Haiti: Coup, Kidnapping, and Business as Usual

Revolutionary Worker #1232, March 14, 2004, posted at rwor.org

As the U.S. rulers seek to impose a phony and oppressive "democratic" process in occupied Iraq, they have been deeply involved in undermining Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the "democratically" elected leader in Haiti. On February 29, Aristide was forced to leave Haiti as anti-government military forces closed in on the capital city, Port-au-Prince, and turmoil rocked the country. Since then, the hand of the U.S. in the removal of Aristide--not only from his position as president but from Haiti itself--has become even clearer.

Substantial charges have come out that Aristide was in fact directly threatened by the U.S. military and diplomats--that if he did not leave the country immediately, the U.S. would not be able to protect him from the anti-Aristide military forces that were speeding toward the capital.

U.S. officials painted Aristide's so-called resignation from the presidency and departure from the country as "voluntary." But Aristide himself has been telling a very different story.

According to reports originally aired on Democracy Now , Aristide called U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters and long-time friend Randall Robinson on a cell phone to say that he in fact had been "kidnapped" by the U.S. He said he had effectively been forced out of Haiti and flown on a plane for more than 20 hours--unaware of his final destination--before landing in the Central African Republic. During this whole time, he was under the guard of U.S. marines. He charged that a statement he wrote had been rewritten by U.S. officials to make it appear as if he had agreed to resign.

Upon arriving in the Central African Republic, Aristide was taken to an undisclosed location where his communication with the outside world has been severely limited. He told Waters that the cell phone he used to call her had to be smuggled in to him. The president of the Central African Republic, citing the concerns coming from Washington, instructed Aristide to not talk to the press. However, Aristide did speak to CNN and stated emphatically that what happened was a "real coup d'etat...a modern way to have a modern kidnapping."

The French imperialists--who have had their own beef with Aristide, partly because he had been demanding hundreds of billions of dollars in reparation for French colonial domination of Haiti--are playing a secondary role within all this. France was the first to call for Aristide to resign and has sent hundreds of troops to Haiti.


U.S. authorities have continued to deny that they took Aristide against his will. But their denials take on comic proportions, as when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell--infamous around the world for his lie- filled presentation to the UN about Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction"--told the press that Aristide left Haiti on a U.S. charter plane "willingly, and that's the truth."

Powell, in fact, was deeply involved in the U.S. moves against Aristide. This self-proclaimed purveyor of the "truth" has continuously been in liaison with Andre Apaid--the head of the Group of 184 Civil Society Organizations, which is part of the Democratic Platform, the "civil" forces within the anti-Aristide opposition. Apaid owns Alpha Industries, which manufactures textile products and assembles electronic products for U.S. companies. He is the largest industrial employer in Haiti and part of the bourgeois "civil society opposition" that has been targeting Aristide.

While the Democratic Platform has functioned as a sort of political wing of the anti-Aristide opposition, while the military wing has been led by Guy Philippe, a former Haiti military officer during the 1991-1994 military dictatorship headed by Raoul Cedras. Another leader of the anti-Aristide military forces is Jodel Chamberlain, a top figure in FRAPH--the notorious death squad under the Cedras regime closely linked with the CIA.

Now that Aristide has been forced out, U.S. officials are calling the military opposition a "rag tag" army, demanding that they disarm and declaring that they will not have any say in the running of the country. Full of imperialist arrogance, the U.S. has not only removed an elected president of a country at the point of the gun but is now dictating who can and cannot be in the new government.

The U.S. statements about the anti-Aristide opposition are also filled with sick hypocrisy. The "rag tag" army led by Philippe and other brutal thugs have been well equipped with M-16 rifles and other weapons not available to Aristide's police. There is speculation that the arms were supplied by the U.S., through the Dominican Republic. The U.S. did not call for this "rag tag" army to disarm when they were moving through Haiti in February, taking city after city. While some U.S. ruling class spokesmen called for "calm" in Haiti, what mainly came out from the Bush White House was blaming Aristide for the chaotic situation.

Another blatant example of U.S. hypocrisy is the fact that only a day after Powell and others were warning Aristide he had to leave or risk a "bloodbath," the U.S. military (along with troops from France and several other countries) quickly moved in to occupy and "stabilize" Haiti.

Why didn't the U.S. protect Aristide against a couple of hundred armed men of a "rag- tag" army? Why did the U.S. wait until Aristide was out to come in?

The obvious answer is that the destabilization and overthrow of the Aristide government was a very deliberate U.S. move.


The U.S., under the Clinton administration, carried out Aristide's restoration to power in 1994 with a military invasion and occupation. Clinton's aim was to quell and defuse the mass upsurge against the Cedras dictatorship by installing a "democratic" government. In return for putting him back in power, the U.S. made Aristide agree to certain conditions--for example, that he would faithfully follow the "neoliberal" economic and social agenda of imperialist financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In this way, Clinton tried to make sure Aristide was firmly under imperialist control.

But powerful forces within the U.S. ruling class opposed the restoration of Aristide. Those like right- wing Republican Senator Jesse Helms thought Aristide was not obedient and subservient enough to U.S. imperial dictates.

When George W. Bush became president, the anti-Aristide views in the top levels of the U.S. government became even more prominent. Roger Noriega, who worked for Jesse Helms, is currently the assistant secretary of state under Colin Powell, in charge of the U.S.'s Haiti policy. The U.S. has withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in developmental funds to Haiti in recent years. And this was disastrous for a country so dependent on such imperialist "aid."

Why have these forces within the U.S. ruling class gone so viciously after Aristide? There were different times when Aristide was not in full compliance with U.S. demands and wishes. He raised some questions about the "neoliberal" policies in Haiti. And his history as a populist leader of a mass movement against the U.S.-backed Duvalier dictatorship in the 1980s also was too much for certain forces within the U.S. bourgeoisie.

But still, Aristide's politics is far from revolutionary or even radical--he certainly has not presented any threat to the U.S., or served as some kind of example for anti-U.S. forces elsewhere. Haiti doesn't have rich resources like Venezuela, where the U.S. tried to orchestrate a similar coup against Hugo Chavez.

Aristide bent over backwards several times for the IMF and World Bank to implement austerity measures in Haiti. This included lowering import tariffs, cutting what little services the people have, lowering minimum wage, and opening the door wider for foreign investors to come in and exploit the population. In this recent crisis, he had even agreed to a U.S.-backed plan for "sharing power" with the opposition that would have reduced him to a virtual figurehead.

The lengths to which the U.S. went to oust Aristide points to the extreme missionary zeal of Bush and Co. to "remake" the world in their image--to force on the world their view of how societies and countries must and must not be run. What has gone down in Haiti reveals the orientation of those holding the reins of power in the U.S. today that anyone and anything--no matter how seemingly inconsequential--that gets in their way, or represents something even a slightly different from what they find tolerable, must be swept aside.


There are many outrages in what has happened in Haiti. After directly fomenting the economic instability in Haiti by denying greatly needed aid, the Bush White House blamed Aristide for the resulting chaos and engineered his fall. And while pinning blame for Haiti's deep poverty on Aristide, Bush declared that the U.S. would turn back any people from Haiti who tried to flee the turmoil and hardships manufactured by the U.S.

As we go to press (March 7), the U.S. has some 1,250 Marines in Haiti, and an additional 1,500- 2,000 troops are expected to arrive. They are backed up by hundreds of troops from France, Chile, Canada, and Brazil. The situation continues to be in flux. The U.S. occupiers are promoting a "council of elders"--like the puppet council set up in Iraq under U.S. occupation. U.S. troops are moving into cities around Haiti that had been taken over last month by the anti-Aristide paramilitary forces--but some of those forces are refusing to put down their guns as ordered by the U.S. Thousands have taken to the streets in demonstrations, angry at the U.S. occupation of Haiti and the abduction of Aristide. In some cases, demonstrators have compared the situation in Haiti to the occupation of Iraq and vowed to struggle until the U.S. was out.

The people of Haiti have the heart and desire for real liberation. There is a crying need to find the revolutionary path to get there.