[R-G] Un-spinning Haiti's 'spiral of violence'
fentona at shaw.ca
Thu Aug 4 15:36:39 MDT 2005
> Un-spinning Haiti's 'spiral of violence'
> August 4 , 2005
> Derrick O'Keefe
> In recent weeks, the Canadian media’s embargo against critical
> coverage of this country’s role in Haiti has begun to be broken.
> Montreal activist Yves Engler got the ball rolling with his splashing
> of a red substance on Pierre Pettigrew’s favourite suit jacket (June
> 17 2005). Engler’s substantive critique might have been lost amid the
> Foreign Minister’s jokes about his stained Calvin Klein; fortunately,
> another Klein had just interviewed Haiti’s president-in-exile, who
> confirmed the growing assessment that Canada indeed “has blood on its
> hands.” (‘Aristide: on the record about Canada and Haiti,’ Rabble.ca,
> June 23 2005)
> This breakthrough – followed by the Toronto Star’s (July 25 2005)
> publication of a critique of Ottawa’s role by Aaron Mate -- for
> opponents of the 2004 Franco-American-Canadian coup against
> Jean-Bertrand Aristide threatens to explode the government and
> establishment discourse of Ottawa’s interventions as mere benevolent
> peace-keeping and/or nation-building, in Haiti and elsewhere.
> Enter journalist Maria Jimenez of the Globe and Mail.
> Her August 1 article in Canada’s ‘newspaper of record’ is rather
> innocently headlined: ‘Haiti’s spiral of violence picks up speed. As
> criminal gangs spread increasing terror, the world is accused of
> silence.’ Unfortunately, the article spins the blame for the bloody
> spiral right back onto the victims.
> Jimenez places the culpability for the worsening violence in Haiti
> where it clearly doesn’t belong: at the feet of the overthrown
> government and its supporters. Throughout the article, the reporter
> bemoans the current United Nations military mission’s supposed lack of
> "The U.S.-backed interim government has been unable to
> re-establish order, and the 7,400-member United Nations Stabilization
> Mission in Haiti, or Minustah, been criticized for failing to quell
> the violence. (On July 6, however, Minustah did show its muscle in an
> eight-hour operation in the slum of Cité Soleil that left six armed
> gang leaders dead.)"
> The ‘show of muscle’ was a full-scale military operation in a crowded
> neighbourhood that left at least 23 dead, including infants. The
> reported target of the mission, ‘gang leader’ Emmanuel Wilmer, alias
> ‘Dred Wilme’, was also killed. An independent journalist working for
> Haiti Information Project was able to capture grisly images of the
> death and destruction (see Haitiaction.net). In an incredible display
> of courage and resistance, 5000 residents of Cité Soleil took to the
> streets on July 21 to protest the massacre.
> The Globe and Mail article, of course, neglects to mention this and
> other ongoing demonstrations, many of which have been fired upon by
> the Canadian RCMP-trained Haitian police forces. Jimenez makes a brief
> reference to Haiti’s “long history of oppression, political
> instability and economic inequality” without mentioning the culprits –
> the governments of France, the United States and now Canada, and the
> greed and corruption of their Haitian collaborators. She then cites
> recently exiled Haitian journalist Nancy Roc, who asserts that behind
> all of the violence in her country today is none other than the
> (apparently) omnipotent Aristide:
> "The United Nations has not been active enough and when they do
> intervene, all these human-rights groups complain about it. Aristide
> is fighting an information war from his exile in South Africa."
> Roc’s complaint is an echo of outgoing U.S. Assistant Secretary of
> State for Latin American Affairs Roger Noriega, who claimed that
> “…Aristide and his camp are singularly responsible for most of the
> violence and for the concerted nature of the violence.” (‘Aristide
> accused of fostering violence,’ The Miami Herald, June 24 2005)
> A number of in-depth reports, however, put the blame for the vast
> majority of the violence in Haiti on the forces of the de facto
> government of Gerard Latortue, the Haitian National Police, and the
> occupying forces. Supporters of Aristide, and of the Lavalas Party,
> have been specifically targeted, with mass casualties having been
> inflicted especially in the poorest neighbourhoods where, Jimenez
> concedes, many “remain loyal to the deposed leader.” (The reporter
> does not deem it necessary to examine the reasons for the foolish
> loyalties of the urban poor).
> The most comprehensive report on the human rights situation in
> post-coup Haiti was authored by U.S. lawyer Thomas Griffin (see ‘Haiti
> Human Rights Report, November 11-21 2004,’ available at
> http://www.law.miami.edu/news/368.html). The document, which activists
> have made available to a number of Canadian cabinet ministers and
> Members of Parliament, debunks the simplistic notion that all of the
> violent gangs in Haiti’s slums are agents of Aristide.
> In fact, a number of the most ruthless and brutal gang leaders are
> paid operatives in the service of the country’s wealthy elite. The
> evidence of this is detailed on page 3 of the 51-page Griffin report,
> where it explains that “Thomas Robinson, alias ‘Labanye,’ receives
> financial, firearms, and political support from wealthy businessman
> and politico Andy Apaid and businessman Reginald Boulous.” Yet
> official police wanted posters featured only suspected Lavalas
> supporters, “but not Labanye, perhaps the best known of all
> Given the clearly politicized nature of who in Cité Soleil is deemed
> to be a legitimate target for the occupying UN forces, it is worth
> looking at how the recently slain Dred Wilme explained his own
> motivations, and the conditions in which Haiti’s poor exist today:
> "If the bourgeoisie wanted to do something for the people of Site
> Solèy [Cité Soleil], this is not the way they would go about doing it
> because they have never done anything to benefit the people of Site
> Solèy. They want the people to be their slaves. They want the people
> to go and vote but to continue living in the same conditions we are
> living in today.
> We have been living for 1 year now under this de facto government
> which is destroying the country. 95% of the people from the masses who
> were working government jobs have been fired. Children cannot go to
> school. Students cannot advance in their studies. We are wondering
> just how far this crisis will be allowed to go.
> All of this is why we are in the streets, demonstrating and
> demanding the physical return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to
> Haiti immediately. This is the only issue the people are interested in
> today. (‘Interview with Dread Wilme,’ Lakou New York , April 4 2005 )"
> The Globe and Mail article ignores this record, choosing instead to
> quote the certainties of a member of the dubiously named Haiti
> Democracy Project (which featured none other than Roger Noriega at
> their founding convention):
> " There is incontrovertible evidence that Aristide supporters are
> responsible for the lion's share of violence in Port-au-Prince. This
> is not amorphous violence but a campaign to seize power."
> It is not possible for Jimenez to be unaware of the political
> motivations of the sources she chooses. Her article can only be viewed
> as a blatant attempt to restore the narrative that focuses on
> explaining away Haiti’s misery by demonizing Aristide, the Lavalas
> Party and its supporters. Despite such journalistic endeavours to
> rehabilitate the coup and occupation in Haiti, a much broader range of
> people and organizations are beginning to question the Canadian
> government’s role.
> Rather than playing Jimenez’s tired and cynical game of blaming the
> victims, people in Canada have a responsibility to examine the real
> impact of Ottawa’s policy in Haiti.
> It’s time to blame the aggressors. Better yet, it’s time to stay their
> hand and return sovereignty and democracy to Haiti.
> Derrick O'Keefe is co-chair of the StopWar coalition in Vancouver and
> a founding editor of Seven Oaks.
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