More Pain for Devastated Haiti: Under the Pretense of Disaster Relief, U.S. Running a Military Occupation
Continued from previous page
In fact, MINUSTAH has been involved in numerous massacres in Port-au-Prince slums that are strongholds for Lavalas and Aristide. But that is probably what Collier means by “credible security.” He also notes MINUSTAH will cost some $5 billion overall; compare that to the $379 million the U.S. government has designated for spending on Haiti in response to the earthquake. It’s worth noting that one-third of the U.S. funding is for “military aid" and another 42 percent is for disaster assistance, such as $23.5 million for "search and rescue" operations that prioritized combing through luxury hotels for survivors.
As for the “U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti,” speaking at an October 2009 investors’ conference in Port-au-Prince that attracted do-gooders like Gap, Levi Strauss and Citibank, Bill Clinton claimed a revitalized garment industry could create 100,000 jobs. The reason some 200 companies, half of them garment manufacturers, attended the conference was because “Haiti’s extremely low labor costs, comparable to those in Bangladesh, make it so appealing,” the New York Times reported. Those costs are often less than the official daily minimum wage of $1.75. (The Haitian Parliament approved an increase last May 4 to about $5 an hour, but it was opposed by the business elite and President René Préval refused to sign the bill, effectively killing it. The refusal to increase the minimum wage sparked numerous student protests starting last June, which were repressed by Haitian police and MINUSTAH.)
Roots of Repression
Some historical perspective is in order. In his work Haiti State Against Nation: The Origins & Legacy of Duvalierism, Michel-Rolph Trouillot writes, “Haiti’s first army saw itself as the offspring of the struggle against slavery and colonialism.” That changed during the U.S. occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. Under the tutelage of the U.S. Marines, “the Haitian Garde was specifically created to fight against other Haitians. It received its baptism of fire in combat against its countrymen." Its brutal legacy led Aristide to disband the army in 1995.
Yet prior to the army’s disbandment, in the wake of the U.S. invasion that returned a politically handcuffed Aristide to the presidency in 1994, "CIA agents accompanying U.S. troops began a new recruitment drive for the agency" that included leaders of the death squad known as FRAPH, according to Peter Hallward, author of Damning the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the Politics of Containment.
It’s worth recalling how the Clinton administration played a double game under the cover of humanitarian intervention. Investigative reporter Allan Nairn revealed that in 1993 "five to ten thousand" small arms were shipped from Florida, past the U.S. naval blockade, to the coup leaders. These weapons enabled FRAPH to multiply and terrorize the popular movements. Then, pointing to intensifying FRAPH violence in 1994, the Clinton administration pressured Aristide into acquiescing to a U.S. invasion because FRAPH was becoming “the only game in town.”
After 20,000 U.S. troops landed in Haiti, they set about protecting FRAPH members, freeing them from jail, and refusing to disarm them or seize their weapons caches. FRAPH leader Emmanual Constant told Nairn that after the invasion the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was using FRAPH to counter “subversive activities.” Meanwhile, the State Department and CIA went about stacking the Haitian National Police with former army soldiers, many of whom were on the U.S. payroll. By 1996, according to one report, Haitian Army and “FRAPH forces remain armed and present in virtually every community across the country,” and paramilitaries were “inciting street violence in an effort to undermine social order.”
During the early 1990s, a separate group of Haitian soldiers, including Guy Philippe who led the 2004 coup against Aristide, were spirited away to Ecuador where they allegedly trained at a “U.S. military facility." Hallward describes the second coup as beginning in 2001 as a “Contra war” in the Dominican Republic with Philippe and former FRAPH commander Jodel Chamblain as leaders. A "Democracy Now!” report from April 7, 2004 claimed that the U.S.-government funded International Republican Institute provided arms and technical training to the anti-Aristide force in the Dominican Republic, while “200 members of the special forces of the United States were there in the area training these so-called rebels.”
A key component of the campaign against Aristide after he was inaugurated in 2001 was economic destabilization that cut off much of the funding for “ road construction, AIDs programs, water works and health care.” A likely factor in the coup was Aristide’s highly public campaign demanding that France repay the money it extorted from Haiti in 1825 for the former slave colony to buy its freedom, estimated in 2003 at $21 billion, or that Aristide was working with Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba to create alternatives to U.S. economic domination of the region.
When Aristide was finally ousted in February 2004, another round of slaughter ensued, with 800 bodies dumped in just one week in March. A 2006 study by the British medical journal Lancet (PDF) determined that 8,000 people were murdered in the capital region during the first 22 months of the U.S.-backed coup government and 35,000 women and girls raped or sexually assaulted. The OPs and Lavalas militants were decimated, in part by a UN war against the main Lavalas strongholds in Port-au-Prince’s neighborhoods of Bel Air and Cite Soleil, the latter a densely packed slum of some 300,000. (Hallward claims U.S. Marines were involved in a number of massacres in areas such as Bel Air in 2004.)
‘More Free Trade’