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Bill Clinton's Visit. Celebrations take place against a troubled political backdrop

From Haiti Info,
Vol. 3, no. 13, 8 April 1995

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Apr. 8 - With a repaved airport road, a new coat of paint at the National Palace, students sporting Aristide- Clinton tee shirts and a myriad of other touches, the Haitian government and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide did everything possible to show their undying gratitude for President William Jefferson Clinton during his March 31 stopover.

This is a great day of Haitian-U.S.-U.N. solidarity, the National Television gushed.

In his talk, Aristide coached the crowd to praise the U.S. and thanked U.S. soldiers for the successful operation which moved the country from death to life and restored democracy to Haitian soil.

Wave of Terror, Other Problems

But the celebrations took place against a troubled backdrop - criticism of the elections and the government [see accompanying stories] and a new wave of terror and insecurity. Almost every night in the capital, robberies and drive-by shootings result in bodies on the streets in the morning. Last night, there were three shootings, six attacks at knife-point and at least one multiple rape. The day before, an ex-colonel was gunned down.

Across the country, peasant groups complain of section chiefs' continued exactions and attacks on the new voter registration offices. The interim police force appears to be either participating or, at best, watching from the sidelines. [See related story.]

Double-Murder Significant

The most famous attack was the well-executed assassination of staunch coup supporter Mireille Durocher Bertin and Eugene Baillergeau, a former pilot for coup-leader Lt. General Raoul Cedras, obviously timed to throw a wrench in the celebrations.

The case has all the necessary ingredients: the more well-known victim is an outspoken enemy of Aristide and the democratic movement, two brothers, labeled ultra-leftists by the local and international reactionary press, have confessed to a similar plot and have implicated Aristide's Minister of the Interior, and well before the murder (in mid-March), rumors of a hit list of Aristide enemies began to surface in the U.S. (not the Haitian) press.

Whether the intended victim was Durocher Bertin, a lawyer who was frequently at anti-Aristide demonstrations, who led the effort to impeach Aristide, who served as counselor to de facto President Emile Jonassaint's ministerial council and who recently founded a political party which was said to be supported by the National Democratic Institute, or Baillergeau, as some have speculated, the other intended victims were obviously Aristide and Clinton.

Beginning before March 31, the sectors opposed to Clinton used the murders in an attempt to tarnish the celebrations of one of his few foreign policy successes, and the assault has continued. Yesterday Senator Jesse Helms renewed his attack on Aristide and demanded Clinton block all aid to Haiti until the murder investigation is completed.

U.S. Propaganda Machine In Action

The unfolding of the murder plot in the most powerful U.S. mainstream newspapers over the past two weeks has been one more impressive illustration of the U.S. propaganda machinery.

Yesterday the New York Times ran this front page story: PENTAGON IS GIVEN WORD ON TARGETS FOR DEATH IN HAITI. Only further down does the reader learn that the list was compiled by the U.S. military, supposedly from other lists that no media has ever reported actually seeing.

That article follows on stories in the Washington Post and L.A. Times, as well as columns by Lawrence Pezzullo, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and the ubiquitous Robert Novak, who describes a commando team run by former Prime Minister Rene Preval.

The government did go on the counter-offensive on Wednesday, denying accusations against Minister of the Interior Mondesir Beaubrun and accusing two of those arrested - Patrick and Eddy Moise - of having worked for Tonton Macoute and former mayor, Franck Romain.

But Aristide also put his government in a paradoxical situation by immediately inviting to Haiti an organization which could easily be behind the attack - the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). (Remember the role played in the coup by two other U.S. organizations - the Central Intelligence and Defense Intelligence agencies.) He has also appointed a Haitian commission which ironically includes Col. Michel Francois' former right-hand man, known rights abuser Capt. Jacky Mitton. On the defensive, the president has no margin of maneuver now and is in the hands of a U.S. security agency, former members of the army which overthrew him and the reactionary press. Past experience should have made it clear that he will get nowhere by attempting to accomodate and please such foes.

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