[News] Payoffs to Haiti's Renegade Soldiers

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Wed Jan 5 08:54:41 EST 2005


Tue Jan 4,10:09 AM ET
Op/Ed - USATODAY.com

By DeWayne Wickham

While the Bush administration wages war against terrorism in Iraq (news - 
web sites), the government it propped up in Haiti has caved in to the 
terrorists who've seized control of parts of that impoverished Caribbean 
island nation.

Last week, Haiti's interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue began handing out 
checks to members of his country's former army, a brutal military force 
that was disbanded in 1995. So far, more than 200 former soldiers have 
received checks. The money, which the renegade soldiers say is back pay 
that covers the past 10 years, is actually a thinly veiled blackmail payment.

Latortue agreed to dole out the checks, which are expected to total $29 
million, after months of failed attempts to get the renegade soldiers to 
turn in their weapons. In the year since they led the rebellion that 
toppled the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's former 
soldiers have created what amounts to a shadow government. They hold sway 
in parts of the country that are beyond the reach of the government and the 
small United Nations (news - web sites) peacekeeping force that keeps it in 

Last year's rebellion was the second time Haitian soldiers had a hand in 
removing Aristide from power. Back in 1991, a military coup forced him to 
flee the country just months after he became Haiti's first democratically 
elected president. During Aristide's absence, Haiti's army violently 
suppressed opponents of its power grab.

Aristide dumped army

Aristide cashiered the entire army after he was restored to power in 1995 - 
replacing it with a lightly armed national police force. The police were no 
match for the renegade soldier-led rebellion that swept across Haiti a year 

Aristide was replaced by Latortue, a Florida resident who was named interim 
prime minister by a Haitian "council of elders" that the Bush 
administration was instrumental in cobbling together. Shortly after taking 
office, Latortue called the rebels "freedom fighters," even though some of 
their leaders are widely thought to have been part of the death squads that 
preyed upon Aristide's supporters.

"It just reaffirms the corruption of the nature of puppet government," Bill 
Fletcher Jr., president of TransAfrica Forum, said of the payment policy. 
His is a Washington-based group that monitors events in African and 
Caribbean nations. "Any amount of money is legitimizing their activities 
when every credible report indicates that these guys are running around the 
countryside killing people, tracking down Aristide's supporters and driving 
people underground," Fletcher said.

He makes a good point. According to Amnesty International, the rebel force 
is led by Guy Philippe, a former army officer who is thought to have been 
involved in a failed 2000 coup. Other leaders of the rebels include 
Louis-Jodel Chamblain and Jean Pierre Baptiste, both members of a 
paramilitary group that is accused of carrying out massacres and 
assassinations in support of the 1991 coup.

Why compensation?

So what makes these men "freedom fighters" and deserving of compensation 
for lost work? They got rid of Aristide, a former Catholic priest who was 
widely backed by the poor to whom he once ministered. But Aristide has been 
reviled by the country's elite, whose bidding the army has historically done.

In paying off the rebels, Latortue hopes to buy his government some time, 
if not ultimately peace. He apparently believes that once their pockets are 
filled with money from Haiti's cash-strapped government, the rebels will 
lay down their weapons and go home.

That's not likely to happen. Having cajoled Latortue into dipping deep into 
the national treasury to satisfy their demands, there's little chance that 
these terrorists will be satisfied. They know that once they give up their 
weapons - and their control of pockets of Haiti - they will lose their 
leverage with Latortue's government. Only defiance, not money, will get 
them to do that.

So far, the Bush administration - Latortue's patron - has not taken a 
public stand on the Haitian government's attempt to end the insurgency by 
throwing money at the band of thugs that ousted Aristide and now threatens 
to undermine his replacement. That's too bad.

Left to his own bad decision-making, Latortue has decided to appease rather 
than confront Haiti's terrorists.

DeWayne Wickham writes weekly for USA TODAY.

Forwarded by the Haitian Lawyers' Leadership Network

"Men anpil chay pa lou"  is Kreyol for - "Many hands make light a heavy load."


The Haitian Leadership Networks'  7 "Men Anpil Chay Pa Lou" campaigns to 
help restore Haiti's independence, the will of the mass electorate and the 
rule of law.



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