Undernews Links: Haiti News Roundup
Haiti News Roundup
Undernews Edited By Sam Smith
THURSDAY MARCH 4
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.
If you've been reading the mainstream press over the past few weeks, you'll know that this peculiar version of events has been carefully prepared by repeated accusations that Aristide rigged fraudulent elections in 2000; unleashed violent militias against his political opponents; and brought Haiti's economy to the point of collapse and its people to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.
But look a little harder at those elections. An exhaustive and convincing report by the International Coalition of Independent Observers concluded that "fair and peaceful elections were held" in 2000, and by the standard of the presidential elections held in the US that same year they were positively exemplary.
Why then were they characterized as "flawed" by the Organization of American States? It was because, after Aristide's Lavalas party had won 16 out of 17 senate seats, the OAS contested the methodology used to calculate the voting percentages. Curiously, neither the US nor the OAS judged this methodology problematic in the run-up to the elections.
However, in the wake of the Lavalas victories, it was suddenly important enough to justify driving the country towards economic collapse. Bill Clinton invoked the OAS accusation to justify the crippling economic embargo against Haiti that persists to this day, and which effectively blocks the payment of about $500m in international aid.
But what about the gangs of Aristide supporters running riot in Port-au-Prince? No doubt Aristide bears some responsibility for the dozen reported deaths over the last 48 hours. But given that his supporters have no army to protect them, and given that the police force serving the entire country is just a tenth of the force that patrols New York city, it's worth remembering that this figure is a small fraction of the number killed by the rebels in recent weeks.
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.
WEDNESDAY MARCH 3
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 - The 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).
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.
MAR 4, 2004
FROM THE PROGRESSIVE REVIEW
EDITED BY SAM SMITH
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