by Jennifer Harbury – Torture Abolition Network / Haiti Action Committee
The letter below comes from Jennifer Harbury, who knows first hand about state-sponsored torture when she insisted on determining the wherabouts of her “disappeared” husband. His torturers were part of a Reagan/Bush-backed operation that freed right-wing death squads to kill peasants all over South and Central America.
What follows is just another example of censorship and media-spin by Bush’s right-wing regime, which consistantly favors anti-democratic rule for its client-states, knowing that real democracy makes it a little bit harder for the Big Businesses. Brutal military/police state rule is always at the bottom of every type of fascism.
The followers of Aristide and Haitain democracy are being deceptively lied about by the members of the Bush administration. Those of us in line for similar treatment in this country had better speak up for the currently targeted or nobody will be left to speak up for us when it’s our turn.
— Gary Kohis / Peace Friends
An Appeal from Jennifer Harbury
We urgently need your support and telephone calls on the growing crisis in Haiti. I am sure you have all seen the recent press articles about what is described as the popular unrest there, but far more than civil disobedience is at stake now.
We are looking at yet another grab for power by the same death squads that ravaged Haiti a few years ago. The self-proclaimed uprising has been extremely violent and people are dying.
While members of the political opposition are indeed part of this uprising, so too are many of the most notorious torturers and death squad members who devastated Haiti before Aristide’s return to power.
When we remember that FRAPH and many other military human rights violators were in fact backed by the CIA in those years, the recent insinuations by US officials that they would not oppose an ouster of President Aristide take on a rather sinister light.
Mr. Aristide was legally and popularly elected by the people of Haiti not once, but twice, in the more recent elections by 92% of the vote. (The claims of electoral error arose in a senate election, not his presidential victory). Why are we suggesting that he leave office or accept US-dictated changes in his policies?
The Return of the FRAPH?
The opposition demonstrators have seized the town of Gonaives, killing more than 50 people the first week, including three hospital patients and 14 policemen who were mutilated and dragged through the streets.
A number of key roads and a bridge have been obstructed, preventing the arrival of badly-needed medical personnel as well as humanitarian supplies.
According to reports, the “Resistance” has proclaimed that anyone not supporting the overthrow of Aristide would be attacked. They backed up this threat with beatings and killings, and destroyed several homes, two of which happened to belong to the survivors of the Raboteau massacre.
(In 1994 the army and paramilitary troops had entered Raboteau, shooting, beating and arresting people in masses. As the people fled towards the harbor to swim to safety, they encountered armed men on the beachfront, who opened fire on them. Undeterred, the people of Raboteau pressed their human rights case through trial, winning a verdict against 16 of the 22 defendants despite the US refusal to hand over thousands of FRAPH documents).
US-Trained Killers Are Leading the ‘Resistance’
Two of the opposition leaders reported to have engaged in killings of police officers in Haiti’s Central Plateau, include Guy Philippe, a US-trained former Haitian soldier who has attempted at least three coups in the last four years, and Louis Jodel Chamblain, the #2 ranked leader of the notorious CIA-backed FRAPH death squad.
Chamblain was convicted in both the assassination of Antoine Izmery, a pro-democracy businessman in 1993, and the 1994 Raboteau massacre.
Jean Pierre, alias Tatoune, was a local FRAPH leader and was serving a life sentence for the Raboteau massacre, until his escape in a 2002 jailbreak. The opposition also includes civilians like sweat shop owner and US citizen Andy Apaid, who opposed an increase of the minimum wage last year, when Aristide attempted to raise it from the $1.60 per day where it now stands.
Rebellion Leaders Have Long-standing Ties to the CIA
Since so many of the more brutal members of the “opposition” in fact have long standing ties to the US intelligence community, we should be calling off our dogs instead of pressing Aristide to bend his policies to US demands.
Haiti really does not need the FRAPH or other death squads, let alone the CIA, to interfere with a lawfully elected government, let alone to return to power for a new round of blood baths.
Who can forget the massacre in the Saint-Jean Bosco Church of 1988, which took place as Aristide was giving his Sunday mass? Thugs and secret police broke down the church doors and opened fire, attacking and stabbing the people as they prayed. A pregnant woman was stabbed through the stomach, more than a dozen others were killed, many more badly hurt, and the Church was burned to the ground.
Miraculously Aristide survived, became President, survived a violent coup, and became President yet again.
The people of Haiti have spoken clearly enough about their choice of their national leader. There are no masses of refugees fleeing Aristide as there were under Duvalier and the FRAPH. We should respect this choice instead of supporting yet more terror.
Call or Write the State Department’s Haiti Desk:
• The United States should fully support any legally and popularly elected government, including that of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, President of Haiti..
• Because many of the persons involved in the current violence by the opposition, were in fact death-squad members and extreme human-rights violators, with long standing links to the US intelligence services, the US government should take all steps possible to control these assets and allies, and require the immediate cessation of violence and intimidation on their part. Any and all covert funding to them should be halted forthwith.
• The US government should respect and comply with any request by President Aristide for reasonable assistance to his understaffed and under-equipped police force. The US should respect the sovereign status of the government of Haiti and not interfere in the socio-economic policies of that country by threatened intervention or sanctions of any kind.
If you wish to make additional calls, please give your support and thanks to Maxine Waters, and ask for help from other allies and friends on the Hill, such as Sen. Leahy, Sen. Dodd, Rep. Conyers, Rep. Rangel, and Rep. Lantos. The Switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.
Thank you everyone. Your calls do make a difference, and always have.
STATE DEPARTMENT Contact Information:
• Colin Powell, Secretary of State,
US Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520
Phone: 202.647.5291 or 202.647.7098 Fax: 202.647.2283 or 202.647.5169
• Haiti Desk Officers, State Department:
• Lawrence Connell