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The U.N. in Haiti: Time to Adapt or Time to Go

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Posted on Sep 1, 2011
AP / Ramon Espinosa

A U.N. peacekeeper from Nigeria shields his face from a stone tossed during a protest in Port-au-Prince in November 2010. Rioters were lashing out over reports that it was U.N. personnel who had triggered a cholera epidemic in Haiti that has killed thousands.

By Michael Deibert

In the summer of 2009, visiting Haiti for the first time after an absence of three years, I found the country in better shape than at any time since I started visiting there in 1997.

Three years after the inauguration of René Préval as Haiti’s president (after the two-year tenure of an unelected interim government), the population of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, again felt safe enough to patronize downtown bars and kerosene-lit roadside stands late into the evening, where once armed gangs controlled entire neighborhoods. Billboards that once praised the infallibility of a succession of maximum leaders instead carried messages about the importance of respect between the population and the police, or decrying discrimination against the disabled.

A police-reform program was in its third year, providing the country with a level of professional law enforcement not often seen in a place where political patronage, not expertise, swelled the ranks of security forces with party loyalists. Investment was beginning to pick up and, by the end of the year, Haiti’s delicious signature rum, Barbancourt, had even won the bronze and silver medals at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

Presiding over all this was the (at the time) 9,000-member United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known as MINUSTAH. When I sat that summer in the office of the head of the mission, veteran Tunisian diplomat Hédi Annabi, he seemed to be justified in his pride at the country’s progress, telling me that “the level of respect for basic freedoms, such as freedom of the press, is at a historically remarkable level.”

Of course, all of this changed at 4:53 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2010, when the country was struck by an apocalyptic earthquake that leveled much of the capital and surrounding towns and killed an estimated 200,000 people. Annabi, his deputy and nearly 100 other MINUSTAH personnel died as the structures they were in collapsed on them, and the peacekeeping mission itself became one of the many strata of Haitian society that needed rescuing.

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A year and a half after the quake, with a new president (popular singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly) and a contentious parliament locked in a bitter struggle for power, MINUSTAH, having picked itself up and dusted itself off, remains in Haiti, its force now increased to 12,000 under the leadership of Chile’s former minister of foreign affairs, Mariano Fernández.

Though an estimated 634,000 survivors of the quake still live in makeshift settlements in and around the capital, and Haiti remains without a government (two of Martelly’s nominees for prime minister have been rejected), it is my conclusion after a visit to Haiti last month that it is now time, after seven years in the country, for MINUSTAH to either significantly refocus its mission or close its operation in Haiti and leave the business of governing and reconstruction to the Haitians themselves.

* * *

Haitians have a keen sense of their own history as the site of the world’s first successful slave revolt (in 1804) and the second independent republic in the Americas (after the United States), a nation that has produced guerrilla leaders of the magnitude of Charlemagne Péralte and Benoît Batravill when faced with a two-decade U.S. occupation of the country in the early 20th century.

If you ask the average Haitian on the street what the purpose of MINUSTAH in Haiti is now, as I did in a vast tent encampment of displaced earthquake survivors in front of Haiti’s still-collapsed National Palace, they will answer you succinctly: MINUSTAH is in Haiti to protect the interests of the foreigners.

True or not, such a perspective has become conventional wisdom in Haiti, and it was a refrain that I heard time and again as I traveled this country that, though still stricken, is by no means beaten or defeated.

At this point, for the first time since I have been observing the mission, the sentiment on the street among a majority of Haitians appears to be a desire to see MINUSTAH in its current incarnation gone from Haiti.

For several reasons, MINUSTAH’s reputation with the Haitian people has reached its lowest level since it arrived in 2004.

A cholera epidemic that has killed more than 5,800 people since October has been linked convincingly to the mission. A June report by a group of epidemiologists and physicians in the journal of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that evidence “strongly suggests” that the cholera strain had been brought to Haiti by U.N. peacekeepers and spread through a faulty waste disposal system along the Artibonite River, a conclusion supported by other studies.

Rightly or wrongly, the perception of MINUSTAH’s response to the crisis within Haiti itself has been of the mission stonewalling and obfuscating. This perception was reinforced in August when some residents of the country’s Plateau Central region accused the mission of dumping raw sewage near the Guayamouc River there, something MINUSTAH has denied.

In a far cry from the largely congenial relations I saw between U.N. peacekeepers and the local population in 2009, something of a bunker mentality has also appeared to have developed. On several instances—particularly at the intersection of the busy Route de Delmas and the road that eventually leads to the country’s international airport—I witnessed peacekeepers patrolling with their mounted machine guns pointed down at crowds of people who appeared to pose no threat at all and were merely going about the business of trying to secure the basic necessities of survival on any given day.


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By Dave, February 7, 2012 at 6:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To “Guy in Jacmel”,
Do not engage in a p***ing contest with the Aristide apologists and flacks.
These people never let a fact get in the way of preconceived notions or paid
advertising. I gave up trying to fight contrivance with ground truth a long time
ago.
I lived in Haiti for nearly nine years and was able to confirm either first hand or
second hand many of the destructive events of the JBA period in Haiti thus have
a good foundation for any opinions I may have formed over my time there. As
you have also lived in the country, you know that the third most egregious
offense to a Haitian is to ignore them. (Number one is to call someone a thief.)
Do not burn any calories playing the game of he said/she said. It’s a loss
leader.
Besides, JBA is ancient history even in Tabarre. Haitians, expats and blan peyi
need to focus on moving forward. Looking back can add perspective and
provide some useful lessons but too much head turning gives one a neck ache.
I should add a disclaimer that I became friends with Michael after I had read his
book “Notes from the Last Testament”. He and I are having dinner this evening
in Kampala. Just wait until you read what he has to write about the Congo?

Report this

By Guy in Jacmel, February 7, 2012 at 6:17 am Link to this comment

Well, I lived in Haiti for the better part of five years and through many of the events described in Deibert’s book and I think he got most of the major events exactly right. Aristide was no hero, maybe once but not for a long time. Deibert had the guts to write the truth about what happened in Haiti and I respect him for that. Kevin Pina maybe has written a few articles, self-produced a movie or two, but to anyone who has spent any time in Haiti we see them for what they are: A partisan’s attempt to stay relevant, and about as accurate a barometer for what happened in Haiti as Fox News is for what goes on in the United States. Pina just could never admit was he was seeing before his eyes for some reason, and he’s hardly alone in that. Remember the Bushies still claiming Iraq was a “success” in 2007?

Of course, none of this is to the point of Deibert’s article, which is that the UN has to reform itself in Haiti or get out. I don’t know anyone who has spent any time in Haiti who could argue with that, but no doubt there are some who would just for the hell of it.

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By Pierre, February 5, 2012 at 4:55 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I didn’t find this article particularly accurate. I read this guy’s book and a few contrary reviews. Most of the comments critical of him make sense after taking a day to study them. Seems like this Deibert guy has a real axe to grind.

That’s funny you should say that about Kevin Pina. A friend who used to work for the UN in Haiti just recommended I watch his documentary about the 2004 coup. While it was pretty one-sided I gotta say it left me with the impression the guy was anything but marginal. Looked like it took someone with excellent contacts and knowledge in Haiti to take some of that footage. I also did a google search on the guy and it was pretty extensive. Maybe it’s just a PR game or some folks really don’t like the guy and want to keep him down.

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By Guy in Jacmel, February 5, 2012 at 3:37 am Link to this comment

I stumbled across this article by chance. Have to say, having left Haiti only a little bit ago, it seems pretty sober and accurate to me, even though it was written in September. I’ve always found Deibert’s reporting on Haiti to be pretty spot-on.

RE Kevin Pina. The guy was never much of a journalist, nor a filmmaker. Nobody ever took him very seriously, in Haiti or elsewhere. A pretty marginal figure, not sure how the discussion in comments got sidetracked here. I guess he’s trying to keep his name out there or something

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By kp57, December 25, 2011 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

I saw that. It’s like Deibert describing Pina as a foreigner who “washed onto Haiti’s shores” in his “book.” The truth is Pina had been working in Haiti as a filmmaker and journalist years before Deibert even thought about the place. Just shows how little Deibert really knows about Haiti and its real story.

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By kp57, September 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment

“The filmmaker Kevin Pina he links to is a well-known Aristide employee and stooge and can’t be taken seriously.”


What’s up with the personal attack? Why aren’t the folks at TruthDig catching this piece of libelous nonsense about Kevin Pina?

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By John Holmstead, September 17, 2011 at 10:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

JCeleste makes the usual dismissive arguments of evidence without providing any proof to the contrary. Unfortunately, it is this irrational obsession among those opposed to Lavalas that has come to symbolize what is wrong with Haiti today. This unconscionable diatribe against those who seek the truth and are committed to it, like Kevin Pina, merely drives the point home.

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tropicgirl's avatar

By tropicgirl, September 9, 2011 at 8:39 am Link to this comment

Haiti is on lockdown. Clinton’s Plantation will not be disturbed.

The “west” is mad at Haiti, and has been, ever since they managed to fight and die, to become the worlds first black republic, made of black slaves who were so insignificant that it was cheaper to let them die of starvation and get new ones.

Not too long ago Haiti supplied over 75% of the worlds important products. Nothing much has changed in over 100 years.

As I said, Bill Clinton’s plantation. That is why he had to rush down there and set up his own “charities”, after the various disasters, so that the Haitian government would be unable to receive the majority of donations. Slaves.

And if they ever get a “leg up”... Here comes another earthquake or flood. Compliments of you-know-who.

The truth is that they never got over the fact that they became a republic. Never.

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By JCélestin, September 9, 2011 at 8:22 am Link to this comment

Reading the below post by Dominique Esser it seems that he and Diana Barahona are prime examples of exactly what others have criticized in the comments section here: Foreigners determined to shove their world view down the throats of non-accommodating Haitians. The Barahona article especially made me laugh out loud, gotta love it when a white girl who’s never been here writes about my country. Maybe I should pluck a Haitian out of the fields and set them to work on a book about NYC or LA! ROTFLMAO

Dominique Esser dismisses the horrible violence by groups armed by the Aristide government before and after 2004 as an “imagined” phenomen, but we who lived in Haiti at the time know differently as the comments here show. The filmmaker Kevin Pina he links to is a well-known Aristide employee and stooge and can’t be taken seriously.

One thing we can all agree on though, it seems: Its time for the UN to leave or at least to re-focus their efforts on something else. They sure are stuck in a rut right now.

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By Dominique Esser, September 8, 2011 at 9:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One would expect better from Michael Deibert, even though his writing on Haiti has been much criticized and serves as an often cited prime example for [U.S.] media distortions and fabrications when it comes to Haiti reporting.

see Diana Barahona, How to Turn a Priest into a Cannibal
http://www.counterpunch.org/2007/02/03/how-to-turn-a-priest-into-a-cannibal/


The period after the violent, and U.S. fomented, coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the years 2004 to 2006 saw extreme amounts of
violence perpetrated by MINUSTAH against Haitians in poor areas of the
capital.

see for example Kevin Pina’s and the reports of others from Haiti:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngK_2MEjJpM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JIUEW3FHd8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AflnQ9pTqsQ

During these raids, under the pretext of combatting “gangs”, the
MINUSTAH troops indiscriminately killed children, women and older
people in areas that were strongholds of resistance against the right
wing coup against Aristide. By no stretch of the imagination could it be
construed that these demographic groups had anything to do with gangs
as imagined by Deibert.

Michael Deibert certainly ought to consult available articles before
making claims such as MINUSTAH having reduced gangs, when in reality
it merely violently oppressed popular dissent.

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By P. Christopher, September 6, 2011 at 8:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Predictably the conversation in the comments gets
hijacked by the pro-Aristide crowd. Nothing in Haiti
is as it seems, and that includes the myth of
Aristide that seems to perpetuate more OUTSIDE of
Haiti than in the country itself. Personally, I’m not
a fan of U.S. imperialism. I respect leaders who are
willing to stand up to Uncle Sam and the global
banksters. This does not change the fact that
Aristide was far from a saint and should be in the
jail cell next to Duvalier for not only his role in
the persecution of political opponents, but also
corruption (Google “IDT Teleco Aristide”).

As has been stated, his popularity in Haiti has waned
greatly. Upon his return to Haiti this year many
Haitian news outlets took to the streets for the mood
of the general population of Port au Prince. While
they did find people who say they still like him,
most agreed that he’s in the past and it’s time for
Haiti to move forward (mind you, to this day you will
still find Baathists in Iraq longing for the days of
Saddam Hussein, and there will always be hardcore
Gaddafi loyalists in Libya). Is Aristide the most
popular politician in Haiti? Perhaps. Extremely
difficult to get an accurate scientific poll in
Haiti. But most popular in a country with over 100
political parties does not mean the support of the
majority.

The apologists will point out that Fanmi Lavalas was
not formally allowed to participate in the most
recent elections. If they actually knew, as all
Haitians do, the history and associations of
politicians in Haiti they’d know that several former
Lavalas members ran for president. The one with the
support of most Lavalassiens in the streets being
Jean-Henri Ceant. How did he fare? He pulled in a
whopping 8.18% of the popular vote.

On a personal anecdotal level, my father-in-law is,
and will always be, a die hard Aristide supporter.
When it comes to talking politics he’s become a
laughingstock in his commune. Nobody takes him
seriously. They all say he’s gone crazy. Hardly
sounds like the reaction the foreign Aristide
supporters would have you think he’d receive given
their insistence of Aristide’s popularity in the
country.

But I digress. What Haiti needs is blind justice
(which could never have been achieved under Aristide
because he filled the police and judicial ranks with
his loyalists) for all and reconciliation. It’s time
to move past the tit-for-tat attacks and break the
cycle so that Haiti can finally move forward.

I just find it extremely hypocritical how foreigners
deplore foreign interventionism in Haiti while
attempting to impose their own by shoving Aristide
down people’s throats. While such arguments are great
for stroking one’s own ego by making them feel they
know everything, they’re hardly practical nor
productive.

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By David Doherty, September 6, 2011 at 8:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Having lived in Haiti between March 2002 and September 2010, I can bear witness to many of the events that are the subject of endless partisan debate. Rather than fixating on the criminal and ethical excesses of the past, both Haitians and the international community should focus on finding a path forward while retaining a keen sense of history. No one’s hands are clean in Haiti thus one cannot accuse another until they are ready to defend their own actions or inaction.
MINUSTAH, as with any UN operation, is driven by political expedience and short-term gain. Brazil burnished its credential for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council; countries contributing troops opened a new revenue stream as reimbursements exceeded cost to deploy; even Haiti gained a little if only because it provided tangible proof that they had not been forgotten.
MINUSTAH started off poorly. Their slow response to the Gonaives flood of September 2004 stood in stark contrast to the US Marines’ actions during the catastrophic flood in Fonds Verettes in May of the same year.  The counterpoint is even more disturbing when one considers that Gonaives had still not recovered when another inundation washed away the city in 2008.
Between 2004 and 2006, MINUSTAH was universally referred to as “tourista”. This was due to the fact that you could usually find their soldiers at the beach or in the market buying pepe (used clothing). This changed in December 2006 when Rene Preval, bowing to enormous public pressure, authorized them to deal with the chimere in Cite Soleil who had terrorized the city with kidnappings and murder, often in collusion with PNH, for more than a year. The “cleansing” of Cite Soleil was not without collateral damage but unless you were a shell-shocked resident of that community, there was joy in the streets as the siege of Port-au-Prince had ended.
With the meaningful discharge of their weapons, MINUSTAH became more credible in the eyes of the citizens and more respected. The soldiers on the street responded in kind by becoming more accessible and engaged. They became an accepted part of the landscape and a valuable resource in rural areas as they funded many small projects that made a significant impact in the parts of Haiti that were not Port-au-Prince.
The grace period ended on January 12, 2010.  All institutions in Haiti were paralyzed in the aftermath of the great earthquake that had leveled huge swaths of the Port-au-Prince, Leogane and Jacmel. The UN leadership and chain-of-command was buried in the rubble of the Hotel Christophe in Bourdon.  The GOH and USG started functioning albeit at a glacial pace. MINUSTAH never seemed to recover.  In many well-documented instances, the UN troops displayed a clear lack of compassion for the plight of the Haitians. According to one member of the US military with whom I spoke, they showed absolute disdain.
The pendulum has swung back to the position it held when MINUSTAH first arrived.  Their tenure in Haiti has been a sine wave of bad and good and bad again. While I am not ready to argue that they have outlived their usefulness, they do need to rethink their mission and repackage themselves into something beyond an occupying force (a contentious term but a common perception). Events and attitudes have poisoned the well and seriously damaged the relationship between the UN and the people. MINUSTAH in 2011 enjoys as much credibility as did the national police between 2003 and 2005. That is not something to which an international body should aspire.

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By Joe Emersberger, September 6, 2011 at 7:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Michael Deibert wrote

“I am glad though, from his comments, that Emersberger now accepts the validity of René Préval’s magnificent 2006 presidential victory”

Now accepts? All my articles about Haiti are available online. Please provide a quote where I ever disputed that Preval won the election in 2006. You won’t be able to, because no such quote exists. That’s representative of the accuracy of your work.

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By MDeibert, September 6, 2011 at 5:45 am Link to this comment

Unfortunately I believe Joe Emersberger and his like simply have no new ideas to offer Haiti, and will be metaphorically chasing their own tails for years to come, fetishizing an era they did not witness in a country that is not their own. Haiti is and always has been a peasant majority country, and the greatest battles are fought in the countryside and not in the capital. Emersberger’s reference to “sweatshops” makes him seem unaware that in fact a coherent agrarian and rural development policy is the country’s most pressing issue.

Joe Emersberger’s ugly attempt at defaming the fine journalist Jane Regan aside, it’s interesting that he brings up the 17 December 2001 attack on Haiti’s National Palace. I was actually in front of the National Palace that morning just after it was attacked, and watched thousands of armed young men - Aristide government partisans - run riot through the capital, as did many other journalists and observers who were in town at the time.

By the end of the day the mobs would by the end of the day reduce the offices of the OPL and KONAKOM opposition parties to ashes, also burning down the neighboring home of the man who had rented them to the politicians. Then they moved on to the headquarters of Evans Paul’s KID party, destroying it with fire for the third time in ten years. Four carloads of armed, masked men arrived at KONAKOM leader Victor Benoit’s house and set it on fire, room by room. The Petionville home of OPL leader Gérard Pierre-Charles and his wife Suzy Castor was also attacked, with some fifteen men, arriving in trucks owned by the government-owned National Center for Equipment and, in one case, a police vehicle, first throwing stones and then shooting at the house. Pierre-Charles was at a conference in Miami, and Castor and her servants fled in terror. In her absence,  the mob burned the couple’s home and Pierre-Charles would later write, they incinerated “a whole collection of classics about Marxism, my books about Cuba, about 500, that had helped me write ‘Genèse de la Révolution Cubain,’ whose manuscript in French disappeared into the flames as well as some of my books, leaving me without a single copy.” The irreplaceable library of Latin American and Carribean political thought, including many original manuscripts dealing with Haiti’s early history at Castor’s CRESFED center, a frequent source of study for grassroots groups and impoverished students, was looted and burned. The headquarters for Reynold Georges’s ALAH party on Avenue Jean Paul II was also burned.

This was also the day that, in Gonaives, members of the pro-Aristide Cannibal Army street gang (who would later turn against the president) attacked the home of Pastor Luc Mesadieu, head of the MOCHRENA party. When Mesadieu’s assistant, Ramy Daran, tried to intervene, he was seized and, refusing to reveal the location where Mesadieu was hiding, he was doused with gasoline (distributed from the gas station owned by the city’s Lavalas mayor) and burned alive. The gang also torched twenty other houses in the city before they were through.

Many of the gang leaders who organized the pillage later recounted in great detail to myself and other journalists government collusion in the violence that day.

By Feb 2004, Guy Philippe and the rebels were indeed cheered as they took over town after town across north and central Haiti, something it may be hard for Joe Emersberger - who as always sat behind his computer at the time time rather than actually being in Haiti - to believe, but that was the unfortunate and to some still-unbelievable outcome to Mr. Aristide’s second mandate.

I am glad though, from his comments, that Emersberger now accepts the validity of René Préval’s magnificent 2006 presidential victory, which did indeed show Haitians turning their back on militarism and extremism as they almost always do given a free and fair election.

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By Joe Emersberger, September 5, 2011 at 4:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Allegations abound against Aristide and his government. The US didn’t waste the $70 million it gave to his opponents. It provided, among other things, a megaphone to make allegations. However, after the coup, when the allegations were tested in courts stacked against the accused (well known Aristide partisans such a Yvon Neptune, So Ann, Rene Civil and many others) they were shown to be baseless.

One of the many lies in Jane Regan’s report that Michael Deibert points to is that

“And when armed ‘rebels’ - disgruntled former Haitian police and former Haitian soldiers—regularly attacked Haitian targets from the neighboring Dominnican Republic over the course of a year”

No - it was over the course of four years. As early as 2001 the rebels were bold enough to attack the National Palace and almost succeeded in carrying off a coup. Their deadly attacks generated a tremendous amount of fear (very understandable considering the horrific consequences of the first coup that ousted Aristide in 1991), spread Aristide’s (already compromised) security forces thin, and provoked some reprisals against Aristide’s opponents who had facilitated the violence in numerous ways. For example, after the 2001 coup attempt, Arstide’s most prominent opponents insisted it had merely been staged to excuse a “crackdown ” on dissent.

Another major deception in Regan’s article was that the paramilitaries who launched these attacks for years were “mostly cheered, not resisted” when they marched into Port-au-Prince. The clear insinuation was that the rebels had popular support.

Guy Philippe, the face of the Rebels, received less than 2% of the vote in the 2006 presidential election. Another prominent supporter of the coup that Regan depicted as a popular uprising -Charles Baker - also failed to get more than single digit support in 2006. Somehow those pictures of opposition organized demonstrations that so impress MIchael Deibert did not represent popular support. Thanks to Wikileaks, we know US officials were well aware of this crucial fact.

What’s also revealing is that the 2006 elections were basically rigged in favor of people like Charles Baker. The winner of the presidential election in 2006, Rene Preval, played no part in the coup, and was closely associated by the Haitian public with Aristide. If what Deibert and Regan reported had been accurate, then Preval should have been the one to receive single digit support in 2006 - not Guy Philippe or Charles Baker.
Deibert’s claim that the truth about the 2004 coup is not relevant to Haiti’s future is - of course - laughable. The same coalition of sweatshop owners - with ample help from their allies in Washington - will certainly attempt to violently defeat any serious attempt to redistribute wealth and power in Haiti.

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By MDeibert, September 5, 2011 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment

This conversation sheds little light on the current role of the UN mission in Haiti, what should replace it, and other pressing issues facing Haiti and its people (reinvigorating the country’s peasant agriculture, decentralizing the economic and political structure from Port-au-Prince) yet, in the interest of clarity, I will explain a few points.

I can understand why it would be simpler to believe that Haitian history began with the overthrow of the Aristide government on 29 February 2004, but if there was no popular movement in the wake of its rather grotesque excesses, how does one explain pictures such as this one, taken at a 26 December 2003 demonstration (by no means the largest). For links associated with this and other points raised below, please see http://tinyurl.com/4s5elxk

The serious armed challenge to the Aristide government began with a group - the Cannibal Army in Gonaives - that was heavily armed WHILE they were working for Mr. Aristide, and that they only turned against the president following the murder of their leader, Amiot “Cubain” Metayer, on what they believed were Aristide’s orders.

The absolute breaking point for the Aristide government was the savage 5 December 2003 attack on protesting university students in Port-au-Prince, an attack during which rector Pierre Marie Paquiot was beaten with iron bars (leaving him permanently incapacitated), at least six people were shot, and a dozen more stabbed and beaten. The siege which was witnessed by those at the Fondation Connaissance et Liberté (FOKAL) nearby, who wrote the following of it (http://tinyurl.com/3wknowd):

“On December 5, 2003,...we were witness to, and at certain times lived, the terror and horror of that day…We saw groups of pro-governmental militia, called chimere or OP (Popular organization), regroup in front of our building, visibly preparing to attack the student demonstration scheduled for that day. We saw their arms displayed, ranging from fire arms, wooden and iron sticks, rocks and other objects capable of hurting and killing. We saw their chiefs, men and women, also armed, equipped with walkie-talkies and cellular phones, organize and give orders to the commandos that were to attack the students. We saw the police, not neutral as has been reported, but acting as accomplices to the militia. On several occasions, during that day of horror and shame, the police opened the way for the chimere’s attack and also covered their backs. We saw children aged between twelve and fifteen, some in school uniforms, used by the lavalas militia to throw rocks and attack the students with fire arms.”

Actual footage of the attack, as well as of the 2003/2004 demonstrations, can be seen in Haitian director Arnold Antonin’s very interesting film GNB Kont Atilla, which someone (not me) has uploaded to You Tube in several sections.

After the attack, Minister of Education Marie-Carmel Paul Austin, Minister of the Environment Webster Pierre, Minister of Tourism Martine Deverson, Secretary of State for Public Health Pierre-Emile Charles and Haiti’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic Guy Alexandre all resigned from the government in protest.

Given all of this, when former soldiers made their lunge across the Dominican border in early 2004, it’s not surprising Mr. Aristide’s pleas for help fell on deaf ears.

For a more realistic and authoritative picture of late 2004/early 2005 era of Haiti, I point readers to Jane Regan’s excellent article “Haiti: In Bondage to History?” published by NACLA in Jan/Feb2005 and available here: http://www.janevregan.org/pages/NACLA.htm

Haitians need all the real help, ideas and solidarity that they can get. They will soon be bidding adieu to MINUSTAH, and it is up to us in the international community to decided which side - peasants, women’s groups, urban poor,  impoverished scholars vs. the rancid classe politique and their well-paid foreign advocates - that we are going to be on.

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By Joe Emersberger, September 5, 2011 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Michael Deibert’s comments below follow the same general recipe as his book - throw out bunch of allegations and rumours against the Aristide government (no matter how thoroughly debunked), mix in some half truths and stir well. Hope that readers mistake garrulousness for logic and accuracy.

The Lancet study provoked a fierce response from coup apologists because it was scientific survey that passed peer review in a highly respected journal. The Lancet stood behind it after investigating the ad hominem attacks against one of the authors. More importantly, the US and allies never commissioned a scientific survey of their own - something they had ample resources to do - to refute the findings.

As Peter Hallward documented in his book “Damming the Flood” the US government spent $70 million over several years before the 2004 coup in a deliberate effort to bolster Aristide’s very unpopular opponents. For much of that period, the US and its allies also blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in aid Aristide’s government. As Deibert well knows, the flow of aid money resumed after the slaughter of Aristide’s’ supporters ramped into high gear with the installation of the Latortue dictatorship.

Deibert mentions violence (and alleged violence) by Aristide partisans after 2000. What Deibert predictably leaves out is a relentless paramilitary (“rebel”) campaign against the Aristide government that went on for years and killed scores of Haitians. Aristide partisans (very justifiably) accused the private media and Aristide’s elite opponents of facilitating that violence and, in a few cases, sought to respond in kind. Its worth noting that, after the coup, the paramilitary leaders thanked the private media for its help. I wrote about that paramilitary campaign in this article.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/01/25-7

The paramilitary campaign was greatly assisted by henchmen of the Cedras military dictatorship who were inserted into Aristide’s security forces after 1994 at the insistence of the Clinton administration. Thanks to Wikileaks, we know how the US closely supervised the insertion of paramilitary criminals into the police force after the 2004 coup. The US has ensured that Haiti’s security forces will be an important hedge against the rise of meaningful democracy.

http://www.haiti-liberte.com/archives/volume5-4/U.S. and UN Supervised.asp

Thanks to Wikileaks, we also know that US Ambassador Foley commented (privately of course) that as of September of 2004 “Aristide was still the only figure in Haiti with a favorability rating above 50%.” In other words, the US knowingly deposed a government in 2004 that was not only democratically elected, but that (despite years of vilification and harsh economic sanctions against it) could still defeat US backed opponents in elections. Hence the need for a coup - and for determined apologists for it like Michael Deibert.

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By MDeibert, September 5, 2011 at 7:34 am Link to this comment

The 2000 Haiti elections that Joe Emersberger calls “democratic” included but were not limited to the following (http://tinyurl.com/4s5elxk):

1. The March 2000 murder by a mob of Legitime Athis, the Petite Goave campaign coordinator for the Mouvement Partiotique pour le Sauvetage National party of Hubert Deronceray, along with his wife.

2. The disruption of the 8 April 2000 funeral of murdered Radio Haiti Inter director Jean Dominique (the investigation into whose killing the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide undermined at every turn), by a crowd of young men began shouting “Viv Aristide,” charging out of the stadium and burning down the headquarters of Evans Paul’s Komite inite Demokratik political party. That same day Radio Vision 2000 was pelted with rocks and bottles by a crowd shouting pro-Aristide slogans and calling for the murder of journalists there, and a stone-throwing mob surrounded the house of mayoral candidate Micha Gaillard, forcing his wife and sons to flee over a back wall to a neighbor’s house

3. The 12 April 2000 murder of Merilus Deus, a Mouvement Chrétien pour une Nouvelle Haiti (MOCHRENA) candidate for the rural assembly in Savanette, who was shot and then hacked to death by a mob of attackers who also slashed his daughter for good measure.

4. The 18 April 2000 murder, also by machete, of 70 year-old Ducertain Armand, an advisor to the Parti Democratique Chretien Haitien of Marie-Denise Claude (whose on father, Pastor Sylvio Claude, an Aristide rival, was also killed by a mob in September 1991) in his Thomazeau home.

5. The 24 May 2000 murder by a mob of Lavalas partisans of mayoral candidate Jean-Michel Olophene, his skull cracked open by a hurled rock. This ghastly murder was actually captured on videotape, which I have seen, the assailants chanting pro-Aristide slogans. Incidentally, it was Cite Soleil gang leader Robinson “Labanye” Thomas’ support of this candidate against the official Lavalas slate that resulted in his being jailed for a few months before being released after he agreed to work for the Aristide government. He did so until the October 2003 murder of hsi friend Rodson “Kolobri” Lemaire. Labanye himself, of course, was also then slain in March 2005.

6. The quite notorious November 2000 attack on a meeting of the Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP) in Hinche, led by Lavalas mayors Wilo Joseph (Maissade) and Dongo Joseph (Hinche), during which the Recif Night Club, where several hundred MPP activists were gathered, was first pelted with stones and then raked with automatic weapons fire. Dieugrand Jean-Baptiste, brother of MPP leader Chavennes Jean-Baptiste, was shot in the chest and nearly died, another MPP member was shot in the neck, a mechanic working nearby the scene was shot in the ankle and a merchant pushing a cart was shot in the back. A detailed account of the attack, gathered from those who were present, can be found in my 2005 book, Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti.

These incidents were all in addition to such moves as the arrests of such Organisation du peuple en lutte politicians Paul Denis, Vasco Thernelan and Mellius Hyppolite, and the claims on Haitian radio by Yvon Neptune and Rene Civil before the vote tally was even announced (in violation of electoral law) that Fanmi Lavalas had won a landslide, give on a flavour of what voting in Haiti was like at the time. In addition to all of this, or course, there was the corruption of the vote tabulating process itself, which is well outlined in a letter by Orlando Marville, the chief of mission OAS Electoral Mission in Haiti at the time.

That’s some democracy, indeed.

At any rate, as another poster here notes, both Mr. Aristide and Mr. Duvalier are now relics of the past, and it is time to move on with the discussion of what kind of Haiti we foreigners can help Haitians construct in the future, with or without a UN presence.

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By MDeibert, September 5, 2011 at 7:19 am Link to this comment

Though no one would dispute that Haiti was plagued by violence during the 2004-2006 era, the reports cited are highly problematic.

The Lancet report was extraordinarily controversial after it was exposed by the UK’s progressive Haiti Support Group (active at a grassroots level in Haiti since 1992) that researcher Athena Kolbe was in fact a pro-Aristide journalist and former Aristide employee who had previously used the name Lyn Duff, a fact that she had hidden when publishing the report. This can be read here: http://tinyurl.com/3zeljv9. The subsequent review done was highly cursory and the fact that the Lancet did not order the whole study to be re-done by genuinely impartial investigators after such revelations is quite a blot on the publication’s reputation.

In a 2006 article which can be read along with secondary links here http://tinyurl.com/3zuplf3, I wrote the following:

“Though the Lancet report chronicles no rapes or murders committed by Fanmi Lavalas partisans, something that flies in the face of the on-the-ground reporting of journalists who have worked in Haiti for the last two years, it may be instructive to recall that, over the last two years, defectors from Mr. Aristide’s party have charged publicly that former president was orchestrating a large part of Haiti’s violence from exile with the connivance of former officials of his government. Citing the July 2005 murder of Haitian journalist Jacques Roche, a May 2005 attack on a Port-au-Prince marketplace that killed seven people and saw a large part of the market, which served the capital’s poor, burned to ashes and what they charged was a campaign of rape by gangs supportive of the exiled president in the capital’s slums, last year four of Haiti’s most politically progressive organizations - the Groupe d’Appui aux Rapatries et Refugies (GARR), the Plateforme haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif (PAPDA), Solidarité des Femmes Haïtiennes (SOFA) and Centre National et International de Documentation et d’Information de la Femme en Haïti (EnfoFanm) - all signed a petition calling for Aristide to be judged for his crimes against the Haitian people.”

The U.S.-based Institute for Justice and Democracy (IJDH) that Emersberger links to is and always has been a creation of Mr. Aristide’s Miami lawyer, Ira Kurzban, who is listed as one of the IJDH’s founders and chairman of its board of directors, a man whose law firm, according to U.S. Department of Justice filings, earned nearly $5 million for its lobbying work alone representing the Aristide government. With the IJDH’s 2005 annual report listing Mr. Kurzban’s law firm in the category reserved for those having contributed more than $5000 to the organization, the group’s 2006 report (the last one made public) lists the firm under “Donations of Time and Talent,” and the American Immigration Lawyers Association South Florida Chapter (for which Mr. Kurzban served as past national president and former general council) in a section reserved for those having donated $10,000 or more. The IJDH is the creature of a man who has a financial stake in rehabilitating the former president. Their work in Haiti should be seen in this context. Some links regarding this can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/4xw2nsq

Haiti’s Commission Episcopale Nationale Justice et Paix - a genuinely non-partisan body - released a report in 2006 where it stated the following:

“Many political and even economic sectors are involved with violence and weapons. It is important to remember that fact. This is not about making accusations, but we must be conscious that arms do not resolve anything. Those who commit acts of violence, who are responsible for such acts must face that truth and accept their responsibility. The State must also face its responsibility and fight violence and impunity.”

The Commission counted 2506 dead victims of violence during the 47 months it has been operating.

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By Joe Emersberger, September 4, 2011 at 7:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Michael Deibert has been one of the most persistent apologists for the 2004 coup that deposed Haiti’s democratically elected government under Jean Bertrand Aristide. Under a US/UN backed dictatorship at least 4000 Arsitide supporters were murdered between 2004-2006. I’ve cited three of the most damning reports below - one them published by the Lancet Medical Journal. The murders were mostly carried out by the police and armed attaches with cover usually provided by UN troops. A person’s mind must be thoroughly warped by imperial assumptions to suggest - as Deibert does - that Haitians should be grateful to MINUSTAH for anything.

1) Athena R. Kolbe and Royce A. Hutson, “Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households,” The Lancet, Vol. 368, No. 9538, September 2, 2006
2) Thomas M. Griffin, University of Miami School of Law: Haiti Human Rights Investigation: November 11-21, 2004
http://www.ijdh.org/CSHRhaitireport.pdf
3) Harvard Law School; “Keeping the Peace in Haiti?”;March 2005
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/campaigns/campaignone/human_rights_reports/harvard.html


Also

on the UK Guardian’s website, Deibert and I had an exchange in the comments section to a Mark Weisbrot article that may be of interest:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jan/18/haiti-usa?commentpage=all#start-of-comments

Wesibrot also did a fine piece recently on why MINUSTAH should go
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/sep/03/minustah-un-haiti-abuse?INTCMP=SRCH

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By TruthDigger, September 3, 2011 at 6:56 am Link to this comment

@grokker Ok, I understand, no offense taken. I just would like to say Haiti develop, for people to have jobs and not live in despair. I don’t think that anyone who wants to open a business in Haiti can be attacked for being a “globalist.” I am not sure what that world means. We live in a “global” world, Haiti like anywhere else.

It just bothers me that foreigners who say they want to help on Haiti focus on one political leader and party that were discredited a long time ago. I was in Anse-Rouge this summer and the people there supported Martelly. like in Port-au-Prince. They didn’t even mention Aristide or Lavalas or Baby Doc. They are really of the past to people now.

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By Kaliko86, September 2, 2011 at 9:16 pm Link to this comment

Hah, Yves Engler wrote a terrible book about Haiti that faded quickly into obscurity in which he posed as the centuries-old “white do-gooder” and “benefactor” of poor underdeveloped Haitians, hardly disguising his arrogance and with which he sought to use the victims of empire for their own unspoken ends. He has never missed an opportunity to attack the genuine Haitian left while all the while promoting the interests of the reactionary bourgeoisie Aristide/Fanmi Lavalas, little more than fake populist valets of imperialism. Engler probably just dropped by for a little self-promotion lol

Diebert is right. MINUSTAH should go, but I am sure that Yves Engler and his friends wish they would stay so they would not have to get real jobs.

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By grokker, September 2, 2011 at 6:11 pm Link to this comment

@truthdigger   No disrespect was meant.Everything I have said is a fact. I wish Haiti the best in its quest to rid itself of the shackles of U.S. imperialism, but in my opinion, I just don’t see that happening anytime soon. You, on the other hand, sound like you welcome the globalists with open arms.

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cpb's avatar

By cpb, September 2, 2011 at 10:14 am Link to this comment

By omygodnotagain, September 1 at 11:54 pm

“If after 200 years of self rule a country wins the
dubious title of the poorest country in the Western
Hemisphere, one of the lowest average life spans, gang
violence, high rates of disease, environmental
destruction on a massive scale etc, one can conclude
that Haitians are not the best people to rule
themselves… they should be grateful the UN is there.
Hopefully it will stay there for a very long time to
come”

All things considered, that is perhaps the most
offensive thing I have ever read here on TD.  Not to
mention ignorant and petty.  200 years of self rule huh? 
Sounds like more trolling to me.

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By TruthDigger, September 2, 2011 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

@grokker Have you ever actually been to Haiti? The way you write about Haitians doesn’t show a lot of respect for us or our country. Martelly was elected by the Haitian people. That number 16.7% se yon blag, as you well know. Did you see the thousands of Haitians waiting in line to cast their ballots for Martelly? Did you see them manifest when Preval tried to steal the election from him? All former Lavalas candidates who went to the ballot (Neptune, Christalin, etc) got beat well.

Foreigners can keep talking about Aristide, Duvalier, etc but they are in the past. Haiti needs to move forward.

I agree with this article. I think MINUSTAH should leave

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By grokker, September 2, 2011 at 8:01 am Link to this comment

@truthdigger   If you call winning an election with 16.7% of the electorate a “popular” victory, then enjoy your koolaid. Most Haitians stayed away from the election because without Lavalas on the ballot, all they could see is more of the same imperialistic crap coming down the pipe. Martelly’s first move as president was to meet with his power brokers - the IMF, World Bank, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the State Department. He’s another in a long line of inserted puppets—think of him as the Obama of Haiti but with even less political experience.

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By TruthDigger, September 2, 2011 at 7:26 am Link to this comment

How do you say Lavalas is the most popular party? They won almost no votes when they competed in 2006 Preval elections. No one likes Lavalas anymore. Well, maybe some foreigners like Dany Glover but that is it. smile

I agree with you that they shouldnt have been banned, though.

People love Martelly, though, that I can tell you. Go talk to some of them and they will tell you. I wouldnt have voted for him if Haiti still let me vote (when are we going to include the diaspora?) but plenty of people did, and they support him a lot.

I hope Martelly and parliament can follow-through on their promise of giving the diaspora a voice in Haitian politics. We have a lot to contribute!

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By grokker, September 2, 2011 at 6:29 am Link to this comment

@truthdigger The Lavalas party was banned from the election - the most popular party was banned from the election and you don’t see any problem there? It would be like the Democratic Party being banned from running in the U.S. Read some of the news coming out of Haiti’s more radical left and you’ll see that the people are hardly satisfied with the political situation there. Martelly is the best choice out of a roster of puppets propped up by western interests. Hardly a choice at all.

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tropicgirl's avatar

By tropicgirl, September 2, 2011 at 6:08 am Link to this comment

There is nothing wrong with the people of Haiti, the first black republic, except that it is Bill Clinton’s Plantation.

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By TruthDigger, September 2, 2011 at 4:42 am Link to this comment

“The current president is there by virtue of a totally rigged election.”

Oh really? How does one explain this, then:

“Thousands of Haitians riot in capital over election results”

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2010/1208/Thousands-of-Haitians-riot-in-capital-over-election-results

or this

“Haitian presidential election candidate Michel Martelly, who narrowly missed a spot in the second round run-off, has called for calm amid mass protests by his supporters.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11954881

or this

Haiti hails inauguration of new president Martelly

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xipu2h_haiti-hails-inauguration-of-new-president-martelly_news

Rigged AGAINST him (which is what gave him this corrupt parliament) maybe.

Michel Martelly is by far the most popular politician in Haiti.

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By Yves engler, September 2, 2011 at 12:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why would truth dig publish deibert a hardline right winger - check out his ridiculous
book- on haiti? A total apologist for 2004 coup. His absurdities have been dealt with
online - google it if your interested. Shame on truth dig

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By omygodnotagain, September 1, 2011 at 11:54 pm Link to this comment

If after 200 years of self rule a country wins the dubious title of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, one of the lowest average life spans, gang violence, high rates of disease, environmental destruction on a massive scale etc, one can conclude that Haitians are not the best people to rule themselves… they should be grateful the UN is there. Hopefully it will stay there for a very long time to come

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By grokker, September 1, 2011 at 9:25 pm Link to this comment

If you know anything about the history of Haiti you would know that it has been a history of one brutal foreign intervention after another. The current president is there by virtue of a totally rigged election. Where is there mention of the peoples Lavalas party in this article? Lack of mention of this makes this article appear as nothing but propaganda. The U.N. needs to get out and let the people determine their own fate, even if they, as mentioned below,are “at each others throats” soon afterwards. The white western world never could quite handle the fact that Haiti pulled off the only black slave revolution in 1804 for their independence,destroying Napoleons’ armies. The west has been making them pay for it ever since. Now Bush and Clinton are eyeballing the island to expand sweatshop operations there. Pitiful.

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By SarcastiCanuck, September 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well Michael,I don’t think history will agree with you.Haiti seems to me like the Somalia of the western hemisphere.If the UN leaves,I give them 5 years and they’ll be at each others throats again.I sure hope I am wrong though.

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cpb's avatar

By cpb, September 1, 2011 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

“MINUSTAH is in Haiti to protect the interests of the
foreigners.  ...  True or not, such a perspective has
become conventional wisdom in Haiti…”

All foreign military presence in Haiti has always been
there protecting the interests of foreigners.  That
“conventional wisdom” is just the way it is.

That there may exist, at different times, more humane
management of the population, doesn’t change Haiti’s
status as an offshore labour colony so we can all have
cheap t-shirts.

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