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The Enemy of My Donor is My Enemy


[Note: This is a reply to Pierre Beaudet of the Canadian-government-funded NGO ‘Alternatives’, whose article was a reply to Nik Barry-Shaw, who argued that ‘Alternatives’ was a tool of Canadian foreign policy.]

Canada is backing a brutal unelected regime in Haiti that is preparing for sham elections by ensuring the most popular Lavalas leaders and activists are either dead, in prison or in hiding. One reason Canada has succeeded in getting away with its murderous policies in Haiti is the support they have received from CIDA funded groups like Alternatives. [1] These groups pose as leftists but often parrot the line of the Haiti’s elite (like the recently acquitted Jodel Chamblain) who now run Haiti with direct assistance from Ottawa. Haiti has exposed the rot within many “progressive” institutions and the dangers inherent in receiving any government funding. For this reason alone, the piece Rabble.ca published on October 6, 2005 by Peirre Beaudet – a founding member of Alternatives – should be examined by anyone interested in developing genuinely progressive movements. Alternatives lists as ‘supporters’ people like Naomi Klein, who, having interviewed Aristide and helped get the word out about the 2004 coup, would probably be surprised to see her name used as a smokescreen for Beaudet’s ill-informed and reprehensible posturing. [2]

Beaudet wrote that Haiti’s elections were “rigged” in 2000 and appears to be ignorant of the fact that Aristide, not Rene Preval, won the presidential election of 2000. Putting aside the clarity of his writing, anyone who has bothered to look into the elections knows they were not rigged. The OAS disputed the way voting percentages were calculated for several senatorial seats (despite knowing about the procedure beforehand). [3] They believed the vote for those seats should have gone to a second round. The OAS did not question the scale of the Lavalas victory and noted that Haitians “voted in large numbers in an atmosphere of relative calm and absence of intimidation..”[4] The results were consistent with what US commissioned polls predicted.

The OAS refused to monitor the presidential vote that followed the “flawed” legislative elections. Aristide’s opponents boycotted. The U.K. Economist, a right wing magazine hostile to Aristide, reported at the time that their boycott was “a welcome way for them to save face, since none would have come close to defeating the far more popular Mr Aristide and his well-organised party.” [5] The opposition boycott and the OAS refusal to monitor the presidential election has proven useful to those who have dismissed Aristide’s victory. Beaudet claims, without citing a source, that only 15% of the electorate showed up. That number doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. A USAID poll weeks before the election found that 92.8% of the electorate knew of the vote and that 56% were “very likely” to vote. Another 22.7% were “somewhat likely to vote”. Those numbers support the claims by independent observers and Haitian officials that turnout was 60%.. [6]

Beaudet wrote that after the elections “the big international players kept out, creating around Haiti an invisible wall of isolation and neglect.” In reality Canada seized on the fuss made over the senate seats to follow the US and the EU in blocking hundreds of millions of dollars in critically needed aid from the government. The “international community” told Aristide that for aid flows to resume he would have to cut a deal with his opponents to hold new elections. His opponents refused to accept their designated seats on the Provisional Elections Council, which (given the stance of international donors) became necessary for balloting to occur. The opposition therefore sustained the pretext that the US and EU used to withhold aid. Haiti was not neglected. It was deliberately destabilized.[7]

Contrary to the impression given by Beaudet with his mention of “popular demonstrations” Aristide remained far more popular than his opponents even after the aid embargo. A US government commissioned poll in 2002 confirmed why the opposition insisted on Aristide’s departure rather than allow elections in which he would run [8]

Beaudet refers vaguely to Aristide’s crimes while in office and makes no attempt to place them (or his achievements) in proportion to those of his opponents.[9] The military junta that overthrew Aristide in 1991 murdered at least 3000 people according to mainstream human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch. [10] Even if one holds Aristide responsible for the actions of supporters during his subsequent time in office it is impossible to conclude that his crimes were remotely comparable or that he relied on violence to retain power. In fact, most of the serious abuses during Aristide’s time in office were committed by his armed opponents. [11] Since the coup Haiti has been subjected to repression of similar magnitude to what occurred under the military rule. Thousands of Lavalas supporters have been murdered, imprisoned or exiled. [12] That isn’t surprising because people like Jodel Chamblain, who were deeply involved with repression during the military regime, have been acquitted of crimes, sprung from prison, and even paid “compensation” by the unelected regime. [13] The “flaws” of 2000 elections provoked devastating sanctions, but the “international community” happily resumed aid while Lavalas supporters are filling up morgues and prisons.

Should progressives want any part of organizations like Beaudet’s that fail to speak up against such monstrous hypocrisy?

Then Beaudet sinks even lower by asserting, again without citing a source, that since the latest coup “Aristide has succeeded in joining hands with some of the hard-nose gangs in the capital to create havoc”. The theory that Aristide is directing gangs in Haiti by remote control from South Africa has been made by Roger Norriega – a U.S. diplomat who helped organize the Contra army that terrorized Nicaragua throughout the 1980s. One would hope that only Bush Administration officials would be capable of spewing such an outlandish claim, but in Canada the state of ignorance about Haiti is such that government funded “progressives” spew it as well. [14]

The left should stand for the right of Haitians to vote for Aristide, or the Reverend Gereard Jean Juste or for whomever they want without having to worry that the “international community” will conspire with sweatshops owners and death squad leaders to veto their choice. We should not let government funded “progressives” get in the way.

NOTES:

[1] CIDA is the Canadian International Development Agency. Alternatives’ website says that “government sources”, primarily CIDA, provide 50% of its funding. (see here) CIDA is also the direct employer of Philipe Vixamar – Haiti’s Deputy Minister of Justice. That would be the ministry responsible for acquitting mass murderer Jodel Chamblain while imprisoning the Rev, Gerard Jean Juste, whom Amnesty International has designated a “prisoner of conscience”. For more details about the Vixamr see Thomas Griffen’s report cited in note 12

CIDA recently announced that “more than $2 million to help local media representatives provide fair and balanced reporting during and after the electoral period: the training will be provided by Alternatives and Réseau Liberté”

[2] Rabble.ca lists Alternatives as a “business partners” (see here). Alternatives proudly claims Naomi Klein and Judy Rebick as “supporters”.

[3] The OAS was aware of the procedure since 1999 when it was directly involved in Haition elections. See “Canada in Haiti: Waging war on the Poor Majority” by Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton: pg 32

[4]OAS CHIEF OF MISSION REPORTS TO PERMANENT COUNCIL ON HAITI ELECTIONS: July 13, 2000

[5] Economist: “The inevitable president”; Nov 16, 2000

[6]”Canada in Haiti: Waging war on the Poor Majority”: pg 31, 34; cited note 3

[7] OAS Resolution 822 said that the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) would have be formed “in accordance with the process proposed by the OAS in the Draft Initial Accord (Rev. 9) of June 12, 2002, no later than two months after adoption of this resolution.” The accord stated that the nine member CEP would have one member from the rabidly anti-Aristide Deomcraticque Convergence and another member taken from The Haitian Chamber of Commerce.

[8] NYT: Tracy Kidder, op-ed, NYT, Feb 26,2004;

[9] On Aristide’s (and his supporter’s) achievements see http://haitiaction.net/News/WWNF/2_28_5.html

[10] Shortly before Aristide’s return Human Rights Watch reported that “Conservative estimates put the death toll since the coup-d’etat at 3,000 and rising”

[11] Below from NLR: Option Zero in Haiti by Peter Hallward : “Amnesty International’s reports covering the years 2000-03 attribute a total of around 20 to 30 killings to the police and supporters of the FL—a far cry from the 5,000 committed by the junta and its supporters in 1991–94, let alone the 50,000 usually attributed to the Duvalier dictatorships…..

Amnesty International reports indicate that at least 20 police officers or FL supporters were killed by army veterans in 2001, and another 25 in further paramilitary attacks in 2003, mostly in the lower Central Plateau near the US-monitored Dominican border.”

[12] See Thomas Griffen’s Report “HAITI HUMAN RIGHTS INVESTIGATION: NOVEMBER 11-21, 2004” Published by University of Miami. See also “Keeping the Peace in Haiti?” Published by Harvard Law School

[13] Congresswoman Maxine Waters and several of her colleges wrote a letter to George Bush on Jan 7, 2005 strongly protesting that the US funded regime was paying “compensation” to the murderous Haitian army. They put Canada’s NDP to shame. For more details see “Canada In Haiti” pg 63 cited in note 3

[14] Alternatives… to what? Why is this Canadian NGO acting as a tool of imperialism? Nikolas Barry-Shaw See

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