I address you today in sadness and indignation. What happened in Haiti this past weekend was not a resignation — it was a coup, nothing less. A democratically elected president was overthrown by terrorists in cohort with the United States and France. What an affront to humanity that occurred before our very eyes. I am appalled at how biased the mainstream media has been in its coverage of Haiti.
For one, the ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was democratically elected by the majority of the people twice: in 1990 with over 68 percent of the vote and in 2000 with 92 percent, with the Carter Center and international observers accepting the results as valid. This is more than we can say about Bush’s rise to power. Contrary to reports by The New York Times, Aristide had broad popular support. For example, on Feb. 7, 2004, Aristide was able to draw more than a million of his supporters to the capital for a peaceful anti-insurgence demonstration. The New York Times has shown people celebrating his departure, but if you look at other sources like BBC, you will begin to see people mourning over their fallen president.
Regardless of what you think about Aristide, he was democratically elected and supported by the people, and thus, should have been allowed to stay his term. Could you imagine people here saying they’re fed up with our current U.S. president and just deciding to overthrow him? If the opposition in Haiti wanted to be in charge of the government, then they should have mounted a campaign to run in the next elections in 2005; but they knew they would lose. Haiti has had 32 coups in its history. This 33rd coup is continuing a precedent that will destroy the democracy we have been trying to build. The United States could have said “we will not recognize the rebels as a legitimate government if they succeed in toppling Aristide” as argued by Micheal Ranter, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. But it didn’t because it is not democracy that the United States wants. It is hypocritical that this is the same United States that financially supported Haitian dictators, like Duvalier, who committed gross atrocities.
In the past weeks, the United States has been publicly calling for the Aristide government to compromise and negotiate with the opposition. But tell me how can one negotiate with terrorists? The leaders of the opposition are the very people responsible for the bloody military coup that ousted Aristide in 1991 — Andre Apaid, Chamblain, and Emanuel Constant, who happens to have been in exile right here in Queens, N.Y. These men have been convicted, in absentia, of mass murder in Haiti. In this age of terrorism, are these the people the United States wanted Aristide to compromise with? Are these the people who will lead a “liberated” Haiti?
The reality of the matter is that the United States was behind this coup because it has never liked Aristide since he advocated for workers’ rights and higher wages. In exchange for U.S. “aid” money, former dictators gave United States and French multinationals free reign to abuse workers and exploit the country’s resources for economic gains worth billions. Aristide, a former priest, threatened all this. And so, as documented in Lester Brune’s “The United States and Post-Cold War: Bush and Clinton in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia,” the CIA and the Defense Intelligence gave $400 million dollars to help organizations oppose Aristide’s first government, resulting in the coup of 1991. Aristide was only reinstated in 1994 under Clinton because of intense international pressure and the surge of unwanted Haitian refugees to the United States.
And now the United States strikes again. Since 2001, Bush has blocked all foreign aid from reaching Haiti’s government on the premise of “flawed elections.” Simultaneously there have been claims by Marguerite Laurent, a Haitian-American lawyer who worked to have Aristide reinstated in 1994, that certain ring-wing conservatives have been giving financial support to the anti-government opposition. No one else questions the source of the rebels’ supplies and uniforms? It is also interesting that France supports this coup, at a time when Haiti has been demanding reparations from France for having forced Haiti in 1825 to pay an indemnity of what today would be $21.7 billion for its independence.
Now there is the rumor that Aristide resigned. This past Monday, on the airways of Pacifica radio network, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters announced that she had spoken to Aristide over the phone and Aristide claims he was kidnapped by U.S. officials. This is not far-fetched, considering Aristide’s long unwillingness to resign and the existence of covert U.S. operations during the 1991 coup. Regardless of whether or not Aristide was kidnapped, the coup was clearly supported by the United States.
Regardless of party affiliation, we should be concerned as citizens of the world. The situation in Haiti is just one example of how the U.S. intervenes negatively in the affairs of other nations. The time to wake up from our propaganda-induced slumber is now. It is high time that all the other nations break out of their weakness and fear and demand justice from the United States for such atrocities. We must hold the United States, France, and others accountable for their actions against international law and humanity.
Rodnev Lapommeray graduated from Yale College in 2003. He is a Haitian-American from Brooklyn, N.Y.