WASHINGTON - March 11 - The armed and bloody takeover of Haiti by thugs carrying U.S.-made weapons should be rejected by all those who support democracy and reject terrorist methods. The government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide was fairly and democratically elected, according to international observers, and should be restored to office, as well as held accountable for abuses committed by its agents.
Multiple sources indicate that Jean Bertrand Aristide was forced to submit a resignation letter, and that he was coerced to leave Haiti by US officials. As armed Haitian anti-government forces stormed the countryside in February, killing many civilians, the White House blocked an attempt by President Aristide to increase his security guard, which was provided by a US firm on a State Department approved contract. The chairman of that firm, Kenneth Kurtz, declared that "if international assistance would have arrived [before Aristide left Haiti], it would have certainly stabilized the situation."
Instead, the United States sent in troops AFTER Aristide was forced out, reinforcing his ouster. Despite the killings committed by and illegal nature of the rebels, the chief of the US military force in Haiti met with Philippe on March 3, but did not seek to arrest him.
If the coup is allowed to remain, who will govern Haiti? Guy Philippe, one of the main coup leaders, has been implicated in drug trafficking, and was trained by US forces in Ecuador in the early 1990s, according to Democracy Now! Philippe, who recently stated that his model is former Chilean dictator Agosto Pinochet, was a member of the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), which terrorized Haiti during the first coup against Aristide, from 1990 to 1994. Louis Jodel Chamblain, another leader of the current coup, was convicted in absentia for a massacre committed in 1994, a period when thousands of Haitians were killed by the military government and by FRAPH.
Philippe and his followers are well armed. In 2002, the United States supplied M-16's to the Dominican Republic's armed forces, supposedly for use along the Haitian border, and deployed 900 U.S. troops at the border. Many of Philippe's men are now armed with M-16's. As Congresswoman Maxine Waters has demanded, "The U.S. government must investigate how these thugs were armed and explain how the M-16's got into their hands."
Above all, Haiti is a poor country, and the economic well-being of its people should not be held hostage to political considerations. During the Aristide government, the United States blocked development loans worth more than $145 million, effectively feeding the political opposition to Aristide, who was also limited in economic policy by restrictions imposed by the International Monetary Fund.
There is a long history of US military and economic intervention in Haitian affairs. Military interventions occurred in the 1880s, and US Marines occupied and ran Haiti from 1915 to 1934. The legacy of that intervention went deep, both because of US racism (Marines called Haitians "gooks") and because upon its departure, the US military handed power to a Haitian guard led by Papa "Doc" Duvalier. The dictatorial reign of Duvalier and his son continued until 1986, when the popular nonviolent movement led by Aristide toppled the Duvalier regime.
Members of the Aristide government clearly committed abuses. Even if reports of the most egregious abuses are true, they do not warrant the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government. Many reports of abuses are unclear or contradictory, or lack context about the actions of anti-government forces, and should be investigated by an impartial body, such as the United Nations.
The United States has not acted impartially, and should not be entrusted with such an investigation. The Bush administration's policy in Haiti has been overseen by Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, former chief of staff for former senator Jesse Helms, who was a declared enemy of President Aristide.
President Aristide's would not be the only government - including ones supported by the United States - to have committed abuses. However, the international community has legal means of investigating and addressing abuses, which do not include supporting or fomenting coup d'etats.
Language matters. Most mainstream observers do not say "coup" to describe what has happened in Haiti, and if those installed to govern Haiti are accepted as legitimate, then the ouster by violence of a democratically elected government will appear to be something other than a coup.
We encourage FOR members to read and watch news accounts of Haiti critically. Those quoted and sources of information in US mass media are mostly, in some cases exclusively, US military and others who support the coup against Aristide.
What you can do:
Support the Congressional Black Caucus's efforts to find out what role the United States played in the coup that removed President Aristide from Haiti, by contacting the office of your Member of Congress to urge support for these efforts. Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121.
John Kerry has criticized the Bush administration's handling of the crisis, but has not specified what he will do to support democratic government in Haiti. Ask the campaign of John Kerry to clearly state his rejection of the coup in Haiti, and to describe what his administration will do to restore democratic rule. You can contact the Kerry campaign at John Kerry for President, Inc. 901 15th Street, NW, Suite 700 Washington, DC 20005; 202-712-3000; 202-712-3001 (fax); email@example.com .
Write letters to the editor of local newspapers condemning the US-supported coup, and urge Congress to speak out in support of the right of democratically elected presidents to complete their terms.
Sources for further information: http://www.democracynow.org/static/haiti.shtml