Haiti Archives 1995-1996
22/12/95 U.S.-HAITI: Republicans Declare War on Haiti Policies by Yvette Collymore

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

WASHINGTON, Dec 22 (IPS) – Furthering their efforts to cast Jean- Bertrand Aristide as a man who has ruled by fear and terror, Republicans Friday issued what sounded like a declaration of war against U.S. President Bill Clinton’s Haiti policies.

At the same time, Democrats in Congress wrote to Clinton, urging him to release ‘’unconditionally’’, stacks of documents that U.S. forces took out of Haiti more than a year ago.

Aristide’s government says the documents may provide vital intelligence on abuses committed by para-military units and on future threats to democratic rule once U.S. and U.N. troops leave Haiti as scheduled on Feb. 29.

But a group of Republicans in the House of Representatives are choosing to focus their ire on the deaths Aristide opponents.

They charge that Haitian government officials had hindered a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe into these deaths in Haiti, and they are calling for an inquiry to determine whether the Clinton administration was hiding intelligence from the U.S. Congress.

‘’Specifically, we’re pursuing an inquiry as to whether the Clinton administration has withheld any information from the Congress regarding the murder of two dozen Aristide opponents since the United States intervention in September of 1994,’’ said Benjamin Gilman, head of the House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee.

Haitian analysts here say they are not surprised that the Republicans never mention the thousands of others who were killed in Haiti since the Sep. 1991 military-led coup that deposed Aristide and sent him into three years of exile. Many of those killed in the Haitian countryside include members of the pro- Aristide Lavalas movement.

The Washington Office on Haiti (WOH) here says the Republicans appear to more intent on erasing any satisfaction the Clinton administration may derive from the U.S. mission to return Aristide in Sep. 1994.

‘’Clinton has been boasting how succesful he was in Haiti,’’ notes the head of the WOH Marx Aristide. ‘’I think they’re trying to deny him what he sees as a foreign policy victory.’’

On Capitol Hill, Gilman and other Republicans say they also plan to withhold approval of five million dollars for police training.

‘’We’re freezing U.S. aid for Haiti’s security forces until we’re satisfied that our assistance will not support any force that harbours persons or groups that violate human rights, trafficking in drugs, or engages in other corruption or criminality,’’ said Gilman.

The Clinton administration responded by arguing that it was important to carry out the police training.

‘’The administration believes it’s very important to go forward with the remaining five million dollars to helps train Haitians, with the objective of creating a much more credible, honest, efficient and capable Haitian police force,’’ said State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns.

As part of their long list of complaits, the Republicans also said the Clinton administration had denied Congress access to documents seized from Haiti when U.S. forces returned Aristide in 1994.

Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Larry Combest, said the administration had ‘stonewalled’’ their requests for these and other documents.

The Clinton administration ‘’has deliberately declined repeated and detailed Congressional requests for documents on various aspects of its Haitian policy,’’ he said.

One of the latest issue to have created bile among Aristide foes here is the State Department’s decison to return some 60,000 pages of documents that were taken from the Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress (FRAPH), the group human rights monitors say terrorised Haitians during the military reign.

While human rights groups welcome the decision to hand over the documents, they take a dim view of the decision to first sreen the documents, ostensibly to sageguard the privacy of U.S. citizens who may be named in them. Pentagon sources said weeks ago the process could take a month.

Congressman Joseph Kennedy and a dozen other Democratic representatives Friday sent a letter to Clinton urging him to hand over the papers without attaching any conditions.

‘’The United States has indicated a willingness to return the documents,’’ says the letter to Clinton. ‘’However, the process has now been tainted. The United States seems to be imposing terms and conditions on the Haitian government that no sovereign state should be required to meet when seeking rightful return of property.’’

The Pentagon’s reluctance to hand over the documents comes with increasing evidence that key members of FRAPH have had long ties with the defence and intelligence wings of the U.S. government. Emmanuel Constant, the founder and former leader of FRAPH who remains in a detention centre near Washington on immigration charges, recently told a television network that he was a paid agent of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

And reports last year by the U.S.-based Nation magazine documented Constant’s ties to the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency — the agency which is currently pouring over the FRAPH documents. Human rights groups here worry that Haitian names may be erased from the documents.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon’s assessment that the information in them may prompt the formation of hit-lists feeds into the arguments of Aristide’s detractors on Capitol Hill.

Porter Goss, the Republican representative from Florida and a former CIA official, Friday targetted Haiti’s Dec. 17 elections, from which Aristide’s colleague Rene Preval has emerged winner.

‘’The bad news is they were not as full, fair, and free as they should have been,’’ he said Friday. ‘’We found that the intimidation, the mob violence, the actual muffling of the media in some cases in Haiti, which is critical for the election process there, clearly made the elections more exclusive than they should have been by far.’’

Goss led a team from the Republican party’s international wing which travelled to Haiti to watch over the elections. But other observers have been more favourable in their assessments.

Election monitors from the Organisation of American States (OAS) say while there were some probleme with electoral lists, ‘’it was clear that voting occurred in a calm and orderly fashion without serious incidents of intimidation or violence.’’ (END/IPS/YJC/95)

Origin: Washington/U.S.-HAITI/ ----

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