Targeting Aristide in Exile
by Stephen Lendman
November 5, 2008
Elected Haiti's president in 1990. Its
first ever democratically chosen one. By a sweeping two-thirds
majority. Took office in February 1991. Deposed by an army-led
coup in September with all the earmarks of being made-in-Washington.
Returned to office in October 1994. Served until February 1996.
According to Haitian law, he couldn't succeed himself. Reelect
in November 2000 with 90% of the vote. Took office in February
2001. Served until February 29, 2004 when, in the middle of the
night, US marines deposed him and forced him into exile.
He's now in South Africa where he remains
larger than life. Haiti's symbolic leader. A man of the people.
Dedicated to their welfare. Steadfast in his principles. Beloved
and wanted back. Yet he's vilified in the press because of the
good example he represents. Accused while in office and still
now of all sorts of things. The way developing country democrats
are always treated. Human rights abuses. Using armed gangs to
crush dissent. Retain power. Political killings. Tolerating corruption.
Connections to drugs trafficking. Profiting from it. Not a shred
of it true. Not a word in the mainstream to expose it, denounce
it, and set the record straight.
Now four years later a resurrected charge.
As unfounded as the others. On the Wall Street Journal's op-ed
page by Americas writer, Mary O'Grady. Known for attacking democrats.
Supporting repression. Right wing extremism. American imperialism
and corporate power. She's excels in journalistic venom mirror
opposite of the truth.
Her latest on October 27, in an article
titled: "Democrats for Despotism." About publicly-owned
Haiti Telecommunications International called Teleco. The once
state monopoly now compromised by de facto privatization. What's
plagued Haiti before and since Aristide by opening its markets
to private investors. Predators. Profiting at the expense of the
people. Buying assets at well below fair value. Part of Washington's
imposed neoliberalism in telecommunications and other areas. So
that companies like Rectel, Haitel, Digicel and Comtel combined
exceed Teleco in size and can take full advantage at the expense
of poor Haitians.
Even so, it hasn't contained O'Grady's
brand of diatribe. Again targeting Aristide, but not for the first
time. She called him a "dictator." Accused him while
in office of "inciting violence against his political opponents."
Being "renown for eliminating his enemies," she blamed
Democrats for returning him to office. Claimed on return he "resumed
his despotic ways." Enough so that "Haitians begged
for US help" to remove him. Up to February 2004 when he "was
finally run out of the country." Indeed so courtesy of dispatched
US marines. And now a resurrected old canard.
That "Aristide installed his accomplices
in (Teleco) management positions and those accomplices then caused
Teleco to enter into agreements with certain US and Canadian telecommunications
carriers, granting them significantly reduced rates for services
provided by Teleco in exchange for kickbacks, which further reduced
those rates." That the post-Aristide US-installed Latortue
"government opened (Teleco's) books and claimed the company
had been looted." By "Aristide....stealing millions
of dollars in telephone revenues." Not a shred of it true.
Not a bit of evidence to support it, but they tried anyway. By
filing suit that was later withdrawn.
In July, the FCC fined IDT $1.3 million
- the New Jersey telecom company run by one of John McCain's top
fund raisers, Jim Courter. It was for failing (in 2003 and 2004)
to file a contract for telephone service to Haiti. According to
the FCC, IDT paid Teleco an illegally low rate for calls it handled
between Haiti and the US.
Courter was a New Jersey Republican congressman
from 1979 - 1991. A former gubanatorial candidate as well, and
one of McCain's 20 national finance co-chairmen until he resigned
because the fine generated negative publicity.
Portfolio magazine published two articles
on the incident by freelance journalist Lucy Komisar. Hired by
the Haiti Democracy Project (HDP) to write them. An organization
infamous for vilifying Aristide and his government. Founded in
November 2002, it's based in Washington. Staffed by former US
government officials. Bankrolled by Haiti's right-wing Boulos
family. Rudolph Boulos a prominent Haitian businessman. He and
HDP have close ties to the Bush administration.
This was an encore for Komisar who misreported
earlier about Aristide. Unproved charges of corruption and other
accusations. Typical corporate-sponsored agitprop. Directed at
leaders who dare oppose Washington, neoliberalism, and instead
pursue socially enlightened policies. In the case of Haiti, in
the poorest country in the hemisphere. With its unimaginable level
of poverty that Aristide was dedicated to alleviate. The human
need his agenda addressed. His impressive successes in spite of
overwhelming obstacles. Mostly from Washington under Democrats
The reason why twice coups removed him
and why Haitians want him back. In any capacity. Just his presence.
To be home with his people. What America won't allow. Nonetheless,
one day he will be. Why writers like O'Grady and Komisar keep
resurrecting old canards. For figures like Aristide, they never
die. They don't even fade away.
The Teleco issue is about Aristide's supposed
"corrupt" IDT dealings. The company paid Teleco 8.75
cents per minute for long-distance calls and not the FCC-established
23 cent rate (at the time) for other carriers. Komisar claimed
IDT paid its fees to a Turks & Caicos company she identified
as "Mount Salem." She then alleged that 5.75 cents went
to Teleco and 3 cents to Aristide. That Turks & Caicos lawyer
Adrian Corr was Aristide's legal counsel. That he ran "Mount
Salem," and that he confirmed that "Aristide owned the
Her whole story was invented and bogus.
By his own admission, Corr never represented Aristide. Never set
up a shell company, and never kicked back funds to anyone as Komisar
and O'Grady claim.
O'Grady's article is about Fusion Telecommunications.
Its 1999 contract with Teleco. That it violated FCC rules by granting
the company a preferential rate. Access to Haiti's network "at
a rate of 12 cents a minute, dropping to 11 cents after the first
three million minutes each month" as opposed to "the
FCC's official rate (of) 50 cents a minute, dropping to 46 cents
She also claimed an IDT "whisleblower
alleged he was fired in 2003 for objecting to a deal in which
IDT would get a low termination rate in exchange for depositing
payments in an account for Aristide." Fusion denies it made
any improper payments, and the FCC has no evidence it did. Not
good enough for O'Grady who said "Haitians can be forgiven
for not putting much stock in those words." Readers can be
forgiven for questioning O'Grady's credibility. Komisar as well.
For his part, Aristide was a parish priest
before being elected president. He never had and today has no
ownership stake in any company, including the so-called "Mount
Salem." Ira Kurzban represents him as legal counsel. He refuted
Komisar's accusations and stated: "Mr. Corr did not and does
not represent President Aristide and President Aristide had no
interest in or knowledge of any company - 'shell' or otherwise
- set up in the Turks & Caicos for any purpose. Mr. Corr never
set up 'Mount Salem,' any 'shell' company, or any other company
for President Aristide."
He added that: "these repeated false
stories of corruption against President Aristide are part of a
continuing disinformation campaign against (him) that began when
he first took office in 1991." The same type charges levied
against democrats like Hugo Chavez. The latest example in a trial
just concluded in a Miami courtroom. About a suitcase filled with
$800,000 for Argentina's President, Christina Kirchner. For her
successful campaign last year. Both presidents denounced the accusation,
but it's still front-page news in each country and currently in
America. "Suitcasegate" The New York Times called it
after a "wealthy Venezuelan businessman (was convicted of)
acting as an 'unregistered agent' (for his country) on American
Unwarranted according to his lawyer who
plans to appeal, and said the trial was a "political circus
in which (his client) is a pawn of the US government." He
earlier called the case politically motivated to embarrass the
Chavez government. Venezuela's Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro,
said the charges were "absolutely rigged" and that the
defendant wasn't an "unregistered (Venezuelan) foreign agent."
Contrast this case and accusations against
Aristide to Wall Street's massive fraud. At the heart of the world's
financial crisis. That goes unmentioned in mainstream reports.
Lets criminals loot the federal treasury and puts taxpayers on
the hook for the tab. The same ones defrauded by the scheme. Now
left high and dry on their own while world-class democrats like
Aristide and Chavez are pilloried. Accused of all kinds of bogus
things. Even though Aristide is no longer Haiti's president.
No matter because it's how Washington
operates. With full support from its echo chamber in the press.
From writers like Komisar and O'Grady well paid to comply. It's
up to readers to reject their accounts. Not become hostage to
their message, and rely on alternative news for the truth. There's
plenty around and places to find it as readers of this web site
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate
of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago
and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.