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Date: Thu, 22 Oct 98 17:32:01 CDT
From: Haiti Progres <haiticom@blythe.org>
Organization: Haiti Progres
Subject: This Week in Haiti 16:31 10/21/98
Article: 45902
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.26046.19981024001622@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

Endless Bummer: U.S. Occupation Angling for Four More Years?

By Michael Ratner, Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
Haiti Progres This Week in Haiti,
Part I: Vol. 16, no. 31, 21-27 October 1998;
Part II: Vol. 16, no. 32, 28 October - 3 November 1998

It's been four years since 20,000 US troops landed in Haiti and restored President Aristide to the National Palace. But what US officials said would be a quick intervention, with clear objectives, a limited US/UN role, and a sure exit strategy, has become a seemingly permanent presence.

Over the last four years, the UN Security Council renewed the military mandate five times and changed the name of the mission four times. As of today, an armed UN mission of 300-strong -- MIPONUH -- remains in Haiti, officially to train the new Haitian police. They are joined by some 70 human rights observers from the UN International Civilian Mission (MICIVIH). Most significantly, alongside the UN forces, 500 US troops remain stationed at a new US military base indefinitely, according to President Clinton.

Framing the Crisis

However, the Haitian people are completely fed up with the presence of foreign troops on their soil. In 1994, still reeling from the bloody three-year coup d'etat, the Haitian people were warily ready to believe in a miracle: that the US, which had supported Haitian dictatorships for so long, would rebuild Haiti, promote democracy, and respect their will. They don't believe that anymore.

As the economic mess has slid from bad to worse, the promises of Washington ring hollower with every US official passing through Port-au-Prince. Haitians have also come to know the pain hidden behind Washington's technocratic mumbo-jumbo about the advantages of neoliberal structural adjustment, which has only brought them more unemployment, hunger, and poverty. The brazen meddling and monied election engineering of the National Endowment for Democracy's International Republican Institute (IRI) have outraged most Haitians, many of whom are now calling for the organization's expulsion from Haiti. Recent US claims on the uninhabited Haitian island of La Navase have also piqued Haitian nationalism (see Haiti Progres, Vol 16 No. 26, Sept. 16, 1998).

On the other hand, US officials and their mainstream press counterparts are blaming the crisis in Haiti on their political foes, particularly former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. [H]opes for an era of prosperity and stability have evaporated, and with them the patience of most Haitians, said the Oct. 18 New York Times. A 16-month political squabble between Aristide and other leaders of the fracturing Lavalas coalition has left the country without a working government, the population to fend for itself, and Haiti's foreign allies disillusioned and exasperated. In case someone missed who the villain is, the article is laced with analysis by Aristide's principal political opponents, with the coup de grace going to Gerard Pierre-Charles, leader of the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL). The heart of the matter is the use Aristide has made of his influence and his domination from the sidelines, with [president Rene Preval's] complicity, of many institutions in this country, Pierre-Charles told the Times. The worse the situation becomes, he added, the more Aristide likes it, because he has this messianic idea that he and only he will be the one to save Haiti from chaos.

This refrain, regularly heard over radio stations throughout Haiti, has not made much of a dent in Aristide's popularity among the Haitian masses. Even regular US mainstream press sniping has only barely hurt Aristide's reputation among the North American masses, to whom continued military deployment in Haiti must also be sold.

One of the main reasons that Aristide has remained popular is because he continues to emphasize the need to bring justice to Haiti and an end to the climate of terror and killing in Haiti, known as the insecurity. Most Haitians realize that Aristide himself is one of the main targets of the shadowy gunmen responsible for the violence. In the past year, six of his security guards have been assassinated.

Demons of the Past

Ironically, security was the whole point of the US and UN being in Haiti in the first place. With July 1994's Resolution 940, the UN Security Council, for the first time and in violation of the UN Charter, authorized the United States to militarily intervene in the internal affairs of a Western Hemisphere nation. The resolution called explicitly for international forces to establish a safe and secure environment in Haiti.

But in every village and bidonville across Haiti, harassment, intimidation, robbery, torture and murder by remnants of the disbanded army and death-squads continue. In the summer of 1996, for instance, nearly two years after US troops intervened, well-armed former Haitian army soldiers and civilian attaches attacked key locations in the Haitian capital. The Presidential Palace, Parliament, the main police station, the national TV station, and Aristide's residence were all hit. There is no point in masking the truth; the disarmament of Haiti cannot be described as a success, senior UN official Adama Dieng conceded to the UN General Assembly last year. There is therefore a real danger that . . . the demons of the past, with their cortege of disasters, will reappear.

But those demons have enjoyed the systematic protection and advocacy of US and UN forces throughout the occupation. In one secret Sept. 1995 memo, for instance, the UN emphasized the importance of supporting an organization of ex-soldiers called RAMERISM, who were demanding back pay, benefits, and skills training from the cash-strapped government. We must continue to encourage the Government of Haiti to address RAMERISM's core issues to defuse any potential threat they could pose if they become further embittered, noted the secret Threat Estimate memo. Again, on the issue of justice for victims of the coup, the UN called for accommodation with the putschists: Addressing the crimes of the de facto government has the potential to be perceived as retribution thus further alienating elements on the right and some members of the economic elite, the memo said.

There was a choice that was made, Haitian parliamentarian Paul Andre Garonet told Radio Haiti Inter in 1996, They left those guys with weapons in their hands as a regulator. Senior Haitian government officials, including former President Aristide, repeatedly and publicly charged that the US and UN used the demons of the past as leverage to wring concessions from the Haitian government on a range of key issues, including, most importantly, the renewal of the US and UN military mandate in Haiti.

In last week's article, we examined how the Haitian people are fed up with the foreign military occupation of their country. US and UN troops have mainly protected the demons of the past - the former Tonton Macoutes, soldiers, and paramilitary death- squads - who continue to terrorize Haiti's cities and countryside. The criminals have neither been disarmed or judged, and their destabilization efforts against the Haitian government have been accommodated by US and UN officials.

In our second installment, we take a look at how the foreign occupiers have maintained their presence in Haiti, and how they are maneuvering to extend their mandate which ends next month.

Suppressing the Disarmament Movement

During the final months of President Aristide's term, disagreement over disarmament became so sharp between the US/UN and the Haitian government that it threatened to derail the entire UN operation. Following the 1995 ambush assassination of a newly elected legislator, Jean Hubert Feuille, President Aristide angrily rebuked the US and UN for acting as accomplices in murder. The powerful weapons of the international community are supposed to be there to accompany the Haitian people in disarming all the criminals. If not, we'll tell them that the game is finished, Aristide told a crowd of thousands gathered for Feuille's state funeral in Port-au-Prince's National Cathedral. This question of sitting and waiting for these foreigners to provide us with security is over.

Following the speech, the country erupted in a disarmament crusade. Neighborhood committees threw up burning roadblocks nationwide. Cars and trucks, including UN vehicles, were stopped and searched, and effigies of US soldiers were burned. Crowds raided the putschists' large weapons caches, which they had urged foreign troops to capture for months.

Searching cars, intervening, searching houses, that's police business, UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi blustered at the time. These road-blocks must stop, and the Haitian police supported by us, without fear must go to all the places that such road-blocks are to say to these young people, go home, this is not your job. The uprising had brought about the most complete and rapid disarmament of the former putschist death-squads to date, and the occupation forces squelched it.

In the northwestern port town of Gonaives, UN troops shot and killed at least one protester and wounded eight others while protecting a gun-wielding coup supporter. (According to both a local human rights groups and UN officials speaking privately, the UN moved to cover up the murder.) At the end of more than a week of protests, at least eight people lay dead, dozens were injured, and hundreds of homes and other buildings which had housed arms or criminals had been dechouke, literally uprooted.

The people's fury is in direct proportion to the duplicity of the occupation forces, quipped at the time Ben Dupuy of the National Popular Assembly (APN), a nationwide popular organization. Justice is the only solution, and the occupiers won't allow that.

Protecting the Criminals

US and UN officials have not only protected former putschists but have also repeatedly blocked efforts to win justice for the thousands who were tortured, raped and murdered during the coup regime. The most well-known example has been that of Emmanuel Toto Constant, the CIA agent and head of the death-squad FRAPH who now lives and works in Queens, NY. Washington also refuses to return 160,000 pages of documents seized from Haitian Army headquarters and FRAPH offices.

In Haiti, US officials and UN forces have actively blocked the arrest of scores of senior coup officials and attaches. In one case, UN forces prevented the Haitian police from acting on an arrest warrant for former dictator General Prosper Avril, whom a US Federal court has ordered to pay $41 million in restitution to his torture victims. During the November 1995 arrest attempt, foreign officials brazenly broke into President Aristide's confidential communications frequency with Haitian judicial officers. According to Aristide, what transpired was an extraordinary push-me, pull-you on-air stand-off where UN officials ordered Haitian police officers not to arrest Avril while Aristide ordered them to do so.

US and UN protection of putschist figures has extended to all levels of Haitian society, not just senior figures like General Avril or Emmanuel Constant. The United States regularly provides safe haven to those individuals facing arrest warrants. For instance, Hubert Deronceray, the leader of a pro-coup neo- Duvalierist party, fled to New Jersey with US approval after Haitian officials issued an arrest warrant for him in connection with a wave of violence and an overthrow attempt in the summer of 1996.

In another instance, prosecutors working for the Haitian government managed to get a judge to issue ten arrest warrants against the alleged killers of Haitian justice minister Guy Malary. But US and UN CIVPOL officers instructed Haitian police officers not to serve the warrants, overruling the Haitian judge with the argument that the evidence was insufficient to guarantee a conviction. We do not have the power to obstruct justice, but we do have the power to decide whether to render assistance or not, one US diplomat wisecracked at the time. Obstruction of justice parading as assistance was never more clear than when Washington sent the FBI to intimidate the Haitian government.

The FBI vs. Aristide

This occurred in the case of Mireille Durocher Bertin, a 38-year-old wealthy elite lawyer, who was a leader of the death- squad FRAPH and a telegenic spokesperson for the putschist regime. In March 1995, on a busy Port-au-Prince street, three people ambushed the car carrying Bertin and her legal client, Eugene Baillergeau, a 46-year-old pilot and reputed drug smuggler. Both died in a hail of bullets. According to the toxicology report, Baillergeau was high on cocaine at the time of his death.

Few Haitians shed tears over the death of Baillergeau and Bertin, a former FRAPH central committee member. All the thanks a dog can expect is a beating, noted the Creole-language newspaper Libete, echoing the common view that the Macoute-CIA-Pentagon axis had sacrificed one of their own in an attempt to smear Aristide and embarrass Clinton.

The US reaction, however, was swift and severe. Coming just three days before President Clinton was to make a triumphal visit to Haiti (the first by a US president since FDR in 1934), the assassination quickly became a cause celebre of US Republicans. An angry US Embassy, joined by the Pentagon, immediately accused the Aristide government. Within 24 hours of the murders, FBI agents were in Haiti. Forensic experts flew down from Miami, five specialists from the US Army Institute of Pathology conducted the autopsies, and a team of 16 FBI agents began months of investigative work. All the physical evidence from the case was taken to Miami.

The FBI targeted Aristide, leaders of the Lavalas movement, including Rene Preval (who is currently president), and a group of anti-coup Haitian Army officers. The FBI agents harassed, threatened, and physically abused their suspects, according to several Haitian officers. Pierre Onil Lubin, a former Haitian army officer who stayed loyal to the Constitutional government during the coup, said that US agents and US Army soldiers threatened and intimated him at gunpoint. The FBI offered Lubin a house in the US, a visa for him and his family, and a bank account with enough money that he would never have to work again, if he would implicate Aristide in the murder.

The Bertin assassination dominated US-Haitian relations throughout 1995 and 1996 and the US Congress even held hearings on the murders. The United Nations added their voice to the chorus as well. A special human rights expert appointed by former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali wrote in 1995 that the investigation of the Bertin murder was the No. 1 human rights question facing the country.

Searching for Excuses

The Security Council mandate for UN troops to deploy in Haiti ends on Nov. 30. At the time of the last renewal in Nov. 1997, both the UN and President Preval assured the world that it would be the last. However, indications are that Washington is feverishly preparing excuses to extend the stay of UN troops in Haiti, which provide an important cover for the presence of the more numerous and heavily-armed US forces.

The justification this time will apparently be the need to stop the flow of drugs through Haiti to the US. As the opening move in this gambit, retired US General Barry McCaffrey, President Clinton's advisor on drug policy, traveled to Haiti last Oct. 6 to announce that between 240 and 300 metric tons [of drugs] come into the United States each year and in our opinion about 15% of this figure passes through Haiti, for a total of about 30 to 45 metric tons per year.

In an article on Oct. 27, Washington's unofficial mouthpiece, the New York Times, had upped the figure to about four tons a month or 48 tons per year. Never do the US officials say how they arrive at their very precise but equally variable estimates.

(Also, the front page article on drugs was the second in as many weeks to vilify former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, citing several members of Haiti's Congress -- i.e. Aristide opponents - as saying that the drug traffickers are Aristide associates -- i.e. Aristide partisans. US officials are investigating the matter but there is as yet no evidence that could lead to a prosecution,' the Times reports in its sneaky way to insinuate that there is evidence.)

McCaffrey called the flow of drugs through Haiti clearly an emergency and couched the US response in military terms. We have got to get a continuous US presence offshore and keep drugs from getting into Haiti, McCaffrey told the Times. Our US defenses have to be on the far side of Haiti and the near side of Haiti so that Haiti isn't overwhelmed by these incredibly organized and violent drug criminals.

This would seem to involve US naval forays into Haitian waters, which would be illegal as long as the Haitian parliament has not ratified an agreement, signed between Preval and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last October, allowing such incursions.

President Preval seemed particularly agitated after his meeting with McCaffrey last month, most likely because the indelicate general was blunt in informing His Excellency of US military plans.

Perhaps Preval was worried about the consequences under a new Haitian law if he agrees to allow foreign troops, planes, and warships in Haitian territory. Article 10 of the Law on the Judicial Reform, which was promulgated on Aug. 17, 1998, states that the State has the obligation to obtain the departure of all foreign armed corps and will take all the necessary steps so that there exists on the national territory no other armed corps parallel to the National Police (PNH).

This week several OPL parliamentarians including Yrvelt Chery and Paul Denis threatened to use this law to bring Preval before a high court of justice if he agreed to extend the mandate of UN troops.

Meanwhile, sources working for the UN report that no dispositions have been taken for a November 1998 withdrawal, and indeed, supplies have been ordered through the year 2000. Anthony Lake, the Clinton's regular unofficial emissary, also was in Haiti last week, taking the political temperature. All this suggests that the US and the UN will try to stay in Haiti longer, despite all the signs that they have long overstayed their welcome, if they ever had one.