Friday, August 12, 2011

WikiLeaks Outs Haiti

: The Aristide Files

The first of two articles below is by Kim Ives and Ansel Herz in The Nation, 5 August 2011

Imperialist Usa, France, Canada, The Un, And The Vatican Unite To Prevent Democracy

US officials led a far-reaching international campaign aimed at keeping former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide exiled in South Africa, rendering him a virtual prisoner there for the last seven years, according to secret US State Department cables.

The cables show that high-level US and UN officials even discussed a politically motivated prosecution of Aristide to prevent him from “gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.”

The secret cables, made available to the Haitian weekly newspaper Haïti Liberté by WikiLeaks, show how the political defeat of Aristide and his Lavalas movement has been the central pillar of US policy toward the Caribbean nation over the last two US administrations, even though—or perhaps because—US officials understood that he was the most popular political figure in Haiti.

They also reveal how US officials and their diplomatic counterparts from France, Canada, the UN and the Vatican tried to vilify and ostracize the Haitian political leader.

For the Vatican, Aristide was an “active proponent of voodoo.” For Washington, he was “dangerous to Haiti’s democratic consolidation,” according to the secret US cables.

Aristide was overthrown in a bloody February 2004 coup supported by Washington and fomented by right-wing paramilitary forces and the Haitian elite. In the aftermath of the coup, more than 3,000 people were killed and thousands of supporters of Aristide and his Fanmi Lavalas political party were jailed.

The United States maintained publicly that Aristide resigned in the face of a ragtag force of former Haitian army soldiers rampaging in Haiti’s north. But Aristide called his escort by a US Navy SEAL team on his flight into exile “a modern-day kidnapping.”

Two months later, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was established, a 9,000-strong UN occupation force that still oversees Latin America’s first independent nation.

Aristide has spoken forcefully against the UN occupation, particularly in his 2010 year-end letter to the Haitian people. “We cannot forget the $5 billion which has already been spent for MINUSTAH over these past six years,” he wrote. “Anybody can see how many houses, hospitals, and schools that wasted money could have built for the victims” of the January 12, 2010, earthquake that destroyed much of Port-au-Prince and surrounding regions.

Such positions are major reasons Washington fought to get and keep Aristide out of Haiti, the cables make clear. “A premature departure of MINUSTAH would leave the [Haitian] government...vulnerable to...resurgent populist and anti-market economy political forces—reversing gains of the last two years,” wrote US Ambassador Janet Sanderson in an October 1, 2008, cable. MINUSTAH “is an indispensable tool in realizing core USG [US government] policy interests in Haiti.”

At a high-level meeting five years ago, top US and UN officials discussed how the “Aristide Movement Must Be Stopped,” according to an August 2, 2006, cable. It described how former Guatemalan diplomat Edmond Mulet, then chief of MINUSTAH, “urged US legal action against Aristide to prevent the former president from gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.”

At Mulet’s request, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki “to ensure that Aristide remained in South Africa.”

President Obama and Kofi Annan’s successor, Ban Ki-moon, also intervened to urge Pretoria to keep Aristide in South Africa. The secret cables report that Aristide’s return to Haiti would be a “disaster,” according to the Vatican, and “catastrophic,” according to the French.

But the regional and Haitian view was quite different. US Ambassador James Foley admitted in a confidential March 22, 2005, cable that an August 2004 poll “showed that Aristide was still the only figure in Haiti with a favorability rating above 50%.”

The Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell, apparently referring to Haiti’s revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture’s kidnapping and imprisonment in the Jura mountains in 1802, warned “that a perceived ‘Banishing Policy’ has racial and historical overtones in the Caribbean that reminds inhabitants of the region of slavery and past abuse.”

Keeping the Pressure On

After Aristide left Jamaica for exile in South Africa on May 30, 2004, the US government worked overtime to keep him out of Haiti and even the hemisphere, even though the Haitian constitution and international law stipulate that every Haitian citizen has the right to be in his homeland.

When Dominican President Leonel Fernández suggested at a hemispheric conference eight months after the coup that Aristide should return and play a role in Haiti’s political future, the United States reacted angrily, saying in a cable that Fernández had been “wrong in advocating the inclusion in the process of former president Jean Bertrand Aristide.”

The US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic “admonished” Fernández “during a pull-aside at a social event.”

“Aristide had led a violent gang involved in narcotics trafficking and had squandered any credibility he formerly may have had,” US Ambassador Hertell told him, according to a November 16, 2004, cable.

“Nobody has given me any information about that,” Fernández replied.

The embassy followed up with a series of aggressive meetings insisting that the Dominican government renounce its support for Aristide. The meetings included a sit-down with the Dominican president specifically on the subject of Haiti with the British, Canadian, French, Spanish and US ambassadors.

No charges were ever filed against Aristide for drug trafficking, although the United States “spent, literally, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars…trying to pin something, anything on President Aristide,” Ira Kurzban, Aristide’s lawyer, told Pacifica Radio’s Flashpoints in July. “They’ve had an ATF investigation, a tax investigation, a drug investigation, and now apparently some kind of corruption investigation.... The reality is they’ve come up with nothing because there is nothing.”

According to a report in Haïti Liberté, other sources say that a US legal team is still angling to prosecute Aristide.

In 2005, the Fanmi Lavalas political party planned large demonstrations to mark Aristide’s July 15 birthday and call for his return. The US Ambassador to France, Craig Stapleton, met with the French diplomatic official Gilles Bienvenu in Paris to discuss the issue.

“Bienvenu stated that the GOF [Government of France] shared our analysis of the implications of an Aristide return to Haiti, terming the likely repercussions ‘catastrophic,’?” Stapleton wrote in a July 1, 2005, cable. “Initially expressing caution when asked about France demarching the SARG [conveying the message to the South African government], Bienvenu noted that Aristide was not a prisoner in South Africa and that such an action could ‘create difficulties.’?”

Stapleton swiftly overcame Bienvenu’s reluctance. Bienvenu agreed to relay US and French “shared concerns” to the South African government, saying that “as a country desiring to secure a seat on the UN Security Council, South Africa could not afford to be involved in any way with the destabilization of another country.”

The Ambassador went even further: “Bienvenu speculated on exactly how Aristide might return, seeing a possible opportunity to hinder him in the logistics of reaching Haiti,” Stapleton wrote. “If Aristide traveled commercially, Bienvenu reasoned, he would likely need to transit certain countries in order to reach Haiti. Bienvenu suggested a demarche to Caricom [Caribbean Community] countries by the US and EU to warn them against facilitating any travel or other plans Aristide might have. He specifically recommended speaking to the Dominican Republic, which could be directly implicated in a return attempt.”

Five days later in Ottawa, two Canadian diplomatic officials met with the US Embassy personnel. “‘We are on the same sheet’ with regards to Aristide,” one Canadian affirmed, according to a July 6, 2005, cable. “Even before these recent rumors, she said, Canada had a clear position in opposition to the return of Aristide.”

Canada shared the message with “all parties...especially the Caricom countries,” as well with South Africa.

Vatican Blocks Post-Quake Return of Aristide

The earthquake that killed tens of thousands and destroyed many parts of the city also threatened to upend the established political order, worrying diplomats.

US Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) met with a Vatican official in the days after the earthquake to discuss Church losses and responses.

A January 20, 2010, cable reports, “In discussions with DCM over the past few days, senior Vatican officials said they were dismayed about media reports that deposed Haitian leader—and former priest—Jean Bertrand Aristide wished to return to Haiti.... The Vatican's Assesor (deputy chief of staff equivalent), Msgr. Peter Wells, said Aristide's presence would distract from the relief efforts and could become destabilizing.”

Then the Vatican’s Undersecretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, conferred with Archbishop Bernardito Auza in Haiti, who “agreed emphatically that Aristide's return would be a disaster.” Balestrero “then conveyed Auza's views to Archbishop Greene in South Africa, and asked him also to look for ways to get this message convincingly to Aristide. DCM suggested that Greene also convey this message to the SAG [South African government].”

The Vatican’s position on Aristide’s return was augured in earlier cables. In November 2003, three months before the bloody February 2004 coup against Aristide, a US political officer met with the Vatican’s MFA Caribbean Affairs Office Director Giorgio Lingua. He said that “effecting change in Haiti should be easier than in Cuba,” reported US Chargé d'Affaires Brent Hardt in a November 14, 2003, cable. “Unlike Castro, Lingua observed, Aristide is not ideologically motivated. ‘This is one person—not a system,’ he added.”

Shortly after the coup, on March 5, 2004, US Ambassador to the Vatican James Nicholson wrote a cable reporting that the Holy See’s Deputy Foreign Minister had “no regret at Aristide's departure, noting that the former priest had been an active proponent of voodoo.”

A Hero’s Welcome

Aristide ultimately returned to Haiti on March 18, 2011, despite personal calls by President Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma to stop him. They argued he would disrupt Haiti’s imminent elections.

“The problem is exclusion, and the solution is inclusion,” Aristide said during a brief return speech at the airport after landing. Then he made his only reference, however oblique, to that week’s elections from which his party was barred: “The exclusion of Fanmi Lavalas is the exclusion of the majority.”

Two days later, the second round of Haiti’s elections went off relatively smoothly, but with historically low voter participation. Some polling stations in Port-au-Prince were empty, with stacks of ballot sheets piled high, hours before they closed. Less than 24 percent of registered voters went to their polls, according to official statistics. Other observers say the turnout was much less.

On the morning of Aristide’s return in Port-au-Prince, thousands massed outside the airport in an exuberant, spontaneous demonstration. They jogged alongside his motorcade waving Haitian flags and placards bearing Aristide’s visage, then scaled the fence surrounding Aristide’s home and poured into its yard until there was no room left to move. The crowd even climbed the walls and covered the roof.

Sitting in an SUV just twenty feet from the door to his hastily repaired but mostly empty house, Aristide and his family waited until a crew of Haitian policeman managed to clear what resembled a pathway through the crowd. First his wife and two daughters emerged from the car and dashed inside the home.

Finally Aristide, diminutive in a sharp blue suit, stood up in the car doorway and waved. The crowd roared in excitement and surged around him. The path to the door vanished. His security grabbed him and shouldered their way through the sea of humanity until they got him to the house’s door, through which he popped like a cork, clutching his glasses in his hands.

After a coup, kidnapping, exile, diplomatic intrigue and his rapturous welcome, Aristide was finally home.

The following is by Jeb Sprague in Haïti Liberté, 12 August 1011

WikiLeaks Reveal: U.S. and UN Supervised Integration of Coup-Making Ex-Soldiers into Haiti’s Police

Throughout 2004 and 2005, Haiti’s unelected de facto authorities, working alongside foreign officials, integrated at least 400 ex-army paramilitaries into the country’s police force, secret U.S. Embassy cables reveal.

For a year and a half following the ouster of Haiti’s elected government on Feb. 29, 2004, UN, OAS, and U.S. officials, in conjunction with post-coup Haitian authorities, vetted the country’s police force – officer by officer – integrating former soldiers with the goal of both strengthening the force and providing an alternative “career path” for paramilitaries.

Hundreds of police considered loyal to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's deposed government were purged. Some were jailed and a few killed, according to numerous sources interviewed.

At the same time, former soldiers from the disbanded Haitian Armed Forces (FAdH), who were assembled in a paramilitary “rebel” force which worked with the country’s elite opposition to bring down Aristide, were stationed – officially and unofficially – in many towns across the country.

As part of this deployment, an extrajudicial strike brigade was assembled in Pétion-Ville. It carried out brutal raids (sometimes alongside police), often several times a week, in the capital’s coup-resisting neighborhoods, as documented in a November 2004 University of Miami human rights study.

The secret U.S. dispatches detailing the police force’s overhaul were part of 1,918 Haiti-related cables obtained by the media organization WikiLeaks and provided to Haïti Liberté.

The cables show that UN and U.S. officials saw the program as a useful way to disarm and demobilize combatants, but the implications of providing coup-making paramilitaries with government security jobs have been hidden or ignored.

The cables also make clear that the US officials – using “redlines” and “red flags” – took on a leading role in the “reforms,” minutely following the process of repopulating Haiti’s police.

Millions of dollars in funding for the demobilization and integration of the FAdH were gathered — mainly through the UN and the U.S. — but officials also looked to other governments for funding.

Immediately after the coup, the integration process was carried out by officials of the so-called Interim Government of Haiti (IGOH), under U.S., OAS and UN supervision. Then, starting in November 2004, a longer-term apparatus, the UN’s DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration) program, was set up. Part of its duties included a continued integration of some of the paramilitaries into the Haitian National Police (HNP).

The U.S. Embassy cables go into detail about the integration of paramilitaries into the HNP and other government agencies. One of the most revealing cables is entitled “Haiti’s Northern Ex-Military Turn Over Weapons; Some to Enter National Police.”

The Mar. 15, 2005 cable provides an overview of a gathering two days earlier in Cap-Haïtien attended by Haiti’s de facto Prime Minister Gérard Latortue and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative to Haiti, Juan Gabriel Valdès. The officials oversaw a “symbolic disarmament,” where more than “300 members of Haiti's demobilized military in Cap-Haïtien” turned in a token seven weapons and then boarded buses to the capital.

The UN and IGOH officials parked the paramilitaries at Port-au-Prince’s Magistrates’ School, where many other ex-soldiers were being placed.

The cable describes how previously high-level IGOH officials had made promises to the ex-FAdH paramilitaries. Some “of the ex-soldiers in Cap-Haïtien said they had been told by the PM's nephew and security advisor Youri Latortue and the PM's political advisor Paul Magloire that they would be admitted into the HNP,” explained the cable by U.S. Ambassador James Foley. “This raised a red-flag for us and the rest of the international community...”

But at the Mar. 13 meeting, Gérard Latortue “made clear this was not the case,” telling the paramilitaries “that integration into the HNP would be a possibility for some, but they had to understand that not everyone would make it into the police. Ex-soldiers not qualified for the HNP could be hired into other public administration positions (e.g., customs, border patrol, etc.),” Foley wrote.

But the UN and IGOH authorities wanted to keep some of the ex-military together as a cohesive unit prepped for integration into the police, the cable reveals. The officials handed the matter over to UNOPS, a wing of the UN that focuses on project management and procurement.

Accordingly, “UNOPS has been working to relocate both the Managing Office [for Demobilized Military] and the approximately 80 individuals from the Magistrate's School to a former military camp in the Carrefour neighborhood outside of Port-au-Prince,” wrote Foley. (In March 2011, the author visited an ex-FAdH-run training camp in the Carrefour area.)

UN and U.S. officials appear to have often focused on achieving symbolic successes like the “demobilization” of paramilitary forces. “The symbolism of the ex-military disarming and leaving Haiti's second-largest city represents a significant breakthrough,” Foley concluded in his Mar. 15 cable.

At the time, around 800 ex-military men were being housed in Port-au-Prince, with UN help.

Of the 400 former soldiers integrated into the police, about 200 came in 2004 from the 15th graduating class of HNP cadets (called a “promotion” in Haiti), and 200 from the 17th promotion in 2005, the cables say.

The number 200 was no coincidence. The Embassy had told the IGOH that “the USG [U.S. Government] would not support more than 200 former military being included in Promotion 17” because “the USG was concerned that inclusion of ex-FADH in large numbers would detract from ongoing police reform measures; they therefore had to be closely scrutinized,” a May 6, 2005 cable explains.

This cable also reveals Washington’s dominance of the police force’s reconstruction. In a meeting, the Embassy told the HNP’s chief Léon Charles that “the practice of allowing a class of people to receive special quotas for class enrollment (as had happened with the ex-FADH) had to end,” wrote Foley. Dutifully, “Charles agreed and stated that the practice would end immediately.”

This did not mean that ex-soldiers wouldn’t continue to be integrated, only that “future recruitment drives would make no distinction with regard to the former military, but would also not discriminate against anyone for previous duty in the Haitian Armed Forces,” Charles said, according to the cable.

An Apr. 5, 2005 cable explains that the 16th promotion of 370 HNP cadets included “none of [those who] had a history of ex-FADH activity.”

In another Mar. 15, 2005 cable entitled “DG [Director General] Charles Update on Ex-FADH in the Haitian National Police,” Foley outlined how the process of integration was occurring with new HNP cadet classes.

“OAS officials charged with vetting police candidates reported approximately 400 ex-FADH candidates at the Police Academy on March 11 undergoing physical fitness testing,” his cable explained. The men, who had just previously served in paramilitary squads around the country, were vying for 200 slots in the HNP. The cable explains that a number of such individuals had been hired in prior months.

Police chief Charles, stated “that the ex-FADH from the 15th class who were rushed on to the streets last fall [of 2004] would return to class.” It was clear that officials felt somewhat worried about the new men they were bringing into the police force, so they decided that the ex-FAdH cadets from the 17th promotion would, upon graduation, “be deployed throughout Haiti on an individual basis and not as a group.”

Charles added that, among the 200 ex-FAdH in the 15th promotion, most “had been assigned to small stations in Port-au-Prince,” adding that, “although they were disciplined, they were older and physically slower.”

OAS officials noted that Haitian police officials who were now assisting the OAS in its vetting process feared some of the former soldiers they were interviewing: “HNP personnel assisting the OAS with the vetting program were afraid to interview some of the ex-FADH candidates out of concern they might be targeted if the panel disqualified an applicant.”

The U.S. embassy closely supervised how Haitian de facto officials conducted the integration, worried about the impact of any failures. Foley was pleased that Charles was holding ex-soldiers to “the same requirements as civilians for entrance into the HNP,” a policy resulting from “continuous pressure from us,” he wrote in the Mar. 15 cable. But Foley worried about “political pressures and decisions of PM [Gérard] Latortue, Justice Minister [Bernard] Gousse, and others,” his cable reported.

“We have raised this issue with them on countless occasions, pointing out the real danger the IGOH runs of losing international support for assistance to the HNP if the process of integrating ex-FADH into the police does not hew to the redlines we have laid down,” Foley wrote.

Embassy officials, along with the OAS mission, would “monitor the recruitment, testing, and training process, including a review of the written exam, test scores, and fitness results.”

Ambassador Foley added that “the pressure to bring ex-FADH into the HNP remains high.” He was likely referring to the calls made by some of Haiti’s most powerful right-wing politicians and businessmen, many having established relationships with the paramilitaries back when they were soldiers.

Furthermore, Chief Léon Charles was “worried that others in the IGOH had made unrealistic promises to the ex-FADH about jobs in the HNP in order to convince them to demobilize,” the ambassador wrote.

Charles “fretted that the Cap-Haïtien group set an example that others may follow, and indicated the IGOH could have over 1,000 former soldiers looking for jobs soon, including the 235 from Cap-Haïtien; 300 from Ouanaminthe; 200 from the Central Plateau; 150 from Les Cayes; 100 from Arcahaie, and 80 from St. Marc.”

The second Mar. 15 cable concludes “that the USG was willing to contribute $3 million to the DDR process but could not release the funds until the IGOH concluded an agreement with the UN on an acceptable DDR strategy and program.” The U.S. Embassy, playing a dominant role, was also clearly seeking to operate in accord with a transnational policy network — U.S. officials had helped to oversee other such integration processes in El Salvador and Iraq, and the DDR program has been deployed in a number of other countries where UN forces operate, such as Burundi, the Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Afghanistan, Nepal, and the Solomon Islands.

After Charles provided information on the monitoring and processes through which the ex-FAdH paramilitaries were integrated into the police force, Ambassador Foley remarked in an Apr. 5, 2005 cable: “The fleeting reply to requests for updates on human rights investigations demonstrate the HNP's inability to perform internal investigations.”

During their first year in office, IGOH authorities appear to have received far less oversight in their handling of ex-FADH integration into the police. “Until now, the Interior Ministry and/or the Managing Office [for Demobilized Soldiers] have been in charge of identifying possible ex-FADH candidates for the HNP,” Foley wrote in one of his Mar. 15 cables. Then he made clear Washington’s oversight: “This needs to change, so that ex-FADH candidates for the police come out of the reintegration/counseling process that the UN (with U.S. support through the International Organization for Migration) will manage.”

While former soldiers were being integrated into the HNP, hundreds of police who had been loyal to Aristide’s government were fired, their names and positions documented in a list put together by Guy Edouard, a former officer with the Special Unit to Guard the National Palace (USGPN). In a 2006 interview, Edouard explained that some of these former police and Palace security officers had been "hunted down" after the coup. Furthermore, with US support, Youri Latortue, a former USGPN officer and Prime Minister Latortue’s security and intelligence chief, had led efforts to "get rid of the people he did not like," Edouard said.

Gun battles continued to occur between the Haitian police and a handful of gangs in the capital’s poorest slums well into 2005, and on numerous occasions, police opened fire on peaceful anti-coup demonstrations. “April 27 was the fourth occasion since February where the HNP used deadly force,” explained a May 6, 2005 cable. The Embassy was vexed that “despite repeated requests, we have yet to see any objective written reports from the HNP that sufficiently articulate the grounds for using deadly force. Equally disturbing are HNP first-hand reports from the scene of these events. These are often confusing and irrational and fail to meet minimum police reporting requirements.”

The HNP, however, was working with UN forces in conducting lethal raids. Léon Charles acknowledged that UN troops had a “standard practice” of putting more lightly armed HNP forces in front of its units as they moved into Cité Soleil, and this “often resulted in the HNP overreacting and prematurely resorting to the use of deadly force,” the May 6 cable notes.

In a 2001 study published in the academic journal Small Wars and Insurgencies, researcher Eirin Mobekk explained how the U.S. worked to integrate large numbers of former soldiers into the HNP as Aristide, to thwart future coups, dissolved the FAdH in 1995. Washington’s strategy was to hedge in Lavalas with the new police force.

A decade later, this policy was resurrected. Just as Washington recycled part of the military force that carried out the 1991 coup, it recycled part of the paramilitary force that carried out violence leading up to the 2004 coup.

The WikiLeaked cables reveal just how closely Washington and the UN oversaw the formation of Haiti’s new police and signed off on the integration of ex-FAdH paramilitaries who had for years prior violently targeted Haiti’s popular classes and democratically elected governments.

Historic Return of the Aristide Family to Haiti 1 of 2

Historic Return of the Aristide Family to Haiti 2 of 2

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