This article discusses the two coups against President Aristide, in 1991 and in 2004. It ties them to international interference in Haiti and the current Haitian government’s ties with former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. While Duvalier, whose regime was responsible for thousands of deaths and disappearances, lives freely in Haiti, Aristide faces an arrest warrant and revival of charges against him, for which there is no evidence.
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A Revolution Interrupted, Haiti 23 Years after the 1991 Coup
September 29, 2014
For the Haitian people, 1991 marks an assault on popular democracy. Today, the consequences of the 1991 coup resonate in Haitian society as the current government carries out unconstitutional measures and persecutes the country’s former president.
Who orchestrated the military coup d’état in 1991,
Plus the presidential coup d’état kidnapping in 2004,
In order to bury the neo-liberal death plan deeper
In the entrails of Haiti? The new colonists.
-Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti-Haitii? Philosophical Reflections for Mental Decolonization, 2011
Twenty-three years ago on September 29, 1991, the Haitian people suffered the nation’s 32nd coup d’état eight months after the election of the country’s first democratically elected president, Father Jean Bertrand Aristide. The consequences of the 1991 coup reverberate today in Haitian society. Military intervention, economic exploitation of Haitian people and their natural resources, as well as the return of the Duvalier dictatorship manifested in Michel Martelly’s puppet government prove that Haitians are still struggling with the dilemmas left behind after the 1991 coup.
It is impossible to speak of the 1991 coup without mentioning the second coup against Aristide in 2004. On both occasions, France, United States and Canada worked closely with the Haitian elite class to dismantle the achievements of the Haitian people.
However, Haitians then and now continue to organize despite incredible obstacles. The people and its popular movement, Lavalas, meaning the great flood, are at the height of a contemporary struggle for self-determination and sovereignty in the region. Haiti stands in the eye of the storm as international powers attempt to destabilize the nation utilizing Martelly’s administration.
The Resurrection of the Duvalier Dictatorship in the 21st Century
The Haitian people remember the Duvalier era (1957-1986) as a time of incredible repression, as father and son duo Francois Duvalier and Jean-Claude Duvalier carried out a reign of terror in the Caribbean nation. The Duvalier dictatorship built stronger ties with the U.S. government following the military occupation of 1915-1930, opened up the nation to sweatshop labor and persecuted political organizers under an anti-communist campaign. Some scholars estimate that the Duvalier regime’s death squad the Tonton Macoutes murdered 30,000 to 50,000 people.
This time period in Haitian history resulted in the mass exodus of people ranging from skilled laborers, political leaders and peasants. The Haitian people’s democratic election of Aristide and his grassroots vision offered hope. For many Haitian people, “Aristide symbolizes the truth.” The 1991 coup d’état interrupted Haitians’ self-determination.
Today, Duvalier’s dictatorship resurfaces under the Martelly administration.
In 2011, Martelly was (s)elected as president with less than a quarter of the vote in an electoral race that unconstitutionally banned Lavalas party candidates from running. Also, elections were held under terrible conditions, far from guaranteeing transparency and democratic participation.
Martelly, a former kompa style music singer aligned with the Tonton Macoutes, has increased state surveillance, political persecution, the restriction and criminalization of freedom of thought and association punishable by the death penalty under his administration.
However, Martelly does little to censor himself. In 2011, Martelly publicly insulted the Lavalas movement and Aristide after the former president’s return to Haiti while praising the return of Jean Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier. Martelly was caught on camera saying: “The Lavalas are so ugly. They smell like s**t. F**k you, Lavalas. F**k you, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.”
Foreign political, economic and military intervention has thrived under Martelly’s mandate. International NGOs and private investors have been set on selling any vestiges of the Haitian people’s dignity by converting the country into a textile sweatshop, mega luxury tourist destination and open for mining as well as oil exploitation.
In 2012, former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton remarked that Haiti “is open for business, and that’s not just a slogan.”
In addition, millions of foreign aid monies (donated for earthquake relief efforts) from well known international charities, NGOs and governments have been invested in NGO salaries, extravagant hotels and other tourist projects.
A growing militarized presence under United Nations troops and the construction of a US$74 billion U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince plagues Haiti. The U.S. base of operations will be a geo-political gold mine against the region’s growing integration movement.
This present day plunder and policing is only permissible under Martelly’s current administration as he continues to strip away rights and protections guaranteed by the Haitian constitution.
For example, the Haitian parliament is coming closer to absolute non-functionality as Martelly refuses to call elections (a power subscribed to the president under the constitution). Instead, Martelly is bullying the Senate to approve the El Rancho Agreement. The unconstitutional agreement would allow Martelly to hand pick the country’s electoral council.
Presently, “six senators have resisted and say, how can this supersede the constitution? The U.S. Embassy has not denounced this. And we have a saying in Haiti, if you don’t say anything when people misrepresent you, that means you are in agreement,” remarks one Haitian organizer.
In the event that the Haitian people do not democratically select officials, all state power will be concentrated in the executive branch by January 2015.
The popular movement has staged sit-ins in front of the parliament in solidarity with the six senators who risk imprisonment for defending the constitution under Martelly’s administration.
Court Case Charade Surrounds Elections
In August, Judge Lamarre Belizaire, appointed by Martelly, issued a court order accusing Aristide of “illicit drug trafficking, embezzlement of public funds, forfeiture and concussion, and money laundering.” This is not the first time that unfounded corruption charges have been used to defame Aristide’s character.
Brian Concannon Jr., the Executive Director for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti explains, “there have been a long series of cases against President Aristide and Lavalas party members and officials including: dozens of criminal cases filed in Haiti between 2004 and 2006, that led to months of pre-trial detention for dozens of people, in some cases two or more years…a criminal Grand Jury proceeding targeting Aristide in US Federal Court in Miami, that continued for over a year, and never led to any charges agaisnt him…a civil suit in the US against Aristide and several other officials, that was filed, but never served on the defendants…and a series of charges against Aristide and over 20 other officials filed under the Martelly regime since 2011.”
Now is the time for solidarity with the Haitian people as a campaign to undo Lavalas’ achievements are underway.
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