[News] Payoffs to Haiti's Renegade Soldiers
News at freedomarchives.org
News at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 5 08:54:41 EST 2005
PAYOFFS TO HAITI'S RENEGADE SOLDIERS WON'T BUY PEACE
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
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.
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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