Sunday, September 14, 2014

Haiti Flashback: Kurzban rebukes charges against Aristide (2005)

This Week in Haiti November 9 - 15, 2005 Vol. 23, No. 35


Haiti Progres - On Nov. 2, the illegal government of de facto Haitian Prime Minister Gérard Latortue filed a civil lawsuit against exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and eight others in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida "to recover money stolen from the people and Government of Haiti."

Also named in the complaint is a Turks and Caicos-based corporation, Mont Salem Management, Ltd., that the suit claims worked to "defraud Teleco," the Haitian national phone company, "through a pattern of racketeering activities."

The lawsuit, filed when the Washington-installed de facto regime's own corruption, incompetence and unpopularity are increasingly manifest, charges that "Aristide abused his power and deceived and betrayed the Haitian people by directing and participating in ongoing and fraudulent schemes to: (a) loot the public treasury and launder the illicit proceeds; (b) divert and steal revenues rightfully belonging to the Haitian national telephone company; and (c) encourage, protect, participate and profit from illegal drug trafficking in and through Haiti." Through these activities, the plaintiffs allege, "Aristide and his accomplices converted to their own use millions of dollars of public funds."

However, neither the lawsuit nor the de facto government's reports on which it was based can concretely demonstrate who was enriched or how, explains Ira Kurzban, the attorney for Haiti's elected constitutional governments from 1991 to 2004. "Even if everything in this complaint were true," Kurzban told Haiti Progres, "and none of it is - I want to be clear about that - but even if you accepted the facts as stated as true, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by anybody."

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a second report put out by the de facto government's Central Unit on Financial Information (UCREF) two weeks ago. UCREF put out its first report alleging Aristide administration malfeasance in July. The de facto government published a third report also in July through its Commission of Administrative Inquiries (CEA), headed by Paul Denis, the current presidential candidate of the rabidly-anti-Aristide Struggling People's Organization (OPL).

In the 1990s, on the newly-elected Haitian government's behalf, Kurzban investigated and sought to recover millions of dollars stolen by the dictatorship of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. In the following interview, he analyzes the de facto government's lawsuit and motivations.
Ha*ti Progrès: How would you characterize this lawsuit?
Kurzban: The lawsuit is a political document more than a legal one. It's based on a highly charged political investigation that occurred in

Haiti where both the methodology and the factual findings have been seriously questioned, particularly the claims made on what funds were allegedly taken and what happened with them.
The reason for that, quite simply, is that none of these reports have ever said that money was taken for some illicit purpose. In other words, unlike with Duvalier, there is no money in Swiss bank accounts.

If you recall, a lot of the venom was spewed against President Aristide both before and following the coup - wild accusations that he had $280 million in a bank account somewhere in Europe and so forth. To my understanding, the United States sent seven people from the Treasury Department immediately after the coup to investigate financial wrongdoing, and a number of Haitians have been working day and night to find the money that President supposedly took. But, it's now obvious, there is none.

There are no Swiss bank accounts, no yachts, no Trump Tower apartments, all of which there were with Duvalier. There are none of the things that one classically identifies with the claim that a president has abused his authority and stolen money for his own benefit.

Washington has had teams of people in Haiti investigating this, and the Bush administration, using its considerable resources, has had Treasury officials fanned out all over the world trying to find these bank accounts. Of course, they found none because none exist.

So none of these reports have suggested that Aristide ever took money for his own benefit. There is a very fine line here from violating what is known in the federal rules on civil procedure as "Rule 11," which may impose sanctions against both the attorneys and the plaintiffs for making claims that they can't substantiate. In this case, the UCREF report in Haiti makes claims that money was misappropriated, but they never say, as far as I know, that it was for anybody's personal use.

The lawsuit, really takes the next step, and says that this money was misappropriated for the "Aristide group," which obviously makes it a totally political document.

The so-called "Aristide group" are the people, they claim, that misappropriated the funds, but when they talk about misappropriation, there is no end to the money trail. They never say it is in somebody's bank account. There is no evidence that anybody enriched themselves by doing this.

So what do they have in the end? Even if everything in this complaint were true, and none of it is - I want to be clear about that - but even if you accepted the facts as stated as true, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by anybody.

For example, this complaint alleges that the government gave money to a corporation to purchase a sound system, and that somebody received a commission on that. There is nothing illegal about that under Haitian law or under U.S. law. There is no evidence that there was any wrongdoing by anybody to either purchase a sound system for the Haitian government or to get a commission on the purchase of a sound system. If that were the logic, then every U.S. corporation doing business anywhere in the world would be guilty of a RICO violation, which is what they have alleged here. [The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1970, is what the plaintiffs base most of their charges on.]

If you look further in this, they make claims, for example, that money was given to purchase rice. Even if what they are saying is accurate, the government had every legitimate right to purchase rice at a lower price to provide for its citizens. They could do that any time they wanted to. Governments do that all the time.

There are allegations here that money was "diverted" to give to an NGO [non-governmental organization] like the Aristide Foundation. The U.S. government gives to NGOs all the time in Haiti. The Haitian government has the right to give money to NGOs in Haiti. There is nothing illegal about that.

This raises a whole other issue. Why is this being brought in the U.S. and not in Haiti, when in fact, virtually everything they are talking about has to do with Haiti, not the U.S.?

That is why the lawsuit really skirts the violations of Rule 11, by making claims that there is illegal or unlawful conduct that enriched someone. Even the UCREF report does not suggest that anyone has been enriched, and that's because, if any money was spent by the Haitian government, it is clear that it was not done to enrich any individual. It was done for the sole and express purpose to help people in Haiti, which it did.

Haiti Progrès: Concerning jurisdiction, how is it that affairs in Haiti can be brought before a U.S. court, especially in a civil case?

Kurzban: First of all, there clearly isn't any jurisdiction against President Aristide. He is not here, he is not a party to it, he's not in the U.S.. So when they try to make him a party to a complaint in the U.S., they have to get personal service over him. There is no personal service over a president. He has head of state immunity and so forth.

With respect to some of the other defendants, some of them are in the state of Florida, so there may be jurisdiction if there are truly events that involved people in Florida. But I think the reality is that all of these events occurred in Haiti. What they are saying, in a very vague way, is that some money was wire-transferred through accounts in the United States, and therefore there is jurisdiction in the United States.

I think that's a pretty open question of whether there is jurisdiction in the Southern District of Florida simply because there were some financial transactions which used U.S. banks somewhere along the way, without of course any specificity.

Haiti Progrès: The complaint also talks about Aristide and his "accomplices" providing safe-passage for transshipments of illegal drugs to the U.S.. What do you think about that?

Kurzban: There are a lot of patently false statements in there. For example, they say that the percentage of drug trans-shipments increased by 20% under Aristide. That is just false. In fact it decreased to about 8% in the last year that President Aristide served before the coup, at which point the U.S. Ambassador said that you really can't rely on those statistics.

This complaint alleges falsely - again a Rule 11 violation - that there was a 20% transshipment of drugs through Haiti, which no one had ever claimed before.

Haiti Progrès: Since the de facto government's status is essentially illegal under the Haitian Constitution, do they, in fact, have the authority to bring a suit?

Kurzban: That is an interesting issue. Traditionally under U.S. law, the courts have deferred to the executive on questions of who is the proper government. In this case, the perpetrators of the coup, the Bush administration, would vouch for the de facto government. So it's almost circular. The U.S. takes this Chalabi-like character, Latortue, from Boca Raton, Florida, airlifts him into Haiti, and makes him the prime minister after arranging the coup against the democratically elected president. Then he goes into a U.S. court, and the same Bush administration says he is the legitimate Haitian government.
Ha*ti Progrès: Can you tell us anything about the Mont Salem Management Company, which is the one corporation identified in the suit?

Kurzban: Yes, that's the only defendant against whom there are any concrete allegations. I don't know anything about it. I know that the FBI has been conducting an investigation about it, as the result of allegations made by a disgruntled employee of IDT [a telecommunications company] some time ago.
What I do know is that Teleco was trying to recoup funds by getting companies to purchase large amounts of minutes. There is something called the grey market in telecommunications, where a company will buy 50 or 100 million minutes of time from Teleco. They then turn around and go to companies like Sprint, MCI and other large U.S. companies, and work deals with them to purchase those minutes. Part of that had to do with the fact that the large U.S. companies were not paying their bills.

I know. I was involved in trying to collect funds from MCI and others because they were not paying what they were supposed to pay to the Haitian government. So maybe Teleco decided to go with smaller companies that were willing to make those payments and have them make the arrangements with larger companies.

Now, they've made allegations in this that seem very serious on their face, but probably have a very benign explanation.

Haiti Progrès: If there was a verdict found against the defendants, what would be the result? Fines?

Kurzban: Yes, this is just a civil case. People should understand that this is not a criminal case. There are no criminal charges involved. It' s a civil lawsuit to recover money on a claim that these people appropriated money improperly. It seems to me that one of the things they are going to have to prove, which no one has ever said until this lawsuit - and even in this lawsuit, they have skirted the issue, maybe because they are afraid of a Rule 11 sanction - but nobody has ever said that they misappropriated money for their own use.

In other words, all of these claims are that somehow money was misappropriated, but it is not clear who got the money. The only place where they claim that there was money set aside, was the Mont Salem arrangement, which had to do with a claim that 3 cents of every transaction was put in a bank account in the Turks and Caicos islands, but they don't say for whom the money was put in the account, who received the money, who was enriched by it, or what happened to it.

And that is because there was no illegal conduct by anybody in the Haitian government, there was no corruption, there was no fraud. When you look at this complaint, in the end, ultimately what they are claiming is that money was diverted from the Haitian government and given to NGOs to help the Haitian people.

The first question is whether it even occurred. Secondly, if it did occur, is it even an illegal act under Haitian law to take money from the Haitian government and give it to NGOs to help the Haitian poor. That's what they are going to have to prove.

HP: What do you think about the timing of this suit?

Kurzban: That's very interesting. I think Latortue and the others panicked and realized that they are now caught between a rock and a hard place. They see that Bush is trying to have [Haitian-born Texan businessman Dumarsais] Siméus become the president of Haiti. So their own game of corruption that's been going on in Haiti since the coup is going to end. They also see the possibility of [former Haitian president and now presidential candidate] René Préval winning the election. If Préval wins, the base of LAVALAS, which is apparently now supporting him and have made demands for the return of President Aristide, may get their way and the president may be back.

So in my view, they prematurely filed this lawsuit because this opens them up. If I was the attorney for one of these people, I would demand to have Latortue's deposition taken in Miami, as well as all the people in Teleco, all the people who were members of the de facto government of Haiti. I think they jumped the gun and are subjecting themselves to a huge amount of discovery. When you make claims like this, you are going to have to back them up. I don't think they can just show the UCREF report, which itself is a political document, and claim that it's the basis for the lawsuit. They are going to have to show facts and figures.

They're going to have to show where the money was actually misappropriated, who got the money, whether any of these individuals accused actually received any money, and there is no indication that this is so.

All articles copyrighted Haiti Progrès, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED. Please credit Haiti Progrès.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Haiti: Aristide's lawyer denounces "politicized" judiciary

Ira Kurzban holds passport he negotiated for the return of former president
 Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti from exile in South Africa in 2011

Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio's Senior Producer Kevin Pina interviews the attorney of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti. Kurzban details the decades long campaign against Aristide by the US government and its intelligence agencies. He also denounces recent moves by Haiti's politicized judges to attack his client.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Haiti: IJDH Director dismisses allegations against Aristide as false

Brian Concannon of IJDH and Mario Joseph who serves as legal
representative for former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio's Senior Producer Kevin Pina interviews Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. They discuss current moves by the US-backed government of Michel Martelly to subpoena and arrest the leader of the Fanmi Lavalas political party in Haiti. Concannon dismisses allegations against Aristide for embezzlement and corruption as politically motivated and false.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Revolving Door of Criminal Charges against Aristide in Haiti

A summons was reportedly issued for former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti on Tuesday that was said to be related to corruption charges and a litany of well-known accusations for which evidence has never been presented in a court of law. It is part of long list of charges in the US and in Haiti that regularly appear whenever there are moves towards serious elections. Aristide and his supporters believe this is part of a documented campaign of character assassination against the former president that is designed to exclude the Lavalas party from free and fair elections in Haiti.

Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio Senior Producer Kevin Pina interviews Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee for an update.  


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why Sean Penn is Wrong about Haiti

Demonstrators march during an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 5 June 2014
An estimated 5,000 people marched in 
Port-au-Prince on Thursday, June 5, 2014
There are regular demonstrations in Haiti demanding the resignation of President Martelly, protests against the leveling of homes in downtown Port au Prince, protests against the confiscation of lands for tourism projects on the island of Île à Vache , protests demanding new national elections, protests against the high cost of living and yet more protests on the horizon. 

A National Police officer fires tear gas at protestors during an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince,  on 10 June, 2014
Police fired tear gas at protesters and live ammunition 
into the air during demonstrations on June 10, 2014
Despite this rising tide of discontent, the messages most Americans hear about Haiti are filtered through the voices of celebrity experts like Sean Penn who recently denied anything is wrong and pronounced the small Caribbean nation has finally “turned a corner.”  In a recent tome published June 18 in Newsweek magazine Sean Penn wrote, “Haiti's economy is among the fastest-growing in the Caribbean, as the government continues to make economic development a priority.”

 At first glance, one might think Penn is correct for crowing about the handling of Haiti’s economy by his pals in the Martelly government given a recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) press release. On May 30 the IMF proclaimed, “Preliminary data for the first half of the fiscal year 2014 (i.e. October 2013 - March 2014) suggest that economic activity (as measured by gross domestic product, GDP), has advanced in line with projections, at a pace of about 3 – 4 percent. Inflation remained low, and it is projected to be in the mid-single digits by the end of the fiscal year (i.e. September 2014).” 

A closer examination of historical statistics on the World Bank’s website shows that Haiti’s annual GDP growth was actually at 5.6% when Martelly came to power through highly controversial elections in 2011. GDP growth in Haiti then dropped to 2.8% in 2012, rose to 4.3% in 2013 and is currently calculated at 3.6% for 2014 by the World Bank. Even if we take the IMF’s higher estimate of 4% GDP for 2014, that would mean that Haiti’s annual GDP actually shrank by 1.2% since Martelly assumed office. And while inflation may have dropped from 8.4% in 2011 to 5.9% in 2013, the World Bank’s official assessment of the overall economic condition in Haiti is far less rosy, “Over half of its population of 10 million lives on less than US$1 per day, and approximately 80% live on less than US$2 per day. It is also one of the most unequal countries, with a Gini coefficient of 0.59 as of 2001.” 

Although arguably outdated, this last admission of income inequality has remained demonstrably true for as long as Haitians alive today can remember. It is perhaps the reality of the Gini coefficient that exposes Penn’s blind spot, namely that Haiti’s national economy still remains hostage to the dictates of a powerful wealthy elite. Given this, it appears Sean Penn's description of Haiti's current economic juncture as “turning a corner” is an exercise in hyperbole. This is especially true in the context of the billions of dollars in international development aid pumped into Haiti’s economy under the mantle of earthquake relief since Martelly became president.

While citing roads being paved and homes built, rebuilt and retrofitted since the earthquake is all well and good, Penn also offered this statement to demonstrate his bullish view of Haiti’s progress, “Crime rates have dropped, and in May 2011, one political party transferred power to another peacefully after an election for the first time in modern history.” Penn’s assertion that crime rates have dropped is not borne out by any available data as made clear by this Haiti 2014 Crime and Safety Report offered by the US Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security which states, “Reliable crime statistics are difficult to come by; Haitian National Police (HNP) numbers indicating a modest drop in crime during 2012 were undercut by those from other security entities operating in-country that continued to show a steady rise since 2010. A comparative analysis of figures from various police/security entities operating throughout Haiti reflects a continuation of the trend in which incidents of crimes are inaccurately or under-reported. Haiti’s perennially weak judiciary exacerbates an already unsteady security environment.” 
Penn’s next  assertion, that Martelly’s election in 2011 represented a peaceful democratic transition, appears to be an absurd attempt to rewrite history. The violence preceding and following the first round of the November 2010 presidential elections in Haiti is well documented. In fact, it is equally documented that most of the violence was perpetrated by the supporters of Michel Martelly after it was announced by the electoral council that Jude Célestin and Mirlande Manigat would face each other in a second round of balloting. This violence led to an infamous intervention in Haiti’s election process by the Organization of American States (OAS), backed by the US, to overturn the results. The legitimacy of the election was already in question as “nearly three-quarters of the electorate didn’t vote…” according to Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).  Both rounds of the presidential elections that brought Martelly to power were marked by low voter turnout as a result of the banning of Haiti’s most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas.

Based on what the OAS called a “re-tabulation”, Martelly went on to the second round that also saw its share of documented violence and intimidation. Weisbrot described the outcome resulting from, “The OAS’ actions in taking the unprecedented step of overturning an election, without a recount or evidence for its action...”. Judging by the thousands of demonstrators who regularly take to the streets calling for Martelly’s resignation only to be dismissed by Sean Penn, it wasn’t just the credibility of the OAS that was lost in this process. 

Penn and Michel Martelly in Haiti

Finally, Sean Penn has done much to transform Haiti into a cause celebre through his own intervention including his acceptance to act as an Ambassador-at-large for the Martelly government. Blurring the line between humanitarian and political operative, he has married his reputation to that of Martelly and the success of the regime. This has arguably colored his interpretation and judgment of what “turning a corner” really looks like in Haiti. Penn's bias becomes more obvious when we take into account the facts he chooses to ignore and the social forces he regularly dismisses. It seems that in Penn's mind they are unworthy of equal billing when compared to his own relatively short-lived experience there.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

HIP FLASHBACK: Remembering Haiti's Flag Day, May 18, 2005

U.N. covers for Haiti's killer cops, threaten American journalist

by Haiti Information Project
all photos:
©2005 Haiti Information Project

Port au Prince (HIP) - Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Haiti's capital May 18 to demand the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and freedom for political prisoners. The U.N. provided security for the march but allowed SWAT units of the Haitian police to enter the otherwise peaceful demonstration with automatic weapons drawn.

HIP reporters on the scene were threatened as they attempted to film the SWAT members wearing black ski masks to hide their identities. These same units of the Haitian police have been responsible for human rights violations in the past that include killing unarmed demonstrators on Feb. 28 and April 27. To date, not a single officer of the Haitian police has received a reprimand or been charged with a crime in these high profile murders. This has led to charges the U.N. is helping to cover-up the killings and is providing unqualified support to a police force that is seen by many as widely corrupt and out of control.

The role of the U.N., particularly the Brazilians leading the so-called "peacekeeping" mission, was documented today when they threatened HIP Editor and American journalist Kevin Pina with arrest. Pina had been filming members of a Haitian SWAT team despite their objections and verbal threats. Another videographer captured Pina on tape as he challenged the police to explain why they were afraid to be filmed despite the fact they could not be identified under black ski masks. Pina continued by demanding the police explain why U.N. Ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes had assured the press they could operate freely in Haiti two weeks ago during a speech on International World Press Freedom Day. Pina asked, "Was Valdes mouthing pretty words because obviously I am not doing anything illegal by filming you. I am just doing my job of bringing news to the world of your role in Haiti. Why are you afraid to be filmed? Why do you hide behind those frightening masks while you carry those huge guns? How is this camera a threat to you or interfering in your work? Explain that to me because I am the one who should be frightened here. If you decide to shoot me no one will know who you are." A Brazilian soldier intervened and demanded Pina turn off his video camera. The journalist responded, "No. I have every right to keep my camera rolling, as long it does not interfere with you or the police. I refuse to stop because I am doing nothing wrong. Otherwise arrest me for the crime of being a journalist." The Brazilian soldier was caught on camera screaming back, "Fuck you! Fuck you!" Pina then asked, "Is that the official diplomatic language the U.N. is using with international journalists in Haiti today?"

The march continued up Delmas and crossed over to Lalue. As the march descended towards the National Palace a U.N. jeep was seen stopping Pina's vehicle as a Brazilian officer photographed him. Pina demanded the officer identify himself and he refused. A tape recorder captured the unidentified Brazilian officer as he stated, "You are always making trouble for us. I have taken your picture and I am going to give it to the Haitian police. They will get you."

As the march returned to Bel Air, a panic ensued as SWAT units began to enter the neighborhood from the direction of Haiti's Cathedral. Pina, a second cameraman and several Haitian radio journalists walked down to the Cathedral where about 20 masked SWAT carrying M-14s and M-16s were preparing to enter Bel Air. In an event witnessed by journalist Reed Lindsay, the Haitian police demanded that Pina not videotape them and one commander asked him exactly what his work is in Haiti? Pina showed his press credentials and explained that people in the United States, especially members of the U.S. Congress, want to understand the role of the Haitian police. As Pina continued filming, the SWAT unit literally ran from his camera and left the scene. Pina added, "It's as if this camera is the sun and they are vampires. What on earth do they have to hide? If they are not doing anything wrong why should they be afraid of a press camera? How many people have they already killed in cold-blood under the watchful eyes of the U.N. and not a single one of them has ever been prosecuted for a crime? Look how despite this, the U.N. is still willing to protect them from my camera and allow them into these demonstrations. If there was no violence today it had less to do with the security of the U.N. and more to do with the courage of the press." Journalist Reed Lindsay commented, "What was striking was that there was no UN presence monitoring these guys when they entered Bel Air. I was struck by number of SWAT who seemed like they were moving into Bel Air and towards the peaceful demonstration. I can't say for sure what they were doing there but I can't imagine they had any other objective then to fire at the demonstration. Without the presence of Pina and other journalists on the scene who knows what would have happened."

Following the march, the Haitian police attacked demonstrators returning to Cite Soleil. According to witnesses, Sanel Joseph was shot and killed by the Haitian police for no apparent reason as he returned home from the demonstration. No U.N. security presence or U.N. police monitors were present as the police opened fire.

At about 8 p.m., SWAT units entered the Petion-Ville market place and began shooting indiscriminately and were seen dragging a taxi driver out of his car and placing a gun to his head. A nearby restaurant owner lamented, "They don't need a reason. They don't want respect from the people. They want fear. They think that if they don't shoot somebody then people won't continue being afraid of them. They value fear more than respect."

©2005 Haiti Information Project - Brazilian officer who refused to identify himself instructs a Haitian camerman to photograph journalist Kevin Pina.
Following the march, the Haitian police attacked demonstrators returning to Cite Soleil. According to witnesses, Sanel Joseph was shot and killed by the Haitian police for no apparent reason as he returned home from the demonstration. No U.N. security presence or U.N. police monitors were present as the police opened fire.
A tape recorder captured an unidentified Brazilian officer as he shouted at Kevin Pina, “You are always making trouble for us. I have taken your picture and I am going to give it to the Haitian police. They will get you.”
Protestors in Bel Air display a photo of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and make a gesture of five fingers symbolizing his five-year mandate.
May 18 demonstration continues despite the U.N. allowing masked members of the Haitian SWAT to enter the area with automatic weapons. The Haitian police murdered unarmed marchers on Feb. 28 and April 27 during similar peaceful demonstrations.
The U.N. allowed Haitian Swat units to line the demonstration route with automatic weapons. It was SWAT units such as this that were responsible for killing unarmed demonstrators on Feb. 28 and April 27. To date, not a single officer of the Haitian police has received a reprimand or been charged with a crime in these high profile murders.

HIP FLASHBACK: Kevin Pina interviews the most-wanted man in Haiti

Amaral Duclona speaks to journalist Kevin Pina in a secret location. Duclona is accused by the UN, the National Police of Haiti (PNH), and Haitian business leaders of being the top gang leader in Cite Soleil, and is number 1 on the PNH's most wanted list. Duclona described himself as a political militant, who defends the rights of the people of Cite Soleil.
 February 1, 2006

 HIP - Port au Prince, Haiti — Amaral Duclona is Haiti's most wanted man.
That is, the most wanted by the U.S.-installed de facto government. His name flashes across television screens throughout the capital each night along with those of twelve other men accused as "bandits" in the sprawling seaside slum of Cité Soleil.

Amaral is in fact the leader of the anti-coup and anti-occupation resistance in Cité Soleil. He has taken up the mantle of his fallen friend and comrade, Emmanuel "Dread" Wilmer, who was gunned down by U.N. troops last July.

The U.S.-installed government and Haiti's elite now charge Amaral with killing Canadian police officer Mark Bourque in Cité Soleil last December. He vehemently denies the accusation.

Cité Soleil is home to over 300,000 Haitians who live in abject poverty. Children play among mountains of garbage and open sewage canals. Most are malnourished, as their parents, unable to find work amidst 80% unemployment, try desperately to keep their families alive.

Cité Soleil is also a bastion of support for ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In his first successful bid for the presidency in 1990, Aristide announced his candidacy in this shantytown. Following the violent military coup against Aristide on Sep. 30, 1991, Cité Soleil took the brunt of violence meted out by Gen. Raoul Cédras' military dictatorship. During that three year coup, the Haitian army in league with the CIA-funded paramilitary death squad known as the Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti (FRAPH) slaughtered thousands and burned down whole neighborhoods in the slum.

After President Aristide was ousted a second time on Feb. 29, 2004, Haitian police and paramilitary units made armed forays into Cité Soleil while occupying U.S. Marines did nothing to intervene. But soon, young men formed community self-defense brigades which began shooting it out with the police and paramilitaries, effectively driving them from the slum.

Even before the deployment of the U.N. Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH), Cité Soleil and other neighborhoods like Bel Air and Solino became launch pads for massive demonstrations demanding Aristide's return. The Haitian police's brutal SWAT teams bloodily repressed these protests, while MINUSTAH forces stood by.

The massive demonstrations belied mainstream press reports that Aristide had lost popular support and embarrassed the Washington-parachuted government of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and the MINUSTAH. The U.N. force's stated purpose was to restore stability and democracy to Haiti. But Haiti's poor majority increasingly saw them as an army of foreign occupation bent on propping up a client government and crushing their movement.

As gun battles intensified between Lavalas' armed followers and the Haitian police, the MINUSTAH intervened to crush opposition in Bel Air and to contain Cité Soleil. Large cargo containers and concrete barriers were placed on all of Cité Soleil's major entrances, isolating the shantytown from the rest of the capital. U.N. troops searched men, women and children entering and leaving the neighborhood.

At the same time, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) began pacification programs designed to win the hearts and minds of Cité Soleil residents and undermine their resistance.

In Bel Air, the U.N. troops crushed and bought off the armed anti-coup groups while setting up military posts throughout the hillside neighborhood. Meanwhile, the UN and USAID began sponsoring so-called community development projects, concerts and soccer matches.

The only "community development" organization first allowed into Cité Soleil was working hand-in-hand with USAID. Yele Haiti was founded by the famous Haitian hip-hop musician, Wyclef Jean. He asked residents of Cité Soleil to accept the occupation and let go of demands for Aristide's return. His call fell on deaf ears.

One of those most critical of Wyclef Jean's USAID-backed efforts was a young man raised in Lafanmi Selavi, an orphanage for street children founded by Father Aristide in 1986. Emmanuel "Dread" Wilmer led an armed force of about 150 young men in Cité Soleil determined to resist incursions by the Haitian police and what he called "the foreign occupiers." The elite-owned Haitian press, the U.S.-installed government, and MINUSTAH all condemned Wilmer as a "bandit" and "gang leader" without any political ideals. Some 400 MINUSTAH troops killed him along with four of his lieutenants in a bloody pre-dawn raid on July 6, 2005. The UN troops also killed untold dozens of unarmed residents in the attack.

In the months since Wilmer's death, Cité Soleil residents have complained of coming under constant fire by the MINUSTAH's 1500-man Jordanian force which surrounds the shantytown. The U.N. troops indiscriminately fire on the population, residents say, in an effort to terrorize and cow the community. Heavily armed Jordanian and Brazilian units escort work crews which put up posters exhorting the population to stop "associating with criminals." Nonetheless, MINUSTAH has recently admitted that the so-called "armed gangs" enjoy the support of the majority of Cité Soleil's population.

Cité Soleil has also become a large base of support for presidential candidate Rene Garcia Preval. Aristide's first prime minister in 1991 before the coup, Préval went on to be elected president from 1996 to 2001. He now commands a large lead in the polls just a week before Feb. 7 elections. Haiti's electoral council announced last week that there will be no polling stations in Cité Soleil. Residents will have to walk miles to cast their votes. Cité Soleil's armed groups have announced that they will accompany those who want to vote to the polls.

Haiti Information Project founding editor Kevin Pina recently spent two days in Cité Soleil and managed to negotiate this exclusive interview with Amaral Duclona about the current situation in Haiti.

Kevin Pina interviews the most-wanted man in Haiti: Amaral Duclona

KP: Amaral, let's start by letting people know who you are and where you come from.

AD: My name is Amaral Duclona.

I wasn't born in Cite Soleil, but I was born on a road close to Cite Soleil named Chancerel. I was born on October 20, 1979. I am currently 27 years old.

I went to school in Cite Soleil, and I went to school in downtown Port au Prince.

KP: So describe the general situation as you see it in Cite Soleil today.

AD: Today we find ourselves in a situation where Cite Soleil is full of misery.
Where they say people are killing each other in Cite Soleil. Supposedly, we are all "bandits" or "gangs."

But it is actually this misery I speak of that is destroying the people of Cite Soleil.

Today we are working with the population of Cite Soleil, to see how we can help them get out from underneath the misery that they are in. We have no problem working with the local community and we invite the international community to help us get out of this misery.

KP: But what about those who accuse you of violence? Those who say there is no role for people like you to play in helping Cite Soleil?

AD: There is a well-defined sector working for the bourgeoisie inside of Cite Soleil that doesn't want poor people to get out from underneath their predicament. It comes from the base of a real gangster who said he was Lavalas but betrayed the cause and started accepting bribes from Apaid and Boulos.
And we can understand that and now how they turn this around on us.

When Dessalines was fighting, they did not understand the fight of Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
When Toussaint Louverture was fighting, they didn't understand him. And when, by the same token, Charlemagne Peralte, they didn't understand the fight of Peralte and the U.S. marines killed more than 50,000 people who were known as Cacos opposing the American occupation of Haiti.

After many years, they came to see that Peralte, was a man of the struggle, was a man among militants, who was defending the Haitian population. For that reason the U.S. marines killed him.
It is for that reason that today, us, we are struggling, but this for a people who are in misery.

KP: The U.N. and the U.S.-installed government portray you and Dread Wilmer as unintelligent thugs and gangsters. That you are devoid of any political agenda and are merely common criminals. How do you respond to them?

AD: Today, they say that Dread Wilme and I are "criminals" without any intelligence.
And everyone must think that the death of Dread Wilme was something that would bring peace to the country.

We proved to them that Dread Wilme was never ever a bandit, never a criminal, the same way as me, I was never a bandit, I was never a criminal.

We are political militants who are struggling to defend our rights, and to defend the rights of everyone and especially the people of Cite Soleil.

In this country, in the country of Haiti, everyone who is struggling to defend their rights, they always demonize them through name-calling. They call them "criminals," they call them "assassins." Just as they did to Dread and they are doing against me and other Cite Soleil militants today.

But if we were in the interests of the bourgeoisie sector, with MINUSTAH, if that were the case, then we would be cast as "good people," we would be the "best people" for them. It's total hypocrisy and propaganda to justify the slaughter.

We are not fighting for the interests of the U.N. and the sector of the bourgeoisie they are propping up. We put the misery of the Haitian people foremost in our interests and struggle for them. It is for that reason that they treat us as criminals and assassins and are trying to destroy us.

Criminals cannot survive in Cite Soleil because an already abused people will not accept more abuse. If we are able to survive today it is because the population in Cite Soleil supports us because they know we are defending their interests. If they are calling us "poor criminals" then fine, because we are in misery, so they are right but we are not criminals. What is criminal is that the U.N. works with the very same sector of our society that created this misery in Cite Soleil in the first place. If they define opposing this crime as banditry, then we ask them to really look at Haitian history. Didn't the U.S. marines call Charlemagne Peralte and the Cacos "bandits" because they opposed the foreign occupation of Haitian soil? We, in Cite Soleil, who are fighting are trying to change the conditions of the people in Cite Soleil.

KP: What impact does the memory of the slaughter committed against the people of Cite Soleil by the military following the 1991 coup against Aristide serve today? Has it had an impact and does it reflect in your struggle today?

AD: The massacres of the military, the ex-military, the Haitian army, that were committed against Cite Soleil. That had a large impact. Because there were many people that died or lost their families.
There are many people, who have never seen justice for the acts perpetrated by military. And today people see what MINUSTAH is perpetrating as a similar thing. People are being shot and killed everyday for no reason other than to inspire terror in the population. To force them to accept the kidnapping of their president

It is for that reason that we are always demonstrating to demand justice for the people of Cite Soleil. It is only here today that people can demonstrate for Aristide's return without being killed by the police. Instead the terror of the police has been replaced by the terror of indiscriminant firing by the U.N. troops. And yet we still continue to demonstrate. It is this they fear the most.

KP: What about the Haitian elite and the role you say they have played in keeping the people of Cite Soleil in misery?

AD: Where there is Dr. Reginald Boulos today? He is now the president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and yet it was he who killed close to 25 children in Cite Soleil. He made money by distributing a cough syrup that was called "Ephemil." Was he never brought to justice for the deaths of those children? No, instead he is being rewarded for his role in overthrowing our democratically elected president. This is not justice.

It is for that reason that we are demonstrating like this and accompanying the population in their search for justice and a way out of misery. And again, the bourgeoisie and MINUSTAH will label anyone who defends the interests of the people as common assassins and criminals.

And we say, we are not assassins, we are not criminals. We are political militants, who are defending the rights of the population of Cite Soleil, the rights for all of the Haitian people who are suffering in misery today.
And it is for that reason that we are struggling, but we will never be criminals, never, ever.

KP: What about July 6, 2005 when U.N. forces killed Dread Wilmer and the accusations that unarmed civilians were killed as well?

The U.N. does deny it ever happened but MINUSTAH committed that genocide inside of Cite Soleil. It is a crime worse than the Haitian army did inside Cite Soleil [after the coup of 1991 and 2004]. Now MINUSTAH blames Lavalas militants...that Lavalas militants killed people who were happy that Dread was killed or who were informants against the people's interests. That's nonsense!! We would never do that because Lavalas depends upon the people, depends upon the population. If the U.N. cannot control Cite Soleil today it is because the majority still believe in the ideals of the Lavalas struggle and that means the poor have as many rights as the bourgeoisie.

They make the incredible claim that there were people inside Cite Soleil who celebrated the death of comrade Dread Wilme. I don't believe that such people exist in Cite Soleil and it was a fabrication to cover up the slaughter by U.N. forces on July 6. Just walk around and ask anyone here and they will recite for you the good works that Dread Wilme always did on behalf of the poor in Cite Soleil.
I worked closely together with Dread, me, Amaral. We worked together to help keep the people of Cite Soleil alive.

But with the complicity of MINUSTAH along with the bourgeoisie sector, they were able to kill Dread Wilme. They were able to kill close to 60 people in Cite Soleil when they assassinated him and four other militants.

We always keep Dread Wilme alive in our memory. It is for that reason that the population accompanied us, to the point where we succeeded in inaugurating Dread Wilme Boulevard. The community worked together to dedicate a street in his name. Everyone in Cite Soleil contributed to this effort.

KP: But they continue to say Wilmer was an assassin and a criminal.

AD: If Dread were a criminal, if he was an assassin, the population would never, never, ever, have held such a beautiful funeral in his memory in Cite Soleil. His funeral reflected his life and his sacrifice. And when we look at the funeral of Dread Wilme...we saw it was an extraordinary thing [referring to the huge droves of people who attended]. It was in this same spirit of sacrifice for the interests of the poor that Dread was commemorated by renaming the street of Bwa Neuf as Boulevard Dread Wilmer. A criminal in Cite Soleil would never have been bestowed with such glory. We will continue our struggle in his memory and the U.N. nor the bourgeoisie can ever take that experience away from the Haitian people.

KP: What about the upcoming elections? Do you support them?

AD: Yes, we support them if the Haitian people support them. They will try to blame us for any violence that happens but the truth is we want this nightmare to be over. The only way to do that is through these elections. Now, Latortue and his government and the movement to oust Aristide have put many of their family members and cronies in more than 12,000 civil service jobs throughout Haiti. These were jobs that were given to poor people to give them a chance to rise above poverty under Aristide. They were fired after the coup. Those who replaced them are afraid of losing those jobs while the wealthy elite and those who participated in the kidnapping of Aristide have their own reasons to create violence to destabilize the election process. We say clearly that the people of Haiti should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to vote and participate in these elections.

We will accompany and help to protect those who wish to vote. The repression must stop and we must turn the page on this nightmare and hell for the poor in Haiti.

KP: Thank you Amaral.

AD: You're welcome.

Monday, May 5, 2014

English version of Jean Dominique's final commentary in Haiti

Jean Dominique, journalist and commentator assassinated in April 2000.

Translation of last commentary by Jean Dominique on March 27, 2000

"In the light of the concept of free, transparent, democratic and honest elections, this should be the duty of of impartial observers? However, Mr. Leopold Berlanger, the Coordinator of the Conseil National d'Observateurs (CNO), is part of a coalition, working through Vision 2000, which is engaged in the destruction of Lavalas. First Point.

Second point. The Senator Wesner Emmanuel at this microphone and publicly, assuming his responsibility as a functioning senator, pointed out that Mr. Leopold Berlanger (who at that time had no credentials or title relating to the election process) during the December 16, 1990 presidential elections convinced a computer operator to change the results of the senatorial elections for the West. Senator Wesner Emmanuel further stated that he has a taped recording of this conversation between the employee and Berlanger and when this employee told Senator Wesner Emmanuel that the results of the elections are not the ones being announced by the President of the Departmental Electoral Bureau, Senator Emmanuel replied that he has a tape of the conversation with Berlanger and that he would publicize this trickery on the air. The employee considered this and then retreated and said that the results are correct and then gave the original results.

Voila, so this individual is now a member of a coalition which for five years has worked virulently with Vision 2000 against the Lavalas movement and this same person is the head of a national commission to observe the elections while in 1990 he tried to manipulate the results, and this is the person President Leon Manus gave the power to receive all information and documents related to the electoral process that should be sent to him quickly: First point.

 Second point, to have the monopoly of the electoral observers: that all the national observers accredited by the CEP to observe the elections must be recommended by the CNO. Total monopoly! This is the second point.

Third point, which is more critical. In the case whereh is no original or a duplicate available the observer from the CNO can put together a report of the balloting as he observed it. This report which contains the numbers written out would be signed by the members of the head of the electoral bureau and the observer from the CNO. So, here is Mr. Berlanger having the power to put together the written report of the results of the vote.

Meanwhile, the electoral law is clear in Article 158: the written process of the balloting is drawn and signed by the members of the electoral bureau and in some cases by the representative of the party, groups, or political groups who are officially recognized, or cartels or candidates. The written report is prepared in at least six formally signed originals. If the representative of a party, group, or political party, officially recognized, or cartels or candidates refuse to sign the report, they will state the reason invoked or alleged for their refusal to sign and these protestations have no immediate value, and are only for future reference. The refusal to sign a report by the representative of the electoral bureau has no effect on the validity of the electoral operations.

The word observer never appears in Article 158. Never!

Article 159: An original of the written report of the balloting is attached to the door of the electoral bureau by the president of the bureau and the other originals are distributed as follows: one to the BEC, two to the BED which transmits one to the CEP, two others go to the two representatives of the candidates that obtained the largest number of votes.

There is no mention in the electoral law of an original written report or a copy to be given to an observers named by Berlanger . No mention whatsoever. The question we are posing now before further analyzing this text, which is unbelievable, is the following: Is President Manus, the president of the CEP, qualified to sign an agreement which contradicts the text and the spirit of the electoral law?

We have noted in the course of the electoral process, with the passion that you all know we have, the legitimate suspicion that there is a threat to the process with the successive unpleasant revelations of the role of IFES inside of the CEP and financed and directly manipulated by USAID. So, these legitimate suspicions about the CEP are getting larger by that unbelievable accord with the CNO. The question we are asking is the following: Did President Manus sign this very important text to give Mr. Leopold Berlanger the possibility of altering the results of the vote? Is President Manus' signature in accord with the other eight members of the CEP? I already know that one of them doesn't even know about the accord.

 Secondly, Berlanger, who is the Coordinator General of the CNO, did he check with the CNO to sign , negotiate and sign the text? Thirdly, it is written in this agreement that all the documents should be directed to the executive. Did they send this protocole d'accord to the Executive? I direct this question to the President of the Republic [Rene Preval]."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Eyewitness to History: Journalist remembers 2004 coup in Haiti

A demonstrator in Haiti on March 5, 2004, defiantly faces the deadly assault rifle of a U.S. soldier in an armored personnel carrier during a protest of the Feb. 29 kidnapping and coup d’état and ensuing occupation. His raised hands, five fingers outstretched, symbolize the five-year term mandated by the Haitian constitution that President Aristide was not allowed to complete. Many were killed by the occupation forces from Feb. 29 through April 2004 and to the present, including a Spanish journalist, Ricardo Ortega. – Photo: Kevin Pina, Haiti Information Project

Saturday Morning Talkies/KPFA Producer Kris Welch interviews journalist and filmmaker Kevin Pina & author and activist Yves Engler about the 2004 coup in Haiti that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.


Saturday, February 22, 2014



HAITI: WHY WAS THE PORT-AU-PRINCE CATHEDRAL BURNED DOWN? (cries.regionews from Managua January 19, 1991 165 lines) By Gregorio Selser from "La Jornada", Mexico City. January 10, 1991.

International news agencies reported that the diplomatic corps accredited in Haiti protested to the provisional government about the aggression committed against the Vatican embassy in Port-au-Prince which was sacked and burned by demonstrators during the popular uprising against the attempted coup d'etat of Roger Lafontant on Jan. 7.

During the incidents, the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, was humiliated by the demonstrators who forced him to remove his trousers and shoes. His secretary, Monsignor Leon Kalenga, was beaten and wounded in the head with machetes. The Haitian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Christian P. Latortue, sent a message to the Vatican in which he regretted the aggression against the religious institutions. In a radio broadcast to the nation, president-elect Jean Bertrand Aristide condemned the "horrible spectacle" of the torching of the religious institutions stating he "shared the pain of the religious authorities and the diplomatic corps" and also called on the people to show discipline.

By mid-week, the army began to repress the demonstrators and Haitian authorities managed to stop the looting and calm the disorders. The question arises as to why there was such a strong and violent reaction by popular sectors against institutions and persons identified with the Catholic Church in

According to news dispatches from Haiti, the old colonial cathedral of Port-au-Prince was reduced to ashes by a fire set by a mob that was looking for the local prelate, Archbishop Francois Wolf Ligonde. They didn't find him because he had already taken refuge in the suburb of Carrefour. So they burned his personal residence in the Nazareth neighborhood. Also the building of the Haitian Bishops Conference (CEH) was set alight, and the residence of the Papal Nuncio and house of the Salesian Sisters were sacked and destroyed. The Haitian people continue to be, in the majority, Catholic, however, in spite of the persistence of voodoo rites, the growing presence of Protestant churches, and a variety of religious sects. It is fitting to ask, then, why was this popular anger directed against Catholic institutions and figures.

The triumphant presidential candidate Jean Bertrand Aristide continues to be a priest in spite of his suspension "a divinis", and in all his electoral speeches, he called for peaceful solutions and an end to all forms of violence, including in his public exhortations to gynecologist Roger Lafontant and his hordes of "tonton macoutes".

There is a long history of resentment and a more recent history of provocations by the CEH, in which the principal figure was Ligonde. In his first homily of the New Year on January 1, he launched a violent diatribe against Aristide which came at the same time as the reports about an imminent coup d'etat by Lafontant. Said in another way, Ligonde, an ultraconservative prelate and first cousin of Michele Benet, the wife of Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier, put his money on the Lafontant coup, as did the majority of the bishops and a part of the army, including its commander-in-chief, General Herard Abraham, who permitted the Palace to by taken and the supposed arrest of the provisional president. Then he declared himself to be legalistic when the people began to mobilize and react. The CEH is made up of 10 high prelates, but the people say that in reality there are only one and a half, because although they recognize this high quality in the elderly bishop Willy Romelus, from the city of Jeremie, all the rest don't add up to "half a bishop". The CEH members are the archbishops Ligonde of Port-au-Prince, and Francois Gayot, of Cap Haitien, the bishops Leonard Petion Laroche of Hinche (president of the CEH), Joseph Lafontant and Joseph Kebreau, auxiliaries of Port-au-Prince, Francois Colimon of Port du Paix, Emmanuel Constant of Gonaives, Alix Verrier of Les Cayes, and Guire Poulard of Jacmel.

These high churchmen were born and/or grew up in the shadow of, or by decision of, the Duvalier dynasty, and at difference from those of Panama, they are all Haitian. Their appointments were agreed upon with the Vatican after a harsh confrontation which resulted in the expulsion from Haiti of all the members of the Jesuit Order whom Francois Duvalier accused of being "communists". In the last days of Baby Doc and in light of the reigning unrest, the CEH observed an attitude of "prudent criticism" of the regime, but when he fell and fled, Bishop Laroche, who was named by Papa Doc, warned against the "temptations to violence" in allusion to that which broke out at that time against the "tonton macoutes". Meanwhile, Archbishop Ligonde called for "immediate reconciliation". At the same time, the CEH, acting jointly, censured the activity of the Salesian priest Aristide who had been one of the main forces behind the popular mobilization. The bishops demanded that he not step out of bounds, that is, that he confine himself to his specific religious mission. The polemic that began in this way concluded in 1988 with the expulsion of Aristide from the Salesian Order and the related suspension of his condition as a priest. Aristide's appeal to the Vatican has still not been resolved; but the controversy had the advantage of winning him many more followers, because the episcopate, with the exception of Romelus, was discredited for their attitude of silent compliance during the time of Duvalierism.

Aristide did not put himself up to be a candidate for the presidency or for any other political office. However, when a convention was held in Vertaillis on October 13-14, 1990 by the "tonton macoutes" and they created the Union for National Reconciliation (URN) and designated Lafontant, their historical leader, as candidate, the association of parties and popular organizations grouped together as the National Front for Change and Democracy (FNCD) interviewed the priest and literally demanded that he accept their nomination. On October 18, Lafontant, who continued to be subject to an arrest warrant by authorities, personally presented his candidacy to the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) without being arrested. That same day, Aristide accepted his nomination. The electoral campaign was summed up as "the `tonton macoutes' versus democracy", but while the priest talked about peace and fraternity among all Haitians, Lafontant - whose candidacy was finally vetoed by the CEP - was characterized by his calls to violence and the threats he made. On November 24, Bishop Laroche attacked Aristide obliquely, reminding him of article 285/3 of the Code of Canon Law.

On December 5, at the end of a political meeting in the Petionville neighborhood, the "tonton macoutes" attacked with machine guns and bombs and left five dead and more than 50 seriously wounded. Two days later, a CEH document distortedly declared: "How did this come to happen? Is it not because they have tried to divide Haitian society into two camps, that of the good and that of the bad?[...] Thus, violence becomes a necessary instrument for the construction of the new political system, of the new regime of government. What is being prepared is definitely a State founded on the cycle of violence."

The dead and wounded were all from the FNCD, but the bishops put the blame on Aristide. He had asked for an interview with Laroche in order to explain his program for peace. It was granted to him as "a brother in the faith, and not as a politician". Aristide triumphed with more than 68% of the votes on December 16 in the only fair elections in the entire history of Haiti. Days before, Lafontant publicly declared that he would not allow him to assume the presidency. On January 1, Archbishop Ligonde, without any reason, attacked Aristide who at all times has shown himself to be prudent and conciliatory. On the 7th, after midnight, Lafontant began his coup.

Maybe this makes it possible to understand why Ligonde was sought out and why the church and ecclesiastical buildings were burned?

Friday, February 7, 2014

We will never forget you Father Gerard Jean-Juste

Photo: ©2005 Scott Braley

Re-published on February 7, 2014, in honor of his 68th birthday.


Mon Père, Remembrances of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste 

May 29, 2009

by Kevin Pina

I called Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste 'my father' as did so many others who worked with him and loved him for his courage, commitment and generosity. I first met this incredible man after the first coup against Aristide in 1991. Another Catholic liberation theology priest, Fr. Jean-Marie Vincent, introduced him to me. I had returned to Haiti to continue filming for my documentary Haiti: Harvest of Hope.

When I returned to Haiti Fr. Vincent told me that there was another priest assigned to the parish of St. Gerard in the capital of Port au Prince who was protecting and hiding those targeted by the military repression. At great personal risk and never asking anything in return, Fr. Jean-Juste developed an underground network of non-violent resistance to the military and police repression. His network would later expand to include opposition to the paramilitary forces created by the CIA such as the Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti or FRAPH.

Fr. Jean-Juste was always clear in his intention. To console me after the assassination of Fr. Vincent in Aug. 1994 he said, "There is no such thing as a safe harbor against such brutality except in your own conscience. No matter how hard they try to kill the thirst of the majority of the poor for a better life in Haiti, their brutality and tactics only provide more water for our struggle. We must never let them set the terms for the liberation of the majority of the poor in Haiti with their acts of violence. We must always stay focused on the goal."

After Aristide's return to Haiti in 1994, Fr. Jean-Juste remained an anchor for the Lavalas movement that he believed represented the interests of the poor majority until his death this last Wednesday in a Miami hospital. For this conviction he would suffer dearly especially after accepting an assignment to St. Clare's church in the neighborhood of Ti Place Cazeau in Haiti's capital. Once there, he would continue to not only preach on behalf of the rights of Haiti's poor majority but would also put his faith into practice by creating community empowerment projects. These included literacy and economic programs providing the poor with opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty and a daily canteen that made hot meals available to the most vulnerable in the community. It was not uncommon to find him singing while serving meals to poor children, who he adored and honored as the future of Haiti, on any given afternoon at St. Clare's.

Following the second coup against Aristide in 2004, he lost his weekly radio program at Radio Ginen after anonymous threats against the station. He would never blame the owner of the station telling me, "I understand the forces of repression and the lies they tell have taken control of Haiti for the moment. They are trying to convince the world that our beautiful movement of the poor is ugly and desolate. Aristide was kidnapped after the elite cut a deal with the Bush administration and this much is clear, the repression against Lavalas has started again."

Fr. Jean-Juste would continue to preach that Lavalas was a beautiful movement of the poor while most of the world fell prey to a systematic campaign to label and isolate it as a violent aberration. He would use every opportunity to condemn the second ouster of Aristide as a "coup-napping" that relied upon the brutal force of the former military and death squads who had invaded Haiti from the Dominican Republic in early February 2004. Fr. Jean-Juste described the situation as, "The Bush administration hiding behind the pretext of death squads and the military to justify kidnapping our democratically elected president." This insistence earned him the love and respect of Haiti's poor majority along with regular condemnation and death threats from supporters of the coup.

Fr. Jean-Juste along with many others considered September 30, 2004 a true test and turning point for the Lavalas movement in Haiti. The Haitian police opened fired on unarmed protestors during a demonstration on the thirteenth anniversary of the first military coup against Aristide. The slaughter would be justified by Jean-Claude Bajeux, a so-called human rights advocate and leader of a ‘civil society organization' called the Group 184 that worked for Aristide's ouster. Bajeux claimed that Lavalas partisans had emulated terrorists in Iraq and beheaded police officers earlier in the day. The Latortue regime ran with it and borrowed Bajeaux's unfounded assertion that it was part of a terror campaign by Lavalas called "Operation Baghdad." The international community, already compromised and cajoled by the Bush administration, stood poised and ready to accept any explanation that provided a counter argument to the massive demonstrations in the streets calling for Aristide's return. The demonstrations were proving an embarrassing reminder that the so-called opposition to Aristide was really a minority and that he never lost the support of the masses of the Haitian people as they had claimed.

Associating Lavalas with terrorists in Iraq was a marketable product in the international press that would not only distract from the growing demonstrations but also serve to justify the increasing repression. In actuality, it was a continuation of the strategy the Bush administration had employed against the popular Haitian folksinger Annette Auguste in May 2004 justifying her arrest by claiming she was organizing with Muslims in a local mosque to attack U.S. Marines in Haiti.

Attempts by the Latortue regime and the international community to label Lavalas as a terrorist organization with Operation Baghdad were always ludicrous. Fr. Jean-Juste with his usual clarity would state, "Bush and the Organization of American States are trying to equate the resistance against the coup by the poor with Al-Qaida and Iraqi terrorists. The OAS is bought off and a disgrace to the memory of Haiti having helped Bolivar for the emancipation of Latin America. They along with the U.S., France and Canada are siding with the elite in Haiti who would rather use this foreign label to brand the Lavalas movement as terrorists than accept their own responsibility for having driven this country into the ground with their own greed."

The Latortue regime and its allies believed that Operation Baghdad had finally provided them with the excuse they needed to destroy Lavalas and repress its most vocal supporters. High on the list was Fr. Jean-Juste. After Sept. 30, I heard several radio interviews with Haitian police spokesperson Jesse Coicou accusing unnamed priests of harboring and assisting gunmen involved in Operation Baghdad. I knew whom they meant and called Fr. Jean-Juste to make sure he was safe. He seemed unconcerned and reminded me that part of their goal was to frighten any one who opposed the coup into silence. He finished with "It is in God's hands and we have to keep talking about what's really going on here. We have to keep doing our work."

On October 13, 2004 the UN allowed the former brutal military to ‘officially' enter the capital of Port-au-Prince unchallenged. As they paraded through the streets waving automatic weapons and promising to kill ‘Lavalas bandits,' Fr. Jean-Juste was serving meals to the children at St. Claire's parish. As the children ate, heavily armed police wearing black ski masks surrounded the church before entering the premises with their guns drawn. As the children watched in terror they brutalized Fr. Jean-Juste before dragging him out and throwing him into the back of a waiting police car.

Fr. Jean-Juste's arrest came in the midst of a campaign of unprecedented slaughter and mass arrests throughout Oct. and Nov. 2004. It was clearly meant to silence his criticism of what he considered crimes against humanity being committed by the Haitian police against poor communities in the capital. The repression and his arrest were justified by Operation Baghdad, as the Latin American countries in charge of the UN military mission, namely Brazil, Chile and Argentina, remained silent and continued to provide support to the Haitian National Police.

Despite the reality that no warrant was ever produced nor any evidence linking Fr. Jean-Juste to a crime ever presented, he was held in prison for more than six weeks. He was finally released under the cover of darkness at 2 o'clock in the morning on Nov. 29 to avoid the spectacle of thousands of Lavalas supporters gathering to celebrate the news. I called him later in the day to express my joy and arrange another interview. All he would say was "Kev, get over here. We can't start the party without you."

Fr. Jean-Juste began giving interviews right after his release in which he condemned the U.S., France and Canada for their role in the coup and the UN for backing the repression against the Lavalas movement. He declared that Latortue was leading a ‘regime of terror' and chastised the UN for their "despicable role in providing support to the Haitian police as they unjustly murder and jail thousands for their political convictions." It was statements like these and his popularity among the poor that made him an even larger target for the Latortue regime. All they needed was the right circumstances and a new pretext for hauling him back to prison. Fr. Jean-Juste knew this but refused to remain silent.

©2009 Kevin Pina

Kevin Pina is a journalist and documentary filmmaker who has covered events in Haiti since 1991. As well as considering him a close friend and mentor, Pina interviewed Fr. Jean-Juste many times over the past 19 years. Interviews and personal conversations between the author and Fr. Jean-Juste form the basis of this article.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Former Senator accused of killing Jean Dominique in Haiti: Exclusive Interview

Former Senator Myrlande Liberus served as director at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy
where delegates regularly vote on grassroots initiatives aimed at improving life in their communities.

Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio Senior Producer Kevin Pina interviews former Lavalas Senator Myrlande Liberus who was recently accused by a judge in Haiti of assassinating journalist and commentator Jean Leopold Dominique in April 2000. Also joining him is Laura Flynn, a member of the Board of Directors of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH).



9 in Haiti Accused in Journalist Case