The front pages of major American newspapers and the talking heads on the news channels would have you believe that the resignation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide from his presidency in Haiti was voluntary. Questions have been raised, however, about the manner in which his departure unfolded. In short, there is mounting evidence to suggest that Aristide was removed involuntarily from power by American forces.
Randall Robinson, founder of TransAfrica and a close friend to Aristide, was interviewed on CNN by Wolf Blitzer on Monday afternoon about the events unfolding in Haiti. Robinson, who is one of the few people to actually speak with Aristide since yesterday, said, "We have undertaken a coup against a democratically elected government in Haiti." Congressman Charles Rangel, who also spoke to Aristide, said later on CNN, "He was kidnapped. He resigned under pressure. He and his wife had no idea where he was going. He was very apprehensive for his life."
For the last several weeks, rebel forces have waged war against the government of Aristide. Hundreds of Haitians have been killed, many of whom were supporters of Aristide. As the rebel forces drew closer to the capital, the status of Aristide's leadership became more uncertain. An attempt to craft a power-sharing agreement between Aristide and the rebels failed when the rebels refused any terms that kept Aristide in office. The endgame began when Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had previously been espousing a hands-off policy regarding American intervention, told Aristide that the security being provided him by America would be removed. Such an action would have left Aristide completely exposed to the surging rebel forces.
Among the leaders of the insurgency, according to several reports, are Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former Haitian army officer sentenced to life in prison in connection with the 1993 assassination of political activist Antoine Izmérym. Also involved is Jean-Pierre Baptiste, who was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a 1994 massacre. Both were leaders of FRAPH, or Haitian Front for Advancement and Progress. FRAPH has been accused of being a CIA-backed organization that carried out terror operations against opponents of the military regime which ruled the country from 1991 to 1993.
The story began to unfold on Sunday evening with a report from Agence France-Presse, which quoted the former caretaker of the Haitian president as saying, "The American army came to take him away at two in the morning. The Americans forced him out with weapons. It was American soldiers. They came with a helicopter and they took the security guards. (Aristide) was not happy. He did not want to be taken away. He did not want to leave. He was not able to fight against the Americans."
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, interviewed on the radio show Democracy Now, had also spoken to Aristide and buttressed the comments made by Robinson and Rangel. "It's like in jail," said Waters of Aristide. "He said that he was kidnapped. He said that he was forced to leave Haiti. He said that the American embassy sent the diplomats. They ordered him to leave. They said you must go now. He said that they said that Guy Phillipe and U.S. Marines were coming to Port Au Prince. He will be killed, many Haitians will be killed, that they would not stop until they did what they wanted to do."
Congresswoman Waters continued by saying, "They took them where they did stop in Antigua then they stopped at a military base, then they were in the air for hours and then they arrived at this place and they were met by five ministers of government. They are being held and they are surrounded by military people. They are not free to do whatever they want to do. We talked maybe fifteen minutes and then the phone clicked off. But he, some of it was muffled in the beginning, at times it was clear. But one thing that was very clear and he said it over and over again, that he was kidnapped, that the coup was completed by the Americans, that they forced him out. They had also disabled his American security force that he had around him for months now; they did not allow them to extend their numbers."
"I heard it directly from him, I heard it directly from his wife," said Waters, "that they were kidnapped, they were forced to leave, they did not want to leave, their lives were threatened and the lives of many Haitians were threatened. He did not resign. He said he was forced out, that the coup was completed."
A number of key questions remain unresolved at this point. If Aristide was indeed removed from power by American forces and spirited away from Haiti by force, how was he able to make telephone calls to Rangel, Robinson and Waters? If the Bush administration had an active hand in the removal of Aristide, what was their motivation? Was there a strategic or economic reason to remove Aristide that served the policy goals of the Bush administration? Or, faced with a degenerating situation on the ground, did the administration lunge for expediency and push for the removal of Aristide as a substitute for actual diplomacy?
Whatever the answers, this much is clear. A democratic government has been overthrown. Allegations of active American involvement in the coup have been raised, and no answers have been provided. As with much of Haiti's violent history, a picture of these unfolding events has been obscured by blood and tears.
William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of Truthout.org, where this article first appeared (www.truthout.org). He is a New York Times and international best-selling author of three books: War On Iraq, available from Context Books, The Greatest Sedition is Silence, available from Pluto Press, and Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism, available from Context Books. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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