Denounce what has taken place in Haiti as a US-sponsored coup. Aristide was "kidnapped" (his own words.) He did not voluntarily resign.Key Congressional and Government Phone numbers
Return Aristide to power as the only legitimate president of Haiti.
Protect Aristide plus Fanmi Lavalas officials and supporters.
Investigate the role of the United States government, the military, the CIA, and various intelligence services in the coup. Who supplied the weapons, logistics, and training for the return of the FRAPH death squads, former army leaders, and Duvalierists? These are impeachable offenses under the US Neutrality Act.
Grant refugee status to Haitians fleeing US-sponsored death squad terror.
No reconstitution of the Haitian army.
Congressional Switchboard - 800-839-5276 or 202-224-3121Key Media Contacts
White House Comment line - 202-456-1111
US State Department - 202-647-5291 or 202-647-7098 (phone)
202-647-2283 or 202-647-5169 (FAX)
Nancy Pelosi - (SF) 415-556-4862; (DC) 202-225-4965
Dianne Feinstein - (SF) 415-249-4777; (DC) 202-224-3841
Barbara Boxer - (SF) 415-403-0100; (DC) 202-224-3553
San Francisco Chronicle: email@example.com
Reuters: www.reuters.com click on contact us
Americas Desk: (202) 898-8300 or (202) 898-8300
New York Times:
Reporters who write on Haiti: LYDIA POLGREEN and TIM WEINER
Foreign Desk: (212) 556-7415
Associated Press: firstname.lastname@example.org
International Desk: (212) 621-1663
Backgrounder From Renee:The Washington Times
Reporter who writes on Haiti: Sibylla Brodzinsky
Foreign Desk: (202) 636-3222
Reporter who writes on Haiti: Kevin Sullivan and Scott Wilson
Foreign Desk: (202) 334-7400
Reporter who writes on Haiti: Carol J. Williams
Foreign Desk: (213) 237-4413
Foreign Desk: (212) 456-2800
Foreign Desk: (201) 583-5777
Foreign Desk: (212) 975-3019
International Desk: (404) 827-1519
State Department Correspondent: Andrea Koppel (202) 898-7515
Foreign Desk: (202) 513-2299
In Haiti, a paramilitary group has been making coordinated attacks on towns and cities, overwhelming understaffed, underequipped and ill-trained members of the national police force. The group has been burning police stations and setting free prisoners, both ordinary criminals and people convicted of involvement in massacres. It has been looting and rounding up supporters of the elected government and, apparently, killing anyone who tries to oppose it.
This group seems to be operating with the tacit approval of some of the politicians who oppose Haiti's government. But many of these rebels, as news reports call them, have unsavory records. Some are former soldiers from the disbanded Haitian Army, which in 1991 deposed Haiti's first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and ruled the country with cruelty and corruption for three years. Another was a ranking member of an organization that aided the army in terrorizing the country during that period. This rebel group seems to enjoy sanctuary within the Dominican Republic and free passage across the border between that country and Haiti.
For several years, the rebels have been making raids into Haiti, including a commando-style assault on the presidential palace in 2001 and, in 2003, an attack on a hydroelectric dam, during which they burned the control station, murdered two security guards and stole an ambulance. Clearly, they were just getting warmed up. Their leaders now boast that they will soon be in control of the entire country.
I first went to Haiti in 1994, for research on an article about some of the American soldiers sent to restore the country's elected government. I have spent parts of the past several years there, working on a book about an American doctor and a public health system that he helped to create in an impoverished rural region. The Haiti that I experienced was very different from the Haiti that I had read about back in the United States, and this disconnection is even stronger for me today.
Recent news reports, for example, perhaps in laudable pursuit of evenhandedness, have taken pains to assert that President Aristide and his Lavalas Party have been using armed thugs of their own to enforce their will on the country. The articles imply that the current crisis in Haiti is an incipient war between two factions roughly equal in illegitimacy. But I have interviewed leaders of the opposition, and can say with certainty that theirs is an extremely disparate group, which includes members of the disbanded army and former officials of the repressive regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier — and also people who were persecuted by both these groups.
This is an opposition that has so far shown itself unable to agree on much of anything except its determination to get rid of Mr. Aristide. Most important, the various leaders of this opposition have enjoyed little in the way of electoral success, the true measure of legitimacy in any country that calls itself a democracy. Mr. Aristide, by contrast, has been elected president twice, by overwhelming margins, and his party won the vast majority of seats in Parliament in the last legislative elections, held in May 2000.
Press reports generally date the current crisis to those elections, which they describe as flawed. In fact, they were flawed, but less flawed than we have been led to believe. Eight candidates, seven of them from Lavalas, were awarded seats in the Senate, even though they had won only pluralities. Consequently, many foreign diplomats expressed concern, and some went so far as to call the election "fraudulent."
But to a great extent, the proceedings were financed, managed and overseen by foreigners, and in the immediate aftermath many monitors declared a victory for Haiti's nascent democracy. Sixty percent of the country's eligible voters went to polling stations, many trudging for miles along mountain paths, then waiting for hours in the hot sun to vote. Moreover, those eight contested Senate seats didn't affect the balance of power in Parliament. Even if it had lost them all, Mr. Aristide's party would still have had a clear majority.
Citing the flaws in those elections, the United States and other foreign governments refused to monitor the presidential election that followed, later in 2000, which Mr. Aristide won handily. The opposition boycotted the affair and still claims that the election was illegitimate, but it does so against the weight of the evidence. This includes a Gallup poll commissioned by the United States government but never made public. (I obtained a copy last year.) It shows that as of 2002 Mr. Aristide remained far and away the most popular political figure in Haiti.
Again citing the flawed elections as its reason, the Bush administration also led a near total embargo on foreign aid to the Haitian government — even blocking loans from the Inter-American Development Bank for improvements in education, roads, health care and water supplies. Meanwhile, the administration has supported the political opposition. This is hardly a destructive act, unless, as Mr. Aristide's supporters believe, the aim has been to make room for an opposition by weakening the elected government.
They have a point. Over the past several years, the United States and the Organization of American States have placed increasingly onerous demands on Mr. Aristide. Foreign diplomats insisted that the senators in the contested seats resign; all did so several months after Mr. Aristide's re-election. Though Mr. Aristide called for new elections, the opposition demanded that he himself step down before it would cooperate. Last year, a State Department official in Haiti, speaking on condition of anonymity, told me that the United States wouldn't tolerate that kind of intransigence but also said that no support for new elections would be forthcoming until President Aristide improved "security." And yet by the time the diplomat said this, the administration had long since withdrawn support from Haiti's fledgling police force, with predictable and now obvious results.
Mr. Aristide has been accused of many things. A few days ago, a news report described him as "uncompromising." For more than a week now, American and other diplomats have been trying to broker a deal whereby the president would appoint a new prime minister acceptable to the opposition. Mr. Aristide has agreed. So far the opposition has refused, insisting again that the president resign.
It was the United States that restored Mr. Aristide to power in 1994, but since his re-election our government has made rather brazen attempts to undermine his presidency. One could speculate endlessly on American motives, but the plain fact is that American policy in Haiti has not served American interests, not if those include the establishment of democracy in Haiti, or the prevention of the kind of chaos and bloodletting that has led in the past to boatloads of refugees heading for Florida.
One could also argue about the failings and sins of all the quarreling factions inside Haiti. But there are more important considerations. Haitians have endured centuries of horror: first slavery under the French, and then, since their revolution, nearly two centuries of corrupt, repressive misrule, aided and abetted by foreign powers, including the United States. All this has helped to make Haiti one of the world's poorest countries, and its people, according to the World Bank, among the most malnourished on earth.
The majority of Haitians have been struggling for nearly two decades to establish a democratic political system. It is important to this effort that Haiti's current elected president leave office constitutionally, not through what would be the country's 33rd coup d'état. Progress toward this difficult goal may still be possible, if the warring politicians within the country and the various foreign nations that have involved themselves in Haiti's affairs pull together now and put a stop to the growing incursions of terrorists. If this does not happen, there is little hope for Haiti. The result, I fear, will be a new civil war, one that will likely lead back to dictatorship and spill enough blood to cover all hands.
Tracy Kidder is the author, most recently, of "Mountains Beyond Mountains."