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