VANCOUVER, British Columbia â€” The Canadian government is taking a leadership role in propping up the U.S.-installed regime in Haiti and keeping Fanmi Lavalas, the party of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, from returning to power.
While the Canadian government currently promotes a message of reconciliation and advocates the peaceful reconstruction of Haitian society, it quietly supported the U.S. overthrow of democratically elected President Aristide.
Despite denials from the Ministry of External Affairs, journalist Michel Vastel reported in the Quebec-based magazine Lâ€™Actualite that Canadian officials secretly met with U.S., Latin American and French diplomats to plan Aristideâ€™s overthrow. He also reported that Canadian and French officials discussed placing Haiti under UN guardianship, similar to Kosovo, in January 2003.
The U.S. funded the countryâ€™s anti-Aristide opposition that destabilized the Lavalas government. U.S. marines then apprehended Aristide and flew him out of the country and into exile on Feb. 29, 2004.
After the U.S. deposed Aristide, the Canadian government, without uttering a word of criticism of the Bush administrationâ€™s actions, sent soldiers and police officers to join the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) occupying Haiti. This force, led by Brazil, has been supporting the governmentâ€™s campaign to repress Lavalas supporters, accompanying police raids into pro-Lavalas neighborhoods.
Human rights monitors have complained that MINUSTAH forces have failed to stop police who carry out brutal acts of retribution against Lavalas supporters. The UN Police Commissioner in Haiti is Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer David Beer, who had previously been in Iraq assisting counterinsurgency efforts against Iraqi guerrillas.
The government of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin is promising $180 million in aid to Haiti over the next two years. In contrast, it provided only $23.9 million from 2002 to 2003 when Aristide was in power.
Martin visited Haiti in November where he spoke with political leaders. Alluding to widespread demands in Haiti for the return of Aristide, Martin stated during his stay that reconstruction in that country should not be based on â€œnostalgia for the past.â€
On Dec. 10 and 11, the Canadian government organized a conference in Montreal where Canadian and Haitian officials discussed the rebuilding of Haiti. Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue along with other officials met with Martin, External Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew and other Canadian government leaders. The Lavalas party was not included in the meeting.
Martin announced that Canada would play a leadership role in reconstructing Haitian society. While he called for â€œnational reconciliation involving all of the players in Haitian society, including the Lavalas party,â€ his government failed to invite Lavalas â€” the party that enjoys the support of the majority of the countryâ€™s population â€” to the conference.
Those persons who attended the meeting claiming that they represented Lavalas were, according to Mario Dupuy of the partyâ€™s Communication Commission in exile, â€œfalsely representing the party.â€ He told the World that the Canadian government did not invite his party to the conference.
The Canadian government, along with the U.S. and France, has been pressing UN forces to participate in the crackdown on Haitiâ€™s population, according to General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, the top Brazilian commander of the UN military force. â€œWe are under extreme pressure from the international community to use violence,â€ he told a congressional commission in Brazil. â€œI command a peacekeeping force, not an occupation force. … We are not there to carry out violence.â€
Prime Minister Martin is also a strong advocate of holding elections in Haiti later this year that will most likely exclude the Lavalas party. To this end, he is promising a major infusion of technical and financial aid. However, while he has said that he wants Lavalas to participate, he is currently backing a government that is violently repressing that party.
Human rights monitors report that the Latortue regime has killed and jailed many Lavalas members, supporters and leaders, and forced many others into exile. Lavalas has said it would like to participate in the elections but cannot do so because the authorities will not allow it to hold meetings or rallies