Haiti Archives 1995-1996
05/12/95 THIS WEEK IN HAITI November 29 – December 5, 1995 Vol. 13, No. 36

“This Week in Haiti” is the English section of HAITI PROGRES newsweekly. For information on other news in French and Creole, please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100, (fax) 718-434-5551

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* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

November 29 – December 5, 1995 Vol. 13, No. 36

U.S. WANTS TO PROLONG ITS OCCUPATION OF HAITI

U.S. officials confirmed this week their intention to keep U.S. military forces in Haiti beyond Feb. 29, 1996, the original and still standing withdrawal date of the 7,000-strong U.N. Mission in Haiti (UNMIH). Although the plan has not been formally adopted nor the number of soldiers decided, officials reportedly want to discard the U.N. fig-leaf that now disguises the essentially U.S. military occupation of Haiti. Instead, if U.S. officials get their way, an unspecified number of U.S. troops, probably between 500 and 2,000, adorned by a contingent of French and Canadian police and/or soldiers, would remain in Haiti on the basis of “new bilateral arrangements between Haiti and other key foreign countries,” the Washington Post reported Nov. 26.

The news comes as no surprise, despite U.S. and Haitian government pledges last year that the U.S. military presence in Haiti would be short. Already, U.S. Maj. Gen. Joseph Kinzer, who commands U.N. military affairs in Haiti, has proposed to extend the UNMIH mandate to April 30, 1996.

Furthermore, the Village Voice reports Nov. 29 that “[r]ecently, [Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff John] Shalikashvili suggested to Aristide that up to 1000 U.S. Special Forces remain in Haiti until November 30, 1996, eight months beyond their scheduled pullout date, as a new sort of engineering corps” that would “build roads, bridges, and other public works.” Clinton administration officials also like this packaging and envisage “groups of 200 or so military engineers [who] would continue to rotate through Haiti for tours of up to 6 months, ‘on a continuous basis to show the flag and be visible in Haiti,’ one senior official said” to the Post. In fact, just this week, Gen. Kinzer dropped in on Port-au-Prince Mayor Manno Charlemagne to “offer” him the services of two U.S. military engineers.

The Pentagon also would like to dress up its troops as “instructors” and “advisors” who would continue to train the new Haitian National Police (HNP). Trained at a U.S. Army base in Missouri, the soon-to-be 5,000 strong HNP has been beset by a number of problems including corruption and, as human rights groups like to put it, “excessive use of force” — namely, killing people. More worrisome for the U.S., however, is that the new force is not sufficiently “steeled” to withstand popular mobilization. “That force is new and untested. It’s prudent to assume it will need some kind of support and we are prepared to participate,” James F. Dobbins, the U.S. State Department’s Haiti coordinator told the Post. “It’s intended to be a dynamic and flexible process, because as the police hit the streets, they are going to identify areas in which they want more training,” added a Pentagon official. U.S. officials now say that the police need more training in, among other things, crowd control.

Significantly, the Post article repeated twice that the HNP’s training was covered by “a 5-year contract” signed with the Aristide government last year. The Clinton administration and Pentagon would apparently like to make people think that Haiti is obligated to retain the U.S. military trainers for that period, which is, of course, absurd.

Finally, in addition to the disguised occupiers, U.S. officials say they want a “residual international constabulary force,” which would also include some French and Canadian soldiers. The term is a euphemistic triumph, if nothing else.

The U.S. government’s call for keeping a foreign military presence in Haiti have surfaced, not coincidentally, in the wake of “Operation Disarmament,” the nationwide popular mobilization launched by President Aristide on Nov. 11 to disarm the military- macoute sector. U.S. officials this week expressed alarm at the inability or unwillingness of the new Haitian police to “keep order.” Indeed, U.S. and U.N. troops, who always assert that they are not “policemen,” have been actively deployed to protect the macoute-military sector over the last few weeks of protests.

Underscoring Washington’s problem of not having the Haitian police ready “to stand on their own” was the uprising in Cite Soleil this week. Residents disarmed police and “dechouked” the local police station after a policeman shot and killed a 6-year- old girl on Nov. 23. Local residents also reportedly shot at the police. At least 3 people died in the ensuing protests. U.N. soldiers were deployed to Cite Soleil, where they evacuated the besieged policemen. Residents left the child’s body lying in the street covered by a sheet for hours after the shooting, insisting that President Aristide come to the neighborhood to see and hear about their situation.

Even when the $400 million U.N. mission ends (maybe) Feb. 29, some 180 U.N. “human rights” observers remain in Haiti under the umbrella of the joint U.N./OAS International Civilian Mission (ICM). That human rights mission has been severely criticized in recent months for presiding over impunity and protecting the military-macoute sector by raising the “human rights” of the putschists when they are infrequently arrested. The ICM has also been reproached for whitewashing this summer’s municipal and parliamentary elections, and more broadly all aspects of the U.S. presence in Haiti, and for acting as a kind of nationwide intelligence gathering operation for the U.N. and U.S. The ICM, along with the UNMIH, has been censured also for their lack of protest over the U.S. military’s theft of 60,000 pages of FRAPH documents last year. The Haitian government also estimates that the U.S. military stole another 100,000 documents from the headquarters of the Armed Forces of Haiti (FADH).

In a remarkable display of dead-pan, the New York Times reported Nov. 28 that “the Pentagon insists that the documents belonged to the ousted military rulers, not the Aristide Government, and became American property when United States troops seized them last year.” If the U.S. deems the Haitian military to be separate from the Haitian government, then the Aristide government should deem that Haiti’s huge debt rung up from Oct. 1991 to Oct. 1994 also belongs to “the ousted military rulers.” Therefore, the Haitian people should not have to pay back millions through austerity measures and privatization. Furthermore, if the Pentagon contends that the 160,000 seized documents don’t belong to the Aristide government because it wasn’t in power in Haiti, then it agrees with the many Haitians: Aristide should extend his term for 3 years because he wasn’t in power in Haiti!

Meanwhile, Haitian refugees continue to flee their homeland. More than 40 refugees reportedly died when their boat capsized Nov. 25 off the northwest coast of Haiti. Seven bodies have already washed ashore, according to local officials. Just 4 days earlier, the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted more than 500 people aboard a freighter that had tried to elude the U.S. cutter for 36 hours by ducking in and out of Cuban territorial waters. The refugees were returned to Port-au-Prince Nov. 24. Then, on Nov. 25, the Coast Guard captured another 581 Haitians in a 75-foot freighter off Andros Island in the Bahamas. One refugee died from dehydration. The U.S. Coast Guard has captured nearly 2,000 Haitians this year, a figure that doesn’t include the hundreds of refugees who made it to Florida. The count is substantially higher than the 1,100 refugees that the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted in 1990, the last “pre-crisis” year.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE STARTS

(HAITI INFO) PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov. 21 – After all the threats of boycott and accusations of “one-party rule” from the traditional political parties and “particles,” the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) last week received 14 applications for candidacy for president. Elections are scheduled for Dec. 17.

Not surprisingly, traditional politician Victor Benoit of CONACOM (Congres National des Mouvements Democratiques) had no problem “changing tactics” and entering the race, despite his party’s vicious and violent condemnation of parliamentary elections and the CEP earlier this year.

“The crisis… is too serious for a responsible political party to abstain,” he said.

The Lavalas platform is backing ex-Prime Minister Rene Preval. Other candidates include former senators Firmin Jean-Louis and Clark Parent, and Leon Jeune, briefly Secretary of Justice. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has not yet officially endorsed anyone, but persistent rumors hint at a divergence between him and Preval.

Despite grumbling from the abstainers and the clamor for “three more years” heard mainly from certain sectors in the capital, candidates started to campaign last week, with interviews, banners and meetings.

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