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"DEMOCRACY" KILLED HAITI
First in a Series by
New York, April 7, 2001 (CNS NEWS)
For the past 200 years, Haiti, the world's first black republic--which began as a slave society--has barely been able to survive. Located in the Caribbean, where the slave market was flourishing until the late 18th century, this tiny island was insolent enough to abolish this trade and declare its independence in 1804, after fierce battles against the British, the French, and the Spanish Conquistadors.
Isolated from the rest of the continent, this black republic managed to survive abject humiliation, where the French, after the loss of their colony of Saint Domingue, imposed a 25 million gold indemnity putting the black republic in the situation of having to borrow the money from the French to pay the French. That was 1825.
Randomly, British, Spanish, and German fleets ransomed Haitian cities and levied heavy fines on the defenseless population. At one time, the Germans went so far as to cover the red and blue national flag of Haiti with excrement. This incident is known as L'Affaire Luders and still angers Haitian patriots.
To protect the newly liberated Latin American republics in the early 1800s, the Americans introduced the Monroe Doctrine to keep the European powers at bay. But this protection did not cover Haiti. The Latin American countries themselves were ordered to not invite Haiti to participate as a sovereign nation in their gatherings.
Finally, the Americans themselves, in 1915, sent their Marines to occupy both Haiti and its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, Haiti continued to survive and meet all its international obligations by remaining a member of the League of Nations and continuing to trade with the world.
Haitian society remained a legacy of slave trade, and the mulatto sons of the former plantation owners retained the familial grip. The former slaves, although liberated, were kept in a position of ignorance and misery. More educated, the mulattos also controlled the country's political apparatus. Two societies-the haves and the have nots-were living side by side. Only the former white masters had disappeared.
The Catholic clergy, through an 1860 State Concordat, was invited to share the power with the army and the mulatto bourgeoisie. The masses were kept at bay, provoked to rebellion from time to time, sometimes dividing the country into three different republics.
The movements of the masses were always crushed by those oligarchies, and the situation remained until the U.S. government decided in 1915 to occupy the country. From 1915-1934, the U.S. put Haiti's affairs in order by building health facilities, roads, and establishing a civil service administration. Using the country's elite, a new, disciplined army was created.
With the departure of the Americans, once again this elite was able to benefit from the country building. The masses were relegated to their misery. This situation continued until 1946, after World War II, when a movement of liberation emerged. The antagonism between the mulatto-dominated elite and the black masses again surfaced. But the movement was short lived. The army, under the direction of General Paul Eugene Magloire, crushed it.
When Magloire was overthrown in 1956, the movement resurfaced. After a series of uprisings, a black leader by the name of Francois Duvalier emerged in 1957. This was the beginning of another black liberation revolution in Haiti.
"DEMOCRACY" KILLED HAITI
PART II--BLACK POWER IN HAITI
Second in a Series by
New York, April 8, 2001 (CNS NEWS)
1957 was a turning point in Haitian history. A countryside doctor, Francois Duvalier, was elected president of Haiti. Timid, seemingly inoffensive, Haitian political analysts didn't give him three months to stay in power. But they were wrong. For the next 14 years, with an iron hand he changed Haiti's destiny forever. What is happening today, 44 years later, is still his legacy.
Francois Duvalier belonged to a group of Haitian intellectuals called the Griot, whose members felt that Haiti should revert back to its African heritage to enable the country to reclaim its authenticity and chart the course of its development. As a young student, Duvalier had dedicated his life toward that goal.
Born into poverty in the southern part of Haiti, in the town of Chantal, young Francois followed his mother to the slums of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where he grew up with a stepfather. Young Duvalier rose above his poverty to become a licensed physician, with all the prejudice associated with being black in a mulatto environment. No one knows for sure how he gained admittance to the exclusive medical college, but his complaints in his writings show how much humiliation he had endured in order to become a doctor. To some confidantes, he expressed this openly and always projected changing this society in favor of the country's black majority.
After his graduation as a medical doctor, he was not able, as were his mulatto colleagues, to open his own clinic. He had to work for other doctors until he found a secure job with an American medical project working to eliminate tuberculosis and yaws in Haiti. As a doctor assigned to the countryside, Duvalier had the opportunity to visit and know his country well. He had seen first hand all the misery of the Haitian people. Doctor Duvalier rose to become one of the most important members of the American medical operation team.
His interest in politics grew, but young blacks were not permitted to openly expose their ambitions. Nevertheless, Duvalier courted the masses by creating one of the most powerful political parties: MOP, the Mouvement Ouvriers Paysans, with a powerful union leader, Daniel Fignole. They were inseparable and shared the same ideals for the evolution of the masses, waiting for the moment to seize the power.
Apparently, however, sharing was not the idea of either man. They each wanted to be president. Inevitably, a split occurred, and the two men went their separate ways. In 1957, Daniel Fignole became president of Haiti for 18 days. Duvalier succeeded him and created a dynasty that remained in power for 29 years.
"DEMOCRACY" KILLED HAITI
PART III-THE DUVALIER DYNASTY
Third in a Series by
New York, April 9, 2001 (CNS NEWS)
"It used to be that only the Army, the government, and their validated thugs were allowed to be criminals. These days, with freedom, everyone can be criminal--criminality has been democratized." -
The Duvalier dynasty, father and son, lasted 29 years, from 1957 to 1986. Francois "Papa Doc" died in 1971, leaving his 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" at the helm of the republic. Although political observers had never taken seriously Baby Doc's government, he, nevertheless, remained in power for 15 years. His timidness and lack of knowledge were no match for his scholarly father's dynamic personality.
Who was Lycius Francois Duvalier? What did he want? Very few people know...
His detractors and opponents, with the exception of maligning the man, never studied his life or his goals. One thing was sure, his enemies wanted him dead, and his partisans were willing to die for him. He was a man of great passion, energy, and devotion-and sometimes cruel with his enemies. But, if you could get through to him and convince him of the validity of your case, you could be assured that no one around could prevent him from deciding in your favor. He was an African Chief.
Where did he come from? During his presidential campaign in 1957, in one of his speeches published later on in his book, Oeuvres Essentielles Tome II, page 345, he introduced himself to the population of Cayes and Des Coteaux this way:
Mes Chers Concitoyens et Amis,
Au cours de ma campagne presidentielle a travers le pays, je n'ai jamais ressenti une emotion aussi vive ni aussi profonde que celle qui a secoue tout mon etre au moment de porter la parole a l'adresse de la Ville des Cayes, berceau de l'enfance de mes ancetres. Apres avoir promene mon char triomphalement a travers le Pays ou j'ai recu l'accueil reserve a un Chef d'Etat, j'ai, par un exces de coquetterie, resolu de m'adresser en dernier lieu aux compatriotes de mon Departement d'origine. L'image de nos plaines s'etendant a perte de vue et des nombreux cours d'eau qui les sillonnent, le souvenir de l'activite fievreuse qui, a certaines epoques de l'annee, faisant de la commune de Torbeck alors si florissante et dont Chantal etait un des principaux quartiers, un rucher ou ne s'eteignait jamais la chanson de travail, tout ce tableau d'un passe qui ne s'est point efface de ma memoire, semble - tel un fantome sympathique prendre corps devant moi et s'obstiner a intensifier le sentiment fraternel qui me lie a vous.
La ville des Cayes peut s'enorgueillir d'avoir donne le jour a des fils remarquables qui ont compte parmi nos meilleurs Chefs d'Etat. Fabre Geffrard a eu le merite d'avoir mis a execution le programme de l'Instruction Publique elabore par le Ministre Lysius Salomon sous l'Empereur Soulouque. Il a ainsi largement contribue a repandre la lumiere dans nos masses ignorantes. Boisrond Canal a apporte au Pouvoir les vertus democratiques dont la pratique dans le Gouvernement de la Cite a ete reclamee en 1843, dans le Manifeste de Praslin, par les Revolutionnaires des Cayes, terre classique du liberalisme.
This speech is the only hint that we have about Duvalier's childhood.
In a poem he wrote, Les Sanglots d'un Exile, he described his misfortune and said that he considered himself as an exile in his own country.
With all this saga, we find young Duvalier living in Port-au-Prince with a father, Duval Duvalier, a Justice of the Peace, known as "Pepe." We assume that the boy did well in school, because he was admitted to medical school. A mulatto schoolmate at the Lycee Petion, where he finished his secondary school, referred to Duvalier as a taciturn boy who never spoke nor participated in activities-but always listened attentively. The classmate even recalled that he offered to share his lunch with young Duvalier, who refused indignantly, saying, "I'm not hungry, and, besides, I won't take food from you." When Duvalier became President of Haiti, this former schoolmate met with him. To the man's astonishment, Duvalier recalled the offer of food so many years before and said, "I will elevate the level of the blacks in this country so they will not have to beg anyone to share their meal."
While in medical school, the eyes of Francois Duvalier were on politics, and he decided to participate in all of the country's intellectual activities. He became a journalist, a sociologist, an ethnologist. Upon his graduation as a medical doctor, not able to have his own clinic, he was fortunate to be recruited by a U.S. health mission, which provided him with what he wanted the most-the chance to travel all over the country. He rose to become the medical director of the mission and seized the opportunity to create, with Daniel Fignole, a political party called MOP, Mouvement Ouvriers Paysans.
Now Duvalier was where he belonged-in politics. He was appointed Director of Public Works, then Minister of Public Health.
A few years later, in 1957, he became President of Haiti. His first duty was to reduce the influence of the mulattos, the army, and the clergy. His enemies refused to cede one inch of their power. He fought back cruelly. Under his administration, a new social class emerged: the middle class. He reorganized the university, opening admission to blacks; reorganized the army with black officers; kept the army at bay by creating a strong militia, loyal to him; dismantled the foreign clergy and imposed on the Vatican Haitian bishops at the helm of the Church.
He proceeded step by step, and by his death in 1971, an international airport had been built, a hydroelectric dam had been constructed, roads were built, and the country's international debt was reduced to zero.
He was no friend of the Americans. But, he did not think that communism was the way to solve Haiti's problems. He stayed away from Castro and didn't even join Tito's Non-Aligned Movement.
By 1971, he was already a broken man and isolated. To confidantes he said, "I have failed. My government is not what it was supposed to be." In a speech to the nation, he denounced his close associates saying, "They are not qualified."
He died quietly, withdrawn from the affairs of state.
Young Baby Doc, Jean-Claude Duvalier, acceded to the presidency with the same group that his father had denounced earlier. At 19 years old, the boy was more interested in sports and social activities than politics. The first act of his government was to create a game room at the National Palace, where all the officers of the Presidential Guard came to amuse themselves. Reversing his father's policy, he invited members of the mulatto elite to be part of his entourage. He distanced himself from his father's friends and from the Militia, while embracing the mulatto clan.
"My father made the political revolution, and I will make the economic revolution," Jean-Claude Duvalier announced in a speech. This new doctrine was labeled Jean-Claudism and replaced the noirist doctrine of his father. The mulattos were jubilant and occupied center stage in his government. They even made a law punishing prejudiced acts against the mulattos.
The Americans reacted by pouring aid into Haiti in order to eliminate the noirist Duvalierist movement, which had been linked to certain civil rights activities in the United States.
The Haitian youth reacted by embracing the government of Jean-Claude Duvalier as one of their own. For a time, the young man was so popular he could be found riding safely, unaccompanied, on his motorcycle in the countryside. But that didn't last.
A small group of Duvalierist activists decided that the time for change had come. Their activities led to the overthrow of Baby Doc on February 7, 1986. Facing an uncertain situation, the Reagan Administration reacted by supporting a military junta, comprised of the very people that the movement had wanted to eliminate. Cleverly, the junta called upon the Haitian diaspora, including the communists, to help them consolidate the power. The army, once again, after 29 years, became the center of power. A new game had begun.
"DEMOCRACY" KILLED HAITI
FOREIGN INTERVENTION IN HAITI
Fourth in a series by Serge Beaulieu
April 10, 2001 (CNS NEWS)
In early February 1986, President Reagan, while traveling with the Press
Corps on Air Force 1, made a booboo by announcing prematurely the departure
of Jean-Claude Duvalier from Haiti.
The statement was relayed to me while I was in downtown Port-au-Prince
standing right in front of Baby Doc, who was announcing that he was
"standing still like the tail of a monkey."
As a representative of United Press International, I immediately jumped
across the street to a telex and sent the news that Duvalier was still in
power in Port-au-Prince and described my meeting with him a few minutes
The Washington Bureau of UPI couldn't understand how I could be saying
something contrary to the president of the United States and said I must be
mistaken. My wife, who was also the representative of EFE, the Spanish News
Agency, reported the news of Duvalier still being in Haiti and evidently
still in power. EFE published the news without hesitation. In Washington
circles, because we reported accurately, we became a casualty by
contradicting the president of the United States.
A few days later, however, Jean-Claude Duvalier did leave Haiti for France,
where he now resides.
Larry Speakes, the spokesman for the U.S. President, when called to explain
the President's statement on Air Force 1, said, "The man was a prophet."
What he failed to explain was that Brian Scowcroft, the President's Security
Adviser, had been busy working for weeks to find a country to accept Baby
Doc, and confusion between the departure and the acceptance by a country got
mixed up in communicating the news to the U.S. President.
That was the first direct intervention of the U.S. in the affairs of Haiti
in recent years.
With Baby Doc out of power, the U.S. Administration had put into place a
military junta which, to their surprise, was comprised of names that they
had not chosen: Gerard Gourgue, a civil rights activist, Colonel Prosper
Avril, and Colonel Vales. The Washington list did contain the names of
General Henry Namphy and General William Regala.
This confusion did not go well as the first order of business of Washington
putting a government in Haiti. But, a few weeks later, the three Musketeers
(Gourgue, Avril, and Vales) were booted out, and General Namphy assumed the
leadership of a junta, along with William Regala, the pair chosen by
Walter Fauntroy, a U.S. congressman and member of the Black Caucus, was
dispatched to Haiti to tell the Haitians that they "should kneel down and
kiss the ground in thanks that such a man as General Henry Namphy was at the
helm of the Republic." That was a clear signal that the military had the
full confidence of the Reagan Administration. Namphy was invited
immediately to Washington to meet the U.S. President.
The alliance of the Haitian-diaspora and the military started to show some
cracks. By now each had its own agenda: each wanted to stay in power or, at
least, choose a figurehead as president.
A new Constitution was drafted. In order to make it attractive to the
population, the military had its representatives include Article 291, which
prohibited the Duvalierists from occupying elective office for at least ten
years. A plebiscite was held. Everyone rushed to the polls to approve the
new Constitution. Overnight the army became a popular institution.
The next move was to elect a president. A conflict arose again. The army
did not see eye to eye with the population. After a survey was made giving
the lead to Gerard Gourgue, orders were received directly from Washington to
crush his partisans and prevent his election as president of Haiti,
according to statements made in an interview with Gourgue. The high command
of the Haitian army executed the instructions to the letter and killed
several of Gourgue's partisans on November 29, 1987. Gourgue, himself, had
to go into hiding.
Huge demonstrations that accused the army as the enemy of the nation
resurfaced all over the country. General Namphy received orders to find a
way out - and quick. The army high command invited Haitian leaders Leslie
Manigat, Hubert Deronceray, and Gregoire Eugene to a meeting and promised
separately to each that he would be the next president. They all departed
as the darlings of the Haitian Armed Forces.
It was amusing to sit at the Hotel Oloffson and the Hotel El Rancho and hear
General Namphy's brother, Joe, briefing reporters on which Haitian candidate
was leading in the polls, making sure that everyone knew that his brother,
the General, was staying on the sidelines.
Finally, the night before the election, Joe Namphy was seen in his own plane
transporting ballots to the town of Jacmel for Gregoire Eugene, his personal
candidate, not knowing that his brother, General Henry Namphy, and Colonel
Prosper Avril had already cut a deal with Carlos Andres Peres, President of
Venezuela, to put Leslie Manigat as the next president of Haiti.
Observers said it was a six million dollar payoff.
General Namphy had again made a coup.
Four months later, Manigat wanted to play the real role of president by
firing Namphy and transferring Colonel Prosper Avril from his Palace job.
Manigat was overthrown by Namphy.
A few months later, a group of soldiers made President Namphy prisoner in
his palace and sent him into exile in the Dominican Republic. The soldiers
then promoted Colonel Prosper Avril to the rank of General and gave him the
power. At that point, Washington became so irritated, a plan was put into
place to prevent further erosion of the situation.
The Haitian diaspora leftist group, which by now had become part of the
political spectrum, decided to boycott all the army's activities. Not
strong politically in Haiti, the diaspora group, with the help of the army,
had eliminated the Duvalierists with Article 219. With the divisions inside
the army, this group was making a bid, once again, for the power. All they
needed was a popular leader. Once again, they held huge demonstrations all
over the country.
The U.S. Administration panicked and asked Prosper Avril, whom they had
never liked and never trusted anyway, to leave immediately-which he did. A
woman justice on the highest court, Mrs. Ertha Pascal Trouillot, was hand
picked by the Ambassador of Canada to Haiti to be the next president. Her
mission was to organize a quick election, without military interference.
Events were going smoothly until Roger Lafontant, a former Minister of
Interior and head of the Tontons Macoutes movement under Jean-Claude
Duvalier, stepped out from his exile in the Dominican Republic and returned
to Haiti with the intention of seizing the power.
All of the Haitian activists decided to unite against him and finally
decided that Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a young, charismatic, Haitian,
Catholic priest, who had been in difficulty with the Vatican, might be the
Messiah to save them and Haiti from a return of the Duvalierist movement.
Messiah he was. He conducted his flock to a triumphal December 1990
election, where he was overwhelmingly elected as president. It was a
turning point in the affairs of Haiti.
"DEMOCRACY" KILLED HAITI
HAITI -- MERRY-GO-ROUND POLITICS
Fifth in a series by Serge Beaulieu
April 12, 2001 (CNS NEWS)
The Presidential election of December 16, 1990 could have been interpreted as an attempt to end a vicious political circle, which has been going on since the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier in February 1986. Militant leftists, coming mostly from Europe and Canada, united under the banner of Jean Bertrand Aristide, known as Titid, a populist, firebrand, Roman Catholic priest.
This coalition had put in check all the traditional forces in Haiti. Even former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, acting as an interested observer, could not prevent a humiliating defeat for Marc L. Bazin, a former World Bank employee and favorite presidential candidate of the U.S. Administration.
By 3:00 P.M. on election day, even before the polls closed, Aristide was declared the winner, provoking a huge, joyous demonstration in capital city Port-au-Prince. Jimmy Carter could barely get to the airport before confirming that Aristide was the winner. It was suggested that hours before, with his faithful companion former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, he was trying-unsuccessfully-to mediate between the two Haitian presidential candidates.
The Haitian army immediately aligned itself behind the winner and vowed to respect the decision of the majority. The FNCD (National Coalition of the Democratic Front) was proud to have built such a coalition that even the U.S. Administration could not break. The news traveled worldwide that another country in Latin America had been liberated. Militants from all over the world requested to join in for the final assault.
The inauguration of the new government was scheduled, according to the Constitution, for February 7, 1991. Before it happened, Roger Lafontant, former Minister of the Interior of Baby Doc, with a few of his partisans, made a desperate attempt to install himself as president by occupying the National Palace. For a few hours, he was trapped there, until his own friends from the High Command of the Armed Forces, whom he had fired a few hours earlier, arrested him. The population reacted angrily by attacking Duvalierists or anyone perceived as sympathetic to Lafontant's cause.
On February 7, 1991, Aristide was installed at the Palace as President of Haiti. Before he terminated his inaugural speech, he ordered the immediate removal of key members of the Army High Command and cleverly suggested the names of their replacements. General Herard Abraham, Commander of the Haitian Armed Forces, complied immediately and promoted Aristide's friend, Col. Raoul Cedras, to the rank of General. A few weeks later, Abraham himself resigned, leaving the High Command in the hands of General Raoul Cedras.
Aristide came into power without any experience and was manipulated by extremist members of the FNCD who paraded themselves as power brokers. At one time they even suggested the departure of Aristide's hand picked Prime Minister, Rene Preval. At that point, Aristide reacted, creating a schism between his government and the FNCD.
Some months later, General Raoul Cedras, who had been kept on the sidelines as an interim Commander-in-Chief, instigated a coup against Aristide. In September 1991, Jean Bertrand Aristide was taken prisoner in his own palace and sent into exile in Venezuela. His government had lasted seven months.
"DEMOCRACY" KILLED HAITI
ARISTIDE IN EXILE
By Serge Beaulieu
After a 2-week visit to Haiti in March, Serge Beaulieu began to write a series, "Democracy" Killed Haiti, to take a look at Haiti and its problems today. This is part 6.
April 14, 2001 (CNS NEWS)
After his overthrow by the military, President Jean Bertrand Aristide was taken to Caracas in a plane provided by the government of Carlos Andres Perez, the President of Venezuela. Aristide received a warm welcome, enabling Venezuela to repay courtesies extended to their liberation hero, Simon Bolivar, by President Petion of Haiti in the 1800s. However, the presence of Aristide did not go unnoticed by the opposition in Venezuela.
Not long after Aristide took refuge in Venezuela, a colonel in the Venezuelan army, Hugo Chavez, led a military coup against President Perez. The coup was unsuccessful, but it was an indication to Aristide that Venezuela, with so many military milling around, was not a stable country in which he could plot his return to Haiti. He decided to move to Paris. However, for his purposes, he was too far away from Haiti.
The United States offered the best opportunity. But, how could he get there? Aristide's partisans always suspected that the CIA under the Bush Administration was responsible for the coup that torpedoed their president. Nevertheless, they decided to put a networking strategy into operation.
France, which for decades had let the U.S. play the key role in Haiti, suddenly had become interested in having its voice heard in Haitian affairs. A group was formed, calling itself the Friends of Haiti. It included France, Venezuela, Canada, and the United States.
U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, a French protégé, was instructed to jump into the act and make the group a U.N. team. The Friends of Haiti became the friends of the Secretary-General.
The government of Carlos Andres Perez was given the job of steering the action at the Organization of American States (OAS) to bring the case of Haiti as a threat to international peace directly to the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The military leaders in Haiti and their allies were unfamiliar with the concept of networking and had no idea that such an operation had been swiftly and quietly undertaken against them. They were relying on a few friends from the Pentagon, who told them to stay put.
The OAS Council of Ministers acted quickly to pass a resolution recommending action from the U.N. General Assembly. That was the beginning of the isolation of Haiti's military rulers.
In order to be close to the action, Aristide had to move to the United States. The Bush government was persuaded to accept the request, and President Aristide landed in the United States and made Washington, D.C. his official residence. The Embassy of Haiti slowly evolved into a Haitian palace where Aristide operated as a head of state. From there, he named his ministers and accredited ambassadors to every country. He was declared the sole and legitimate ruler of Haiti.
The Bush Administration, which had earlier frozen all Haitian assets, issued an Executive Order permitting the Haitian President-in-Exile unlimited access to the funds so that he would not be operating at the expense of the United States.
For the first time, Aristide was in control of his own operation. He did not have to justify his actions to anyone or any group. He spent his time by revealing to the Washington audience his superb quality as a diplomat, enchanting people in all circles. The networking force changed and now revolved around Aristide's personal charisma. He exuded the image of a man of God, while his enemies were depicted as assassins, criminals, and drug dealers. There were pressures, however, in the Bush camp to reevaluate the support of Aristide and not return him to Haiti. Bush himself was quoted much later as saying that he would never have returned Aristide to power.
Aristide understood that Bush would never return him to power and discreetly courted the Clinton group. He was introduced to the Kennedy clan and dined periodically with influential members of the Washington press corps. He was introduced to high-ranking members of the Democratic Party, even before Clinton became president of the U.S. When the Democrats took power, Aristide--and Aristide alone--masterminded the new friendship with the man who would later return him to power, with a force of 20,000 U.S. Marines.
The return of Jean Bertrand Aristide to power was the result of a networking operation between Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Boutros-Boutros Ghali. The action was a joint U.S./U.N. operation. It was one of the imprints of that president of the United States--what Bill wanted, Bill got.
Back in Haiti, the partisans of Aristide stayed put, facing the military all over the country. When Aristide was returned safely to Port-au-Prince in October 1994, it was a humiliating defeat for the military, and it was the beginning of the end for an army that had thought that after the departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier it was going to maintain control of the affairs of state.
THE 1994 RETURN OF ARISTIDE
By Serge Beaulieu
After a 2-week visit to Haiti in March, Serge Beaulieu began to write a
series, "Democracy" Killed Haiti, to take a look at Haiti and its problems
today. This is part 7.
April 17, 2001 (CNS NEWS)
The return of President Jean Bertrand Aristide in October 1994 was
considered a foreign policy success for U.S. President Bill Clinton who, at
the same time, claimed control of the leadership of the U.S. Congress's
It was with pride that Jesse Jackson, Charles Rangel, Randall Robinson, and
other preeminent black leaders responded to the invitation to accompany
President Aristide in a three-hour trip on U.S. Air Force One back to his
country and to his palace.
President Clinton also sent his Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, the
Kennedys, and all the Who's Who in Washington public relations. It was a
demonstration of power, guaranteed by 20,000 U.S. Marines, who had been
stationed a month earlier in Haiti. It was also the writing of a new
chapter in international relations: "The right to interfere."
The Haitian people could not care less about this international
demonstration. They only wanted their Titid back, as Aristide was
affectionately called by his followers. His partisans, however, had to be
programmed to not say, in their jubilance, "Titid-Long Live Titid, President
When President Aristide appeared at the door of the plane on the tarmac in
capital city Port-au-Prince, he was the same, frail, reserved man-almost
shy-looking in a circular way at everybody around him, his face made
seemingly smaller by his large glasses. He instinctively restrained himself
when he saw a pack of Haitian military men, the same who had overthrown him
three years before. Nevertheless, he slowly descended the steps, greeting
first his Prime Minister and then the members of his cabinet.
Some people noticed that he hadn't lost his sense of humor. When he met
Robert Monde, president of the Chamber of Deputies, who, months earlier had
bragged, while dismissing the possibility of the return of Aristide, saying,
"One has never seen an egg going back inside a chicken." Some people on the
scene reported that Aristide, while shaking Monde's hand, said softly, "The
egg has returned."
Aristide was taken by helicopter to the National Palace, where he
entertained all the dignitaries accompanying him. Thousands and thousands of
people were massed in front of the Haitian palace, greeting him by shouts of
"Long Live Titid. Titid is back." It was one of the most orderly
demonstrations of joy that the Haitian people had exhibited for a long time.
Aristide lost no time putting his agenda in operation. His first concern
was his new mandate. Certain laws had to be promulgated. He called on
Monde to work with him at the palace so that the laws could be passed by
Parliament, without objection. Monde was so happy, he became overzealous.
Later on, however, fearing the return of the egg, he left the country after
losing his congressional seat.
The question now was would Aristide be permitted to reclaim the three years
he had spent in exile? The Haitian Parliament had no objection, but a
warning from Washington was flashing: his five-year term must end as
scheduled. President Clinton, himself, confirmed it while visiting his
protege in capital city Port-au-Prince. "In a democracy," said Clinton,
"what counts is the next election." Aristide understood and complied.
The second topic on his agenda was the question of the army, which he
considered most imperative. He had selected as minister of defense one of
his trusted friends, General Wilthan Lherisson, known for sharing his point
of view about an undisciplined army, organizer of coups d'etats.
At the same time, a distinguished visitor, Pepe Figueres, a former president
of Costa Rica, was invited to Haiti to share his country's experience
functioning without an armed forces.
In the meantime, the U.S. Administration appeared to have been questioning
Lherisson's strategy of retiring or transferring high-ranking members of the
Haitian Armed Forces to barracks in the provinces. Before any explanation
could be provided, Aristide abruptly issued a Presidential Decree abolishing
the Haitian Armed Forces altogether.
My former classmate, General Wilthan Lherisson decided to give me the scoop
while I was on the air, broadcasting on Radio Liberte. But no one believed
the news. From my 4-hour daily talk show, I had to go to six hours, trying
to explain to callers that the news was real: the Armed Forces had been
disbanded. I made sure, however, that a high-ranking official of the
Ministry of Defense brought for me to see first hand the original decree
that was about to be published in the official government newspaper, Le
Moniteur. One of my callers, rejoicing, said, "If it is true, Aristide has
fulfilled his mandate-he does not have to do anything else for the people."
To my surprise, no one called with any adverse reaction. The Armed Forces
of Haiti had been abandoned by the people, and its members did not dare to
With the problem of the Army having been solved, very little time was left
for Aristide to prepare a democratic transfer of power. A series of
political crimes were imputed to his government, but Aristide brushed aside
the criticism. The transfer of power was his goal.
Three names were circulated: Leon Jeune, a civil rights activist claiming a
family relationship with Aristide; Claudette Werleigh, an unconditional
Aristide loyalist and former prime minister; and Rene Preval, a confidante
and former prime minister whom Aristide referred to as marassa, which means
twin brother in Haitian patois.
Too sure of himself, Leon Jeune ran into trouble very early in the game.
The standard "plotting against the security of the state" charges were
leveled against him. Haitians understood the signal, and Jeune's candidacy
The issue was finally settled when Aristide, touring the country, asked the
people who they were going to vote for. Without waiting for an answer, he
gave the signal that he was going to vote for Preval. With a low turnout,
Preval became the next president of Haiti, the replacement of Aristide.
"DEMOCRACY" KILLED HAITI
THE GOVERNMENT OF PREVAL
By Serge Beaulieu
The Government of Rene Preval
Rene Garcia Preval took over the power in the shadow of a strong leader,
Jean Bertrand Aristide, who had established his residence not too far from
the National Palace. It was well known to everyone that the new government
of Haiti had two heads. Preval had to navigate a thin line in order to not
upset his mentor, who had named his residence Tabarre and which virtually
became a second palace.
However, Gerard Pierre-Charles, an Aristide associate who had lived most of
his life in Mexico under the tutalage of the government revolutionary party,
PRI, which had maintained the power for 50 years, felt that his time had
come. He reorganized the Lavalas party into Operation Party Lavalas (OPL)
and organized a successful congressional election. With a majority in
Parliament, Pierre-Charles was under the impression that he could manage the
A split between Gerard Pierre-Charles and Aristide became evident when
Aristide reorganized himself under the La Famille Lavalas, leaving the OPL
under Pierre-Charles. Preval reacted immediately by giving his allegiance
to the new party of Aristide, leaving Pierre-Charles on the sidelines.
Pierre Charles reacted by blocking all votes on matters presented to
Parliament by the government of Preval. Pierre-Charles even removed the
name of Lavalas from OPL and replaced it by Operation Peuple en
Lutte --Operation People in Battle.
The international community continued, nevertheless, to support the
government of Preval, but major funding was blocked, since there was no
functioning Parliament to approve projects. Preval was not even able to
name a prime minister.
The battle between the government of Preval-Aristide and OPL continued until the end
of Preval's 5-year term, leaving the country in complete desperation,
misery, and insecurity. Several unresolved political murders were imputed
to the government. But the time of the transfer of power had come. Preval,
once again, nominated by decree an electoral council to organize the
On May 21, 2000, the election was held, and Aristide's La Famille Lavalas
swept the congressional, provincial, and municipal contests.
An observer from the OAS, Ambassador Orlando Manville from Barbados,
registered a complaint before Haiti's Electoral Council (CEP) about the vote
counting method. The OPL jumped on the bandwagon, and a crisis was created.
Incidentally, it was the international community that proposed the
methodology of the vote counting process in past elections. The president of
the CEP, Leon Manus defended the method used, before he disavowed himself
from the government of Rene Preval, which had organized the election.
The OPL was in a position now to call for a boycott of the presidential
election, which was supposed to be held on November 26, 2000. It
immediately created with other opposition forces, particularly with Evans
Paul (alias K Plume) head of the FNCD party, a coalition called National
Convergence, whose purpose was to boycott the November 26 election.
Preval did not take into consideration the opposition and continued to
organize the election as scheduled. President Aristide, running unopposed,
won another 5-year mandate. Even after the proclamation of the new
president and Aristide's swearing in, the two antagonists, called upon each
other to negotiate.
The international community, by its involvement, had to recognize the OPL
faction as the sole and legitimate opposition in Haiti and President
Aristide as the legitimate president of the country. Their meddling in the
affairs of the country has put them in a situation where they are no longer
a disinterested party. It is at this conjuncture that I landed in
Port-au-Prince on March 8, trying to bridge the gap.
NEXT: Serge Beaulieu in Port-au-Prince