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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

September, 2007



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Kidnapping Aristide-An Impeachable Crime
By Edward W. Miller


"Wealthy Haitians wanted Aristide out. For the United States, that was all that really counted."
Randall Robinson

This September 28th marks the third anniversary of the kidnapping of Haiti's duly elected President, Jean Bertrand-Aristide, who along with his wife Mildred, was seized by the US military at three o'clock that morning from the presidential palace and flown halfway across the world to the Central African Republic.
While our Washington-imbedded media reported this as a " Haiti-inspired coup," and that " Aristide left Haiti of his own accord," and our embedded US Secretary of State, Colin Powell denied allegations, saying said Mr. Aristide "had gone into exile willingly, and that's the truth;" the real truth was that Washington had staged a fake "coup," using militias it had trained and armed in the Dominican Republic.

These thugs were ordered to cross over into northern Haiti, to create killing and chaos there, and then circle back into their Dominican hideout without coming anywhere near either Aristid'e or Port-au-Prince. As Randall Robinson reports in his recent book "Not only were the rebels never coming to Porte-au-Prince, ...they had never been rebels...they were little more than willing decoys whose roles in a murderous plot ended hours, if not days, before the coup and Aristide's disappearance."

In a BBC interview with the World At One program, Aristide also repeated claims that he had in effect been forcibly removed from Haiti by the US. "In one word it was a kidnapping... You can say coup d'etat."

Even Aristide's private body guard, the Steele Foundation," which is headquartered in San Francisco, was maneuvered out of sight that night. The MIAMI HERALD had reported that US officials had

Blocked Steele Foundation reinforcements, which Aristide had just requested from traveling to Haiti in the days before the president's disappearance.

According to international lawyer, Francis A. Boyle, professor of law at the University of Chicago, the kidnapping of Aristide by US military is listed amongst "High Crimes and Misdemeanors as an Impeachable Offence under the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages Signed by the US at New York on 18 December 1979

Article 1 reads: "Any person who seizes or detains and threatens to kill, to injure or to continue to detain another person (hereinafter referred to as the "hostage") in order to compel a third party," namely, a State, an international inter-governmental organization, a natural or juridical person, or a group of persons, to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the hostage commits the offence of taking of hostages ("hostage-taking") within the meaning of this Convention.

To understand what has happened to Jean Bertrand-Aristide one needs only to look back at his country's troubled history. Haiti has for centuries served as a convenient doormat in the Caribbean archipelago, crushed again and again under the brutal colonial feet of first the Europeans and then America. The original Haitians barely survived the early foreign incursions. Columbus, who arrived on the Island in 1492, noted in his log that natives of Hispaniola were: "lovable, tractable, peaceable, gentle, decorous Indians." Despite their gentleness, they were treated by the Spanish with brutal oppression and as a result, "sickened and died a their original number, estimated at 8 million, by 1510 numbered less than 50,000."

The French chronicler, Moreau de Saint-Mery would note that late in the 17th century, "there remained not a single Indian when the French came to wrest the island from the Spanish." As the Indians died off, from both brutal suppression plus diseases brought by the white man, manpower needs to work the developing Spanish plantations lead to the importing Africans as slaves.

A mercantile triangle developed as European goods were traded in Africa for slaves, who were then shipped to the New World to be sold in Hispaniola (as Haiti was then called) and the sugar and tobacco their labor produced, shipped to Europe. "By 1540 some 30,000 Africans have been brought to Hispaniola." Haiti was divided in 1697. The western half, ceded to France as "Sainte-Domingue," became the center of the slave trade. At the time of the American Revolution, Sainte-Dominique was generating more revenue than all thirteen American colonies."

The French Revolution, which weakened France's hold on Hispainola, set the stage in 1791, first, for a revolt by the wealthy mulattos, which was severely repressed. Then, in August of that year a massive rebellion by Haiti's slaves took place as "armed with picks, machetes, clubs and torches, they razed approximately 180 sugar plantations, and perhaps 900 plantations of coffee, cotton and indigo. At least a thousand white lives were lost; well over 10,000 slaves were killed outright, and up to 25,000 took to the hills."

Though the nascent United States, protecting their investments in Hispaniola, sent both troops and cash, the successful leader of the rebellion, ex-slave, Toussant Louverture, named himself "Lieutenant-Governor" of a Colonial State within the French Empire.

Meanwhile Napoleon, victorious in Europe sent a force of 28,000, under his brother-in-law General Leclerc to restore French rule. Though Toussant was captured and died in prison, the ex-slaves under Jean Jacques Dessalines whipped the French, who lost over 20,000 soldiers, from both war and yellow fever before LeClerc himself succumbed to the fever. On January 1st 1804 victorious Dessalines proclaimed: "I have given the French cannibals blood for blood. I have avenged America."

The slaves' victory was a Pyrrhic one for Haitians would never heal the wounds of colonialism, racism and inequality. Much of the plantation infrastructure was destroyed in the rebellion and plantation owners in neighboring Caribbean Islands, as well as the owners of slave in the United States, fearful their own slaves might also rebel, did their best to isolate this nascent republic. Thomas Jefferson feared his slaves might mutiny.

Two years after his victory, Desalines was murdered. The US and Europe, coming to France's rescue, arranged diplomatic quarantines against Haiti, while merchants in North America developed Haitian trade to compete with the French and British. Though trade picked up and the plantations reorganized, racial divisions remained between wealthy white or mulatto owners, traders, small manufacturers, and the peasant class...

These feudal structures are present today. Though no longer slaves, these Africans remain at the bottom of the economic ladder, as merchants and other middlemen divide the spoils, and previously self-sustaining black farmers are forced to grow exportable crops. Cotton as an export was joined by coffee, mahogany, and other woods, as well as indigo.

American and European worlds had always feared racial unrest would threaten their commercial interests and as early as 1827 The Geffrard government, facing unrest, appealed to the British, who brought in three ships and bombarded the Port-au-Prince fortifications. Such military threats were later copied by foreign merchants who, proclaiming that debts were owed them by Haitians, initiated the so-called "gunboat diplomacy."

In 1888 American Marines supported a revolt against the legitimate government, and in 1914 American, British and German forces entered Haiti "to protect their citizens." By 1902 over $2,500,000 had been extorted from Haiti by such "gunboat diplomacy."

Between 1849 and 1915 the US had sent warships into Haitian waters 26 times " to protect its citizens. "With an unpayable national debt of over $40,000,000 by 1904, and increasing political instability from multiple coups, the US intervened and on July 28th 1915 American marines landed near Port-au-Prince and took over Haiti.

In the 1960'sWashington, sent US Marines to keep "Papa Doc" in power, and later after his son "Baby Doc" got into trouble, flew him out of the country to safe haven in Florida along with a second planeload of loot.

In 1982 the Archbishop assigned Aristide to an impoverished parish in Port-au-Prince where he encouraged Haiti's younger generation to use their political muscle. In Haiti's first free elections in 1990 Aristide came to power with 67% of the vote, preaching economic and political views at odds with Haiti's elite and Washington: "Haiti workers earn the lowest wages in the hemisphere. We are encouraged to exploit and maintain this so-called advantage... to attract foreign companies. Because our economy is weak we depend on loans and aid from foreign countries. This makes us extremely vulnerable to international institutions that control the money."

In 1991, after less than a year in office, Aristide was overthrown in a military coup, taking refuge in the United States. The financial debacle and killing in Haiti threatened its international industries, while thousands of refugees overwhelmed Florida's welfare system. President Clinton, criticized by the Black Caucus for failure to support democracy, sent US Marines returning Aristide to his presidency, but not until, as Aristide made public in 2000: "In order to restore democracy we were asked to agree to an economic plan which could once again mortgage the future of the country." Aristide's social programs angered Haiti's elite and international business. His demands for a minimal wage and medical care, plus his unwillingness to sell Haiti out to the IMF and World Bank upset the Bush II regime. Aristide angered France's Chirac by demanding reimbursement with interest of reparations France extracted in the 18th century for damage to Napoleon's army and loss of French plantations. US and France wanted Aristide out.

Last year, in February 2006 election, Rene Preval, who had served in Aristide's cabinet, was again elected Haiti's president with help from Aristide's Lavalas Party. Peval established a coalition government, even including some of Aristide's most outspoken enemies from the Haiti elite. He has managed to stabilize Haiti's currency while treading a tightrope between capitalist Republicans in Washington and the Bolivar revolutionaries in Chavez' Venezuela.

Preval is sending Haitian kids to Castro's medical school in Cuba, while speaking of privatizing some of Haiti's most inefficient businesses such as the telephone system. With an expanding population of over 8.5 million, Haiti suffers from the loss of manufacturing overseas and a poorly-educated workforce receiving the lowest wages in the western hemisphere.

Venezuela's Chavez is spending millions rebuilding Haiti's infrastructure. In Port-au Prince large slum, Cite Soleil, where poverty is rampant and drug gangs fight, both Haiti police and now the UN forces feel free to fire into the tightly crowded tin and cardboard houses, often killing uninvolved citizens. Meanwhile, Aristide and Mildred are enduring exile in the Republic of South Africa while Bush awaits possible impeachment in Washington.

Edward W. Miller, MD
20 August 2007

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