In Haïti Liberté’s latest coverage of US State Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks, the Haitian newspaper examines the “obsessive” and “far-reaching” campaign to keep former Haiti president Jean Bertrand-Aristide out of Haiti. Aristide, who was recently allowed back into Haiti in March of this year, spent seven years in exile in South Africa after he was kidnapped and flown out of the country in a 2004 US-backed coup.
“Newly installed right-wing president Michel Martelly,” the Haiti Liberté’ reports, is backing further persecution of Aristide. He has cut back the president’s security and taken back the vehicle that former President René Préval provided to Aristide upon his return. He is offering “amnesty” to Aristide, even though he “has not been charged, much less convicted, of any crimes.” Right-wingers are going on the radio to call for Aristide’s prosecution, charging that he is guilty of “corruption and political murder.”
The continued demonization of Aristide all appears to be tacitly supported by the US government, as Haiti Liberté’reports the US government is working to “concoct a credible human right case” against Aristide.
This news shows the continuity of policy in the US government. And, the effort to isolate Aristide and ensure he remained an exile of Haiti, uncovered thanks to WikiLeaks, displays the government’s clear disrespect for Haitian sovereignty.
An April 17, 2003 cable from the Nassau Embassy in the Bahamas shows how Foreign Minister was seeking to fend off a US attempt to use the Organization of American States (OAS) Charter to legally justify intervention or regime change in Haiti.
[Foreign Minister Fred] Mitchell was dismissive of the possibility of invoking the democracy provisions of the OAS Charter, saying that although “Some people argue that’s the case in Haiti … I think that is taking it a little bit too far.” He described the U.S. position on Haiti as “hard-minded”, and called for continued dialogue. Mitchell also announced a $500,000 economic assistance package for Haiti. In announcing it, he acknowledged that the assistance would likely not do much good unless the political impasse were resolved. Mitchell defended the package, however, by reiterating that the Government of the Bahamas must do whatever it can to improve the economic situation in Haiti because of the impact The Bahamas would likely feel if further economic and political crisis resulted in a mass migration. He made it very clear that this is the paramount issue for The Bahamas.
The OAS allegedly tries to “foster democracy, security, human rights and economic integration” amongst its thirty-four active members from North America, Central and Latin America and the Caribbean. The OAS is also believed to be an organization that the US can easily manipulate to advance its interests.
The article points out that then-Bahama Prime Minister Perry Christie was clueless about the coup that opposition forces to President Aristide were working to engineer. In one cable, he stresses the “importance of Aristide appealing directly to the U.S., France, or Canada for assistance in re-equipping Haitian police so that law and order” can be restored, not realizing these are the countries that preparing to oust him in a coup.
Additionally, the cables show how the US-backed coup enjoyed support from the Vatican. Aristide, a former priest, was regarded by the Holy See as someone who had been “an active proponent of voodoo.” Days after the coup took place, on March 5, 2004, US Ambassador to the Vatican James Nichols reported the Holy See had no regrets about Aristide’s removal from power.
The Vatican likely continues to despise Aristide, as a January 20, 2010 cable shows in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake just weeks ago, the Vatican’s Assessor (deputy chief of staff) concluded, “Aristide’s presence would distract from the relief efforts and could be destabilizing,” opposing any attempt by Aristide to return and help with disaster cleanup in the earthquake’s aftermath.
Finally, the cables show how US went into “damage control,” working to downplay the concerns of CARICOM, an organization of fifteen Caribbean nations. In a March 9 cable following the cable, Bahamanian Ambassador to Haiti Dr. Eugene Newry can be seen appears to favor the coup. He applauds the transition, which is taking place in the aftermath of Aristide’s removal from power. And, he concludes, “CARICOM is not angry with the U.S. involvement in the departure of Aristide, but rather was ‘surprised’ by the abrupt decision-making, and Caricom’s lack of involvement.”
The election of Martelly virtually ensures Aristide will continue to face harassment and bullying. His continued popularity is a thorn in the side of the US, Canada and France, whose plans for “globalization” of Haiti could be impeded by Aristide.
Martelly, as Greg Grandin points out, is a “a friend of coup-plotters, fascists, and armed right-wing groups.” Grandin highlights the outbursts that came to the fore toward the end of his presidential campaign and his connections with the country’s violent far-right:
Some disturbing “Sweet Micky” outbursts bubbled up towards the end of the campaign – troublesome YouTube moments that might have doomed a presidential contender in the United States. In one, apparently recent, video, Martelly was filmed surrounded by a small group of friends at a club. “All those shits were Aristide’s faggots,” he shouts in kreyol in the candid video, while pulling his T-shirt up and rubbing his belly. “I would kill Aristide and stick a dick up his ass.” This was followed by an audio recording – also posted on YouTube, accompanied by a photo of Martelly in a suit – in which the candidate denounced Fanmi Lavalas: “The Lavalas are so ugly. They smell like shit. Fuck you, Lavalas. Fuck you, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.”
Martelly’s ties with coup-supporting Republicans in the US and neo-fascists in Spain are perhaps the least worrisome of the president-elect’s relationships. His relationship to Haiti’s violent far-right goes way back. It is well known, for instance, that he ran a nightclub frequented by Duvalierists in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. He has also admitted to having joined the Tonton Macoutes – the world-infamous, murderous militia of the Duvalier dictatorships – in his younger days. Martelly has also spoken freely about his friendships with convicted murderer Michel François and others involved in the coups against Aristide – which Martelly also admits he supported. His famous song, “I Don’t Care” is a rebuff to controversy about such associations.
Few of the cables that formed the backbone for the Haïti Liberté’article are not posted on WikiLeaks yet. As they are made available, they will be linked to in this post. In the meantime, read the full article from Haïti Liberté’. It’s a must-read for anyone looking to further understand US policy toward Haiti.