Haiti Q & A
[The 2004 Coup Against Aristide
& Canada's Involvement]
by Diego Hausfather and Nikolas
ZNet, Jun 4, 2005
Haiti has once again fallen victim
to a U.S.-orchestrated coup d'etat, and this time the Canadian
government is deeply complicit.
What's happened in Haiti since Feb. 29
After the democratically elected government
was overthrown, the rebels and the newly formed police have been
on a killing spree; thousands of poor peasants and slum dwellers
have been massacred in "a pattern of repression" against
"those close, or perceived to have been close, to ... Fanmi
Lavalas (FL)", the political party that held power prior
to Feb. 29, 2004, according to Amnesty International.
In the month after the coup d'état,
the morgue reported 900 additional deaths above the usual level,
many of them violent, while the Catholic Church's Peace and Justice
Commission estimated that 500 people were killed in the capital
of Port-au-Prince. On October 15, 2004, the general hospital had
to call the Ministry of Health to send emergency vehicles to remove
the more than 600 corpses that had accumulated there over the
previous 2 weeks.
Rape is once again being wielded as a
political tool to prevent women from speaking out against the
coup d'etat and the subsequent repression.
Political freedom has been severely restricted
since the coup; Journalists critical of the interim government
have been killed or threatened by the paramilitaries and radio
stations have been shut down.
Peaceful demonstrations calling for the
return of democracy and an end to the repression have frequently
been met with police bullets.
Leading FL politicians, Lavalas activists
and poor people perceived to support Lavalas are routinely arrested
without a warrant and then packed into the overcrowded jails,
where prisoners are abused and denied the right to see a judge.
Prisoners also lack access to adequate food, potable water, or
healthcare. The Catholic Peace and Justice Commission estimates
that there are at least 700 political prisoners in Haiti today.
Many people have become internal refugees,
fleeing to the mountains or to Port-au-Prince, as a result of
the campaign of killing, repression, and intimidation.
Didn't President Aristide resign?
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was confronted
by US Marines with a letter of resignation prepared for him by
the State Department and given two choices: sign the letter and
leave with them on a jet to an unknown location or stay in Haiti,
in which case the Marines would not provide him with any protection
and he would be left at the mercy of the rebels.
The State Department prevented President
Aristide's American security company from sending more bodyguards
and ordered the remaining ones to return to the U.S. for "security
When the U.S. took Aristide, they flew
him and his wife, without informing them of their destination,
to a French military base in the Central African Republic, where
Aristide was held against his will for a number of days before
eventually going into exile in South Africa.
President Aristide, his "resignation"
having been made under the threat of violence, was the victim
of a coup d'état, aided by his kidnapping by the U.S.
Who are the rebels? Wasn't Aristide overthrown
by a popular rebellion?
The leaders of the rebels, Guy Philippe,
Louis Jodel Chamblain, Jean "Tatoune" Baptiste and others,
are high-ranking former soldiers or members of the CIA-created
The FRAPH, along with the military, slaughtered
4,000-5,000 civilians from 1991-1994 after the 1991 coup that
overthrew Aristide for the first time. Aristide thus disbanded
the hated military when he returned to power in 1995.
Many ex-soldiers trained with the Dominican
Army on military bases and received M-16s from the US. From 2000
to 2004, Guy Philippe led frequent cross-border attacks into Haiti,
killing police officers and government officials.
The rebels overthrew Aristide after a
3-week insurgency, killing police officers, emptying jails and
burning down government buildings.
500 members of the former military have
been integrated into the Haitian National Police (HNP), with another
500-1000 in training. Former soldiers also occupy top posts in
Vast swaths of the countryside are under
the control of Guy Philippe's men, who play judge, jury and executioner
in the absence of any functioning justice system.
Who is the interim government?
Shortly after forcing President Aristide's
departure, the U.S. swept aside Haiti's constitution and produced
a handpicked "Conseil des Sages" (Council of the Wise)
to appoint a new government.
Gerard Latortue, a UN bureaucrat and business
consultant, was selected as Prime Minister, along with a cabinet
of right wing ideologues and supporters of the old dictatorships.
After taking power, the installed government
granted a three-year tax holiday to the largest business owners,
while firing thousands of government workers and cutting funding
for literacy programs, subsidies for textbooks and school uniforms.
The U.S.-backed government also stopped
paying the wages of doctors and nurses, leading them to go on
strike, but managed to find $30 million to pay "back wages"
to the disbanded military
Violating a 13-year arms embargo with
the active complicity of the U.S., the Latortue government purchased
$7 million worth of weapons from the American government.
The Ministry of Justice has organized
sham trials for ex-army officers like FRAPH leader Louis Jodel
Chamblain accused of carrying out massacres or assassination during
the 1991-94 coup. The defendants have unanimously been acquitted
in proceedings described as "an insult to justice" and
a "mockery" by Amnesty International.
How is Canada involved in Haiti?
In January 2003, Canada hosted the "Ottawa
Initiative", a gathering of all the "major players"
in Haiti, none of which were Haitian, and reached a consensus
that "Aristide must go".
Joint Task Force 2, an elite commando
squad in the Canadian Armed Forces, was on the ground in Haiti
February 29, 2004, securing the airstrip from which U.S. Marines
forced Aristide out of the country.
Canada also contributed 550 Canadian Forces
troops to the French and American forces that occupied Haiti after
The Deputy Minister of "Justice"
in Haiti, Philippe Vixamar, is an employee of CIDA (Canadian International
Development Agency) and was given his position by CIDA. Vixamar,
who has overseen the illegal arrest and detention of political
prisoners while setting free notorious human rights abusers, has
said "the United States and Canadian governments play key
roles in the justice system in Haiti."
100 RCMP officers are leading CIVPOL,
the UN police mission that is training, arming, and patrolling
with the new HNP. CIVPOL is helping to integrate the brutal former
military into the HNP's ranks while providing a veneer of legitimacy
to the police's violent actions.
Hypocritically, Canada claimed it cancelled
a police training program during Aristide's presidency because
of the "politicization" of the police, yet now seems
totally unconcerned by the politicization of the police and the
egregious abuses this is spawning.
Prior to the coup, Canada had cut off
all aid to the elected government of Haiti and was channelling
the remaining trickle of money to anti-Aristide NGOs. After the
coup, however, Canada announced more than $180 million in aid
to support the installed government.
Canada claims the aid is intended to help
hold "free and credible election"; In reality, Latortue's
government has done everything it can to assure that free and
fair elections cannot be held, by embracing the former military
as "freedom fighters" and actively repressing FL, the
majority political party in Haiti.
The Caribbean Community, the African Union,
and Venezuela have all refused to recognize the installed government,
and the ANC, Nelson Mandela's party, has started a campaign for
the return of democracy to Haiti.
The Canadian government, on the other
hand, has gone to great lengths to legitimate Gerard Latortue's
installed regime. Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew and
Paul Martin have both made official visits to Haiti since the
coup, and Martin appeared with Latortue at a conference for the
Haitian Diaspora in Montreal. Martin et al. continue to echo
the interim government's false claims that there are no political
prisoners in Haiti.
Doesn't the UN have peacekeepers in Haiti?
There are 7,400 UN police and troops in
Haiti, with the military component led by Brazil, whose (contradictory)
mandate consists of supporting the interim government and protecting
The UN forces have participated in numerous
"weapons sweeps" with police in the slums of the capital,
but have made little effort to disarm the ex-soldiers.
UN troops have passively watched as police
shot at peaceful demonstrators: On Feb. 28, the UN stood by as
the Haitian Police fired into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators.
News of this blatant repression caused the UN to bar the police
from providing "security" for marches. This lasted about
a week, until the interim government accused the UN of violating
its sovereignty. The UN backed off, and soon enough, on April
27, the police opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, killing
9 according to Amnesty International.
What is "Operation Baghdad"?
On Sept. 30, tens of thousands of people
peacefully marched in Port-au-Prince to call for the return of
Aristide. Police fired upon the crowd as they passed the Presidential
Palace, killing several protestors.
The interim government later claimed that
Lavalas militants had attacked and beheaded 3 cops at the demonstration.
However, according to CARLI, a human rights group critical of
Aristide's government, there had been only 2 police officers beheaded,
and they had been killed the day before in a shootout with former
Claiming Lavalas had initiated "Operation
Baghdad" to destabilize the interim government, the Latortue
regime used this as a pretext to embark upon an intense wave of
repression against pro-Lavalas slums.
The Latortue government claimed their
brutal incursions into the slums were "weapons sweeps"
to disarm the "chimères", yet a recent study
by the Small Arms Survey found that the vast majority of the weapons
were located in the wealthier neighbourhoods, not the slums.
Wasn't Aristide a dictator? Didn't he
rig the 2000 elections?
All observers, including the OAS (Organization
of American States), hailed the May 2000 legislative elections
as "free and fair" with an impressive 60% turnout.
When it became clear that Fanmi Lavalas
had won the vote by a large majority, the OAS began disputing
the results for 8 of the 18 Senate seats up for election, claiming
that the counting method used to tally the votes was incorrect.
After Aristide won the November 2000 presidential
elections, he persuaded the 7 Senators from FL to resign and offered
to hold new elections, but the opposition refused to participate.
Subsequent offers for new elections and concessions by Aristide
were similarly rejected.
USAID-commissioned Gallup polls taken
in 2000 and 2002 consistently found Aristide and his FL party
to enjoy the support of a majority of Haitians. Since the coup,
representatives of the American and Canadian embassies in Haiti
have admitted if free elections were held, FL would win again.
As animosity between government supporters
and opponents increased, the opposition claimed that Aristide
was using gangs, called "chimères", to maintain
his power and suppress dissent.
While there was violence by pro-Lavalas
gangs, there is no evidence linking it to Aristide, who consistently
condemned acts of violence by all parties, and was vocal in his
calls for the peaceful resolution of conflicts. On several occasions
the government arrested prominent government supporters accused
of crimes, even in the face of popular protest.
This violence was in the context of multiple
coup attempts against Aristide and finally a full-scale invasion
by the former military from the Dominican Republic (DR). In this
volatile climate, from 2000 to 2003, there were at most 30 political
murders attributable to pro-Lavalas forces, roughly the same as
for opposition supporters and the DR-based paramilitaries. This
is in no way comparable to the current repression, nor to that
of the past, either during the Duvalier dictatorships or the 1991-94
Who were the opposition?
The main opposition comprised the Group
of 184 and the Convergence Democratique, who were financed by
the U.S. and supported by the Haitian elite.
The Group of 184, led by sweatshop owner
Andy Apaid, is a right wing coalition of 184 "civil society"
(i.e. the wealthiest 15% of Haiti's population) organizations.
Funded by IFES (International Foundation for Electoral Systems),
which was financed by USAID, the Group of 184 led a number of
anti-government demonstrations and attacked Aristide in the international
media prior to the coup.
The Convergence Democratique (CD), financed
and organized by the International Republican Institute, is a
grouping of anti-Lavalas political parties composed mostly of
former Aristide allies willing to implement the IMF's (International
Monetary Fund) demands, popularly referred to as the "plan
lanmo" (death plan) by Haitians.
Despite the large sums of money flowing
to them, the CD was never able to poll higher than 12%.
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