Friday, March 18, 2011

Note on Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return to Haiti

As questionable friends of Haiti such as Amy Goodman, Danny Glover and others celebrate the return to Haiti of a man as politically and personally corrupt and ruthless as any that I have ever reported on, it seems only fitting that, if they don't have the dignity or respect to do so, some foreigner should write a note of apology to the many Haitians who fell opposing the man's rancid and despotic regime, or for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So here it goes.

On behalf of all the misguided and ignorant foreigners who still act as apologists for a man who did as much to impoverish Haiti and destroy its fragile institutions as any ruler in its history (and this is by no means a complete list), I would like to apologize
  • To Marie Christine Jeune, the courageous young female Police Nationale d'Haïti (PNH) officer who had publicly criticized Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s attempts to link the police force with armed gangs and was found, raped and mutilated in March 1995
  • To Yvon Toussaint, opposition senator for the Organisation du Peuple en Lutte (OPL) party, gunned down in March 1999
  • To the thirteen people murdered in the Fort Mercredi slum in June 2001 by the forces of gang leader Felix “Don Fefe” Bien-Aimé, whom Jean-Bertrand Aristide had appointed as director of the Port-au-Prince cemetery as a reward for his loyalty
  • To Brignol Lindor, the journalist murdered by the pro-Aristide Domi Nan Bwa gang in Petit-Goâve on 3 December 2001
  • To Ramy Daran, assistant to the Mouvement Chrétien Pour une Nouvelle Haiti's Luc Mesadieu, burned alive by a pro-Aristide gang in Gonaives on 17 December 2001
  • To Eric Pierre, the 27-year-old medical student from Jacmel, was was shot and killed while leaving the Haiti’s Faculté de Medicine in January 2003 on a day of planned anti- government demonstrations, with witnesses saying attackers fled the scene in a car with official TELECO plates and even providing license numbers
  • To 25-year-old Saurel Volny, shot and killed by police during an anti-government demonstration in Gonaives in January 2003.
  • To Ronald Cadet, a student activist who was shot and killed in Haiti's capital in February 2003 after being forced to live in hiding since November 2002
  • To the eleven people, including Michelet Lozier, mother of five, killed by Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s security forces as they raided the Gonaives slum of Raboteau in the early morning hours of 2 October 2003
  • To the fourteen people, including seventeen-year-old Josline Michel and the month old baby girl of Micheline Limay, also killed by Jean-Betrand Aristide’s security forces when they again raided Raboteau on 27 October 2003
  • To Danielle Lustin, the university professor, feminist activist and expert in microfinancing murdered on 22 October 2003 and whose memorial mass at Sacre-Coeur was interrupted by a gang of young mean descending from a white pickup bearing “Officielle” license plates, who pummeled them with rocks and bottles, crying “Viv Aristide” and threatening them in the most base, misogynistic terms
  • To Maxime Desulmond, the well-known student leader from Jacmel, killed when pro-Aristide gangs fired upon an anti-government demonstration in Port-au-Prince on 7 January 2004
  • To Leroy Joseph, Kenol St. Gilles, Yveto Morancy and the rest of the at least 27 people who were murdered and the women raped by a combination of PNH, Unite de Securite de la Garde du Palais National d’Haiti and Bale Wouze forces in Saint Marc between 11 February and 29 February 2004.
  • To my dear friend James "Billy" Petit-Frere, and his brother Winston "Tupac" Jean-Bart, and all the other young men used as cannon fodder by Aristide and then abandoned to their fates or their lives extinguished (such as Roland François) when they were no longer of use
Also on behalf of we foreigners, I would like to apologize to the Haitian constitution, shredded like Lyonel Trouillot's "faded piece of cloth fought over by dogs" by Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the following manner:
  • By a demobilization of the Haitian army in April 1995, which was illegal without a constitutional amendment, as the army was still enshrined in Article 263 of the Haitian constitution.
  • By his violation of Article 7 of Haiti's constitution, which states that "the cult of personality is categorically forbidden. Effigies and names of living personages may not appear on the currency, stamps, seals, public buildings, streets or works of art." Jean-Bertrand Aristide placed hagiographic billboards bearing his image throughout the country, and the state television station TNH showed ceaseless homages to the president.
  • By personally and directly blocking the investigation into the murder of Haiti's foremost journalist, Radio Haiti Inter owner Jean Dominique and Jean-Claude Louissaint - as attested to by the staff of Radio Haiti Inter, investigating magistrate Claudy Gassant and now-PNH chief Mario Andresol - and and by pressuring Justice Henry Kesner Noel, to sign a re-arrest warrant for Prosper Avril in April 2002, among other acts, Jean-Bertrand Aristide violated Article 60 of Haiti's constitution, which delegated firmly the independence of the executive and judicial branches of government.
  • By attempting in September 2003 revive a presidential decree passed by Jean-Claude Duvalier on October 12, 1977 ("broadcast information must be precise, objective and impartial, and must come from authorized sources which are to be mentioned when broadcasting. Those who are responsible for the broadcasts have to control the programs to ensure that the information "even when it is correct ”cannot harm or alarm the population by its form, presentation or timing. The broadcast stations will provide a channel for the broadcasting of official programs, if so required by the public powers .") which was a naked assault on articles 28-1, 28-2 and 245 of Haiti's constitution, which forbids censorship and protects free speech and journalistic practices.
  • To say nothing of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's arming of a generation of desperately poor street children which violated Article 268 of the Haitian constitution whereby the PNH were to be the only body with the right to distribute and circulate weapons in the country.
Haitian people, you deserve better foreign friends than those who touch your soil today with the man who victimized you so. Perhaps some day you will have the foreign friends that you deserve. Until then, I know you will persevere. You are the children of heroes, after all.

Kenbe fem,



robert said...

Just what I was pondering sadly: what must the families of those,some of whom were once friends of his and later critics, who died mysteriously while Mr. Aristide was President. Those crimes never having been solved; those funerals that were disrupted inexplicably. Patrick

Patrick said...

**Correction: "What about those families . . . "**

Paul said...

To my beloved Godfather Henri-Paul Mourral, consul of France in Cap Haitien, who was brutally gunned down by Aristide's thugs.

Haiti-seisme said...

And also Pere Jean Pierre-Louis gunned down on August 3rd 1998 and whose funeral at Mont carmel church in Bizoton was interrupted by Chime screaming Viv titid. 13 year of unresolved crime. Elizabeth

Valerie Alice said...

Col.Guy Andre Francois,a beloved husband and father, an exceptionnal haitian citizen who was innocently incarcerated for 2 years 2 months and 10 days by JBA's people despite the intervention of OAS. He was later brutaly assassinated. Another unresolved crime under the lavalas regime!

carl said...

I feel very sorry for friends and families that lost their loves one. I am not an Aristid fan, but we must also remembered that these crimes were not just committed by Aristid partisant only, but for most of our Presidents. everyone lost a loves one in almost every regime. I think its time for haiti to change in general, not just to remember what one particular regime put us through. its about ALL of them.

Stanley said...

Carl could not agree with you more..

George said...

I'm curious about the historical context of these incidents ... as I recall JBA was first elected by a landslide vote, and then overthrown after about seven months as President. Then there was a long reign of terror and atrocities during the regime of Raul Cedras. Then Clinton restored JBA. Did the atrocities you lay at the feet of JBA "gangs", "thugs", and "security forces" occur during the seven months of JBA 's initial presidency, or did they occur after his reinstatement by Clinton? If the latter, were they in any way retaliations against the atrocities committed by the forces of Cedras and company? ... and were they ordered by JBA, or merely done in his name? Is he guilty of directing them, or of failing to condemn them, or of actively condoning them, or what? So much brutality begetting brutality, so many puppets killing each other under the control of so few puppeteers.

Stanley Lucas said...

Thank you for covering this topic so extensively and with a fact based approach. Aristide's network of international supporters have largely been successful in burying his true record in Haiti. I've also highlighted the level of corruption in his network looking at the drug trafficking and political violence perpetrated by his regime. I believe we should also call attention to the role of UN Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti, Paul Farmer. As part of an international body, you would expect Dr. Farmer to be neutral, but he has been anything but. He has taken a high profile role supporting Aristide and displaying a shocking level of partisanship in Haiti. He has a long history of supporting Aristide but recently signed the one page ad in the Miami Herald demanding Aristide's return, and traveled to South Africa to meet with Aristide immediately prior to his return to Haiti (who paid for that trip we wonder? Haiti reconstruction funds?) He also greeted Aristide at the airport in Haiti. Overall though, it seems Aristide's return has been a non-event so far, and he has found his support in Haiti has dwindled. Sharing with you my last piece:

Michael Deibert said...

What I would say is this:

- By creating to and adding to an atmosphere of anarchy in the county through the use of armed mobs as a bludgeon against his political opponents

- By applying political pressure when his associates (René Civil, Harold Severe, etc) who were accused of crimes were sporadically hauled before Haiti's fragile judicial system

- By undermining the independence of the judiciary by applying pressure in instances such as the Jean Dominique case and the Prosper Avril case

- By using irregular armed civilian forces in collaboration with Haiti's official security forces to harass and terrorize his political opposition

-By wantonly violating the articles of Haiti's constitution above

-By politicizing Haiti's nascent police force to the extent which he did which also, curiously, coincided with the collapse of the entire top command of the force into the hands of drug traffickers

Mr. Aristide contributed as much as anyone in the last 20 years to the atmosphere of lawlessness and impunity that has undone countless lives and finally unraveled his own presidency.

These are the facts that his foreign advocates, some of them well paid to be so, fail to see or admit

Given these facts, I am not at all surprised that his second government ended in the manner in which it did. Nor do I hold out much hope that the man will not be up to scheming and plotting from the moment he touched Haiti's soil.

My friends laboring under the hot sun in Port-au-Prince or in the fields of the Plateau Central, you deserve much better. Though you will likely never read this message, you true friends abroad have not forgotten you and will continue to work to try and give you the kind of country that you deserve.

Wilkenson said...

Everything the writer says here is all against Jean-Bertrand Aristide and nothing to correlate crimes committed under both "Papa and Baby Doc" regime and this may give the reader a sense of Haitian History associated with political uprising.

Michael Deibert said...

Hi Wilkenson (I knew a now-deceased gang leader from Grand Ravine called Wilkens, interesting...)

This note is about Jean-Bertrand Aristide, not the Duvalier family dictatorship (which I was long before my time in Haiti). But, if you're interested, I extensively detailed some of the many crimes of those two governments in my 2005 book Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti (Seven Stories Press).

If you would be interested in other accounts of the Duvalier era, I would recommend perhaps the books Papa Doc: Haiti & Its Dictator by Bernard Diederich and Al Burt, or Radiographie d'une Dictature by Gérard Pierre-Charles.