Haiti – forgotten conflict

Haiti is the kind of country we only hear about intermittently on the news, a place with ethnic tension and brutal violence. In early 2004, a coup was staged that unseated the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. At the time, allegations surfaced that the US was behind the coup but this was largely kept out of the Western media. Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman led the charge, gaining access to the Gulfstream jet that took Aristide out of the country and conducted one of the only interviews with the leader.

The allegations included that the US funded and supported paramilitary groups with sordid human rights records. If so, this would be the second time in two decades that American intelligence has supported such activity.

Fast forward to 2005 and reports emerging from the country’s capital, Port au Prince, suggest an ineffective UN complicit in the coup of 2004:

“The images of the killings by the U.S.-armed and U.N.-trained Police Nationale de Haiti (PNH) are stark and undeniable. Peaceful demonstrators slaughtered in cold-blood as the U.N. pontificates and postures to justify its role in legitimizing the coup in February 2004 against the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. On February 28, 2005, the first anniversary of the coup against the constitutional government, the PNH fired at unarmed demonstrators as the U.N. stood by. Video footage and photographs from that day show the U.N. was close enough to see the police open fire on peaceful demonstrators, yet unexplainably, not close enough to do anything about it.”

The facts of this story remain one of the hidden tragedies of the last year. In a March 2004 interview with Aristide, Goodman unravelled the role of the US in undermining the democratically elected government (a perspective supported by a number of US Senators) and alleged connections between the unsuccessful coup of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Haiti, by a group known as the International Republican Institute (read here for a full background of this organisation.) The Institute was born in the 1983 and was intimately involved in the Reagan-backed death squads in the Caribbean and Central America in the 1980s.

Democracy is on the march, George W. Bush tells us. Sadly, thousands of dead bodies may continue to get in his way.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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