Counterspin - The truth/U.S. Coup D'etat disenfranchising 8.5 million Blacks

Counterspin. This episode can be viewed online at:

March 04, 2004
Haiti in perspective - CBC's Counterspin
Canada's Counterspin: Haiti Special
'Recap' and 'Review' by Anthony Fenton

On Wednesday evening CBC's Counterspin provided a mainstream Canadian audience with their first taste of what is really going on in Haiti. What took place was the sort of dialogue that has been largely absent from mainstream coverage of Haiti during its recent crisis.

The excerpts to follow are extensive, but it should be asserted that this was the first time such context has been offered to Canadians, due to the monopoly that international wires, such as the Associated Press and Reuters, have had on the flow of information about Haiti throughout the continuing crisis.

All told, last night's broadcast provided a clear example of what a free and public exchange of current issues and ideas is supposed to engender. The topic was Haiti. The three main questions as posed by host Carol Off were:

1. Did Canada help the US engineer a coup?

2. Was Aristide the author of his own fate or the victim of outside forces?

3. Where will Haiti go from here?

The panellists: Via Washington, Haitian Clotilde Charlot of the right-wing Brookings Institution Affiliate, Haiti democracy Project; Via New York, Marguerite Laurent, Haitian-American lawyer and advocate for Haitian democracy and self-determination; Via Montreal, Jean Fils-Aime, a Haitian-Canadian radio broadcaster and; and in the Toronto studio, Jean St-Vil, Haitian-Canadian journalist, broadcaster, and political activist.

Many viewers are likely to have been shocked to hear some of the things being said during the show. St-Vil and Laurent were well prepared for the arguments of Charlot and Fils-Aime, which were exposed as largely spurious and deceptive. Interesting to note is that the anti-Aristide panellists did not offer any analysis that one could not otherwise find in the mainstream press or in State Department press releases. As such, this can be read as the debtate that should be taking place bewteen the pages of our news dailies.

Off begins with the issue of whether Aristide was or was not kidnapped:

Marguerite Laurent: We stand behind Aristide's comments. He did not resign, and is still the legitimate President of Haiti. The US fomented economic, and social destabilization in Haiti. The opposition could not win an election, so the US Marines did their job for them.

Jean St-Vil: If he were not kidnapped he would have addressed the nation on television announcing his decision. Also, on Saturday night on [http://www.moun.com] they were announcing that helicopters had landed in the National Palace grass, that a "diplomatic core" was in the Palace, and that Aristide was going to give his resignation speech in a few minutes. This was not on any mainstream stationÖWe awoke the next day learning Aristide had "resigned".

The day before Aristide "resigned" he was quoted on CNN as having no intentions of leaving prior to the end of his Presidency.

On his "resignation":

Clotilde Charlot: I've seen [a copy] of the resignation letter. It looks authentic. The recent events are the culmination of a deepening crisis of the last three yearsÖ[This was able to come about] with the empowerment of civil society over the last few months, joining forces with the traditional opposition.

An exchange on Aristide's departure ensues between Fils-Aime and Off:

Jean Files-Aime: [Aristide] needed to leave. And because he did not want to, he was forced to.

Off: But what kind of a message does this send about democracy ‚ when Canada, the US, France and others are supporting this?

Fils-Aime: A democracy is a contractÖThere are other articles of the Constitution to consider, such as those regarding "security"Öthis is not just about fulfilling a mandate.

Off: But you have to honour this contract.

Fils-Aime: We need to take back the democratic process: if you don't agree, you can be forced to.

Off asks St-Vil if he believes Colin Powell when he denies that the US forced Aristide out. Footage of Powell [March 1] is shown: "He was not kidnapped, we did not force him on the plane. That's the truth." St-Vil replies: "Colin Powell has lied to the world over the last few years so many timesÖits crazy to even be asking the question."

St-Vil then provides context toward "democratic process" and the coup:

St-Vil: The coup, first of all, was not conducted against Jean Bertrand Aristide, but against the people of Haiti. You have adult people who have fully functioning brains, whoÖvoted for someone. These people don't have big checkbooks; some don't even have proper clothing to wear. They voted and they are full human beings [who have every right to do so].

St-Vil and Laurent respond to the "reductionist" arguments of Charlot and Fils-Aime, who continually attempt to frame the entire Haiti crisis around the character of Aristide:

St-Vil: It is ridiculous to simply focus on Jean Bertrand Aristide. What has happened here is that twice in a row the U.SÖdenied the people of Haiti their right to self-govern. That is the point.

Laurent: Your public [Canadians] must understand: we're not talking about abstracts here. We're talking about flesh and blood*ÖThe Haitian people have the right to self-determination.

Jean St-Vil brings up the issue of Ottawa's involvement. [see Haiti-Progres, V.20, #51, link below], dating back to early 2003.

St-Vil: In fact, while people are focusing on Aristide the real situation is not even about that. It is about foreign occupation; there were meetings in Ottawa planning what's happening today. Here, they discussed [the establishment of] a new police and a democratic Army. The Haitian people, as far as I know, never asked for a return of the Haitian army. [It was decided that] Aristide must go, and foreign ministers are deciding this [with no Haitian representatives invited or present].

Off asks Fils-Aime if he admits that such meetings took place as "the Ottawa Initiative in Haiti" as reported March 15, 2003 in L'Actualite.

Fils-Aime: It is true. There was a meeting of Foreign Ministers of France, Canada, the U.SÖ[The meeting was brought on by] Aristide's "behaviour."

This brings up issues of the opposition, whose interests were represented at this high-level meeting in Ottawa. On the background of the opposition:

Laurent: The Haitian Opposition started out as a USAID creation, in an attempt to undermine democracy. This did not workÖlater [the opposition] met in the Dominican Republic with the Touton Macoutes [former FRAPH leaders]ÖAndre Apaid, one of the leaders of the opposition, owns 15 sweatshops in HaitiÖsupported the previous 1991 coup d'etatÖis known for his maltreatment of workers.

On the "empowerment" of the opposition, US-nurtured:

Laurent: The opposition has been financed by the U.S., E.U., the IRI and others. They represent the interests of big business. They're only platform has been to bring back the Haitian Army, and to keep wages down for potential investors [in more sweatshops].

Both Charlot and Fils-Aime deflect criticism of the opposition. Charlot says such generalizations "are misleading" and Fils-Aime asserts that the opposition is not an "homogenous" mass. Both refer to the fact that several opposition leaders are former Aristide supporters. Charlot emphasizes that there is "no professional, no NGO - like myself ‚ who is not part of that opposition." Neither offer justification for the funding of their opposition by the US, EU, and Canada, as mentioned by Laurent. On the "mixed bag" opposition, St-Vil provides context:

St-Vil: Precisely because alone as political parties they are not going to win anything does the US put all 15 parties together to try to target the opposition to win some votes. When that did not workÖ[We later] see key figures walking side by side with international figures, such as Philippe, Tatoune, Chamblain, who are known criminals, convicted, but [friends] of the US.

In the context of Haiti today, Laurent asserts, "Haitian people are being slaughtered right now." Largely, she argues, this has come about due to the illegal intervention on Haitian affairs by the likes of Roger Noriega, Otto Reich, and Colin Powell. "We should have a say, not them."

In the context of whether Aristide "delivered" on his electoral mandate, Charlot and Fils-Aime assert that he did not, but fail to offer concrete examples of this, preferring instead to focus on petty personal issues. Fils-Aime says he sees Aristide foremost "as a Preacher", and not as a politician. He also claims that Aristide was a "reproduction" of the Duvaliers, another unsubstantiated claim.

Even though Aristide, according to Off, won the 2000 elections "in another landslide", Fils-Aime states, "if there were a referendum, Aristide would get something like 25 per cent of the vote. The other 75 per cent would say no to him." Since the opposition has since 2000 refused to participate in any part of the electoral process, let alone a "referendum", we will never know if this is the case.

In closing, St-Vil reasserts that the US, Canada, and France have now brought the reviled Haitian Army back. As Laurent had earlier pointed out, many "obstructions" on the part of the US, such as "withheld aid by the US and Canada [according to OFF]," part of an ongoing effort "to dominate and control" Haiti. St-Vil laments that this type of discussion is only legitimate if it is being undertaken by the Haitian people.

"There is no evidence that the people of Haiti want that Army to come back. The Army is needed in Haiti by the elites that control all of the money of Haiti but can never win democratic elections."

To return to the initial 3 questions as posed by Carol Off, we can better assess concrete answers as based on this panel discussion:

1. Did Canada help the US engineer a coup?

Every indication yields a resounding yes. All of the points raised by St-Vil, Laurent, and Off to this end are fully substantiated and thoroughly documented. The important point to remember is that the coup was not so much against Aristide as it was against the people of Haiti, already impoverished and always bearing the most destructive brunt of US policy toward Haiti. Charlot and Fils-Aime offered no credible evidence that would suggest otherwise.

2. Was Aristide the author of his own fate or the victim of outside forces?

Given the nature of the opposition and the hostile US policy toward Haiti, the notion of "outside forces" has to be considered foremost in this calculus. The criticisms of Aristide come mostly in the form of veiled character assassinations and demonization. Neither Charlot nor Fils-Aime were able to provide concrete examples toward how Aristide might have been the "author of his own fate". Neither did they offer counter-examples to those posed by Laurent and St-Vil, who noted numerous "obstructions" and impediments that have been imposed by the US, Canada, and others. The point herein ‚ again ‚ is that Aristide should be no more [or less] subject to scrutiny than any other democratically elected leader. Accordingly, it is up to the Haitian people to decide whether or not Aristide has fulfilled a mandate.

3. Where will Haiti go from here?

This question was not addressed head on due to time constraints, though it is not difficult to formulate a response, as based on the discussions. Laurent pointed to the fact that Haitians are being slaughtered in the wake of the US-Canada-France engineered coup d'etat. If US policy [as parroted by others, including Canada] continues unchallenged, the future for Haiti is even more dire than already was the case before the coup. The neoliberal imperatives that were forced upon Haiti with Aristide's return in 1994 ‚ and those Structural Adjustment Programs imposed since ‚ have devastated Haiti economically and socially. The World Bank and IMF, both controlled by the US, have a long history of making impoverished countries worse off after neoliberalism. With Haiti's crumbling agricultural base, infrastructure, its external debt, combined with several years of withheld aid that has suffocated Haiti, the Haitian people are about to have evermore-severe hardships thrust upon them. A reinstalled military can only exacerbate this and lead to countless human rights abuses and deaths. As Laurent pointed out, several international laws and international covenants have been broken in overthrowing Aristide. This spells disaster for Haiti in the coming years unless the responsible parties are held accountable and the Haitian people are allowed to exercise their human right to self-determination.

On the Ottawa Initiative Background:

"Canadian Officials Initiate Planning for Military Ouster of Aristide": http://www.haiti-progres.com/2003/sm030305/eng03-05.html

Counterspin. This episode can be viewed online at: http://counterspin.tv/article.pl?sid=04/02/27/2235249&mode=thread

For general background information regarding the crisis, see:

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