American democracy is stunning. What has been the CIA's role among the anti-Aristide rebels? How much US money went from US institutions and government agencies to help foment this uprising? Why did the White House abandon the Caribbean compromise proposal it endorsed just days before? These questions have not been asked. Then again, we live in an age when entire wars can be launched on phony pretenses with few questions asked.