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Five years after invasion

Thousands of Haitians demonstrate to demand Aristide’s return

Published Mar 18, 2009 4:46 PM

A delegation from the United Nations Security Council ended a fact-finding visit to the Caribbean nation of Haiti on March 14. The delegation’s trip was designed to prevent the development of another political crisis inside the country.

Thousands demand the return of Aristide,
March 12, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

“We cannot allow another political crisis in Haiti,” said Jorge Urbina, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the U.N. “Numerous shortcomings remain in the country, at a security, institution building and economic development level.” (AFP, March 14)

Haiti has a population of 8 million people, with 80 percent living in poverty. The annual average income is less than $300 U.S. dollars.

The delegation had been in Haiti for four days to hold meetings with business leaders, opposition parties and members of parliament. This visit comes amid growing economic problems in the country, often described as the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Just one year ago food rebellions took place in response to rising prices and the decline in real wages. The unrest during 2008 led to the collapse of the previous government and the installation of Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the French U.N. delegate to Haiti, said that “responsibility principally lies with the Haitian authorities” as it relates to resolving the economic crisis inside the country. At the same time, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who also visited the country for two days, called for immediate international assistance to Haiti. (Xinhua, March 11)

Ban met with Haitian President René Préval and told the international press that the purpose of the U.N. visit was to attract attention to the efforts aimed at the recuperation and reconstruction of Haiti. He also paid a visit to the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which has occupied the country since the withdrawal of United States and French soldiers. These soldiers invaded and overthrew the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide five years ago.

Coinciding with the visit of the U.N. delegations was the presence of former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Clinton sent troops into Haiti in 1994 to reinstall Aristide, who had been overthrown in 1991 by a U.S.-backed military coup.

These visiting delegations to Haiti set the stage for a donors’ conference scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C., on April 13 and 14. Haitian President Préval thanked the U.N. and Clinton for their visits to the country, stating that they made the country feel that “We are not alone.”

Real role of the U.S. destabilizing Haiti

Despite these claims of concern from the U.S., France and the U.N., it is these entities that were responsible for the removal of the Aristide government on Feb. 29, 2004. Thousands of U.S. troops landed inside the country, kidnapped President Aristide and sent him to the Central African Republic.

Prior to the invasion, the U.S. had financed and endorsed opposition forces which entered the country from the Dominican Republic to carry out attacks on civilians and government installations weeks prior to the intervention. The Group of 184, a largely right-wing coalition of Western-backed forces, staged demonstrations in order to make it appear as if there were a popular uprising against Aristide.

The U.S. Congress had allocated direct assistance to Haiti, which was held up by the Bush administration prior to the invasion. This intervention took place in the aftermath of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the national independence of Haiti in 1804.

The independence of the country was won through an armed struggle that took place from 1791 until 1803. Haiti became the first successful slave revolution in history, which led to the establishment of the first Black Republic during the period of slavery and colonialism.

Successive U.S. governments refused to recognize Haiti between 1804 and 1862. It was only during the Civil War that the Black Republic was recognized. The U.S. has intervened on numerous occasions in the country, including the 1915-34 occupation that was resisted vigorously by the Haitian masses.

In 2004, it was only the worldwide outrage at the kidnapping of Aristide and the intervention of the International Action Center along with Congressperson Maxine Waters that brought about the release of the Haitian president. Aristide then traveled to the allied country of the Republic of South Africa under former President Thabo Mbeki. Aristide was granted political asylum in South Africa, where he remains today.

Nonetheless, the Haitian people have not forgotten the events of 2004. On the fifth anniversary of the invasion, more than 10,000 people demonstrated in Port-au-Prince demanding the return of President Aristide.

Less than two weeks later, during the U.N.’s and Clinton’s visit to the country, another mass demonstration took place. Haiti Action, a solidarity organization based in the California Bay Area, stated, “Over 10,000 pro-democracy activists took to the streets of Haiti’s capital, once again, to demand the return of President Aristide, who was kidnapped by U.S. officials five years ago.” (Haitiaction.net, March 12)

The group went on to say, “While the U.S. State Department assisted its escorts—an assortment of NGO personalities—in avoiding any contact with the largest political party in Haiti, Fanmi Lavalas simply converged on the National Palace from the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The demonstration also protested the exclusion by the Conseil Electoral Provisoire (CEP) of Fanmi Lavalas candidates from the senatorial elections scheduled to take place in April. On March 14, members of Fanmi Lavalas met with the U.N. delegation, which ostensibly encouraged the party to legally challenge the exclusion.

A March 15 Associated Press article stated: “The trouble with the Lavalas slate owes to divisions between two rival factions that split over the party’s direction after Aristide was ousted by a rebellion in 2004. Each faction submitted its own, separate list of candidates. Both were rejected because of a failure to produce documents signed by Aristide, who lives in South Africa.”

Dr. Maryse Narcisse, a Lavalas executive council member, indicated that legal appeals to the CEP decision would continue during campaigning for the senate race, which starts on March 16. The elections for 12 of the 30 senatorial seats were originally scheduled for late 2007. However, the elections were postponed as a result of natural disasters and political unrest.

Also on March 14, demonstrators clashed with police in the central plateau town of Cornillon. The unrest was in response to the seating of an elections council that is seeking another delay in the senate poll. (Radio Kiskeya, March 15)

Haiti must not be forgotten

Anti-imperialist groups in the U.S. must continue to raise the plight of the Haitian masses at demonstrations and other forums opposing war and occupation. Just recently, the IAC launched a petition campaign demanding that the 30,000 Haitians now threatened with deportation be allowed to remain in the U.S.

At the same time, U.S. Congressperson Barbara Lee and 10 other members of the House of Representatives have introduced a bill requesting an investigation into the Bush administration’s role in the 2004 destabilization campaign and invasion. The original proposed legislation, called the Truth Act, has been submitted annually to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs by Congressperson Lee.

Lee stated in 2004: “We do not teach people to overthrow our U.S. government, and the Bush administration must not participate in the overthrow of other democratically-elected governments. The United States must stand firm in its support of democracy and not allow a nascent democracy like Haiti to fall victim to the Bush administration’s apparent policy of regime change.” (Haiti Action News, Feb. 5)

At a March 2004 Western Hemisphere hearing in Washington, Lee said to the then Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega and the Bush administration that they were responsible for the political situation prevailing in Haiti. She accused the administration of “aiding and abetting” the removal of Aristide.

“Regime change takes a variety of forms, and this looks like a blatant form of regime change to me,” Congressperson Lee told Noriega. The bill, now known as H.R. 331, could make the congressional calendar for review in 2009. (Haiti Action News, Feb. 5)

The bill’s current co-sponsors include Corrine Brown (Fla.), Chaka Fattah (Pa.), Michael Honda (Calif.), Bernice Eddie Johnson (Texas), Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Donald M. Payne (N.J.), Charles B. Rangel (N.Y.), Janice Schakowsky (Ill.) and Maxine Waters (Calif.).