Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: Peter Hallward

Reconciliation in Haiti Part 3

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday May 12 2013

Titid – Le Petit Aristide – was hugely popular with poor Haitians and hated by the elite. The case against him has been put by Peter Dailey in the New York Review of Books, Andre Linard and Maurice Lemoine in Le Monde diplomatique. Kim Ives has demolished Dailey’s NYRB articles. My virtual friend, who calls herself Zen Haitian, has challenged Le Monde diplomatique. Paul Farmer has made the case for Aristide in London Review of Books and been supported by Peter Hallward and Brian Concannon.

 
Linard wrote of Aristide: “He was attacked for setting up an anti-democratic regime and accused of enriching himself through illicit trafficking. The public was divided between three explanations. Some feel they were conned by Aristide in 1990. A slightly less widely shared view is that he was changed by the 1991 coup that ousted him, his exile in the US and return to power in 1994. There are those who saw him as a victim of constraints: ‘se pa fôt li (it’s not his fault)’, they say in Creole, preferring to blame both his entourage and the international community”.

Dailey’s assertion that the “Aristide government’s increasingly authoritarian behavior has left it isolated and condemned by the international community, which suspended crucial foreign aid” was countered thus by Ives: “The ‘international community’, if defined as the majority of the world’s nations, is sympathetic to the Haitian government and disapproving, at the very least, of the Bush administration’s strong-arming. … the majority of the OAS and CARICOM member states have pleaded for the release of the aid and loans to Haiti, held hostage only by Washington’s hostility to Aristide.”

Titid vs. Washington Consensus

Aristide came under fire from those who advocated more enthusiastic compliance with the US and IMF. Ives: “Aristide was proving to be mercurial and uncooperative about privatizations and other neoliberal reforms.”
Brian Concannon: “The ease with which Haiti’s leftist elite and its foreign supporters joined sweatshop owners, Duvalierists and the Bush administration in a crusade to overthrow Aristide says more about the fluidity of their own political commitments than about Haiti’s government. The real cleavage in Haiti has always been not left-right but up-down. When push came to shove, class allegiance trumped any professed commitment to social equality or democracy.”

Military coup

Aristide was overthrown in a military coup September 1991, in which the US and France were heavily implicated. The military’s leader, General Raoul Cedras, led an oppressive regime marked by numerous human rights violations. Both the Organization of America States and the United Nations issued international sanctions against Haiti in response to the coup.
In October 1994, under Bill Clinton, the US military intervened and restored Aristide to power, with a little over a year of his term left to run. Although authorized by the UN, the restoration was basically a US operation. My friend Zen Haitian commented: “He was forced to agree to their structural re-adjustment measures in order to be restored to power– he lost some, but was still able to command the love and respect of a majority of Haitians.”

Another electoral triumph

In November 2000, Aristide was again elected by a landslide. The US froze international aid on specious grounds of electoral fraud. The Haitian government, faced with crippling poverty, was required to pay ever-expanding arrears on its debts, many of them linked to loans paid out to the Duvalier dictatorship and to the military regimes that ruled Haiti with great brutality from 1986 to 1990.

 
The US State Department ignored repeated opposition attacks against Lavalas and the deadly campaign being carried out by neo-Duvalierist guerrillas. Declassified records now make it clear that the CIA and other US groups helped to create and fund a paramilitary group called FRAPH.

Abduction and exile

Aristide was flown out of the country by the US on 28 February, 2004. Aristide has accused the U.S. of kidnapping and deposing him.

In his book, Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti, Jeb Sprague focuses on the period beginning in 1990 with the rise of Aristide, and the right-wing movements that succeeded in driving him from power. Sprague traces connections between paramilitaries and their elite financial and political backers, in Haiti and in the US and the Dominican Republic.
Peter Hallward argued that people with – generally tenuous – connections to Aristide’s Lavalas party were probably responsible for around thirty killings in all the years he was in office. Five thousand Lavalas supporters were killed while Aristide was in exile between 1991 and 1994, and fifty thousand deaths have been attributed to the Duvalier dictatorships.

For all its faults, Lavalas remained the only significant force for popular mobilization in the country. No other political figure of the past fifty years has had anything like Aristide’s stature among the urban and rural poor. Class sympathy among Western elites who felt themselves under similar threat, both at home and abroad, goes a long way to explaining the international perception of the Lavalas regime.

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/news-features/item/17745-reconciliation-in-haiti-part-3.html#sthash.o9OGpDFG.dpuf

 

Reconciliation in Haiti

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday April 28 2013

After independence, Haiti’s leaders were desperate for recognition. In 1825, under threat of another French invasion and the restoration of slavery, Haitian officials signed a document agreeing to pay an indemnity of 150 million Francs (comparable to US$12.7 billion as of 2009) in return for France recognising Haiti’s independence.

Victor Schoelcher published many articles between 1833 and 1847 about the evils of slavery. He was the first European abolitionist to visit Haiti. Schoelcher argued: “Imposing an indemnity on the victorious slaves was equivalent to making them pay with money that which they had already paid with their blood”.

 
The impact of the debt repayments – which continued until after World War Two – was devastating. Haitian anthropologist Jean Price-Mars wrote: “the incompetence and frivolity of its leaders had turned a country whose revenues and outflows had been balanced up to then into a nation burdened with debt and trapped in financial obligations that could never be satisfied.” This may be unfair, as the demand was allegedly delivered to the country by twelve French warships armed with 500 cannons.

US Dominance

 
By the late 19th century, the USA had eclipsed France in Haiti. A US military occupation (1915-34) brought back the corvée (state-imposed forced labour). The Haitian army, which never fought a non-Haitian enemy, was created by an act of the US Congress. The Americans abolished the clause in the Haitian constitution barring foreigners from owning property, took over the National Bank, reorganized the economy to ensure more reliable payments of foreign debt and expropriated land to create their own plantations.

Canadian political philosopher Peter Hallward wrote: “The United States installed several puppet presidents favourably disposed to American corporate interests. But eventually, Haiti stopped being worth the trouble. Strongman regimes made a mockery of democratic governance; millions migrated from the countryside to a capital unready for such a vast population influx. Haiti’s problems were so systemic, its infrastructure so rotten, that when interested foreigners got together to discuss them, the solutions always came down to one of two things: a bulldozer or a bomb.”

Duvaliers

 
François Duvalier was president from 1957 until his death in 1971. He was called Papa Doc because he started out as a simple country doctor, fighting disease among the poor (sponsored by the US). He opposed a military coup in 1950, and was elected president in 1957. He used the Tonton Macoutes (bogeymen) to extend and bolster support for the regime in the countryside. The Macoutes had twice the numbers of the regular army. An estimated 30,000 Haitians died as a result of Papa Doc’s tyranny.

He was succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude, nicknamed “Baby Doc”. After assuming power, Baby introduced cosmetic changes, but thousands of Haitians were killed or tortured, and hundreds of thousands fled the country, further sapping the economy and creating a diaspora. His lavish lifestyle was funded with millions from involvement in the drug trade and from selling body parts from dead Haitians.

Aristide

 
Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Titid – Creole for Le petit Aristide) was a proponent of liberation theology. In September 1988, he was saying mass when the church was set on fire by a gang paid by the mayor of Port-au-Prince. Twelve people died. Aristide rose from being a slum priest to be president of Haiti. He was focal point for the pro-democracy movement first under Baby Doc and then under the military transition regime which followed. His party FL (Fanmi Lavalas – “Waterfall Family”, referring to the Biblical flood) claimed to support a policy of “growth with equity” based on Caribbean and Western European social democratic principles. FL’s policy was to invest in education and healthcare and refused IMF austerity measures. In the presidential election on December 16, 1990, Aristide got 67% of the vote in a field of twelve. No run-off was required.

Aristide came under fire from those wanting compliance with the US and IMF and was overthrown in a military coup in September 1991. General Raoul Cedras, led an oppressive regime marked by numerous human rights violations. For the next three years Haiti was run by military-civilian juntas as ruthless as the Duvaliers. According Gayle Smith, a member of the National Security Council staff under Bill Clinton, “Most people around the world believe that Aristide’s departure was at best facilitated, at worst coerced by the US and France”.

In October 1994, under Bill Clinton, the US military intervened and restored Aristide to power, with a little over a year of his term left to run. Although authorised by the UN, the restoration was basically a US operation. In November 2000, Aristide was again elected by a landslide. The US cut off aid and ignored pleas from the Aristide government for an international peacekeeping force as anti-Aristide death squads overran more than half the country. US marines stationed in Haiti made no effort to disarm these rebels. Under disputed circumstances, Aristide was flown out of the country by the US on February 28, 2004. Aristide has accused the U S  of kidnapping and deposing him.

 

 

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/news-features/item/17517-reconciliation-in-haiti.html#sthash.Fj0U58Sj.dpuf

 

Reconciliation in Haiti Part 1

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday April21 2013

The Haitian National Truth and Justice Commission was created on December 1994 by an executive order issued by President Jean Bertrand Aristide. The nation now known as Haiti has the great misfortune to occupy a location far too close to the nation now known as the USA. December 5, 1492 was a bad day for the Taino, an Arawakan people. Christopher Columbus, who was looking for India, stumbled upon the island the Taino called Ayiti. Columbus claimed the island for the Spanish Crown, naming it La Isla Española (“the Spanish Island”) which was later changed to Hispaniola.

Colonization

The Spaniards did not bring their own women with them. They took Taíno women for their wives. Rape of Taino women was common. The 1518 smallpox epidemic killed 90% of the natives who had not already perished. By 1548 the native population was under 500. Spanish interest in Hispaniola began to wane in the 1520s, as more lucrative gold and silver deposits were found in Mexico and Peru. Nevertheless, up to the 1550s, the Spanish imported large numbers of black African slaves to labor in the gold mines and sugar plantations. Dutch traders/pirates joined their English and French brethren trading on the remote coasts of Hispaniola.
In the 18th century, it became France’s most valuable possession; on the eve of the French Revolution, it was supplying two-thirds of all of Europe’s tropical produce. Santo Domingo, as it was then called, was a brutally efficient slave colony.

Slavery

Peter Hallward, of King’s College Cambridge, wrote in New Left Review: “The structural basis of Haiti’s crippling poverty is a direct legacy of slavery and its aftermath.” By 1681, there were 2,000 slaves. A hundred years later there were 500,000 slaves and perhaps 700,000 offspring of masters and slaves. A third of new arrivals died within a few years. There were only 40,000 whites who had to use harsh measures to keep control over such large numbers. Religion was important. All slaves had to practise Catholicism and native African religions were suppressed.

Revolt

Voodoo ceremonies with animal sacrifices were conducted in secret and fomented revolt. According to tradition, after a ceremony on August 14, 1791, a slave overseer and hougan (voodoo priest) called Dutty Boukman gave the signal and slaves from a dozen plantations slaughtered their masters and their families. The revolt spread. The slaves had learnt cruelty from their masters. In her fine book The Rainy Season, Amy Wilentz writes: “The masters had stuffed gunpowder into slaves’ rectums and exploded it. They had rolled their slaves in spiked barrels down hills, they had whipped them and tied them to boards and left them in the swamps to be eaten alive by ants and mosquitoes. The slaves repaid these favours in 1791 by decapitating the masters, raping their wives on top of their bloodied corpses, chopping off their arms and legs, sawing them in half, impaling their infants on proudly carried spikes”.

 
There had been a revolution in France also. In 1792, Léger-Félicité Sonthonax was sent by the French Legislative Assembly to maintain French control of Saint-Domingue, stabilize the colony, and enforce the social equality recently granted to free people of color by the National Convention of France. In 1793, Sonthonax proclaimed the freedom of the slaves and in 1794 French National Convention abolished slavery by law in France and all its colonies.

 
White colonists continued to fight Sonthonax with assistance from the British. They were joined by many of the free men of color who opposed the abolition of slavery. Toussaint Louverture and his corps of well-disciplined, battle-hardened former slaves came over to the French Republican side in early May 1794.

 

With the colony facing a full-scale invasion by Britain, the rebel slaves emerged as a powerful military force under the leadership of Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe. Louverture successfully drove back the British and by 1798 was the ruler of the colony. He asserted enough independence to persuade Napoleon to send forces in 1802, under his brother-in-law Charles Leclerc, to increase French control. Word began to reach the colony of the French intention to restore slavery. The French burned alive, hanged, drowned, and tortured black prisoners, reviving such practices as burying blacks in piles of insects and boiling them in cauldrons of molasses. After one battle, Leclerc’s successor, Donatien-Marie-Joseph de Vimeur, Vicomte de Rochambeau, buried 500 prisoners alive; Dessalines responded by hanging 500 French prisoners. Rochambeau’s brutal tactics helped unite black, mulatto, and mestizo soldiers against the French.

Revolution and Republic

Louverture was kidnapped and taken away to a prison in the Jura. He died of exposure and tuberculosis in 1803. In November 1803, the former slaves won the war’s final battle, and on January 1, 1804 Dessalines declared independence, reclaiming the indigenous Taíno name of Haiti (“Land of Mountains”). Hemmed in by slave colonies, Haiti had only one non-colonised neighbor, the slaveholding United States, which refused to recognize its independence.

 
Dessalines massacred 2,000 Frenchmen at Cap-Français, 900 in Port-au-Prince, and 400 at Jérémie. He issued a proclamation declaring, “We have repaid these cannibals, war for war, crime for crime, outrage for outrage.”

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/news-features/item/17342-reconciliation-in-haiti.html#sthash.A3SWgrjo.dpuf

 

 

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