Haïti : Evolution of a Coup by Nia Imara

350px-US_Navy_100316-N-9116F-001_A_Brazilian_U.N._peacekeeper_walks_with_Haitian_children_during_a_patrol_in_Cite_SoleilThe damages and suffering accrued by the Haitian people over more than two centuries of intermittent occupation, foreign interference, and dictatorship are immeasurable. The present occupation has multiplied and strengthened the old transgressions—and it has given rise to new structures of exploitation all its own. Ten years ago, when the United States aided in the coup d’état and kidnapping of President Aristide, it launched an offensive that has steadily reversed the progress which was being made by the democratically elected Lavalas government. The following timeline is intended to document some of the milestones of the ten-year-old occupation, with special attention being paid to events that illuminate the United States’ and the United Nations’ tendency to push forth their coup agenda and undercut the rights of the Haitian people. My aim is for this timeline to be comprehensive—illustrative of how the occupation has evolved and emboldened over the years—while understanding that it cannot be exhaustive or inclusive of all the wrongs committed against Haiti.

2000 – 2004

NOVEMBER 2000 – President Aristide is elected into office by a tremendous majority (90 percent of the vote) for the second time. Lavalas took 75 percent of vote in both local and national elections.

2003 – USAID and the International Republican Institute

(organizations both funded by the US government) spend millions of dollars to create and enable opposition groups, called the “Convergence.” The US funds antigovernment radio stations and propaganda, and the Bush administration blocks $146 million in loans to Haiti from the Inter-Ameri- can Development Bank.

APRIL 7, 2003 – Bicentennial of Toussaint Louverture’s death. President Aristide publically announces that France owes Haiti $21 billion in restitution. October 12 of same year, Aristide holds a four-day conference to further discuss Haiti’s restitution demands.

FEBRUARY 7, 2004 – At least one million Haitians march in Port-au-Prince in support of Aristide completing his full five-year term.

FEBRUARY 29, 2004 – US soldiers kidnap Jean-Bertrand and Mildred Aristide at their home. Luis Moreno of the American Embassy leads the kidnapping. The Aristides are first flown to Bangui, Central African Republic. Meanwhile, the US media continuously repeats the lie that Aristide left voluntarily. Two weeks later, a group that includes Repre- sentative Maxine Waters goes to CAR to get the Aristides and take them to Jamaica. The Jamaican government, however, is pressured by Washington, and so the Aristides ultimately go to South Africa, where they spend the next seven years in exile.

MARCH 2004 – While still living in the US, coup-supporter Gerard Latortue is installed as Prime Minister of Haiti. Over the next couple of years, his illegitimate government— sanctioned by the US, French, and Canadian governments— presides over the killing and imprisoning of thousands of Lavalas supporters.

APRIL 30, 2004 – United Nations Resolution 1542 estab- lishes the UN Stabilization Mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH) bringing together over 9,000 military and police person- nel from more than forty countries under the leadership of Brazil and Canada. The number has grown to over 11,000 MINUSTAH troops.

JUNE 2004 – Yvon Neptune, Prime Minister in Aristide’s administration, is incarcerated under false charges. Neptune is held without trial for over two years with no proof he committed a crime. He is provisionally released in 2006, as are other defendants in the La Scierie case.

OCTOBER 13, 2004 – Father Gerard Jean-Juste, a longtime human rights advocate, is arrested while feeding children at his church, Sainte Claire Catholic Church in Port-au-Prince.

NOVEMBER 29, 2004 – After nearly seven weeks in prison, Father Gerry is released.

DECEMBER 2004 – Around sixty prisoners at the National Penitentiary are killed when inmates break out of their cells and assemble to protest terrible conditions and illegal confinement. As many as fifteen prisoners are executed by masked police; others are later shot in their cells.

2005

This year is marked by violent attacks against Lavalas activists and supporters of Aristide. Haitian grassroots groups regularly protest the occupation in large demonstrations, which are often attacked by MINUSTAH and Haitian para- military troops. Thousands are illegally incarcerated, and many go into hiding.

JULY 6, 2005 – UN soldiers attack Cite Soleil, a stronghold of Lavalas support. More than 350 MINUSTAH troops raid Cite Soleil and kill at least twenty-six people.

JULY 21, 2005 – Father Gerard Jean-Juste (“Father Gerry”) is arrested at the funeral of Jacques Roche—a Haitian jour- nalist who was kidnapped and assassinated—and is falsely blamed for having taken part in the murder.

AUGUST 12, 2005 – Twenty-nine Members of Congress, including Representative Maxine Waters, send a letter to President George Bush, urging him to aid in Father Gerry’s release from prison.

DECEMBER 2005 – Dr. Paul Farmer examines Father Gerry in prison and diagnoses him with leukemia. Farmer advises that Father Gerry is in urgent need of proper medical care in the US, and Father Gerry is provisionally released in early 2006.

2006

FEBRUARY 2006 – Presidential election of René Préval.

The MINUSTAH-Latortue regime does not allow polling places in Lavalas strongholds such as Cite Soleil; proponents of the coup government burn voting ballots and then refuse to announce the results of the elections. But after the people hold peaceful demonstrations in which they demand their voices be heard, it is announced that Préval won the election with 51 percent of the vote.

MAY 2006 – During inauguration ceremonies for President- elect Préval, MINUSTAH troops open fire on prisoners demonstrating inside the National Penitentiary. They kill at least ten people.

AUGUST AND OCTOBER 2006 – Beginning on March

1, 2004, the day after Aristide was kidnapped, occupation forces began illegally detaining what would be thousands of political prisoners. Among them was Ronald Dauphin, a grassroots activist and supporter of Aristide. In August 2006, Amnesty International urges the Haitian government to promptly bring to trial or else release all political prison- ers, condemning the lengthy detention of Aristide support- ers as politically motivated. In October 2006, the National Lawyers Guild urges Haiti’s government to release the remaining political prisoners.

DECEMBER 22, 2006 – UN troops massacre thirty people in Cite Soleil.

2007

JANUARY 24, 2007 – MINUSTAH raids Cite Soleil in the middle of the night. Two little girls, Stephanie and Alexan- dra Lubin, are shot and killed in their sleep. The following morning, at least 5,000 people in Cite Soleil demonstrate against the murders.

FEBRUARY 7, 2007 – Massive demonstrations of more than one hundred thousand people across Haiti calling for end of occupation.

AUGUST 12, 2007 – Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, human rights advocate, leader in the Lavalas movement, and founder of the September Thirtieth Foundation, is kidnapped. His dis- appearing occurred only days after he led a protest against the US/UN occupation of Haiti in front of MINUSTAH headquarters in Port-au-Prince.

AUGUST 2007 – One of Haiti’s transportation unions leads a general strike to protest the economic devastation—in- cluding high cost of living, layoffs, and privatization—pro- duced by the occupation.

2008

FEBRUARY 2008 – People (especially in extremely impoverished communities like Cite Soleil) have resorted to eating “mud cookies” to stave off starvation.

FEBRUARY 29, 2008 – Tens of thousands hold demonstra- tions in demand of Aristide’s return.

APRIL 2008 – “Food riots” are held all over Haiti—and worldwide—over the high cost of food and living. In Haiti, the problem of poverty and expensive food can be traced to over thirty years ago, when the US flooded Haiti with cheap, subsidized rice. Haitian farmers could not compete, and local production decreased dramatically. By 2008, Haiti was the third largest importer in the world of so-called “Miami rice.”

AUGUST 2008 – SOPUDEP, a school that opened in 2002 to serve the poorest children of Pétion-Ville, is threatened. The mayor of Pétion-Ville threatens to forcibly evict the SO- PUDEP school from their location, a property that formally belonged to an enforcer of the Duvalier dictatorship.

2009

FEBRUARY 6, 2009 – Hillary Clinton meets with Préval in Haiti and uses the State Department’s weight to influence upcoming Senatorial elections. By the following day, all fourteen Lavalas candidates are banned from running in the elections.

APRIL 16, 2009 – Hillary Clinton visits a sweatshop run by Andy Apaid, a supporter of the coup and the leader of Group of 184.

APRIL 19, 2009 – After unsuccessfully trying several times to change the ruling banning them from running candidates, Lavalas boycotts the elections, and less than five percent of the electorate turned out to vote.

MAY 27, 2009 – Father Gerry dies.

MAY 2009 – Bill Clinton is named by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as special UN envoy to Haiti.

JUNE 18, 2009 – UN troops are caught on film shooting into a crowd on the day of Father Gerry’s funeral.

JUNE 21, 2009 – Lavalas boycotts runoff Senatorial elections.

NOVEMBER 2009 – The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) gives in to internal pressure and embarrassment from abroad to allow Lavalas to participate in parliamentary elec- tions in 2010. Three days later, they retract their decision. Lavalas is still banned.

2010

JANUARY 12, 2010 – Earthquake. More than 250,000 and perhaps more than 300,000 people are killed and millions more are left homeless, orphaned, or wounded. The death and devastation are greatly exacerbated due to Haiti’s poor infrastructure, which was weakened by years of occupation and, before that, decades of dictatorship and exploitation.

JANUARY 2010 – President Obama appoints Bush and Clinton, both of whom had harmful foreign policies toward Haiti during their presidencies, as heads of United States’ relief effort in Haiti.

FEBRUARY 2010 – Paul Vallas, who was previously hired to rebuild education in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, meets with officials of the Inter-American Development Bank. They ask him to lead the effort to redesign Haiti’s public education system, and he ultimately accepts. The state in which Vallas left the New Orleans, as well as the

Chicago and Philadelphia public school systems, left much to be desired for the teachers, families, and students of those cities, to say nothing of the arrogance of sidestepping the right of Haitian teachers, families, and students to shape their own educational system.

OCTOBER 2010 – MINUSTAH troops start a cholera epidemic in Haiti. Since October 2010, after UN troops dumped human waste into a tributary of the Artibonite River—Haiti’s main water supply—more than 7,600 Hai- tians have died and more than half a million have become sick. Although Haitians have held many demonstrations to demand justice, the UN has yet to be held accountable.

NOVEMBER 28, 2010 – Unconstitutional, undemocratic presidential and parliamentary elections are held. Although the CEP has banned Lavalas and thirteen other political par- ties from participating, the Obama administration spends $14.5 million on the elections, funneled through USAID. The candidates spend millions of US dollars promot- ing themselves, while hundreds of thousands of Haitians remained homeless and traumatized ten months after the earthquake.

2011

JANUARY 16, 2011 – Baby-Doc Duvalier, former dictator of Haiti who is responsible for the murder of thousands of Haitians, returns to Haiti with impunity.

MARCH 18, 2011 – After seven years of exile in South Africa, the Aristide family returns to Haiti. This victory is in the face of the White House’s determination to prevent it: President Obama telephoned South African President Jacob Zuma to persuade him to prevent Aristide from leaving Africa and coming back to Haiti.

MARCH 20, 2011 – Runoff elections in which less than 25 percent of the electorate participate in fraudulent, undemo- cratic process.

APRIL 4, 2011 – The Government of Haiti announces that Michel Martelly—a Duvalierist who is currently facilitating the process of reverting Haiti to a dictatorship—is selected as the next President of Haiti.

JUNE 2011 – Martelly approves new illegal taxes on money transfers to Haiti and on international phone calls, purport- edly to be directed toward a National Education Fund (FNE).

JULY 2011 – Workers at the State University Hospital of Haiti go on strike. Unsanitary and unsafe conditions make it impossible for doctors and nurses to provide care for their patients.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2011 – Forced to close after the coup, the University of the Aristide Foundation (UNIFA) reopens to a class of 126 Haitian medical students. As of today, the number has grown to more than 600 medical students and over 200 nursing students.

OCTOBER 2011 – As the nation continued to deal with its trauma in the year following the earthquake, teachers willingly worked without pay. But in October 2011, many months after Martelly came to power, and after he initiated the FNE, teachers went on strike to demand five months of back pay owed by the government.

2012 – 2014

APRIL 2012 – Dominican Republican journalist Nuria Piera breaks the story that during and after the 2010 elections, Michel Martelly allegedly accepted $2.6 million in bribes to guarantee contracts for a Dominican construction company.

JUNE 2012 – Martelly announces new, illegal amendments to the democratic Constitution of 1987. The amendments would undercut democratic participation and bring back many of the oppressive laws of the Duvalier era, while con- centrating the power of the president.

OCTOBER 22, 2012 – A land-grab is consolidated. Hillary and Bill Clinton attend the opening of the Caracol indus- trial park in northern Haiti. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton negotiated a deal in which the Government of Haiti donated the land, free of charge, to the South Korean cloth- ing manufacturer Sae-A. The US contributed at least $124 million to the project.

NOVEMBER 2012 – Teachers strike for fair wages and im- proved conditions for their students. Four months later, in March 2013, they hold strikes again for the same demands as well as for back pay.

MARCH 8, 2013 – Aristide is summoned to court to be questioned in the thirteen-year-old murder investigation of Jean Dominique, journalist and critic of the US govern- ment’s interference in Haitian politics. Knowing that this summons was part of the ongoing assault against Haiti’s popular democratic movement and its principal leader, tens of thousands of people gathered at the Palace of Justice in Port-au-Prince, in support of Aristide.

JANUARY 17, 2014 – Myrlande Liberis-Pavert is threatened with an indictment in the case of assassinated journalist Jean Dominique. As with Aristide, this attack is a personal defamation of a Lavalas leader and an affront to the Lavalas movement.

JANUARY 22, 2014 – Haitian teachers go on indefinite strike for back pay from the government.

FEBRUARY 6, 2014 – Martelly meets in person with Obama, for the first time, at the White House. He also meets with Secretary of State John Kerry and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The mainstream US media’s reporting on these meetings is insubstantial, containing little analysis and less context. All in all, this is one of the latest examples of how entrenched the occupation has become and how its leading representatives appear to feel as entitled as ever.