Today marks the one year anniversary of the coup in Haiti

Since September at least 400 people have been killed, joining the thousands of people that have been murdered by the military junta since the overthrow of the priest turned populist president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. I am resurrecting an article I wrote in August about US military involvement in the coup in Haiti.

Even though there is a definite climate of fear and repression in Haiti (something the haitians know too well), the people are still taking to the streets in support of President Aristide.

Just last week an armed gang broke into one of Haiti’s major prisons and released 500 prisoners (95% of whom were never charged with anything).

In the country’s poorest areas, rape has been commonly used as a form of political violence. All of this in the heart of the first truly free republic in this Hemisphere. I say truly free because at the same time of the slave revolts that lead to there freedom from French colonial rule the US was still a slave-holding nation.

There are a few things I would like to correct before I resurrect this piece. One of them being the history of US sanctions on Haiti, this was not completely accurate because even though the US did not recognise Haiti’s independence that didn’t stop them from sending war ships to there harbors well before the emancipation proclamation (Germany, France,Britain,and the US were competing for Haiti’s resources and cheap labor). America has a long history of hegemony over the Haitian economy and political affairs. The following is an article I wrote in August about the recent coup and American involvement in the region:

When analyzing the recent coup in Haiti, you have to ask the penetrating questions that dive deep into the core of US involvement in the economic, social, and political realms in Haiti. Haiti is a country deeply in debt to the World Bank and IADB (Inter-American Development Bank), the interest on the loans received from these financial institutions are being paid back through the public sector. This is what most economists call SAPs (Structural Adjustment Programs).

SAPs were introduced by the Reagan administration to “alleviate” third world poverty, but they ended up creating and perpetuating the conditions of third world poverty instead. These programs are loaded with stipulations. Countries that sign out of necessity, are told they need to devalue their currency and eliminate any barriers to trade. Barriers to trade include environmental protections, tariffs, labor laws, and anything that infringes upon the motives of Private wealth. Multi-national Corporations benefit immensely from these SAPs, allowing them to import goods, have them assembled in export processing zones (sweatshops), and export the finished product without having to pay tariffs or legal wages. Haiti is just one of many countries that is stratified by the global financial institutions (IMF, World Bank).

If you’ve read anything in the “Omaha World Herald” or seen coverage in the mainstream media about the coup in Haiti it would paint the picture of a peasant revolution against a thuggish president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, because of flawed elections. In an Omaha World Herald article they made passing reference to international donors pulling funds out of Haiti because of the disputed 2000 elections. This was Haiti’s third democratic election in 200 years. Aristide’s Lavalas party made a sweeping victory at the polls and out of the 7,500 offices to fill, election observers noticed that seven of the senate results from the Lavalas party might have been illegitimate.

What the Omaha World Herald and other major media outlets decided to leave out was that these disputed senators immediately resigned and new elections were called. The opposition was given another chance, but they refused to take part and the legislature wasn’t able to convene. It was very obvious to them that defeat was imminent. Another piece of information that was omitted from the mainstream press was the fact that Aristide was planning on raising the deplorably low minimum wage. I guess that was the straw that broke the camel’s back, because shortly afterwards Aristide was ousted. With that being said, let’s take a look at who the opposition is and how they were organized.

The opposition to President Aristide was organized mostly by Stanley Lucas, the acting director of the IRI’s (International Republican Institute) operations in Haiti. What Stanley Lucas did was take every single party opposed to Aristide and grouped them together in one all encompassing party called the “Democratic Convergence” which functioned more like the political wing of a coup than a political party. Stanley Lucus was able to do this with $2 million allotted to him by the IRI (US taxpayer money from the US Agency for International Development) in 1998. The IRI has funneled in a little over $3 million to Haiti under the guise of “promoting Democracy”.

The IRI was formed in 1983 by the Reagan Administration, it is one of four other “NGOs” (Non-Government Organization) established by the NED (National Endowment for Democracy). All of these “NGOs” espouse the same rhetoric about spreading Democracy by opening free markets and liberalizing the economy. It seems to me that the real function of these so-called “NGOs” is US clandestine activity without the shackles of political or corporate accountability. The IRI Board of Directors includes a rag-tag group of politicians, military officials, and CEOs with such notables as Senator John McCain (Chairman), CEO of Chevron/Texaco Michael V. Kostiw (Vice Chairman), and our own US senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE). Recently I emailed Senator Hagel questioning him about what the money given to Stanley Lucas in 1998 went to. I figured I would give him a chance to proselytize about the IRI’s commitment to establishing democracy in Haiti, but I received no response.

Funding Political opposition leaders isn’t even the tip of the proverbial iceberg. For two years “Haitian rebel forces” mostly made up of the military junta FRAPH (Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti) have been receiving technical training and payment in the Dominican Republic from the IRI. Also, 200 US special forces operatives were in the Dominican Republic training Haitian soldiers, this according to Dr. Louis Barrios (Professor of Criminal justice at John Jay university in New York city, and priest) who went on a fact finding mission to the Dominican Republic. He interviewed journalists and soldiers in the Dominican Republic and found out that the IRI was making payment to FRAPH members from an office in Santo Domingo. They were also involved in supplying 20,000 M16s, weapons supposedly going to Dominican Republic armed forces to enforce borders, but they ended up in the hands of the Haitian militants instead.

This provided rebel leader Guy Philippe (former police([search]) chief) with sufficient enough fire power to storm Port Au Prince, Haiti and massacre thousands in late Feb. this year. Guy Philippe in an interview with Salon.com reporter Max Blumenthal said that he and Stanley Lucas are long-time friends. When he was on Democracy Now Blumenthal said “An embassy official told me on condition of anonymity that he witnessed Lucas conferring with Guy Philippe in Ecuador in 2001, which is where Philippe lived at the time and was trained by U.S. Forces.”

Shortly after Port Au Prince was taken over by rebel forces, President Bush([search]) along with Secretary of State Colin Powell called for the resignation of Democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide was then whisked away to the Central African Republic (CAR) in an unmarked plane traced back to a bankrupt corporation from Oklahoma. Aristide wasn’t alone, he was accompanied by the US military and was forbidden to make any phone calls or communications to the outside world. Luckily he was able to make it to a cell phone, and called Randall Robinson (Trans Africa Founder). Aristide said to Robinson “tell the world it is a coup” and emphatically denied the claims of his resignation.

Aristide was held captive in CAR until he was rescued by friends, US Congress member Maxine Waters and Robinson. He was then given sanctuary in Jamaica, which compromised the terms of the restraining order given to him by the US and unelected Haitian Prime minister Gerard Latortue. Jamaica’s Prime Minister was threatened by Condoleeza Rice accordingly in a phone call she made concerning Aristide’s new housing arrangements. Jamaica is part of the 15 nation council CARICOM (Carribean Community), that has said they will not recognize US installed Gerard Latortue as the new Haitian prime minister.

More recently in Haiti, Louis Jodel Chamblain (2nd in command FRAPH death squad) was acquitted of murder charges he received in 1995. Chamblain was convicted in absentia of assasinating Guy Mallory (former Justice minister under Aristide) and killing Haitian Business man Antoine Izmery. His hearing was held overnight with little news coverage, even the US State Department condemned the outcome saying “We deeply regret the haste with which their cases were brought to retrial, resulting in procedural deficiencies that call into question the integrity of the process.”

During an interview in the Dominican Republic Chamblain was caught on tape with a national police Dominican republic uniform on, it wasn’t till the report aired that they recognized the mistake. Haitian rebels that were being trained in the Dominican Republic were dressed in Dominican Republic uniforms to mask their purpose for being there. This allowed training to go on with a reasonable amount of anonymity.

The two classes of people in Haiti that will flourish now that Aristide is banished are:

The Industrial Sector – Made up of the “Mulatto Elite”, these are the wealthy land owners who run the sweat shops and lead the civil society wing.

The Military- Probably sour from being disbanded by Ariside in 1995, they guarantee the conditions to run the sweatshops.

Stanley Lucas was the glue that held this coup together, with his lucrative position at the IRI, his ties to the Mulatto elite, and his connections to FRAPH. Stanley Lucas comes from a wealthy land owning family that has close ties to the deposed Duvalier regime (which ruled Haiti with an iron fist for decades). He was schooled with the Mulatto elite growing up. Amnesty International documented a massacre conducted and organized by two of Stanley Lucas’s cousins in 1987. They massacred 250 peasants during a land reform protest shortly after the Duvalier regime crumbled. Lucas , a judo master, trained the Haitian military in counter-insurgency tactics. He has proved himself to be a valuable asset to the IRI, and he is taken care of. Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega has worked closely with Lucas by removing US embassy officials that opposed what Lucas has done.

This marks the 33rd coup in Haiti’s short history. Aristide was also overthrown in 1991 by FRAPH (then lead by CIA asset Emmanuel Constant). Emmanuel Constant currently lives in Queens, NY, where he is given safe-haven. Maybe he’ll make his way back to Haiti now that things look a little more to his liking there.

It seems that when ever there is a democratic election in Haiti, a violent coup follows. I guess when Aristide took 67% of the vote in 1990 running against US funded Mark Bazan some powerful heads rolled. But don’t worry former President Clinton came to save the day in 1994 and reinstalled Aristide. Of course it was only under the condition that he adopt an economic program more beneficial to the US, hence IMF/World Bank agreements. The choice for Aristide was non-existent, he either signs on the dotted line or Haiti is left to be run by a military dictatorship that is even more favorable to foreign investment.

The United States has a rich history of interrupting, weakening, and controlling Haiti’s economy. After the slave revolt in 1804, the US imposed harsh sanctions on Haiti until around the same time the Emancipation Proclamation was introduced. Thomas Jefferson didn’t like the idea of slaves freeing themselves so accordingly the US didn’t recognize the newly formed Haitian republic. The US owes Haiti a debt of gratitude because if they had not rebelled against Napoleon and French colonists then the conditions to make the Louisiana Purchase might not have been created.

Noam Chomsky said it best when he wrote “The US continued to do what it could to strangle Haiti, even supporting France’s insistence that Haiti pay a huge indemnity for the crime of liberating itself, a burden it has never escaped – and France, of course, dismisses with elegant disdain Haiti’s request, recently under Aristide, that it at least repay the indemnity, forgetting the responsibilities that a civilized society would accept.”

In 1915 Woodrow Wilson sent US troops to Haiti and they occupied the island until 1934. While trying to establish new order the US marched into a violent complex society with no history of democracy. Exploiting resources was the main goal of occupation, in 1918 a law was passed that granted US corporations the right to turn Haiti into a giant plantation. The law passed by 5% of the population after Wilson’s marines disbanded the Haitian parliament at gunpoint.

The US continued to support dictatorship regimes in Haiti until the threat of democracy reared it’s head. The most recent and notable regime being the Baby Doc Duvalier dictatorship. While just as ruthless as his father was, he was even more inclined to appease US business interests. His father represented the wealthy land owning class in Haiti and became weary of the US. His worries were only with the preservation of his own wealth and the wealth of Haiti’s elite. Baby Doc Duvalier made it clear that he was in America’s pocket when he took power.

Since Aristide’s removal from office, the new Haitian regime has unleashed a campaign of terror. Supporters of Aristide’s Lavalas party have been rounded up and are either dead, awaiting trial to be killed, exiled, or in hiding. One report from the National Lawyers guild found that over a thousand bodies were dumped by the state morgue in March. It’s business as usual at Capitol hill, the Bush administration has successfully stamped out the prospects of democracy in Haiti. Of course, they had plenty of help from the business community and Haitian death squads.

Sources:
Democracy Now!
Salon.com “The Other Regime Change” Max Blumenthal
Moscow Times “Operation Sweatshop” Chris Floyd
ZMagazine “Noam Chomsky: US-Haiti, An Analysis”
Book TV C-Span, Randall Robinson
Omaha World Herald