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While U.S. tries to mask its role

Haitians resist coup attempt

By Deirdre Griswold

As heavily armed gangs led by paramilitary death-squad leaders from former dictatorships take over a broad swath of Haiti, vowing to topple the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and lynching scores of his supporters, the question being asked in the popular movements of the region is: What role is the U.S. imperialist government playing in all this?

Washington is being careful not to take credit for the coup attempt, which was launched on Feb. 5 in the northern port city of Gonaives. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Feb. 17 that there was no "enthusiasm" in the Bush administration for intervention.

Not everyone in the State Department had gotten the word, however. An Australian newspaper, The Age, reported on Feb. 17 that "U.S. Ambassador James Foley today said Washington wants 'radical change,' even while Powell has said the United States does not support Aristide's ouster."

At this point, any open U.S. intervention would have to at least nominally be in support of the elected government against those whom even Powell acknowledges are "thugs and killers." Washington would probably prefer to let the death squads do their work of weakening the government and the popular resistance, and then come in posing as saviors--while in fact forcing Aristide to defer to figures like Marc Bazin, a former World Bank official whom Washington had picked to win the 1990 election. Bazin was defeated by Aristide in a landslide vote, to the imperialists' dismay.

The policy makers in Washington apparently believe they can force a "regime change" to their liking without sending in their own troops at this time. This could change, of course, especially if a rival imperialist power like France, which has troops on nearby Caribbean islands, makes a move.

No end to U.S. intervention

The truth is there has already been plenty of U.S. intervention, both covert and overt, aimed at replacing the Aristide government with one deemed more compliant by the big business interests that run U.S. foreign policy.

The U.S. has led an international conspiracy to deprive Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, of any aid money. Haiti has been on the hit list of the major capitalist powers ever since its successful revolutionary war of 1804, which simultaneously liberated the country from French colonial rule and freed its population from chattel slavery. Its deep poverty comes from a two-centuries-old economic blockade.

This was reinforced after the election of 2000 when lending institutions controlled by the U.S. held up a $500-million loan Haiti desperately needed. The intent was clear: to put pressure on the Aristide government to either capitulate to the capitalist globalizers' demands or be ousted.

The stated U.S. diplomatic position has been to recognize the Aristide government while giving aid and comfort--and a significant amount of money--to groups Washington dubs the "democratic" opposition. There is another, more sinister history of U.S. intervention in Haiti, however.

The Haitian people, who are highly conscious of what goes on behind the scenes regarding their country, know that Washington has long had secret deals with their tormentors, beginning with the bloody Duvalier dynasty that ruled Haiti for 29 years.

They also know about the secret files that were spirited out of Haiti in 1994 by U.S. troops when they returned Aristide to office after he had been overthrown in a military coup. Those files are believed to contain information about the covert relations between the CIA and the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), a nice-sounding name for the death squads that operated during the 1991-94 military regime.

Towns 'liberated' by death squads

Members of FRAPH are now back in Haiti running the show in areas they claim to have "liberated." The U.S. forces who landed in 1994 and deposed the military dictatorship allowed them to safely leave Haiti, despite their many crimes against the people. Many wound up in comfortable exile in the United States and the Dominican Republic. Their leader, Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, spent the next 10 years living in an upscale community in Laurelton, Queens, in New York City. His house was frequently the site of picketing by the Brooklyn-based Haitian community.

To get back into the country, armed Haitian commandos recently shot their way through the Dominican border, killing two Dominican soldiers. (Associ ated Press, Feb. 14) With them were Guy Philippe, the former police chief of the northern city of Cap Haitien and also a former army officer, and Louis Jodel Chamblain, the head of the Duvalier death squad in the 1980s.

According to an authoritative article by Tom Reeves posted on ZNet on Feb. 17, Chamblain also was a leader of the FRAPH:

"A close associate of Chamblain, Emmanuel 'Toto' Constant, has admitted its CIA funding and direction. Chamblain was revealed in documents reviewed by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York as one of those present during the planning, with a USA agent, of the assassination of the pro-Aristide minister of justice, Guy Malary, in 1993.

"The USA refuses to release documents it seized from FRAPH during the 1994 USA invasion--presumably to cover up the CIA ties to FRAPH. Philippe and Cham blain were among those from the Haitian opposition, recognized by the USA--the Convergence--who organized conferences in the Dominican Republic, funded and attended by USA operatives from the International Republican Institute."

Collusion of FRAPH, Convergence and U.S.

Although Secretary of State Powell pretends the death squads and the Convergence have nothing in common, the collusion between them has become clear with this invasion. One leader of the political opposition, sweatshop owner Andre Apaid, says he wants nothing to do with the armed gangs, but what "respected" gangland boss ever acknowledges his bloody-handed lieutenants?

A British observer, writing in The Independent of Feb. 17, reported that "The rebels are being manipulated and apparently taken over by disgruntled former army officers who, if left to their own devices, would probably return Haiti to the dictatorship and military terror of the Duvalier era. Although such a prospect is being publicly deplored, diplomatic sources in Port-au-Prince say Western governments are increasingly wondering if Haiti would be more stable--at least, from their point of view--under a dictatorship rather than Mr. Aristide's flawed version of democracy."

The Convergence, which includes many Haitian business leaders, has been agitating for Aristide to step down and organized several street protests, which received sympathetic coverage in the U.S. corporate media. Much larger demonstrations in support of the government, like one on Feb. 7 that drew hundreds of thousands in Port-au-Prince, are ignored by these same media.

After Aristide was returned to office in 1994 by the U.S., he disbanded the Haitian army. This move, which fit into his pacifist views, was supposed to allay the continuing threat of a military coup. But he did not set up any alternative system of defense, like a popular militia, so the government lacks a strong force to defend itself against the former militaries, who have now shown up with a surprising amount of coordination and weapons.

These trained assassins have taken over a number of cities north of the capital, where they immediately attacked police stations and city halls, killing police who were loyal to Aristide and seizing arms and ammunition. There are reports that they dragged corpses through the streets in order to terrorize the population.

According to the Miami Herald of Feb. 16, "Gonaives and St. Marc were wrested from the government as the rebels shot, burned and looted their way through cities and villages."

Haiti's entire police force--which now must do the work of an army--is only 5,000. By contrast, New York City, which has about 1 million fewer people than Haiti, has 32,000 cops, including heavily armed SWAT teams, who at any time could be reinforced by the National Guard.

In this crisis situation, however, the masses are finally being asked to intervene. According to the newspaper Haiti Progress of Feb. 11, "the population seems to have responded enthusiastically to Prime Minister Yvon Neptune's call on Feb. 8 for the Haitian people to assist the police in beating back 'the armed branch of the opposition.' On Feb. 8, popular organizations' militants, some armed, threw up barricades in the capital's Canapé Vert and Carrefour neighborhoods ... ."

This response, mostly by the workers and poor, has so far helped keep the fighting out of the capital, Port-au-Prince. It is the organized and, wherever possible, armed response of the people to the terrorism of the bosses and their imperialist backers that is Haiti's best hope.

Reprinted from the Feb. 26, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper

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