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This article first appeared on Znet.

The US government, in cahoots with the illegal regime of Gerard Latortue and powerful elements within the Haitian Diaspora, are lobbying to impose punitive legislation on Haitians, paving the way for the entrenchment of neoliberal programs that are guaranteed to enrich the few and further impoverish the many.

The backdrop against which these plans are emerging is the continuing witch hunt that is terrorizing supporters of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and members of the Lavalas party, forcing many into hiding, while indiscriminately murdering countless others. This persecution is systematic. The former death squad members, military, as well as the thousands of prisoners who have been freed, have scores to settle against the families of those who dared to raise their voices against the violence and repression of the former military regime. Accordingly, the leadership and base of democracy in Haiti must be rooted out and dismantled by whatever means possible if the recent coup is to stick.

Recently, the National Lawyers Guild's Tom Griffin provided an eyewitness account of horrific human rights abuses. Upon being told of some 60 corpses that had been discovered in a nearby neighborhood, the NLG delegation rushed to investigate:

“We found a massive pile of ashes…pigs eating human flesh off human bones that didn’t burn…the fuel for the fire was misprinted Haitian currency… We can only surmise…because of the timing of events…when Lavalas people are all in hiding…that it’s people [perpetrating these acts] that can move with impunity… We’re assuming that the victims were Lavalas supporters.”

Griffin also recounted the testimony of the Director of a Port au Prince morgue who told the delegation:

"Normally the morgue doesn’t dump and bury any more than a hundred bodies in a month but on March 7th, one week after the coup, 800 bodies were dumped by the morgue and two weeks later another 200 bodies were dumped…The director of the morgue admitted to us that many of the bodies [that] were coming in had their hands tied behind their backs and had black bags over their heads, and had been shot.”

Two days after this disturbing report, US Undersecretary of State Roger Noriega spoke to the American Enterprise Institute where he said, "Haitians deserve democracy – and a government that looks out for their interests…. The Bush Administration believes that if we all do our part and do it right, Haiti will have the democracy it deserves." Currently, everyone seems to be playing their part extremely well.

This is only the beginning of the road to democracy that Haiti "deserves."

Some of the real motivation behind the recent US-led overthrow of President Aristide is emerging as US policymakers and their corporate henchmen hatch plans to put Haiti in the fiscal vice grip of neoliberalism. According to Noriega, these plans would fall under the third of the "Principles of US Engagement in Haiti," which will see the US government encouraging "the Government of Haiti to move forward, at the appropriate time, with restructuring and privatization of some public sector enterprises."

If anyone had doubts about whether or not Aristide was cow-towing enough to the United States and its imposition of neoliberal stratagem, one need only look at how quickly the interim government, in lockstep with the US and elements of the Haitian Diaspora, are looking to fast-track this neoliberal stranglehold on the country now that he's gone. Clearly, Aristide was seen as some sort of barrier to US-style neoliberalism, which cannot tolerate any barriers to its advances.

The US stratagem appears to be taking shape around the proposed Hero Act legislation, introduced into the Senate in February of 2003 by Mike Dewine (R-OH), and co-sponsored in the House by prominent Congressional Black Caucus members. While the CBC are demanding an investigation into Aristide's departure, they have yet to issue a statement concerning the new status of the Hero Act. The impression conveyed by one CBC staffer was that the Hero Act, as it is now being trumpeted, has taken on a completely different character.

During his recent trip to Haiti, Colin Powell plugged the Hero Act in an interview with elite-owned Radio Metropole: "We have the Hero Act before Congress now...We would like to see the Act passed and I will be examining and discussing it this week with our Congress."

This same day interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and Powell met, and in their post-meeting debriefing with the press, the Hero Act was again mentioned, this time by Latortue: "What we talked about in defense of the private sector's interests is the Hero Act. The Hero Act is something we are discussing that favors, in fact, some of the activities of the private sector."

The Haitian-American Investment Bank – PromoCapital – has recently been circulating propaganda, foregrounding a recent letter of Sen. Dewine's, that calls on his "colleagues" for support of the Hero Act. In this letter, Dewine refers to the provisions in the Hero Act as "the same as those provided to the least developed countries in Africa through the African Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA]." The emphasis of the Act, in Dewine's words, is on "trade incentives," "foreign direct investment" and "economic development," which will culminate in "spill over effects for the rest of Haiti's population." We should briefly look to AGOA for indications as to the impact that similar legislation might have on Haiti.

"The main effect of AGOA," as reported by Patrick Bond in Zmag in 2001, "is to link aid to economic reform, by which is meant the dismantling of state regulatory environment. There are no benefits, and the costs include clear manifestations of deepening structural adjustment and deregulation." Indeed, many consider AGOA to be an 'African NAFTA.'” Widespread opposition to AGOA exists "because it is a capitalist policy whose aim is to undermine political sovereignty and economic choices of African states by imposing privatization, trade liberalization and other anti-working class policies."

The AGOA was seen as combining "the worst terms of both NAFTA and harsh IMF structural adjustment programs" while benefiting primarily "huge US corporations." Last year, Bill Fletcher of the Transafrica forum assessed AGOA's impact: "AGOA has been a real mixed bag, but overall it's a sham...Exports continue to be largely oil...AGOA doesn't carry with it human, environmental and labor rights to protect people in areas where production is supposed to be taking place." Quite simply, according to Fletcher, "The notion that AGOA has actually benefited African countries is a gross misrepresentation." 

The AGOA makes stipulations that allow for effective US unilateral control over the conditions that are to be met by African countries. Of course, a different level of control will exist in the case of Haiti, as the Bush Administration is spearheading Haiti's "reconstruction" – a familiar and loaded term that followers of US foreign and trade policy are well aware of. Noriega has already stated that the US will be facilitating the updating of Haiti's Commercial Code "in order to create the right environment for growth and wealth creation." At the top of their latest circulation, PromoCapital pledges allegiance to the US State Department by quoting Roger Noriega's AEI speech. A closer look at the "Haitian Diaspora" to which Noriega refers seems in order.

Judging by some of the names on the list of PromoCapital shareholders and founders, this legislation has been 13 years in the making. At least nine of the seventy people named as PromoCapital shareholders and founders were known or suspected financial backers of the 1991 military coup, which overthrew President Aristide and proceeded to slaughter well over 3,000 people. These people had their assets blocked by the US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control under the Clinton Administration, until 1994.

The Haitian military and FRAPH murderers were supported by some of these same people, and recent developments make it appear logical that they have once again supported a coup, with the intent to derail democracy once again in Haiti. This time around, the coup had to be planned differently so as to give these coup-backers turned "bankers" free reign to further pillage the country economically while terrorizing those who dare to explore their democratic political consciousness. The triumvirate of Haiti's elite, the illegitimate Latortue regime, and the Bush Administration (in addition to the equally reprehensible roles played by France and Canada) could not have developed without a unified denial of the coup, along with a denial of human rights abuses and political persecution.

Besides the coup-backers, there are many other notable persons on the PromoCapital list, such as Axan Abellard, a resident of Florida who was on the short list for Prime Minister in early March with eventual PM Gerard Latortue. Or Hans Tippenhauer, one of the most outspoken of the Group of 184 "leaders" during the build-up to the coup. Tippenhauer publicly referred to the "rebels" that were terrorizing Northern Haiti as "freedom fighters" long before Gerard Latortue similarly praised them on March 20, 2004. Also on the list are several powerful individuals who control a great deal of Haitian wealth, such as Dumas Simeus, Danielle Jean-Pierre, Albert Levy, Henri Deschamps, and many others.

Deschamps, for example, has his hands in much of the media in Haiti, and has connections to USAID. Simeus is the Chairman of PromoCapital and runs the largest Haitian-American-owned business in Texas. Overall, the web of corporate connections that make up much of the PromoCapital shareholders and founders list, is extensive. I expect that further investigation will yield some considerable insight into the "modus operandi" of the planning and execution of the recent coup.

Before February 29th, the US did not publicly state its allegiance to the "democratic opposition" in Haiti. The mainstream press never explored the relationship between the US lending institutions and "civil society," even though multiple lending institutions are either known or alleged to have had financial connections to the opposition. USAID in particular has already stated its support for PromoCapital's "Haiti Reconstruction Fund," and are clear that "The departure of President Aristide presents us now with an opportunity to rebuild and move forward." This position, in addition to the Latortue Regime's having recently received the full endorsement of the Bush Regime, has evolved in the short span of six weeks, since the "resignation and willing departure" of President Aristide.

At this point, any notion of the Haitian people having the opportunity to decide for themselves how to proceed with and determine their own future, is being shoved down the memory hole by powerful interests with the strength of steadfast denial. The Hero Act, vigorously pursued by Haitian elite and the Bush and Boca Raton Regimes, will likely be in place before the Haitian people even get to cast their next vote. Herein lies the crux of Plan Haiti: polarize or eliminate the existing democratic political opposition, while militarizing the country (with impunity) to prevent popular uprisings from emerging.

Any elections will be far from legitimate and will not, as Powell stated, "put the country back on a constitutional footing." Latortue discussed with Powell the ground rules of the future "democratic process," which were agreed to by "the political parties [excluding Lavalas, and] the civil society groups...We have also agreed that no one in this government or in the former government will participate in the administration as long as they have not renounced the use of guns and corruption." Latortue neglects to explain how "former officials" will be able to voice such a renunciation, given that they are largely in hiding from lynch squads who are doing the dirty work of Latortue and the Boca Raton Regime, paving the way toward "a new beginning" and "a future of hope for the Haitian people."

As other details are emerging regarding the US's role in training and funding the Haitian "rebels" in the Dominican Republic, and a rumored US military occupation of Haiti's strategic Mole St. Nicolas (situated on the Windward Passage, facing Cuba), one has to wonder at what point any of this will be made public knowledge. (See “US accused of training Haitian rebels in Dominican Republic.”) As of this writing, Haitian citizens are bearing the most painful and violent consequences of (yet another) US destabilization campaign. They are being targeted for persecution due to their pursuit of democracy and freedom, and for their desire to fulfill their human right to self-determination. The United States understands history and knows how to make sure it repeats itself in Latin America and the Caribbean. If US policies proceed unabated, the chances are good that never again will Haiti's poorest be invited to the table of democracy, for no such table can exist while people are force-fed harmful neoliberal programs while staring down the barrel of a gun.

Anthony Fenton is an independent journalist/political activist from Vancouver, B.C. Recently, he accompanied the Quixote Centre Emergency Observation Delegation to Haiti.



April 29 2004
Issue 88

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