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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
“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.).
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