This interview took place on October 9th, 2004. Patrick Elie is Haiti’s former Minister of Defense, was at one point responsible for anti-narcotics, and is former head of security. Presently, he heads the Jean Dominique Echo Foundation.
Fenton: In your recent article “The Coup D’etat of April 3, 2000″ you write:
“[Independent radio journalist] Jean Dominique was our “army of one,” the political immune system of the popular democratic movement. For the abomination of February 29, 2004 to succeed, he had to be permanently removed from the scene. ”
“We must fight relentlessly for his killers to be brought to justice and for the truth to come out about this brutal assassination. We stand convinced today, that if the triggermen and local planners were Haitians, the masterminds of the crime are the same who engineered the February coup and who have always considered targeted assassination as a normal tool of foreign policy.”
Given the events of today, how clear is it who’s behind both of these events” And go into that background putting into context what’s happened this past week or so by way of violence and repression. Clarify what you mean by who is behind this destabilization and who is behind this political assassination
Elie: I think not only Haiti, but people who have been involved in politics in Latin America especially, and studied the history there, can see that there is a long history of involvement of U.S. offices like the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] and the DIA[Defense Intelligence Agency] in the removal or destabilization of governments that don’t fit the interests of the U.S. We have examples in Guatemala, we have examples in Argentina, and most recently, we’ve seen how President Chavez in Venezuela has been treated. Fortunately he was able to resist this destabilization campaign, but in our case we didn’t resist. Maybe one should try to understand how and why it was different in Haiti then in Venezuela, but in Haiti, I’d say from 1987 to now it’s been the third coup d’etat.
One tends to forget that there was a first one in November 29, 1987, which I could describe as a preventive coup d’etat. This time, the Haitians were ready to vote en masse for a candidate who was totally different from Jean Bertrand Aristide, but the problem for the U.S. was that by voting en masse and electing a President, the Haitian people, and I’m talking about the poor majority, would have gained conscience of their own power and their own importance as political actors. And, as you know, the army, which is nothing but the tool, the puppet of the U.S. DIA and CIA, massacred the voters and cancelled the election before organizing their own sham election. So, in the case of the last coup [February 29th, 2004] it was so obvious that the U.S. intervened directly, actually snatched the President away in the middle of the night, so when I say that the same people are behind the coup d’etat are behind the assassination of Jean Dominique, just as they were behind the assassination of Antoine Izmery, I’m talking about the strategists of the organizations like the CIA and the DIA, which people do not speak enough of, which is probably the most powerful intelligence agency in the U.S., and has a larger budget than the CIA.
Fenton: To what extent is the DIA involved right now? Who have been their ‘point men’ these past four years?
Elie: Who their point men are in Haiti is not something that is easy to identify in the sense that these people specialize in covert operations, but traditionally the U.S. CIA and DIA acted through the Haitian military. Often the military was even trained and indoctrinated in the U.S. proper, in what is called the School of the Americas, and that’s how and where they were recruited. But of course the CIA didn’t act only through the military, they acted through some local politicians. These days, with the army being disbanded by President Aristide, it is logical that the U.S. services have gone through the Haitian police to penetrate the security apparatus of Haiti, but also, as I think it should be clear for every observer, they have not renounced using the ex-military and ex-paramilitary death squads who were obviously trained in the Dominican Republic [DR], and then infiltrated into Haiti.
I don’t know if your familiar with the DR, but it is a country which has a very strong repression apparatus; it’s a very policed society and the idea that 80-200 men could be armed, trained in the DR without the assent of the government or the army there is totally preposterous. This was done with the complicity of the Dominican services, and they are but the proxies for the U.S. CIA and DIA. So, there again you see that the tools of the politics of the U.S. down in Haiti always goes back to either the army or the death squads or, generally, the repression forces. At the beginning of this chat you were referring to the latest in Haiti, the violence and the ensuing repression. I think that this is also classical textbook technique to justify the destruction of a popular movement. What you do is that in the name of that movement you organize some violence against, for example, the political opposition or against the police, and then this justifies an all out repression.
Lately, as you’ve heard, it’s been said that three policemen, or even more, the numbers vary all the time, even though actual corpses have not been presented; but three policemen have been killed by Lavalas grassroots organizations. One has to wonder why Lavalas, who have been trying to strike a kind of alliance with the National Police in front of the ex-soldiers, would now attack the police and find itself under repression by both the police and the ex-military; it would be totally stupid, and on top of that, for at least a month now the bourgeoisie through the Group of 184 as well as some other political parties have been pressuring for the neutralization of Lavalas, and asking for more repression, and what we are seeing now is just the execution of that plan by the Haitian forces of repression, but also, it seems [because, at the moment I am out of the country], with the help of the UN forces who are in total breach of their purported mission, if the UN is now acting as a dictatorship-supporting force, this should be denounced very strongly.
Fenton: The events of September 30th seemed to be and has’>http://haitiaction.net/News/HIP/10_1_4.html”>has been reported to be a clear provocation, where this special unit of police fired indiscriminately into crowds of demonstrators, whereupon these masked individuals appeared and fired back, killing these police in the crossfire.
Elie: Yes, for me it was clear, and I’ve heard reports also that it was ex-army members coming out of the Ministry of Interior going out and shooting at the crowd. You know, since February 29th, Family Lavalas, especially the grassroots organizations of Bel Air and Cite Soleil, have organized at least four or five demonstrations. They’re the only political group or sensibility that can actually put people out in the street. At any rate, none of these demonstrations were marred by violence, so it’s difficult to ascribe this violence to Family Lavalas. What is happening is that every demonstration was stronger than the preceding one. Obviously, especially in view of the total ineptitude of the de facto government, the resistance was gaining momentum and it had to be stopped, and that, I think, is the reason for the events of September 30th. It had to be stopped, it was too obvious that the Haitian people are for the return of legitimacy in their country, the respect of the vote of the Haitian people, and respect of Haiti’s sovereignty. So, it had to be stopped, and the only way to stop it is through violence and repression.
Fenton: Repression, which they’ve been employing with vigor since February 29th. Meanwhile, the United Nations has only been able to fulfil 50% of its originally projected troop mandate. American, Canadian and French troops all more or less left by the end of July, leaving a situation that seems like an interesting pretext for the discussions concerning the reestablishment of the former militaryâ€¦
Elie: It’s interesting to see how the France and the U.S. mostly, but Canada almost as a puppet of U.S. policy, went into Haiti and created this mess, because a mess it is, although not on the scale of Iraq, of the same nature, and then left the ‘hurt baby’ in the hands of the UN. I think that the UN is running a high risk of losing even more of its credibility if they don’t play this quite right. What they’ve [the de facto regime] been trying to do from the very beginning is to try to get the UN to do the dirty work, go out in the popular neighbourhoods and start shooting, the way the U.S. troops do it, and have done it in Bel Air, especially in the beginning of March of this year. The UN has to be very, very careful about that.
We have talked to the UN representative in Haiti, specifically warning him about this role that they were trying to force the UN in to, and unfortunately they seem to be falling into this trap. I say ‘they seem’ because as I said I’m not in Haiti at the moment so I don’t have http://haitiaction.net/News/HIP/10_9_4.html“> detailed reports of the latest events, especially with all of the arrests which were made in Bel Air where they made really by and with the help of the UN or by Haitian forces; that remains to be seen. But clearly there is a huge danger of escalation of the violence if the current trend becomes clearer, and this is something that international public opinion should be warned about because with the general complicity of the mainstream media they’re going to be killing Haitians by the hundreds and it won’t even make the last page in the newspaper or even be mentioned on TV or on radio. And this would be a catastrophe because as you well know and as history has proven, the escalation of violence, the introduction of violence into politics only breeds more violence, and we’ve had enough of that already.
Fenton: It’s well’>http://www/ijdh.org”>well documented by now the number of deaths that have taken place since February 29th, and the corporate media has reported none of these. You look at how they flocked down there to cover the floods, and there has subsequently been a complete absence of the political context as wellâ€¦
Elie: You know what strikes me also is that all of these disinformation campaigns about the ‘militias’ of Lavalas and the political assassinations that were going on are all being proven a lie, but nobody goes back and analyses the facts. Had President Aristide created an armed militia, in reality, in Haiti the ex-military and the death squads would not have stood a chance. All we’re seeing is the violence being visited upon the partisans of President Aristide and it is obvious that this ‘army’ of ‘chimeres’ that they were talking about doesn’t exist, even when people do exercise when possible the legitimate right to self-defense, which is a sacred right. But the so-called army, especially in Port au Prince is being proven a total, total lie. Every day you read in the newspaper be they French, Canadian or U.S., the Aristide militia, you know, the bandits armed by Aristide, the chimeres; that is a total urban legend.
Fenton: I’ve been going back a number of years, reviewing UN documents to 1999, specifically when the U.S. unilaterally ended operations. Kofi Annan seems to have been either hooked into this change of policy [which appears to have been spearheded by Jesse Helms as chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee], or possibly willfully complicit in the ensuing economic embargo on Haiti on extremely dubious grounds.
Elie: The UN is becoming increasingly, proving to be what General de Gaulle called it ‘that thing’ called the UN. They are not exerting their essential mission, which is to bring or facilitate peace and justice in countries. More and more they look like a puppet or in the hands of the powers that be, especially the U.S., or they are being treated as completely inconsequential when that serves the interests of the U.S. Now I don’t think that in 1999 a military UN presence was necessary in Haiti. We were well on our way to the establishment of real democracy; there was peace in the country; what were needed of course were the economic conditions to be improved. What happened, as you reminded us, was that since under President Preval, a de facto embargo was imposed on the country, which made for economic and daily life situation becoming increasingly difficult.
As you pointed out, the destabilization started then; it was to be followed by a mock election that would have ensured the removal of Lavalas by not allowing the Lavalas constituency to vote, and this plot was denounced and exposed by Jean Dominique which resulted in Lavalas winning the election. Even though one can recognize that they were not perfect elections, they did reflect the will of the majority of Haitians. So having failed to organize “selections” in Haiti rather than elections, then the next step was to actually destabilize and finally hit the government established by the Haitian people. So, it was an escalation and one could see it coming by reading the press, by reading the internet, by seeing what were doing with the so-called Haitians, by witnessing the creation of ‘think tanks’ like the Haiti Democracy Project, one could see something in the making, and personally I followed quite closely what was happening in Venezuela and I could see the same blueprint being applied to Haiti.
A key factor also, as I said in my paper on Jean Dominique’s assassination, was the total monopoly of the press, especially radio that is so important in Haiti, the monopoly by the bourgeoisie and sectors which are under the control of the U.S. So, these radios did an incredible campaign of lies and distortion, and amplification of the so-called opposition to President Aristide until this so-called insurrection came about and finally, the U.S. and France coming directly with Canada tagging along, to actually kidnap the President and establish their own puppet government. We’ve seen the plan well executed, except that they didn’t count on the Haitian people’s resistance, and I think that this resistance is going to be stronger and stronger.
Fenton: In Venezuela in 2002, I’m not sure if you’ve seen the film This Revolution will not be Televisedâ€¦
Elie: Yes, I’ve seen it
Fenton: The way it played out there was strikingly similar in terms of the media, and even the resistance, how they [the elite media] tried to construe and portray the people demonstrating as firing arbitrarily into crowds, complete fabrications and distortions.
Elie: Exactly, it’s the same blueprint; they’ve refined it since the day of Arbenz in Guatemala. Back then [1950’s], they had to organize their own radio to kind of poison the mind of the people. Now they can count on – with all those radio stations that belong to the Haitian bourgeoisie – to do the job for them inside, and that’s one thing that Jean Dominique had denounced, this use of the radio, and I think its one of the reasons that he was dealt with by assassination
Fenton: Jean Dominique, then, was sort of the equivalent of Venezuela’s Channel 8?
Elie: Could be, yes, but even more then that he was a reference for the Haitian people. A hundred radios could be saying the same thing but the Haitian people would go to Jean Dominique to have the final say, what is really going on and how we should respond to what is going on. Maybe people outside of Haiti cannot understand, that the elimination one person could have such dire consequences, but I can assure you that that is what happened.
Fenton: So it was no surprise that the opposition would try to ‘muddy the waters’ and make it appear as though Aristide himself had something to do with Jean Dominique’s death?
Elie: Exactly, and, mind you, I’m not saying that the trigger pullers or even that they was no local involvement in planning this assassination, but the puppet master, the grand designer of this operation has to be found in some dark corner of Virginia, Williamsburg or Langley.
Fenton: A few minutes ago you mentioned the Haiti Democracy Project [HDP]. They and a ‘post-coup’ organization called PROMOBANK [made up of several former coup-financiers] as well as many powerful U.S. Senators and corporations are plugging certain legislation called the HERO Act, maybe you could discuss this a little bit as well as the HDP in general, with the website recently put up by HDP founder Boulos that is enticing people [corporations] to invest in the textile and assembly sectors in Haiti because of the low wages, $1.60/day and Haiti’s “comparitve advantage.”
Elie: It’s obvious that they have big economic interests behind that, but obviously this type of so-called development is only going to benefit a small fraction of the Haitian elite who will keep selling the Haitian workforce cheaply. Any fool can see that the only way you are going to keep people at such a salary of misery, $1.60 per day, is by keeping the unemployment rate incredibly high and also by using repression to keep the people from organizing in unions and things like that. We know that that is not the way for Haiti; we know also that nothing but a true democracy is going to allow the mobilization of the Haitian population to solve Haiti’s problems. We know that this is not going to work, and I think the investors are going to be thinking twice before putting their money in a country that is sure to be unstable as long as the government does not have popular legitimacy. It’s not going to work.
The U.S. has started Haiti into a new cycle of instability. It took us 190 years almost to get to the point where election by the majority, rather than by coup d’etat or a palace coup, was the way to change government. By doing what has been done recently, culminating on February 29th, we are being thrown back approximately a hundred and some years into political instability, into violence as the main way of achieving regime change. And, it’s going to be a long descent into instability unless Haiti is able to turn the tide, which can only be done of course with the help of international public opinion.
Fenton: Among these potential investors is a Montreal-based company by the name of Gildan Activewear. In their annual report they boast about their new manufacturing hub being set up in the Dominican and Haiti, where “labour-intensive sewing operations will be based primarily in Haiti.” This is a $60 million investment where they are going to have a textile industry, with assembly and they’re planning another similar “hub” in this area as well. This company is connected to Canada’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, who is also, evidently, connected to rebel leader Paul Arcelin, such that they met on February 5th, the same day that Gonaives was attacked. Also, Andy Apaid, of the Group of 184, is the main Gildan subcontractor in Haiti; he was in Montreal on September 17th.
Elie: Yes, I heard about it and he’s been one of the key figures of the so-called opposition, so you see it all ties up and gets back to some vested interest into the continuation of the exploitation of the Haitian workforce. It’s the same way as in Central America, in the Maquiladoras, and we know that the people don’t want this kind of development. Of course, if the people of the third world are waging this fight without the help of the public opinion of the countries where these investors are, where these politicians, who are their accomplices are, it’s going to be a very hard fight for us. I think that, more and more, we need to develop ways to cut open the lies, not only in Haiti, but also in places like France, Canada, and the U.S.
Fenton: In the mainstream media they of course denied or refused to explore any link between the Democratic Convergence and the “rebels,” meanwhile, less then two weeks after the coup, Arcelin, the Democratic Convergence representative in the DR, admits that he and Guy Philippe had been planning to overthrow Aristide for two years in the DR.
Elie: Every time the legitimate government was denouncing this complicity between the so-called “democratic opposition” and the armed group who were killing people and destroying property in Haiti, the press said that it was all a plot by the legitimate government. But now these people are claiming responsibility, and what is striking is that they are claiming responsibility for murders and assassinations that not one of the human rights organizations is asking for justice for the victims of these killers; it’s very striking and revolting. We are talking about death squads, we are talking about people who have ordered terror and assassinations in Haiti and suddenly they are becoming legitimate political players. I think that this should be pointed out to Canadian public opinion. Mr. Arcelin should be the subject of a judicial inquiry for what has been done in Haiti over the last two years, especially in the Plateau Centralle, where, as you know, tens of Haitians have been killed by the Guy Philippe and Jodel Chamblain people. This area is very close to the DR, so it’s rather easy for an armed group that has safe haven in the DR to keep crossing in, do their thing, which is to kill people and destabilize, then go back in the DR.
Fenton: The interim puppet Prime Minister has praised the government of the DR; I think he’s gone there a couple of times since being installed. Do you know anything about this relationship?
Elie: I don’t know about the particulars of the relationship, but the DR has, if you will – being part of the same island as Haiti – been a key player in Haitian affairs, often acting as proxy for the U.S. So, of course, the puppet government must have the support of the Dominican government in order to carry out their plans. They’re going to be very close to this Dominican government.
Fenton: Obviously people like Raoul Cedras, Emmanuel Constant, and Michel Francois were heavily involved in drug trafficking during the last coup period. Is there any indication that they are involved today, or others, such as Prosper Avril, who was “liberated” on March 1st when the prisons were emptied by the “rebels”? What do you know about their activities today?
Elie: Well, what we’ve been seeing is the remilitarisation of the repressive apparatus in Haiti, most especially the Ministry of the Interior. As you probably know, an ex-general was put in charge of this ministry, and quietly ex-officers of the Haitian army are coming back and organizing this ministry along the lines of how it has always been organized during the dictatorship; this is a development that one should be watching carefully because its going to have long term implications. I would not be at all surprised that the likes of Michel Francois and Cedras would eventually be coming back to help organize even better this network and system of repression.
As for involvement in drug trafficking, you know, it should be obvious by now that the so-called U.S. war on drug trafficking is nothing but a hoodwink that they put over the American and international public opinion. The war against drugs is just a new tool of American foreign policy and they’ll use drug traffickers, they will themselves get involved in drug trafficking so long as it advances their policies and they will also use drug trafficking or terrorism as a pretext to intervene and remove whoever is not serving their interests. I don’t think the fact that Michel Francois, for example, has been duly condemned in Florida, although in absentia, for his involvement in drug trafficking, I don’t think that at all would keep the CIA or the DIA from using him once more in Haiti to do what he does best, which is terrorize the population and eliminate the grassroots political leaders. If need be, he will again be exfiltrated from Honduras, where as you well know, he has been given safe haven. So, nothing would surprise me coming from the U.S. DIA or CIA. We are anticipating some of these killers and drug traffickers coming back and playing a significant role in trying to shore up the present de facto government.
Fenton: What about some of these former Lavalas officials who have been detained in Florida; Oriel Jean for example who was detained in Toronto and extradited on unrelated charges through the DEA
Elie: One thing one should not try to hide is that, yes, there was corruption in or around the government in Haiti. Drug trafficking will do that to you; it’s a very powerful enticement, a very powerful tool to infiltrate the government, to infiltrate the security apparatus. Somebody like Oriel Jean obviously was involved in some shady deals, but I don’t think, first of all, I wouldn’t describe Mr. Jean as a ‘high level’ Lavalas official. He was playing a key role in the close security of President Aristide; that doesn’t make him a ‘political cadre.’ We’ve seen in other countries generals having to answer to accusations of drug trafficking; it doesn’t necessarily reflect on the government, but it is a fact that drug trafficking is a key element of corruption and also of destabilization in Haiti, but one has to wonder: where is the engine that pulls the train of drug trafficking? This engine is right smack in the middle of the U.S. So, it is another case of drug trafficking being used as a political tool, first, to corrupt some officials, and after that it’s necessary to use this very corruption to attack, politically, a regime that you don’t like.
Fenton: On that note, they’ve been having a hard time pinning anything directly on President Aristide. The Miami Herald would like us to believe that he was corrupt.
Elie: I can say the same thing as I think President Aristide has said, ‘let them come with the proof,’ you know, there is nothing easier than to say that somebody was involved in drug trafficking. Now, there should be proof, so let them come with it. As I said before, drug money is everywhere, legitimate businessmen are handling drug money, politicians have been corrupted by it sometimes at high levels, but that doesn’t make the regime or government a ‘narco-regime.’ This is actually distorting the reality; we knew that these accusations would start flying. You see, nowadays the key words of American foreign policy are no longer “communist” or “Marxist” ; the new keywords are “drugs” and “terrorism” so you’re going to see these words used and overused every time they want to destabilize a government or effect a so-called regime change. We’ve heard the ‘d-word’ being used first, and now, last week, referring to Family Lavalas, the ‘t-word’ being used, ‘these are terrorists that must be eliminated,’ they are doing an “Operation Baghdad,” which is implying a kind of new axis of evil between Baghdad and Port au Prince, so this is a gross distortion of reality, and as I was saying it is announcing a very brutal repression of the Haitian resistance. That’s one thing we should keep our eyes wide open about and start denouncing if we want to save lives in Haiti and if we want to save enough space for the Haitian people to freely express their political will and what they want for their country, and what kind of regime they want in their country.
Fenton: I’ve been looking back at some of the Latin American press. In Canada, for example, there was no debate over whether or not troops would be sent to occupy Haiti, whereas in Brazil, Argentina and Chile there was considerable opposition. In Argentina, for example, protestors were burning U.S. and UN flags over this. How does the gap between the relative lack of consciousness in the U.S. and Canada and the presence of consciousness and solidarity in Latin America get bridged?
Elie: There is a saying in Haiti where ‘even in hell you can find somebody to help you.’ I think that the presence of UN troops rather than the French legionnaires or the US Marines in Haiti and UN troops formed in majority of soldiers from Latin America, offers an opportunity for the Haitian people to state their case and keep that UN force from becoming just another repressive force. You know how in Latin America Brazil, Argentina, Chile have suffered from the kind of regime change that we are suffering from now, so I think that both their public opinion but even the troops deployed in Haiti are going to at the very least have mixed feelings about doing to another people what they [themselves] have suffered so much from.
There has been quite a lot of hesitation and reluctance from these troops to participate in the kind of repression that they want to draw them into. I do think this offers an opportunity for the Haitian people and the friends of the Haitian people to further inform the Latin American people in these different countries of the real situation in Haiti of what is really being done and have them pressure both their government and the UN proper into not being an accomplice of the repression of the Haitian people and the establishment of a dictatorship. Contrariwise, pressure them to help bring back a political climate, a climate of security in the country where the will of the people, their political will, can express itself freely and I am sure that if these conditions are realized the Haitian people will overwhelmingly elect a government and a President that will concern the choice it has made since 1991.
Fenton: There was an article’>http://www.counterpunch.com/kramer10022004.html”>article written recently, speaking of these elections, that the puppet regime is going to great lengths to sort of engineer sham elections, what with this biometrics registration, fingerprinting and the like.
Elie: Yes, and it’s funny because this is the second time they are trying that one. In 2000 they were going that route also, which is a way to disenfranchise about 80% of the Haitian population, and the person who single-handedly blocked that was Jean Dominique. Now he’s no longer around, and they might succeed in organizing these sham elections. You mentioned biometrics, they were into electronic voting, and when you know that in Haiti, even in Port au Prince, there is a strong rationing of electricity, so how in the world in the rural areas of Haiti people will be able to vote electronically, that is, without mentioning the cultural aspect of an electronic vote which is totally alien to the Haitian population, so that also should be denounced very strongly. What they are trying to do is impose on the Haitian people a so-called democratically elected regime that would have been elected by a fraction of the Haitian population. Of course this is not going to work. What will happen if they do succeed in such an operation is they will open up the way for more destabilization as this illegitimate government is going to impose, I am sure, an economic policy and a social policy that the Haitian people are not going to accept.
Fenton: What are you involved in, working on when you return to Haiti?
Elie: What we are trying to do is create a large front to be able to save this plot against the Haitian people. What the enemy is trying to do is isolate Lavalas, and it has, in a way, been able to do that relatively; a lot of the people from the petit bourgeoisie who had their frustrations with the government of President Aristide, were, if you will, lured into the opposition but now they are realizing that it was all being done for a very small sector of the Haitian bourgeoisie and for foreign interests, and that they have been the unwilling accomplices of this destabilization. They are now slowly opening their eyes and we have to bring these people into a very large movement against this government and against this kind of regime that foreign powers, especially the U.S., wants to impose on Haiti.
Of course, for that to be possible we have urgently to break this new wave of repression where more and more people are afraid to speak up, more people are afraid to assemble under the guise under a ‘technocratic’ government; we are really under a dictatorship, so the most urgent thing to do, and that’s what we are going to try to do, is stop this establishment of dictatorship before it takes root so profoundly that we are thrown back to the years of the Duvalier, and I think what we are asking of the real friends of Haiti is to help us maintain that space where we can express ourselves and organize, and we are sure, we are confident that with such a space, even such minimal conditions, we will be able to do the rest and bring back constitutional legitimacy in Haiti.
Fenton: It’s been very slow going in Canada to get political opposition to speak out against this, even as our parliament has resumed recently, I’m not sure what’s gone on in Montreal or the Quebec legislature, but it seems necessary to develop something; we would need some sort of generalized means of raising public awareness.
Elie: It’s difficulty for me to assess precisely what the situation is here [in Montreal] but we have a very serious effort to counter all this work of disinformation that has been done over the last three years to get the Canadian people with us in Haiti, back with the Haitian people, which we have enjoyed over the years, quite a bit of support from public opinion, with the Canadian people. I think that we have lost over the years quite a bit there concurrent with the campaign of disinformation. The most important thing now is to bring the reality to the Canadian people and to force the politicians into a change in their foreign policy toward Haiti.
Fenton: Is there anything you’d like to add for Canadian readers/listeners?
Elie: Only that I’ve read recently that Mr. Pettigrew is trying to recruit the Haitian Diaspora in Canada into coming on board with that operation of theirs, and I think that this should be opposed; the opportunity must be taken by the Haitian Diaspora to restate that only a government that has the support of the Haitian majority can bring about true economic and social progress in Haiti and that they will support only such a policy, otherwise they are going to be accomplices of a dictatorship imposed from abroad. So one should be quite watchful about this new initiative that Mr. Pettigrew, seemingly, is preparing.
Fenton: He was just christening Canada’s $20 million new embassy in Port au Prince, and you know his riding is in Papineau where an estimated one in seven voters are of Haitian descent; notably, he was very quiet around February other than this meeting with Arcelin [though even this meeting wasn’t reported on until after the coup]. Interestingly, Arcelin’s sister-in-law, Nicole Roy-Arcelin ran against Liberal leader [and now PrimeMinister] Paul Martin in the recent federal election, of all people, as if that was a PR move to deflect attention away from the issue if it were to arise at all; this all seemed very suspect.
Elie: If Mr. Pettigrew has one in seven citizens in his riding who are of Haitian descent then that offers a good opportunity also to put pressure on him, and I think that this will only happen if people get the right information; I’ve seen during this current period how powerful information was, can wreak havoc or can, contrariwise, can bring people to make the right decision.
Fenton: In the context of the war on terror, something that Canada is “committed” to and something that John Kerry [and of course Bush] is committed to, he’s really flip-flopped on his positionsâ€¦do you think there are any opportunities for Haiti in the possibility of his being elected on November 2nd?
Elie: You know, I don’t think basic American foreign policy will change if Kerry is elected, but I do think that the re-election of George Bush would be a catastrophe; it’s not so much that one would vote for Kerry if one could, but one would vote to get rid of Bush. You have to choose between two evils, to choose the lesser one if you can have an influence on that. For us in Haiti, I think if Bush is re-elected what will happen is immediately the repression and violence will rise at least five notches so that’s why we can only wish for Mr. Bush to be sent back to Texas, but we can only wish that, in the meantime we must prepare for the eventuality of his re-election in which case maybe we will have to adapt to the new conditions there, which will be a more violent dictatorship.
Fenton: Thank you very much Patrick. Take care.