|Haiti Archives 1995-1996|
|12/12/95||THIS WEEK IN HAITI December 6 – 12, 1995 Vol. 13, No. 37|
HAITI PROGRES “Le journal qui offre une alternative”
UNCOVERED PLOT MAY BRING NEW FRICTION BETWEEN ARISTIDE AND WASHINGTON
Haitian authorities have learned of a plot to assassinate President Jean Bertrand Aristide and presidential candidate Rene Preval following the presidential elections now scheduled for Dec. 17, says a source close to Aristide. Following discovery of the plot, the Aristide government now is considering whether to make the holding of the elections conditional on the Pentagon’s return to the Haitian government of 160,000 pages of documents stolen from Haiti and a subsequent thorough disarmament campaign throughout the country.
Details about the alleged plot and its authors remain unclear, but the attack on Aristide would have taken place at his home in Tabarre, a Port-au-Prince suburb, the source said. The coup d’etat of Sept. 30, 1991 began the previous day with an attack on Aristide while he was at his Tabarre residence.
Meanwhile, Rene Preval, Aristide’s first prime minister, is heavily favored to win the practically invisible presidential race, as the candidate of Aristide’s Lavalas Political Platform (PPL).
If the Aristide government does indeed link the presidential elections to the return of documents seized by the U.S. military, sparks will fly. The Pentagon still refuses to hand over to Haiti the vast trove of material which US soldiers removed in the autumn of 1994 from Haitian army buildings and various offices of the FRAPH, a CIA-conceived and backed terrorist group. The materials were flown out of Haiti to a U.S. military facility. The Pentagon claims that the material is now U.S. property, a virtual admission to parenting the bloody military dictatorship which terrorized Haiti between 1991 and 1994. “The fact that these documents have been withheld obviously raises questions about the level of collaboration between elements of the American government and the former military regime,” noted U.S. Representative John Conyers in a letter to President Bill Clinton this week. “These documents are necessary to the government of Haiti if it is to make sense of what happened during the three years of President Aristide’s forced exile,” Conyers said, joining with 39 Congressional representatives in an international parliamentary campaign to win the return to Haiti of the 60,000 FRAPH and 100,000 Haitian army documents, photos, and tapes.
The Pentagon and the State Department this week continued a theatrical interchange about the fate of the documents following the New York Times’ front page story Nov. 28 about the existence of the stolen Haitian army documents and an alleged Haitian and U.S. government spat over them. The State Department generally played the “good cop,” reiterating that they wanted to see the archives returned quickly. “We have a good relationship with the Haitian government. The fact that the Haitian government has made a formal request is important to us,” State Department spokesperson Nicholas Burns said Nov. 28, referring a Haitian government request for the documents in late October. “We owe them the response, the ball is in our court. And we plan to get back to the Haitian government as quickly as possible so that we can end this misunderstanding.” But one wire-service reported that “a senior U.S. diplomat” in Haiti said that “there may be some legitimate national security concerns and if so, they might not want to turn over the documents because of that.”
The Pentagon has taken a hard line, using the occasion to attack President Aristide. “We do know there are names within the documents that could provide a hit list,” a Pentagon official told one news agency, adding that return of the archives, which are being held by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), might lead to “vigilante justice.”
Other U.S. officials were busy putting different spins on the controversy. One official claimed that the archives were nothing but “boxes and boxes of junk.” Another said that “nobody has found anything interesting in them yet.” Still others claimed that Bosnia and other pressing problems have prevented the White House from getting around to deciding on the question. “We have to get together with the Pentagon and just ascertain what’s in these documents and what is the appropriate way to resolve this problem,” said one. Meanwhile, Haiti is in turmoil since the theft of the archives has delayed the political and legal process that could bring justice and peace. In particular, the mandate of Haiti’s already enfeebled Truth Commission is over at the end of December, thus excluding the possibility that the body could use the pages for its report on repression during the coup years.
However, until now, it seemed that the Haitian government was not really interested in recouping the pages. The theft of the documents by U.S. forces, mostly in October of last year, was witnessed by hundreds of people, yet the Haitian government never raised its voice against the seizure. Some human rights activists in the United States began agitating for their return this past year. Again, the Haitian government remained silent. Only this past October, when a U.S. Justice Department official inadvertently revealed the existence of 60,000 pages of FRAPH documents in the DIA’s archives, did a storm of controversy from Haitian human rights groups, parliamentarians, and media force the Aristide government to act. In late October, the Foreign Ministry sent a diplomatic note to the State Department officially requesting their return. Continued pressure for the documents from Haitian government officials has been, at best, half-hearted.
But perhaps Aristide has begun to see the need for disarmament following the sophisticated and highly coordinated assassination of his cousin, Jean Hubert Feuille, in Port-au Prince on Nov. 7. Two days earlier, Aristide had received a visit from two American military officers who advised him that they had information that a member of his entourage was targeted for assassination. Was their warning an update or a threat? In either case, Feuille’s killing inspired Aristide’s emotional speech on Nov. 11 where he laid responsibility for the country’s growing crime wave at the feet of the U.S. and U.N. occupiers.
If the government were to demand the return of the documents and undertake a true and sustained disarmament campaign such as that begun Nov. 11, but since diffused, it would begin to concur with many popular organizations, like the National Popular Assembly (APN), which have demanded justice, disarmament, and disoccupation before any elections. Unfortunately, Aristide’s record leads one to doubt that he will ever truly resist the U.S. occupation and its agenda. He seems more likely to finish out his term as the occupation’s sometimes rebellious puppet, a role which nonetheless does not safeguard him from being its eventual victim.
CONSTANT AGAIN CONFIRMS CIA-FRAPH “ALLIANCE”
Emmanuel “Toto” Constant, the former leader of the death squad, the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), confirmed this week the collaboration between FRAPH and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). “I was meeting with the CIA on a regular basis,” Constant told the television program “60 Minutes.” “We had an understanding, we had an alliance.”
Contrary to CIA claims, Constant said that the CIA “knew exactly what I was doing” and that the agency never criticized him despite sometimes daily meetings. Constant added in the interview that he was provided a sophisticated walkie-talkie, given the code name “Gamal,” and paid US $700 per month, a figure that is surely understated given FRAPH’s wide network of offices and agents throughout Haiti and its diaspora.
FRAPH organized killings, tortures, and rapes throughout Haiti between its formal founding in 1993 to the return of President Aristide in Oct. 1994. They also opened offices along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and Canada. The organization became widely known in Oct. 1993 when it held a small but loud and aggressive demonstration at the Port-au-Prince dock against the arrival of U.S. and Canadian troops who were to coming to enforce the Governor’s Island Accords. Those accords called for the return of President Aristide and the “retirement” of coup leader Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras.
The demonstration was used as an excuse by Washington to scrap the accords and attempt to ditch President Aristide in the wilderness of exile. Constant said that the CIA knew all about the demonstration and never asked him to call it off. A CIA spokesperson said that Constant’s information about the demonstration was given to U.S. policy-makers. “Any suggestion that CIA misrepresented information it received on planned activities at the port to support or advance any policy goal is simply wrong,” the CIA spokesperson said.
STUDENTS DEMAND JUSTICE
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov. 13 (Haiti Info) – Years after the army harassed, held under siege, and arrested university students, and eight months after filing a legal complaint, student groups are still waiting for justice.
On Nov. 10, leaders from Komite Inisyativ Lit Etidyan (KILE), Jenes Etidyan Kretyen (JEK), and Komite Lit Etidyan (KLE) commemorated the anniversary of the army’s Nov. 12, 1991, arrest of protesting students and the attack by 50 soldiers and attaches one day later on a conference on privatization at the Faculty of Sciences.
“Today the question of justice is only discourse,” one young man said. “Until today nothing has been done.” The students said”justice is not giving people gifts… paying victims off with the population’s money… but legal reparation where the law seizes the criminal’s goods.”
The groups also reminded students and friends of the university that those attacks were “attacks on the entire student movement” and stressed the importance of relaunching the student struggle, because “today all of the gains made during the democratic battles are endangered.”
Students plan to hold a university-wide assembly soon where they will discuss reforms and election of management councils. To commemorate International Day Against Violence on Women, a dozen members of three women’s organizations dressed entirely in white picketed the Palais de Justice Nov. 24 because, one participant explained, “That is where the judges sit. That is where corruption is, where all the macoutes are.”
The picketers, from Kay Fanm, Ransanbleman Fanm Popile, and Fanm SAJ, joined by about 50 mostly women supporters, sang and chanted (”Justice for women!” “Judge rapists!”) to demand justice and a special tribunal for women. They also protested “domestic violence.”
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