One year after the coup d'etat against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the nation's first democratically elected president, the situation is dismal.
The Caribbean Community of nations (CARICOM) just last week expressed deep concern over ''the deteriorating human-rights situation in Haiti,'' including ''serious abuses at the hands of the police'' and ``the indefinite detention of Lavalas (Aristide's party) leaders and activists.''
Former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and former Minister of the Interior Jocelerme Privert, held for almost one year without any charges, are now on a hunger strike.
Even journalists broadcasting for U.S. news services are no longer safe from the U.S.-installed government of Gerard Latortue. Abdias Jean, a correspondent for a Miami radio station, was summarily executed last month by Haitian police because he had witnessed the execution of a 17-year-old girl. The situation has become so grave for journalists in Haiti that the Inter-American Press Association convened an Emergency Forum on Press Freedom in Haiti two weeks ago.
At the same time, Haitians supportive of Aristide are being slaughtered in the neighborhoods. The Latortue government and Minister of Justice Bernard Gousse celebrated the anniversary of the coup by condoning the execution of more than 25 Aristide supporters in various poor areas of Port-au-Prince this weekend. The police, who are now largely made up of former military and death squad members, conduct ''operations'' in Aristide strongholds that constitute little more than summary executions.
Just yesterday, Haitian police fired on peaceful protesters marking the one-year anniversary of Aristide's ouster. Early reports said at least two protesters were killed and about a dozen wounded.
Meanwhile, U.N. troops provide the firepower to support the political cleansing operation. The former members of the Haitian army still remain in control of the vast majority of the country and their actions, including the rape of 11- and 14-year-old girls last week, go unreported by the mainstream press and unchallenged by the U.N. troops allegedly providing security.
Aristide's forced departure and kidnapping by the Bush administration is one of the saddest moments in our unfortunate history with Haiti. That Aristide was kidnapped cannot be seriously challenged, despite reports to the contrary. The person who translated his letter of resignation for the U.S. government has stated that the version that the Bush administration presented to the United Nations and Organization of American States as proof of Aristide's voluntary departure was flawed and inaccurate.
The Haitian president never resigned, according to the accurately translated letter. Rather, U.S. troops allegedly sent to guard the U.S. Embassy in the days leading up to the coup were actually special forces used to remove Aristide and his wife, a U.S. citizen. He was taken out of his own country on a CIA-sponsored aircraft with a phony tail registration, and he and his wife were kept incommunicado for 20 hours. Even the declaration presented to the government of Antigua when the aircraft stopped to refuel was a phony declaration that declared there were no passengers on board.
A recent report in The Herald suggesting that Neptune's actions support the view that Aristide left voluntarily is deeply flawed. Aristide's alleged conversation asking Neptune to leave with him never took place. In fact, Neptune, like many people during the days after the coup believes that he was duped and has asked for an investigation into Aristide's ``departure.''
The sad fact is that Haiti is another example of the Bush administration's complete incompetence and unwillingness to support democratic principles. While President Bush seeks democracy in Iraq, he was apparently willing to end it in Haiti because he wanted to complete the first coup that his father and Dick Cheney, as the secretary of defense at the time, began against Aristide in 1991.
Ira Kurzban is counsel for Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the former attorney for the government of Haiti.
© 2005 Miami Herald