[News] How the US has used the military and money to destabilize Haiti

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Fri Nov 18 15:32:13 EST 2011


A History of US-Sponsored Violence in Haiti

How the US Has Used the Military and Money to Destabilize Haiti
by Nia Imara


http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/77977
11/16/11

The United States has a long history of sowing 
violence in Haiti.  Nearly one hundred years ago, 
the Marines invaded Haiti and occupied the 
country for nineteen years, over the course of 
which they killed thousands of Haitians who 
attempted to resist the repression.  The pretext 
for the invasion was instability.  But for the 
tens of thousands of Haitians who were 
dispossessed of their land by American businesses 
or who were put into forced labor, the true 
source of instability originated with their 
neighbor to the north.  In order to protect its 
investments in Haiti and to ensure the country’s 
future “stability,” the United States created and 
trained a new Haitian army that would become 
infamous for its brutal repression of the population.

Three decades after the US left Haiti, it still 
continued in its support of a violent regime 
there.  The dictator François Duvalier and his 
son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, commanded a personal 
death squad, called the Tonton Macoutes, that 
murdered several thousand people and terrorized 
the population.  Duvalier and their supporters 
were intent on protecting the interests of 
Haiti’s wealthy elite at all costs, and during 
their rule, the gap between rich and poor 
widened.   They were enabled by the United 
States, which sent the dictators tens of millions 
of dollars before their nearly thirty-year rule ended.

Arising out of all the suffering caused by the 
regime—in true form to Haiti’s revolutionary 
roots—was a mass movement that sought to overturn 
the corruption and cruelty of the 
dictatorship.  Having successfully driven the 
younger Duvalier out of power in 1986, this 
movement nevertheless weathered four more years 
of political, economic, and social crises—crises 
inflicted by those who would have liked to see 
the continuation of dictatorship.  But the call 
for equality prevailed: Haiti had its first 
democratic elections in 1990, and more than 
two-thirds of the people voted for a courageous 
priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to be their president.

During the first six months of Aristide’s term in 
office, major positive changes were already to be 
seen in Haiti.  The crime rate dropped, the 
number of people fleeing Haiti as refugees 
dropped, the government launched a nationwide 
literacy campaign, Aristide expelled corrupt 
government officials, and he was arranging to 
more than double the minimum wage from $1 to $2.40 per day.

The President did his best to promote unity in 
the new Haiti.  In good faith, he extended a hand 
to the Haitian Army, but its top officers were 
still loyal Duvalierists.  Less than eight months 
after President Aristide was inaugurated, the 
army—under the leadership of General Raoul 
Cedras—took over the National Palace.   On 
September 30, 1991, these opponents of the mass 
democratic movement that brought Aristide into 
office staged a violent coup.  They set up an 
occupation government, which the Haitian Army 
vigorously protected.  It is estimated that the 
army and death squads killed at least 5,000 
people over the course of the next three years. 
Leaders of the coup, including Cedras, had been 
trained at the US Army School of the Americas 
(SOA).  In 1993, another SOA graduate, Emmanuel 
Constant, formed a new death squad; he later 
revealed that he was on the CIA’s payroll.  The 
US-sponsored imprisonment, torturing, and killing 
of people loyal to Haiti’s democratic movement 
continued nearly right up to the very end of the coup in 1994.

Upon Aristide’s return to his country in October 
of that year, the grassroots movement pressed 
forward in the face of continued pressure from 
the US to conform the Haitian economy to its 
will.  In 1995, he raised the minimum wage from 
$1 to $2.40 per day.  That same year, in a hugely 
popular move, Aristide abolished the military and 
transformed its headquarters into the newly 
created Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

Today, on the twentieth anniversary of the first 
coup, the US is funding another military 
occupation of Haiti.  This one began over seven 
years ago, when a small group of armed 
assassins—some of whom had been trained in the 
US—entered Haiti through the Dominican Republic 
and initiated a spree of looting and killing.  It 
was 2004, three years into Aristide’s second 
administration.  To assist the paramilitary in 
its goal of overthrowing the government, the US 
kidnapped the President and his wife at gunpoint 
and sent in the Marines.  Falsely reporting the 
situation, newspapers like the New York Times 
said that Aristide voluntarily 
“resigned.”   France and Canada also sent troops, 
and the United Nations quickly followed suit by 
sending a multinational military force, ostensibly to restore order.

Ever since, the UN has had a presence in Haiti of 
more than 9,000 troops and police; but they have 
been anything but peacekeepers.  The long list of 
human rights abuses they have committed against 
the Haitian people—primarily the poor and 
supporters of Aristide—include rape, imprisonment 
without trial, and murder.  Typically, the 
pretext for this occupation is “instability” in 
Haiti, as is reflected in the name of the 
military force: the United Nations Stabilization 
Mission in Haiti (which also goes by the French 
acronym, MINUSTAH).  The reality, however, is 
that the UN presence acts to legitimize a war on 
the people of Haiti that would like to see 
democracy realized.  It costs over $700 million 
per year to fund MINUSTAH, and the US is the 
largest contributor to the organization’s global bill by a large margin.

The US finances the occupation of Haiti in other 
ways, as well.  Last November, the Obama 
administration spent more than nine million 
dollars to hold deeply fraudulent elections in 
which the most popular political party, called 
Lavalas, was banned from participating.  In 
protest, more than three-quarters of the 
electorate did not vote in the fixed runoff 
election held in February.  It is well known in 
Haiti that the newly “selected” president, Michel 
Martelly, was a proponent of the 2004 coup, that 
he is in favor of the United Nations, and that he 
plans to regroup a new military.  And certainly, 
Bill and Hillary Clinton—who have been 
encouraging and promoting Martelly—must be aware 
that he faithfully supported the Duvaliers.

Haitian and world history should make it clear 
that whenever the US invests so much money and 
such might, it is certain that there is something 
very valuable to gain—or to be lost.  Since 
2004—in a repeat of the very first US 
occupation—wealthy foreigners have set up shop in 
Haiti and privatized key national 
resources.  Last September, Martelly selected 
Bill Clinton—who is the UN special envoy for 
Haiti—to head his new advisory board on 
investment.  One has to wonder what advice 
Clinton would provide, given that throughout the 
80s and 90s, he helped Congress to debilitate the 
Haitian economy by flooding its markets with 
cheap US food, thus driving down production in Haiti.

Last month, during his Global Initiative forum, 
Clinton commended Martelly’s plan to open Haiti 
for business and for making it a “user-friendly 
place.”  Clinton spoke of the potential to make 
fortunes in Haiti.  For his wife’s part, 
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mediated a 
deal last year in which a South Korean clothing 
company would open sweat shops in Haiti.  More 
recently, she expressed the United States’ full 
commitment to supporting Martelly.  Apparently, 
the United States will wholly support the 
fraudulently elected president of an occupied 
country in which a documented war criminal, 
Jean-Claude Duvalier, goes about with impunity.

Currently in power in Haiti is an illegal, 
repressive government that owes its existence, in 
large part, to the United States.  There is 
widespread concern that Martelly will make good 
on his announcement to reestablish the Haitian 
Army, which Aristide disbanded during his first 
presidency, and which, as we mentioned before, 
had also been one of America’s pernicious 
creations.  It is likely that foreign donors 
would have to fund the $95 million plan, which 
calls for creating a military of 3,500 soldiers 
who would eventually replace the UN.  It also 
calls for a National Intelligence Service (SIN is 
the French acronym), that will deal with people 
and organizations accused of terrorism.  To many 
in Haiti, it is clear that Martelly wants to 
revive the Duvalier death squads, who attacked 
anyone the dictators accused of Communism.

There should be little doubt about the use to 
which Martelly intends to put an army.  As 
someone who has admitted supporting the last two 
coups, as a Duvalierist and a vocal opponent of 
the most popular leader in the country 
(Aristide), Martelly does not represent the 
aspirations of the majority but of a wealthy 
elite.  As the Duvaliers before him, it can be 
surmised that he would use the army as an 
instrument of terror against the poor to consolidate his power.

The American government and its highest 
officials, including Obama and the 
Clintons—people who at some time or another 
claimed to represent the interests of American 
citizens—are doing shameful work in Haiti.  With 
one hand, they make gestures toward those 
suffering from insufficient access to the very 
basic necessities of life; with the other, they 
are allotting hundreds of millions of dollars to 
bullets, guns, tanks, soldiers, prisons, and to 
undemocratic movements and governments.

Yet against all this, there is great hope in 
Haiti.  The Aristide Foundation recently reopened 
its medical school with a tiny fraction of the 
money that has been spent on the occupation of 
Haiti.  In 2004, the US/UN military force halted 
construction, dissolved the school, and occupied 
it for three years before giving back control to 
the Foundation.  The reopening of the school is a 
sign that the people in Haiti will continue to 
stand up, though it may seem that they have been 
crushed down far as possible.  This is not the 
kind of hope that comes from celebrity concerts 
or from Coca-Cola refreshments.  It is the kind 
which springs from the memory that with 
collective struggle and a vision, change for the 
better can occur.  At its source is the certainty 
that justice and truth are on one’s side.



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