[News] Haiti's President in Miami: Aristide praised

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jun 29 12:17:40 EDT 2006

Haiti's President in Miami: The interim Ambassador scorned, Aristide praised

HIP - Miami - The presence of Haiti's ousted 
president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, loomed large 
in a Miami auditorium last Sunday night as the 
newly elected Chief of State, René Garcia Préval, 
took the podium. About 1000 Haitians crowded the 
Joseph Caleb Auditorium in Liberty City and began 
chanting "Aristide... Préval! Aristide... 
Préval!" for nearly two minutes as President 
Préval was introduced and rose to the stage. 
Haiti's new president patiently waited till the 
chants died down, smiled and reminded the 
audience, "There was an election on February 7th 
and the Haitian people choose me to be president" amid thunderous applause.

Preval is the Haitian leader to emerge through 
democratic elections since President 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced out of office 
on February 29, 2004 in a coup backed by the 
United States, France and Canada. The U.S. 
Embassy announced the invocation of Article 149 
of the Haitian Constitution within hours of 
Aristide's flight into exile and oversaw the 
swearing into office of Boniface Alexander, the 
senior member of Haiti's Supreme Court.

With all of the sitting members of Parliament 
forced into hiding and unable approve Boniface's 
appointment, the U.S. selected an 
extra-constitutional body modeled after the Iraqi 
Governing Council (IGC) that was established in 
that country following their invasion in 2003. It 
was called the "Council of the Wise" and its 
seven members selected Gerard Latortue, a former 
U.N. employee and talk show host from Boca Raton, 
Florida as the new Prime Minister of Haiti. 
Latortue's government was marked by gross 
violations of human rights and corruption before 
the election of Preval earlier this year. 
Aristide continues to live in exile in South 
Africa as pressure mounts for Preval's government 
to pave the way for his return to Haiti.

Last Sunday was President Preval's first address 
to the Haitian community in Miami since his 
election victory earlier this year. Several 
western diplomats have surreptitiously deemed his 
election on February 7 a "negotiated settlement" 
to assume the presidency rather than a clear 
electoral mandate. Haiti's Provisional Electoral 
Council (CEP), which orchestrated the tainted 
elections, was forced to declare Preval the 
winner in the first round of balloting after 
of protesters took the streets and paralyzed the 
capital of Port au Prince for several days. This 
came on the heels of reports of gross 
irregularities on the part of the U.N-sponsored 
CEP in counting the ballots and charges of fraud 
after thousands of uncounted ballots were found 
in several garbage dumps throughout the capital.

In an obscure agreement dubbed the "Belgium 
option," the international community brokered an 
arrangement with the CEP where thousands of blank 
ballots were distributed evenly among the 
candidates giving Preval the votes he needed to 
rise above the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff. 
The arrangement also helped to mask the failure 
of the international community to sponsor clean 
and fair elections in Haiti after investing an 
estimated 76 million dollars as well as providing 
a U.N. army for security and logistical support to the process.

The Haitian people thwarted the plans of the CEP 
to defeat Preval through manipulation and fraud, 
yet the international community still managed to 
blame the victim in a twisting of reality that 
would have made Machiavelli blush with shame. 
Turning the issue of electoral fraud to their 
advantage, the international community used - 
then acting U.S. Chargé d'Affaires - Timothy 
Carney to remind the new president that a 
veritable Sword of Damocles hangs over his head.

In an Associated Press article written by 
Stevenson Jacobs on February 19, 2006 - titled 
"American: Haiti Leader Must Perform" - Carney 
stated, "If he [Preval] doesn't perform, yes it 
[the electoral settlement] could weaken him." 
Carney then added the caveat, "If he does 
perform, nobody will remember it." Carney had 
already made it clear that part of the expected 
performance from Preval included not allowing 
Aristide to return to Haiti. In a statement the 
day after the elections Carney said, "Aristide is 
on his way to becoming as irrelevant to Haiti as 
Jean-Claude [Duvalier], and with no future. 
Aristide is now demonstrated to be a man of the 
past." Apparently Carney and the international 
community were oblivious to the most popular 
chant heard in the streets throughout the 
electoral campaign and on inauguration day, 
"Preval for president so Aristide can return."

Although Haitians in Miami clearly embraced the 
new president as their legitimate leader, it was 
equally clear that the sympathies of most in the 
auditorium remain with Aristide and his Lavalas 
Family political party whose electoral base was 
responsible for Preval's victory. This was made 
apparent when Preval's introduction of Lavalas 
grassroots leaders traveling with his official 
entourage was met with wild applause. Counted 
among them was Moise Jean-Charles (former Lavalas 
mayor of Milot and founder of MPM, the Milot 
Peasant's Movement), Sanba Boukman (who served as 
Lavalas spokesman in Bel Air during the bloody 
two-year period following Aristide's ouster) and 
Jean Joseph-Joel (he served as one of the leaders 
in Cite Soleil for the Lavalas National Base of 
Cells of Reflection the past two years).

Haitians in the Miami audience also viewed 
Preval's visit as a symbol of the end of the 
reign of terror and repression carried out by the 
U.S.-installed regime of Gerard Latortue following Aristide's ouster.

The introduction of the Latortue regime's 
appointed ambassador to Washington, Raymond 
Joseph, was met with nearly unanimous booing and 
hissing from the crowd. Joseph is the uncle of 
rapper Wyclef Jean and is a co-publisher of the 
reactionary newspaper Haiti Observateur. 
Ambassador is known for making preposterous 
claims of Aristide supporters crushing babies - 
mortar and pestle style - to bathe President 
Aristide in their blood to assure his re-election victory.

An ardent supporter of the 1991 military coup 
against Aristide, Joseph also claimed that 
Aristide lent - then president - Bill Clinton a 
vodou medium who advised him not to change his 
underwear as part of ritual designed to win him re-election.

In his recent post representing the coup 
government, Joseph was a vocal supporter of the 
crudely named anti-Aristide movement known as the 
GNB (literally translated GNB means "balls up 
your ass movement"). Ambassador Joseph was 
clearly embarrassed by the response from the 
crowd and sources close to the new Foreign 
Minister Renald Clerisme, speculate that his 
reception on Sunday all but sealed his imminent departure from that position.

The following day Preval held a press conference 
at Miami's Inter-Continental Hotel where a few 
journalists appeared to remain confused by the 
continued depth of support shown the night before 
for ousted president Aristide. In one 
embarrassing moment, 
Charles of the Miami Herald and Knight Ridder 
Newspapers, addressed President Preval as 
President Aristide twice during her questions 
before realizing her error and correcting herself.

During the same press conference, HIP Founding 
Editor Kevin Pina asked President Preval about 
progress towards reforming the country's corrupt 
and highly politicized judicial system and the 
release of political prisoners jailed by the 
Latortue regime. President Preval responded, "The 
government prosecutor has asked that former Prime 
Minister Yvon Neptune be released, and the 
dossier of So Ann should be resolved soon." Prime 
Minister Neptune and Annette Auguste (aka Só Ann) 
were arrested and jailed following 
unsubstantiated allegations by an organization 
called the 
Coalition of Haitian Rights (NCHR). The 
organization is accused by many of participating 
in the political persecution of Aristide 
supporters following his ouster and was forced to 
change it name to 
of Human Rights National Network or RNDDH. The 
organization's director, Pierre Esperance, served 
as a primary source of information for other 
human rights organizations such as Amnesty 
International until he was finally discredited 
and exposed for his record of collaboration in 
political persecution against Lavalas supporters 
early last year. Sources close to Haiti's 
president stated that the release of Neptune and 
Auguste could come as early as Friday but 
encouraged international solidarity and human 
rights organizations to "turn up the pressure on Haiti's judicial system."

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