[News] The Final Chapter Has Still Not Been Written: Remembering The 2004 Coup in Haiti

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 2 16:30:50 EST 2020

*The Final Chapter Has Still Not Been Written**:**  Remembering The 2004 
Coup in Haiti*

*By Robert Roth, Haiti Action Committee*

On February 29, 2004, the democratically elected government of President 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti was overthrown by a violent coup.  This 
was the second U.S.-sponsored coup against a popularly elected Aristide 
government, the first one taking place in 1991 after he had served only 
eight months in office.

Orchestrated by the United States, France and Canada, and then 
sanctioned and enforced by a United Nations military occupation, the 
2004 coup forced President Aristide, his wife and colleague, Mildred 
Trouillot Aristide, and their two children into exile, and removed more 
than 8,000 elected officials. Thousands more were killed, raped or 
forced to flee their homes.  The country has still not recovered.

The coupshattered the work of the most progressive government in Haiti’s 
history <https://haitisolidarity.net/pamphlets/>. In the period of 
governance by Fanmi Lavalas, the party founded by President Aristide, 
more schools were built than the total constructed between 1804 and 
1994. Twenty percent of the country’s budget was mandated for education. 
Women’s groups and popular organizations helped coordinate a literacy 
campaign that brought over 320,000 people, mostly women, into literacy 
classes in over 20,000 literacy centers. The minimum wage was doubled. A 
powerful initiative was undertaken to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.  
Health clinics were established in the poorest communities.The 
government also launched an aggressive campaign to collect unpaid taxes 
owed by the wealthy elite.Aristide disbanded the notorious Haitian 
military, and empowered women’s and victims’ groups to bring cases 
against the military for its use of rape as a political weapon.


In the months after the 2004 coup, hundreds of thousands of Haitians 
courageously demonstrated their support for Aristide and his Fanmi 
Lavalas political party, raising five fingers in a dramatic call for him 
to complete his five year term. Their resistance has never stopped.

The current upheaval in Haiti stands as a sharp rebuke to those who 
plotted and carried out the coup in 2004. The value of the gourde has 
plunged, the price of gasoline and kerosene (used for lamps and cooking 
in most Haitian homes) has soared, food insecurity has spiked, and the 
current president, Jovenel Moise, now rules by decree.  He and his PHTK 
party have overseen the theft of more than 4 billion dollars from 
Venezuela’s Petrocaribe program, in which Haiti was able to purchase oil 
from Venezuela at a discount and then sell it at market price.The 
resulting funds were to be targeted for infrastructure, health care, and 
education; instead, billions ended up “missing” or in the overseas bank 
accounts of government officials. The despised Haitian Army has been 
reconstituted, readying itself to commit yet more human rights violations.

Add to this a wave of kidnappings and insecurity that has staggered the 
nation. When kidnappers killed a teenager on February 8th, thousands of 
students and community members chanting “Down With Kidnapping” took to 
the streets to denounce the lack of government action or 
accountability.  As the government prepared for Mardi Gras festivities 
in the midst of this crisis, demonstrators showed their indignation by 
destroying stands set up for the celebrations as police fired tear gas 
into the crowds. One 34-year old man summed up the mood of the protest: 
“We are not going to stop. Jovenel has to leave office, the country is 
not moving anywhere...Look around, it’s nothing but guns and people 
being kidnapped.” 

When mainstream media reports reference the crisis in Haiti, they most 
often reduce the issue to one of “gang violence” without pointing to the 
role of the Haitian government. The reality is that some members of 
Haiti’s government and its U.S.-trained police force have weaponized and 
directed criminal elements to terrorize communities, creating what are 
in essence death squads, and then some of these same groups kill, kidnap 
and rape with impunity.

One horrific example of this was the massacre that took place in the 
community of Lasalin -- a stronghold of the Lavalas movement and a 
staging point for opposition demonstrations -- in November 2018 
Police and paramilitaries invaded the area and opened fire, killing and 
wounding hundreds of people, sexually assaulting and raping women, and 
forcing hundreds more to flee from their homes. In a more recent case, 
in November 2019, a Haitian government functionary was reported to have 
offered a  $50,000 payment to organizations in the pro-Lavalas community 
of Bel Air if they would remove barricades and stop protests against the 
government. Ex-police officer Jimmy Cherizier (known as Barbeque 
throughout Haiti), who played a central role in the Lasalin massacre, 
then came to Bel Air and was said by witnesses to have warned activists 
that they had better meet the request.When people in Bel Air refused, 
heavily-armed men in masks shot up the area, burning homes and 
instituting a three day reign of terror. 
<https://apnews.com/6b0fb93fda195e77760f109e57c9b976> Police ignored 
numerous requests for help from community members. At least three people 
were killed and many more injured.  No one has been called to account.

These crimes have taken place under the watch of the PHTK and the 
so-called Core Group -- composed of the United States, the United 
Nations, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, the European Union, and 
the Organization of American States -- that controls Haiti’s political 
life.  Without the firm backing of this imperial network, called the 
“Core Gang” by Haitian activists, the Moise government would already 
have fallen as a result of popular outrage and years of persistent and 
massive demonstrations in which millions of Haitians have taken to the 
streets, braving police bullets, clubs and tear gas.

Nine years after PresidentAristide’s return from exile in March 2011, 
Fanmi Lavalas stands at the center of this sustained mass upsurge.  
Despite all attempts to marginalize and destroy it through systematic 
repression and a series of fraudulent elections -- deemed “electoral 
coups” by grassroots activists --Lavalas remains pivotal in the fight 
for fundamental, progressive change in Haiti.

The Lavalas movement has always stressed the concept of dignity.  The 
slogan of UNIFA, the university established by the Aristides in 2001, 
then shuttered during the coup and reestablished and reinvigorated upon 
their return is, “If you do not safeguard your dignity, your dignity 
will leave you.” On the 16th anniversary of the 2004 coup, it is clear 
that the dignity of the Haitian people is under attack, battered by a 
U.S.-sponsored regime that has made life unlivable and is overseeing the 
destruction of civil society.  Yet a dynamic resistance perseveres, 
birthed in the struggle to uproot the Duvalier dictatorships and steeled 
in the fight back against two coups, military occupation, stolen 
elections and terror.

As we commemorate this terrible day in Haitian history, we should 
remember that the final chapter in this story has not yet been written. 
And that our solidarity is more critical than ever.

For more information, visitwww.haitisolidarity.net 

For first-hand investigative reports on the Lasalin Massacre, 


*Sojourner Truth Radio: Massacres in Haiti*


To support the grassroots movement in Haiti, please donate to the Haiti 
Emergency Relief Fund atwww.haitiemergencyrelief.org 


sent by Haiti Action Committee - https://haitisolidarity.net/

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/

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