Haiti Archives 1995-1996
21/11/95 HAITI: Behind Aristide’s Angry Words Analysis – By Dan Coughlin

Copyright 1995 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 21 (IPS) – Behind President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s public attack earlier this month against the ‘’hypocrisy’’ of the international community lies the widespread view in top governmental levels that international forces are more interested in supporting rich Haitians rather than all Haitians.

‘’The rights of all people must be respected, without exception,’’ insisted President Aristide in an angry speech Nov. 11 before 2,000 people jammed into the National Cathedral for the funeral mass of Jean Hubert Feuille, a 31-year-old legislator gunned down in the streets of Port-au-Prince Nov. 7.

‘’We say again one time that peace must reign here, and for this peace to reign there must be no accomplices,’’ Aristide charged, referring to his claim that the U.N. Mission in Haiti (MINUHA) is effectively protecting former Haitian army soldiers and paramilitary groups by not disarming them.

‘’The game of hypocrisy is over,’’ he warned.

The criticism, extraordinary both for its harshness and its openness, comes in the wake of a growing conflicts between President Aristide and U.S. and U.N. officials.

Most significantly, the two sides are at loggerheads over his new government’s economic policies, including the privatisation of state-run industries, and over the failure of U.N. military forces to adequately disarm anti-democratic forces and provide a safe and secure environment.

The speech also comes as both Aristide’s presidential term and the mandate of the MINUHA reach their end in February. According to a presidential advisor, Aristide is seeking to extract concessions from Washington and the United Nations before his term is up.

‘’There’s three months left with the MINUHA and they can do a lot more against the (tonton) macoutes,’’ said the advisor, referring to the armed, anti-Aristide groups that still impact the country.

The advisor, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said that Aristide was seeking to use both the U.N.’s and Washington’s interest in keeping the Haiti operation a success as a lever to push for more international action.

‘’We’re moving toward the end of Aristide’s presidency, and he has the ability to speak more freely. Even if he sounds a little demagogic, he has nothing to lose,’’ said the advisor.

Chief among the concessions that Aristide is seeking is to propel the some 6,000 U.N. forces here to take a more pro-active stand in disarming former army officers and opponents of democratic rule.

Since 20,000 U.S.-led forces ousted the military dictatorship of Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras last September, the foreign military leadership here has been extremely reluctant to carry out any systematic campaign of disarmament.

Despite a dramatic decrease in state-sponsored human rights abuses over the last year, poor Haitians and those who support President Aristide have consistently complained of ‘’insecurity’’— the result of continued armed activities, including murder, by former army soldiers and members of paramilitary terror squads.

Human rights groups have estimated that some 40,000 weapons remain in circulation illegally.

But the issue of disarmament is only one in a host of growing conflicts between the Haitian government and the international community.

Most recently, international financial institutions, supported by the United States, have blocked aid money to the Haitian government, including crucial balance of payments support.

They are insisting that Aristide fully implement an International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank-sponsored structural adjustment program (SAP), including the privatisation of nine state-run industries employing some 12,000 people.

The conflict has resulted in an economic crisis with the value of the Haitian currency plummeting some 20 percent in the last month.

Meanwhile, popular demands made by people on their restored government are not being met. Only one person has been convicted of a crime related to the three-year coup regime of Gen. Raoul Cedras, a regime that claimed some 5,000 lives.

As a result, mounting frustration over a host of social and economic ills — the high cost of living, justice, poor education, agrarian reform and insecurity — are leading to more and more demonstrations nationwide.

The armed attack against pro-Aristide legislators Jean Hubert Feuille and Gabriel Fortune on Nov. 7, which left Feuille dead and Fortune severely wounded, triggered demands for disarmament and justice, and against reconciliation.

In the southern towns of Cayes and Port Salut, the areas the legislators represented, residents barricaded streets and attacked symbols of the old repressive system. In Cayes, at least 20 houses were destroyed and one person died in protests over the shootings.

In Port-au-Prince, Gonaives and Cap Haitien, tens of thousands of people marched, burning tires, erecting roadblocks and searching cars and houses for weapons. The demonstrators demanded justice, disarmament and criticized the Haitian government’s policy of reconciliation.

The killing of the legislators propelled a stunned and shaken President Aristide into taking action. Haitian police raided several homes after the shootings, including that of former dictator Gen. Prosper Avril, capturing weapons, ammunition and silencers. Avril has sinced asked for and received asylum from Colombia.

Aristide pointedly told the crowd gathered inside the National Cathedral Nov. 11, which included U.S. Ambassador William Lacy Swing and U.N. chief Lakhdar Brahimi, that he’s sought to build patience and respect among all the political actors for the past year.

But he said that his patience was over. He lambasted the international community for refusing to support the Haitian police in their disarmament efforts and implicitly criticized the pressure placed upon him from the U.S. ambassador and U.N. chief.

‘’We don’t have two, or three heads of state, we have one,’’ he said angrily to a roar of approval.

‘’I’m saying now, whosover tries to block the legal operation of disarmament, if they’re Haitian, we’ll arrest them, if they’re not Haitian, we’ll sent them back to their parents,’’ he said, suggesting, as he did several times during the speech, that international forces were seeking to prevent disarmament.

Aristide also slammed what he said was the hypocrisy of searching for weapons in poor areas instead of the more likely targets in wealthier zones.

‘’Too much blood is running in the country. It’s for the rich man, the poor man, the big man and the small man to find peace. We must not be cowards. We must not be hypocrites. We must be respectful, truly, and then everyone will benefit from this peace,’’ he said.

‘’The police must not only go to the poor areas, (but) climb up to the neighborhoods that have big houses, big weapons,’’ he added.

Aristide wound up his speech by reminding the assembled diplomatic corps that, ‘’I need you, but you need me.’’ (ENDS/IPS/DC/FN/95)

Origin: Amsterdam/HAITI/ ----

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