12. The Destabilization of Haiti

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

Title: “Interview with Aristide’s lawyer, Brian Concannon”
Reporter: Dennis Bernstein

GLOBALRESEARCH.CA, February 29, 2004
Title: “The destabilization of Haiti”
Author: Michel Chossudovsky

DOLLARS AND SENSE, September/October 2003
Title: “Still Up Against the Death Plan in Haiti”
Author: Tom Reeves

KPFA – DEMOCRACY NOW!, March 17, 2004
Title: “Aristide talks with Democracy Now! About the leaders of the coup and US funding of the opposition in Haiti”
Reporter: Amy Goodman

ASSOCIATED PRESS, March 16, 2004
Title: “Aristide Backers Left Out of Coalition”
Author: Ian James

Faculty Evaluator: Tony White, Ph.D., Richard Zimmer, Ph.D.
Student Researchers: Brooke Finley and Jocelyn Boreta

On February 29, 2004, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced into exile by American military. While the Bush Administration and the corporate press implied that Aristide left willingly, Aristide was able to give a detailed account of his American military led kidnapping to a Haitian journalist in the United States via cell phone, who in turn, broadcast his speech on Pacifica Radio’s Flashpoints News, KPFA. While the U.S. was forced to acknowledge the kidnapping allegations, they were quick to discredit them and deny responsibility. The circumstances underlying the current situation in Haiti, as well as the history of U.S. involvement, is being ignored by U.S. officials and mainstream media.

In 1990 after the brutal 15-year rule of dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, 70 percent of Haiti’s people voted for Aristide in their first democratic election. During his first term, Aristide began to make good on his populist platform, revising the tax code to require import fees and income based taxation on the rich and pressing for an increase in the minimum wage. He was, however, soon under pressure from International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to reverse these proposals. A few months later, Aristide was overthrown by the rebel paramilitary army known as the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH). FRAPH had been trained and sponsored by the CIA. In fact, several FRAPH leaders were on the CIA payroll.

During the coup period, from 1991-1994, Aristide’s 1990 presidential opponent, former World Bank official Marc Bazin, was appointed Prime Minister by the military junta, and the exploitation and terrorization of the country continued as it had during the Duvalier period. Under Bazin 4,000 civilians were executed, and more than 60,000 refugees fled. It was in this context of CIA supported FRAPH killings that Bazin became a poster boy for World Bank, IMF, and Washington Consensus policies.

With the help of the Clinton Administration, Aristide returned to his position as President of Haiti in 1994. His return was conditional, based on his support of IMF and World Bank proposals implemented during his years in exile. During that time, Haiti had racked up huge amounts of external debt and was forced to turn to the IMF and World Bank for loans. In response, the IMF formed the “Economic Recovery Program.” Supposedly intended to help Haiti get back on its feet, the program instead imposed a budget reform program that reduced the size of Haiti’s civil service and ultimately led to the collapse of Haiti’s state system. Aristide served until the end of his presidential term in 1996.

Aristide was re-elected in Haiti’s 2000 presidential elections, the same year that George W. Bush entered office. Aristide won with 92 percent of the vote in an election declared free and fair by the Organization of American States, of which the U.S. is a member. However, shortly after Bush’s own tainted election, his administration questioned the election of seven senators from Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party. Despite the resignation of the senators, the Bush Administration used these inflated allegations to justify the withdrawal of $512 million in Inter-American Development Bank loans to Haiti. The Administration pressured the World Bank, the IMF, and the European Union to follow with reduction of other planned assistance.

While obstructing aid and loans, the U.S. spent millions to fund the “Democratic Platform of Civil Society Organizations and Opposition Political Parties.” The Democratic Platform, developed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and funded by the International Republican Institute, combines the “Democratic Convergence” and “The Group of 184 Civil Society Organizations” (G-184) in opposition to the Aristide’s government. The DC consists of 200 small political organizations ranging from Maoists to free market liberals and ultra-right wing Duvalierists, who refuse participation in electoral processes and who are responsible for violent attacks on the Haitian government. The G-184 is a group of civil society organizations headed by Andre Apaid, U.S. citizen and owner of Alpha Industries, one of Haiti’s largest cheap labor exporters producing for a number of U.S. firms including IBM, Sperry/Unisys, Remington and Honeywell.

After the forced removal of Aristide, the National Liberation and Reconstruction Front, the new paramilitary group comprised of former FRAPH members, is collaborating with the Democratic Platform in the form of neo-liberal structural adjustment. Their intent is to assist “civilian” political parties and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with the installation of American style democracy/corporate domination. Incidentally, NED also provided funds to the “Democratic Coordination,” another “civil society organization” based in Venezuela, which initiated the attempted coup against President Hugo Chavez.

These opposition groups, funded, trained and supplied by U.S. forces, are waging a contra style war against Haiti. The new government, led by Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, is made up of human rights criminals, drug dealers, and thugs involved in the 1990 and 2004 insurrections. A consistent and systematic campaign of terror and violence is being carried out by the likes of Guy Philippe, Louis Jodel Chamblain, and Jean Tatoune. Philippe, a drug dealer and former police chief, plucked from the Haitian army to be specially trained by U.S. forces in Ecuador, organized the Haitian opposition from the Dominican Republic where he was required to check in with the CIA two to three times a month. Chamblain, former number two man in FRAPH, sentenced twice for murder, convicted in the 1994 Raboteau massacre and in the 1993 assasination of democracy-activist Antoine Izmery, joins Philippe to lead seminars on “democratic” opposition with machine guns slung over their shoulders. Tatoune, another FRAPH leader also convicted of massacre in Raboteau and identified by victims as having shot several civilians, arrived in an U.S. helicopter to stand next to the de facto prime minister as a “freedom fighter.”

While Haiti’s economy was bankrupted by IMF reforms, the narcotics transshipment trade still thrives. As the hub of Caribbean drug traffic, important in the transport of cocaine from Colombia to the U.S., Haiti is responsible for an estimated 14 percent of all cocaine entering the U.S. The CIA protected this trade during the Duvalier era as well as during the military dictatorship of 1991-1994. The money from the drug transshipment trade flows out of Haiti to criminal intermediaries in the wholesale and retail trade, to the intelligence agencies, which protect the trade and to the financial and banking institutions where the proceeds are laundered. Wall Street and European banks have a vested interest in installing “democracy” in order to protect investment in Haiti’s transshipment trade routes.

Since Bush senior’s presidency, the U.S. has worked hard to forge an opposition against Aristide and his administration. This opposition has been fueled by Aristide’s refusal to privatize Haiti’s public enterprises, and his increase of the minimum wage. When Aristide returned to Haiti in 1994, U.S. officials expected that many of its public enterprises (the telephone company, electrical company, airport, port, three banks, a cement factory and flourmill) would be sold to private corporations, preferably U.S. multinationals working in partnership with the Haitian elite. Aristide refused, prompting the withdrawal of $500 million in promised international aid. In February 2003, Aristide moved, again against strong opposition from the business sector, to double the minimum wage. This increase affected more than 20,000 assembly line workers contracted by corporations such as Disney and Wal-Mart.

Haiti’s government worked for alternatives to neo-liberal development, corporate domination, and essentially U.S. hegemony, joining with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to form a trade bloc against the FTAA and other initiatives. They established cooperative projects with Venezuela and Cuba, securing regular shipments of oil from Venezuela at very reduced prices and substantial medical assistance from Cuba. CARICOM has called for an investigation into the abduction of President Aristide, and President Hugo Chavez has offered Aristide asylum in Venezuela. After two weeks exile in the Central African Republic, Aristide has been granted temporary asylum in Jamaica, only about 130 miles from Haiti.

UPDATE BY LYN DUFF AND DENNIS BERNSTEIN, PSN: Dennis Bernstein is executive producer of Pacifica Radio’s “Flashpoints” (KPFA-FM 94.1 in Berkeley, Calif.). Lyn Duff (lynduff@aol.com) is a writer currently based in Jerusalem. She traveled to Haiti in 1995 to help establish that country’s first children’s radio station. She is writing a book on Haiti. This story was written on 3/19/04.

For an update on this story, please see Chapter 10 – Haiti: The Untold Story.