From the March 2004 Idaho Observer:
Central African Republic holds Aristide incommunicado per U.S. directive
BANGUI, Central African Republic (CAR) -- Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide has been exiled to this remote location and is being held incommunicado at the Palace of the Renaissance here, according to the Haitian Support Network (HSN).
Port au Prince, the nation's capital, has been the scene of vocal, anti-U.S. protests for the last several days. Some 10,000 Haitians have been demonstrating against the U.S.-led February 28 coup d'etat wherein their elected president was apparently forced into exile. Haitians are demanding the return of Aristide and an end to the U.S. occupation and support of dissident political factions.
A U.S. delegation arrived in CAR March 7 to meet with Aristide. Kim Ives of HSN and a friend of Haitian First Lady Mildred Aristide, reported, This morning, the delegation went to the Palace of the Renaissance, the presidential compound where President Aristide is being held.
Ives had spoken to the Foreign Minister on Thursday to inform him that the delegation was coming to the Central African Republic to meet with President Aristide. When the delegation, including Aristide's attorney Brian Concannon and two members of the international Action Center representing former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, were told by the palace guard that Aristide was not allowed to see any visitors.
Ives then called Mrs. Aristide's cell phone, but shortly after he identified himself the connection was terminated.
The world has been told that President Aristide is free to come and go, and that he has simply chosen not to leave, said Sara Flounders of the International Action Center. The fact that our delegation has been denied all forms of contact with President Aristide confirms, in fact, that he is being kept under lock and key and, at this point, is not even able to communicate by phone.
Aristide, a former Catholic priest, returned from exile (with the help of the Clinton administration) to resume leading his people in 1994. He won a landslide election in 2000 that some say was illegitimate.
It is unclear why the Bush administration would participate in the overthrow of Aristide as the dissident faction is led by Louis Chamblain, previously exiled former leader of Baby Doc Duvalier's death squads in the 80s and other violent paramilitary leaders, convicted of capital crimes in absentia, returning from exile to participate in the U.S.-led coup.
Haiti is the poorest, most illiterate and environmentally degraded country in the western Hemisphere.
See below for a brief look at Haiti.
Why did the U.S. kidnap Haiti's elected leader?
Ousted Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide claims a U.S. diplomat tricked him into getting into a car and was then put on an airplane with 50 U.S. marines. Now he is being held virtually incommunicado at a palace in an undeveloped and inaccessible country in the middle of Africa. The Bush administration denies that its activities effectively describe a coup d'etat. In the power vacuum created with Aristide's U.S.-orchestrated deportation, paramilitary brigands from previous regimes are assuming political control of the western hemisphere's poorest, most illiterate and environmentally degraded nation. Why did the U.S. oust Aristide and why is it paving the way for Haiti's 8 million impoverished people to live under a new regime led by convicted murderers and death squad commanders?
by Don Harkins
Political tension has been growing in Haiti since the legitimacy of President Jean Bertrand Aristide's 2000 election was questioned by some members of the international community and domestic rivals. The violence resulting in Aristide fleeing his country March 1, 2004, began in earnest Feb. 5.
A clear picture of what is really happening in Haiti was difficult to construct from mainstream news sources. It was hard to determine if Aristide, a former Catholic priest, was attempting to lead his impoverished country of about 8 million into prosperity, or if he was a ruthless dictator maintaining the slave status his people have suffered since shortly after Columbus discovered the island in 1492.
It appears Aristide is neither saint nor tyrant but a politician attempting to tread water in hopes that his part of the island will not sink and his people will eventually recover from the vice, poverty, illiteracy anger, frustration, pestilence, disease and environmental degradation caused by 500 years of slavery and exploitation by the west.
Of several sources consulted, the most lucid and objective information resource found came from the Haiti Support Group (HSG) headquartered in the UK since being formed in 1992. This group's self-stated purpose is to help the Haitian people improve their social, political, educational and economic prospects for the future.
The current chaos in Haiti appears to be supported, both philosophically and militarily, from forces outside the country. Bush administration claims that its sole purpose for intervening in Haiti to keep the peace and spare the Haitian people from unnecessary violence is not supported by the outcome of its actions there.
According to HSG, Haiti is the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere. It's unemployment rate is 70 percent. Traditional crops, sugar cane, coffee, cotton, tobacco and logging are returning smaller yields due to deforestation and catastrophic soil erosion. Two-thirds of the population lives outside Haiti's urban areas and 80 percent of them live in abject poverty. The illiteracy rate in Haiti is 45 percent; 10 percent of children will die by age 4 and average life expectancy for males and females is about 50 years. At any one time 30 percent of the Haitian population is underweight or being ravaged by diseases complicated by chronic malnutrition and improper or nonexistent healthcare.
Haiti was originally colonized by Spain after being discovered by Columbus. After nearly 200 years of Spanish enslavement and exploitation, Haiti (then known as Saint Domingue) came under control of the French in 1697. The colony experienced a high degree of economic prosperity under the more benevolent French rule in the 18th century. However, the slaves, inspired by what is known in the west as voodooism, rebelled and declared its independence as Haiti in 1804.
Except for the period of 1818 to 1843 during the reign of Jean-Pierre Boyer, the century following its declaration of independence was one of political instability. Frequent assassinations, changes in government, revolutions, corruption and vice effectively defined the Haitian experience until the U.S. Marine Corps established occupation of the country in 1915.
The U.S. military occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) provided protection for corporate exploitation of the island's resources and plantation-style agricultural operations worked with slave labor.
After the U.S. withdrawal, leadership was assumed by the U.S.-created National Guard which kept the citizenry in a state of terror, effectively protecting the properties and profits of western interests. Hostilities between Haiti and what is now known as the Dominican Republic were also resumed and the island's tradition of political instability through assassination, revolution and coups d' etat was back on track.
Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc) rose above the fray and took control of Haiti in 1957 with the blessing of the U.S. After getting himself elected president, Papa Doc formed what the Encyclopedia Britannica refers to as a terrorist gang to silence his opponents. After his gang had created a sufficient level to discourage political opposition to his tyrannical regime, Papa Doc held another election wherein he was elected to the presidency of Haiti for life.
Papa Doc Duvalier ruled Haiti as a dictator until his death in 1971. Baby Doc, Duvalier's son, took over where his father left off. He was forced to leave in 1986 -- and left his country in a U.S. military jet with millions of dollars to take up exile on the French Riviera.
Terror-backed exploitation continued in an unbroken line until December 1990 when Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest, won national elections with 67.5 percent of the vote, beating the U.S. candidate, former World Bank official Marc Bazin, into second place with 14.2 percent.
The grassroots movement that swept Aristide to power took the west completely by surprise. Aristide took office in February 1991 and was briefly the first democratically elected president in Haiti's history before being overthrown by a U.S.-backed military coup on September 30, 1991.
The Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs observed after the coup: Under Aristide, for the first time in the republic's tortured history, Haiti seemed to be on the verge of tearing free from the fabric of despotism and tyranny which had smothered all previous attempts at democratic expression and self-determination.
Though Aristide was returned to power in 1994 and took 92 percent of the popular vote for reelection in 2000, the Bush administration has been working to undermine the legitimate government of Haiti. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark stated March 1, 2004, The Bush administration has worked towards the removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from office for three years. It has enforced a unilateral embargo and cut off humanitarian aid to the poorest country in the hemisphere. It has sought to undermine support for President Aristide while supporting his opposition. It has waged a relentless propaganda campaign to force him out of office. It has supported calls for elections in violation of the constitution and laws of Haiti.
A businessman was overheard to say, Everyone who's anyone is against Aristide -- except the people.
Aristide's desire to throw off 500 years of violence and slavery does not a very good U.S. puppet make, hence the Bush administration's insistence that murderous thugs replace Aristide in Haiti.
We suspect that this story is far from over and will continue next month.
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