Although the people of Haiti twice elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide by an overwhelming majority, the United States, with the complicity of France and Canada, forcibly removed him from office on February 29th, 2004, bringing Haiti's 10 year experience with democracy to a brutal end.
By removing Haiti's legitimate government, the U.S. created conditions where chaos and bloodshed thrive. Thousands of members of Lavalas (the popular movement that swept Aristide into office), have been killed or driven into hiding. In poor neighborhoods, hooded police carry out indiscriminate killing. A growing number of young women report rapes committed by paramilitary troops. The disbanded army ruthlessly hunts down supporters of Haiti's pro-democracy movement.
The coup overthrew a progressive agenda supported by the vast majority of Haiti's population: literacy programs, health care, children's rights, a raise in the minimum wage, resistance to privatization, and the struggle to bring human rights violators to justice were all prioritized by Lavalas. The main reason storms last summer killed so many in Haiti (while killing fewer in countries where the damage was actually worse) was that the emergency response network set up by the Lavalas government had been dismantled by the U.S.-backed coup regime.
The presence of 6,000 UN "peacekeeping" troops and 1400 UN civilian police in Haiti serves to legitimize an illegal regime supported by the U.S., France and Italy, but not recognized by Cuba, Venezuela, the African Union or the Caribbean Countries (CARICOM).
A March 2005 Harvard Law School Report on the UN mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH) concluded, "MINUSTAH has provided cover for abuses committed by the HNP [Haitian police] during operations in poor, historically tense Port-au-Prince neighborhoods such as Bel-Air, La Saline, and lower Delmas. Rather than advising and instructing the police in best practices, and monitoring their missteps, MINUSTAH has been the midwife of their abuses. In essence, MINUSTAH has provided to the HNP the very implements of repression."
The Aristide government worked hard to help poor youth drawn to violence, and in that way were able to contain much unrest. As Congresswoman Maxine Waters told Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now, "Aristide was doing what many of us do in the cities, and that is we try to change the lives of people who are in gangs. We try to get them gainful employment. We try to get them in school and try to get them in programs, things like that, and that's what he was doing."
The U.N. is only using force to deal with desperately poor urban Haitian youth. Immigration lawyer Tom Griffin, who authored a University of Miami report on UN and police abuses in Haiti, concluded, "The U.N. is in there to make it legitimate, but they can't even talk to the people they're supposed to be helping. They shoot wildly, as do the police. Since Aristide was ousted, the outspoken democratic leaders, including government officials, have been either killed or arrested. So you have no cachet with your people going that route, and street thugs are the only ones who have cachet. You get Robin Hoods rising up, poor kids killing poor kids. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy from the politicians that these guys can't get it together so we have to go in and kill them."
UN collusion with the betrayal of Haiti's masses was clear when a delegation from the UN Security Council visited Haiti for four days in April 2005. Human rights lawyer Brian Concannon noted, "The Security Council's agenda was filled by meetings with officials of the unconstitutional Interim Government, groups that called for the overthrow of the elected government a year ago, and officials of foreign governments that supported the February 29 overthrow of President Aristide, or officials of programs financed by these governments.''
Concannon commented, "All of these groups have a vested interest in the current illegal regime, and cannot effectively represent the vast majority of Haitians who are opposing the February 2004 coup d'etat, and are suffering the consequences. The Security Council representatives did not give poor women, grassroots groups and victims of military and paramilitary atrocities the opportunity to be heard."
Ronaldo Sardenberg, Brazil's ambassador to the UN and head of the U.N. Security Council's delegation to Haiti, recently called fall elections "a necessary first step," but declined to acknowledge the brutal repression of Lavalas and the continued illegal imprisonment of hundreds of political prisoners. His countryman Juan Gabriel Valdés, commander of MINUSTAH and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, told a reporter that "If you have had elections in Iraq and in Afghanistan, I don't see why you can't have elections in this country. Elections are not only positive but indispensable." Valdes called the opening day of voter registration, "a moment of joy for Haiti and the international community."
Among the political groupings now campaigning is an organization led by notorious U.S.-trained death squad veteran Guy Phillipe.
"Today in 2005, who can expect free, fair and democratic elections in Haiti with thousands of Lavalas [members] in jail, exile and hiding?" asked Aristide at an April 19 press conference in South Africa. He demanded that four steps be taken to reverse the "tragic mistake" of the 2004 coup d'etat.
"One, thousands of Lavalas who are in jail and in exile must be free to return home. Two, the repression that has already killed 10,000 people must end immediately. Three, then there must be national dialogue. Four, free, fair and democratic elections must be organized in an environment where the huge majority of Haitian people is neither excluded nor repressed as they have been up until today."