Haiti's Second U.S. Occupation

September 25, 2007

The date was October 15, 1994, 60 years after the end of the first U.S. occupation of Haiti. Exiled President Aristide was finally back in Haiti but surrounded, in every sense, by the putschist Haitian military and the occupying U.S. forces. he spectacle was surreal, especially in this corner of the Caribbean which has remained so resistant to American- ization over the past century. Thousands of Haitians, taut with anticipation, thronged the streets outside the green iron fence in front of the National Palace. Inside the fence and across the broad lawn studded with a mix of Haitian and U.S. soldiers, scores of hand- shaking dignitaries, ear-touching security personnel, and eye-roam- ing journalists swarmed around the Palace's wide steps. With Black Hawk helicopters thumping over- head, hundreds of heavily armed U.S. troops snaked through the crowds with walkie talkies or sur- veyed the scene with binoculars from towering armored vehicles, windows or rooftops. In the middle of it all sat Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a small figure on a regal chair in a bullet-proof glass cage, exhibited for the crowds like an animal in a zoo. The date was October 15, 1994. After three years and 15 Kim Ives is a journalist at the weekly newspaper Haiti Progres. This article will appear in the forthcoming NACLA book Haiti: Dangerous Crossroads, to be pub- lished by South End Press. days in exile, President Aristide was finally back in Haiti but sur- rounded, in every sense, by the putschist Haitian military and the occupying U.S. forces. One year earlier, Aristide's first projected homecoming had been foiled. After a surge of Duvalierist violence and a well-orchestrated U.S./UN retreat, the return date of October 30, 1993 fixed by the July 1993 Governors Island Accord came and went. By early 1994, the coup leaders, emboldened by U.S. pressure on Aristide, launched a savage new wave of repression and took over the parliament's leader- ship offices from the elected law- makers. On March 18, Aristide relaunched his refugee offensive, calling Clinton's refugee policy "racist and criminal" at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus in Miami. On March 30, Ha'ti Pro- gras broke a story about Yvon Desanges, a refugee returned to Haiti from the Guantinamo deten- tion center who had been hacked to death by a military death squad. Five days later, Aristide gave six- months notice that Haiti was abro- gating (belatedly, according to refugee advocates) the interdiction agreement signed between presi- dents Duvalier and Reagan in 1981, which supposedly permitted the United States to intercept fleeing Haitian refugees on the high seas. On April 12, TransAfrica's Randall Robinson, after strategizing with Aristide and the Black Caucus, launched a 27-day media-intensive hunger strike urging Clinton to change his repatriation policy. In response, on April 26, Clinton scuttled his Haiti envoy Lawrence Pezzulo, with his blatant style of arm-twisting, and replaced him on May 8 with the suave head of the United Negro College Fund, for- mer Congressman William Gray III. The same day, Clinton retreat- ed from automatic repatriation to the Reagan era's policy of inter- viewing refugees aboard U.S. cut- ters, with the difference that the "screened in" would be taken to "safe havens" in any country in the hemisphere other than the United States. The refugee issue was now pushing the Clinton Administration to resolve the Haiti question once and for all. From May through August, 1994, events quickly accelerated toward invasion. Clinton began to "carry out a series of diplomatic, public, and other steps that would allow him to assert all other NACLLA REPORT ON THE AMERICAS 6UPDATE / HAITI avenues had been exhausted," according to the September 25 Washington Post. In short, the United States needed to justify the invasion. This made for a series of almost humorous about-faces. The U.S. Embassy, for instance, early in 1994 reported in a secret memo, that "the Haitian Left, including President Aristide and his supporters in Washington and here, consistently manipu- late and fabricate human rights abuses as a propaganda tool" and that "FRAPH has essentially the same modus operandi [of terror] as the Lavalas' 'Comitis de quartiers' [neighborhood com- mittees]." But by June, the U.S. government was itself using human rights abuses "as a propa- ganda tool," issuing strongly- worded daily statements to decry putschist violence. U.S.AID began searching for Haitian and H' cc U.S. human rights groups to give more than $1 million from a new "Human Rights Fund." Most important to the justifica- tion process, however, was the UN Security Council. On May 6, 1994, the United States pushed through Security Council Resolution #917, which stiffened the embargo against Haiti on paper, but not real- ly on its borders. The 1993 sanc- tions targeted oil and weapons, while the new ones cut all trade (except for food and medicine) and non-commercial air traffic with Haiti. The measures did little to pressure the putschists from power. Instead, they just increased the flow of Haitian commerce across the Dominican border, which remained wide open throughout the crisis despite regular announce- ments of resolve issued from Washington and Santo Domingo. "These [UN] sanctions are being drafted in a way that sets them up for failure," said Berton Wides, one of Aristide's lawyers, on May 4. "They are so half-hearted that aitians in Port-au-Prince watch U.S. Army h )pters arrive in October, 1994. they almost seem designed to fail so that the Administration can say 'I told you so."' During June and July, the United States, followed by Canada, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, and France, stopped its commercial flights to Haiti. The United States also went after coup participants and supporters, ban- ning their international financial transactions (which were long since completed) and freezing their assets and bank accounts (which were long since emptied). Money transfers from Haitians in the Unit- ed States to their families in Haiti-which account for the vast bulk of the country's foreign rev- enue-were slashed to $50 per per- son per month, helping to fuel escalating desperation. n July 31, the Security Council passed Resolution #940, which gave the Unit- ed States authority to carry out a military intervention in Haiti on the UN's behalf, an arrange- ment now being dubbed "sphere-of-influence" peace- keeping. The Haitian putschists issued ridiculously defiant, transpar- ently phony, nationalist calls for resistance, thereby playing their role in intervention the- atrics. To further provoke reac- tion, on May 11 the military installed a second de facto president, Duvalierist chief jus- tice Emile Jonassaint, and cranked up repression a few more notches. By late May, record numbers of refugees were again fleeing Haiti. As intervention approached, Aristide's ambiguity increased. On June 3, he began to call for the United States to carry out a "swift and determined action" in Haiti, and even asked for a "surgical strike," alluding eli- specifically to the 1989 Pana- ma invasion as a model. Haitian popular organizations and U.S. solidarity groups were aghast, prompting Aristide to back- track and issue an open letter on June 22 saying "I have never asked for military intervention, nor will I. We have no illusion that a military intervention would serve the pur- pose of restoring democracy, or justice to Haiti." When asked in a National Public Radio interview on June 25 if he would agree to be restored to power through foreign military intervention, Aristide replied "Never! Never! And never again!" But it was obvious by now that despite his denials, Aristide had placed all his hopes on the United States. On July 29, Aristide clearly endorsed intervention in a letter to the UN Security Council urging passage of the resolution authoriz- ing U.S. military intervention. Support for intervention was by now the hallmark of the "Lavalas bourgeoisie." This portion of Haiti's import-export bourgeoisie Vol XXVIII, No 4 JAN/FEB 1995 C 0 C 0 7UPDATE / HAITI and their fringe of doctors, lawyers began on August 19, 1994. But and engineers had rallied to the now came the trickiest part of all. anti-imperialist platform of Haiti's How to transfer the apparatus of popular organizations to form the repression from the "bad cop" to 1990 Lavalas alliance that brought the "good cop" without creating an Aristide to power. At that time, the opening for insurrection? If C6dras Lavalas bourgeoisie was looking and other putschists were to flee to stop the political and economic before the U.S. force was in place, march of the "technocrat" sector the people might take to the streets of the bourgeoisie, which was and "get the idea that they can do more tied to U.S. capital and the whatever they want," as one U.S. expansion of assem- bly industries and agribusiness. But due to the coup, the Lavalas bourgeoisie now felt that a pact with the technocrats and the United States was more in order. Central to the deal was intervention, which violated a key commandment of the old alliance. Faced with ques- tions or criticism about intervention, the Lavalas bourgeoisie would respond that On the day of his return from exile, Aristide-behind a Aristide had no alterna- shield-is presented to the crowd at the National Palace. tive. It was a choice, they argued, between continuing the reign of terror under C6dras or inviting U.S. military intervention. Aristide had to choose the lesser of two evils. But the two evils were, in fact, one. The U.S. government, in cahoots with the putschists, was carrying out a classic good cop/bad cop routine: the bad cop to abuse and terrorize; the good cop to offer comfort, escape, and a solution. The "bad cop" death squads of FRAPH were conceived, recruited and funded by the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), The Nation revealed in October, and C6dras and most of the Haitian high com- mand had been on the CIA pay- roll. The countdown for the inevitable intervention of the "good cop" Army Psychological Operations official put it. Clinton made his nationally tele- vised address on September 15 to set the stage. "C6dras and his armed thugs have conducted a reign of terror, executing children, raping women, killing priests," Clinton said. "We must act." But Clinton still had a plan to converse more with the thugs to create a "permissive entry"-in Pentagon parlance-for U.S. troops. That way, the U.S. military could take over smoothly and avoid casualties in an intervention that was widely unpopular in the U.S. Congress and among the U.S. population at large. Former Presi- dent Jimmy Carter, with former Joint Chiefs of Staff head Gen. Colin Powell and Aristide-critic Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA), held two days of talks with C6dras in Port- au-Prince which resulted on Sep- tember 18 in a deal for "a peaceful, cooperative entry of international forces into Haiti, with a mutual respect between American com- manders and the Haitian military commanders," as Carter reported in his September 19 press confer- ence. (Carter also invited C6dras and his wife, whom he found "slim and very attractive," to visit his church in Georgia.) The essence of the deal, signed by ex- President Carter and de facto President Jonas- saint, was two-fold: 1) to keep Gen. Raoul C6dras in power until October 15, while the U.S. occupation force was "inserted," as Sec- retary of State Warren Christopher character- ized it; and 2) to ensure that "a general amnesty will be voted into law bullet-proof by the Haitian Parlia- ment." To soothe Aristide's initial misgivings about Carter's "Port-au-Prince accord," the Penta- gon gave him a 21-gun salute in Washington on September 21. "The ceremony of the Pentagon showed us very clearly that our president was recognized, that he had been returned his legitimacy," said close Aristide advisor and for- mer Planning Minister Renaud Bernadin, who had severely criti- cized the Carter deal only days before. In the ceremony, Aristide profusely thanked Clinton, Carter and the Pentagon. U.S. troops entered Haiti on September 19, and quickly "interfaced"-in military- speak-with their Haitian counter- parts. The three designated coup villains-C6dras, Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby, and Col. Michel NACIA REPORT ON THE AMERICAS 8UPDATE / HAITI Franqois-were all spirited out of Haiti, away from justice, to com- fortable exiles, thanks to U.S. gov- ernment largesse. While under-the- table payoffs are also likely, the U.S. government has openly admit- ted that it will use U.S. taxpayers' money to pay C6dras $5,000 a month for rental of his three luxuri- ous homes in Haiti. Members of the Haitian parlia- ment who had been living in exile were flown in on U.S. planes. Overseen by U.S. guns, the legisla- tors passed a law on October 8 which granted amnesty for "politi- cal matters." Thirteen other Haitian officers instrumental in the coup were transferred to tranquil embassy duties overseas by "interim com- mander-in-chief' Lt. Gen. Jean- Claude Duperval, himself implicat- ed in the September 1991 coup, the January 1991 attempted coup, and in drug-trafficking. The U.S. government also unfroze $79 million of assets of the coup-makers and their wealthy supporters, and will provide $5 million for stipends and civilian retraining of Haitian soldiers who have been so infamous for repres- sion that they cannot be recycled into the "new" Haitian military. In Grand Goave, Cap Haitien, and J&r6mie, large demonstrations took place to demand that those members of the military and attaches responsible for human rights abuses during the dictator- ship be brought to justice. Crowds captured dozens of Haitian sol- diers and paramilitary gunmen around Haiti and brought them to U.S. soldiers, as they had been instructed to do by U.S. military sound systems on Humvees and helicopters, and by President Aris- tide himself in his October 15 Palace address. "The American soldiers then handed them over to the remnants of the very Haitian police with whom the gunmen had collaborat- ed in terrorizing the population during the three years of military rule," reported John Kifner in the October 18 New York Times. "No one seems able to say exactly what will happen to the gunmen, called attaches, who murdered, robbed and raped with impunity. One strong possibility is that their friends in the Haitian police will simply let them go." The de facto protection by the U.S. high command of the former repressive forces is becoming clearer daily to ordinary Haitians. The de facto protection by the U.S. high command of the former repressive forces is becoming clearer daily to ordinary Haitians, and also to the American GIs, who often sympathize with the Haitian people's struggle. "These people are really believing in us now," a U.S. police monitor/retrainer told Kifner. "But if these guys just walk free, it's all going to turn sour. It will be like Somalia." With the watchword of "recon- ciliation," the United States is remodeling and shoring up the entire Duvalierist apparatus, in both its military and civilian incar- nations. The "separation of the police and the armed forces" is the magic formula offered by U.S. reforms. Its goal is as cosmetic as the repainting of the infamous Cafeteria police station of Col. Michel Francois from mustard-yel- low to white. The Cafeteria police used to best symbolize the union of Haiti's police and army, wearing blue police shirts and green army helmets. Now they and the rest of the police will wear new uniforms with inoffensive yellow and maroon baseball caps. Although the figures keep chang- ing, as of mid-November the army was slated to be reduced to 1,500, while the police-who will handle internal "law and order"-would number about 6,000. Thus the old "unseparated" armed forces of about 7,000 and the new "separat- ed" ones will barely differ in size, contrary to the message sent by the mainstream media. On the "civilian" demilitariza- tion front, despite a much vaunted "buy-back" program, the U.S. occupying force retrieved only a small percentage of the tens of thousands of firearms in the hands of attaches and has even returned arms to rural section chiefs and their thugs, prompting popular demonstrations which have been in turn repressed. Aristide wanted to fire the entire army high command and manage the formation of the new army and police with his government. The U.S. military, however, vetoed the move. For "retraining" the Haitian armed forces, the U.S. government wants to employ exclusively its own International Criminal Investi- gations Training and Assistance Program (ICITAP), which is staffed by current and former agents of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Secret Service, and U.S. police departments. The new "pro- fessionalized" police and army will be-if all goes according to plan- more responsive to central (and U.S.-guided) control, not as prone to arbitrary and indiscreet violence, and better versed in focused sur- veillance and repression of democ- ratic and popular organizations. For good measure, the new forces Vol XXVIII, No 4 JAN/FEB 1995 9 Vol XXVllI, No 4 JAN/FEB 1995 9UPDATE / HAITI will be supervised indefinitely by the yellow-capped International Police Monitors, the most multina- tional component of the United States' "multinational" occupation. Candidates for "professionaliza- tion" are to be drawn largely from the "previous" Haitian armed forces, many officers and special- ists of which had already been trained in the United States, most- ly at the School of the Americas in Ft. Ben- ning, Georgia. With the United States in com- plete military control, Aristide has jet- tisoned his nationalist program for the revital- ization of Haiti's state industries, which had begun to show profits after just a few months of non-corrupt adminis- tration in 1991. Today, A worn those industries are to be sold to private capitalists, both Haitian and U.S., who backed the September 1991 coup with their heads, hearts and wallets. "You have to remember that the coalition that brought [Aristide] to power is not the same coalition that brought him back now," said a prominent Haitian intellectual in the October 23 New York Times. The new coalition is between the Lavalas bourgeoisie and the techno- crat bourgeoisie along with U.S. capital. The new program is to bring about neoliberal "structural read- justment" of the Haitian economy. Allan Nairn summarized the plan entitled "Strategy of Social and Economic Reconstruction" in the July/August Multinational Monitor: "Haiti commits to eliminate the jobs of half of its civil servants, massively privatize public services, 'drastic[ally]' slash tariffs and import restrictions, eschew price and foreign exchange controls, grant 'emergency' aid to the export sector, enforce an 'open foreign investment policy,' create special corporate business courts 'where the judges are more aware of the implications of their decisions for economic efficiency,' rewrite its corporate laws, 'limit the scope of state activity' and regulation, and ian walks by a U.S. Army tank on a Port-au-Prin diminish the power of Aristide's executive branch in favor of the more conservative Parliament. In return, Haiti is to receive $770 mil- lion in financing, $80 million of which goes immediately to pay the debt accrued to foreign banks over the past three years since the coup." Just as they justified foreign intervention, ideologues of the Lavalas bourgeoisie are now justi- fying neoliberalism. "You have to understand, the world has changed in these three years," said Father Antoine Adrien, former head of Aristide's Presidential Commis- sion, to James Ridgeway of the Vil- lage Voice. "What was good in 1991 is not necessarily good in 1994. First of all, no country can survive without capitalism." Of course, Aristide's 1991 program was not anti-capitalist. It simply proposed "Justice, Openness, and Participation" in the running of the government and state industries, sweeping out corruption and ineffi- ciency. But for Adrien, it is "better to privatize them. It would ulti- mately be to the benefit of the state because we can collect taxes from them and have money to do other work." However, Antoine Izm6ry-one of Haiti's largest merchant capital- ists and the principal funder of Aristide's 1990 campaign, who became a martyr for democracy when exe- cuted by attaches on September 11, 1993 -would have strong- ly disagreed. "This mafioso private sector [in Haiti] has robbed the Haitian people through smuggling, drug-dealing, govern- ment subsidies, non- payment of their taxes, and all that, so that now they have ce street. the capital to buy up the state industries with the money they have stolen," he explained to Hai'ti Progrds after the Haiti Government/Business Partnership Conference in July, 1993 in Miami. As for foreign buyers of Haitian industries, he said "Haiti is virgin territory and very cheap right now. So there are several [foreign] companies inter- ested in controlling the Haitian economy.... Now we are going to have the Americans controlling us completely and imposing their financial system which, in fact, has never had good results." Ironically, Aristide was elected to fight against the very two processes he has now been returned to legitimate: reconcilia- tion with Duvalierism and neolib- eral reforms. Whether he is a pris- oner or player, or something in between, is not totally clear. Nor does it really matter. His govern- ment is only a portrait; the real regime is American.

Tags: Haiti, US occupation, US foreign policy, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, privatization

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