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Note to Reuters about Aristide

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joe emersberger

Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 513
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada

Post Post subject: Note to Reuters about Aristide Reply with quote


Dear Pascal,

Your “Factbox” about Jean-Bertrand Aristide contains many misleading statements, and leaves out crucial information.

You write that

"-- Constitutionally barred from seeking a second consecutive term, he left office in early 1996 and was succeeded by Rene Preval. Aristide soon grew disenchanted, formed a new political party and contested the 2000 presidential election under the promise of "peace in the head, peace in the stomach." The vote was boycotted by much of the opposition and results were generally seen as fraudulent by many in the international community."

The turnout and results of the legislative (and later) presidential elections of 2000 were in line with what USAID commissioned polls had predicted. See "Canada in Haiti" by Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton for details. Aristide's FL party romped to victory in the legislative elections which OAS observers declared free and fair. However, later, the OAS disputed how voting percentages for several senate seats (out of thousands of local positions contested) had been calculated. This minor dispute (even after Aristide convinced those senators in the disputed seats to resign) blew up into outrageous claims by his opponents in Haiti and elsewhere that the 2000 elections were fraudulent. Aristide's opponents did not contest the presidential election (and the OAS refused to monitor it). However, even the Economist magazine, which despised Aristide, concluded that Aristide's opponents were just saving face because they had negligible support. USAID commissioned polls from 2002 confirmed that Aristide remained, by far, Haiti's most popular politician.

As Peter Hallward documented in his book "Damming the Flood", the US government spent $70 million in Haiti after 1994 (over several years) in an effort to prop up Aristide's unpopular political opponents. Therefore "many in the international community" (ie the US and a handful of others) were hardly impartial observers of the 2000 elections. They had thrown their support behind the losers for many years.

You mentioned the 1991 coup that deposed Aristide but failed to mention that the coup had US fingerprints all over it.
Below are Human Rights Watch (HRW) appeals to the US government to deport Emmanuel Constant, who was living freely in the US after the Cedras regime was finally ordered to step down in 1994. Constant was in charge of the FRAPH death squads that murdered thousands between 1991-1994 in an effort to wipe out the movement that brought Aristide to power. HRW mentions Constant's ties to the CIA which explain why the US would not deport him to Haiti while it was certain that he would face justice. HRW also appealed to the US to return documents to Haiti that US troops had stolen from FRAPH offices and refused to return unless the names of US citizens were deleted.

You wrote that "Aristide was finally reinstated in October 1994 through the intervention of a U.S.-led multinational force."

Prior to US troops arriving, the US made a deal with the junta to WORK TOGETHER as well as provide a general amnesty for people responsible for three years of gruesome atrocities. Former President Jimmy Carter worked out the details for the Clinton Administration.

The US was not confronting its enemies in Haiti - which is what the term "intervention" strongly suggests. The Junta and their henchmen were US allies. US troops arrived and had "cordial meetings" (in the words of the New York Times) - with the Haitian military. The US military was even kind enough to lease Cedras' house for him. When Haitian military and their FRAPH allies began killing unarmed civilians in front of US troops, one US soldier remarked .

"It's messing with my head. It's wrong. And every time you have to look into the faces of the people here, the people who thought were coming to save them from these guys, it breaks your heart."

See Paul Farmer's "Uses of Haiti" for more details.

You wrote:

"Aristide's second presidency was marked by economic instability that led to street protests and a violent rebellion that toppled his government in 2004. He went into exile again -- this time to South Africa in a deal negotiated by the United States and Haiti's former colonial ruler, France. He accused Washington of removing him from power -- describing his flight out of Haiti on a U.S. plane as a "kidnapping"."

This leaves out the U.S.’ role in creating the “economic instability”, documented in great detail and condemned by, among others, Paul Farmer and Jeffrey Sachs (in several op-eds), a joint Partners in Health, Zanmi Lasante, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, and RFK Memorial Center report, among others. The U.S. role in holding up IDB loans for humanitarian purposes is clear just from the letters from the U.S. Treasury to the IDB – in other words, none of this is in doubt.

Then, of course, you also leave out any mention of the other ways in which the U.S. destabilized the Aristide government, such as through the International Republican Institute, as described in a lengthy New York Times article in 2006.

Joe Emersberger
Sat Feb 19, 2011 3:40 am
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