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#84: This Week in Haiti 17:15 6/30/99 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
June 30 - July 6, 1999
Vol. 17, No. 15
DESTABILIZATION CAMPAIGN SHIFTS INTO HIGH GEAR
Right-wing political agents infiltrated and whipped up a group of
young men to violently occupy the Lafanmi Selavi orphanage,
founded by former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and then
threaten to burn it down last week, according to sources close to
the orphanage. The young men, who are disgruntled, unemployed
graduates of the orphanage, also claim they were manipulated and
have apologized for the action, which was put down by the police.
Aristide founded Lafanmi Selavi (The Family is Life) in 1986, and
since that time anti-democratic forces, known as Macoutes, have
repeatedly attacked it as a symbol of the former priest's
political commitment to the poor. In 1991, the Macoutes even
burned down the orphanage, killing four boys.
After Aristide's return to Haiti in 1994, the center, located in
the upscale Bois Verna neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, was
rebuilt and expanded. Today it provides shelter, food, education,
and health services to over 300 boys and girls generally between
the ages of 6 and 16. It also houses Radio Timoun and Television
Timoun, radio and television stations run by the children. There
are also regular field trips to pick crops at the state
university's farm and to visit Aristide's home in Tabarre, where
the kids swim in the pool, have a meal, and speak out about
issues of concern to them through the microphone of a small
public address system set up on the grass.
In the early morning hours of Jun. 24, a number of young men
armed with handguns, machetes, clubs, rocks, hand-grenades, and
Molotov cocktails entered Lafanmi Selavi's walled compound,
despite the guard posted at its gate. A few hours later, several
dozen other young men also forced their way in. Out of the 40-odd
occupiers, it was unclear how many were alumni and how many
provocateurs, but several said that orphanage directors had
promised to find them jobs when they had left the center. "We
want work," said one demonstrator. "With Lafanmi Selavi, we
stopped washing cars and sniffing drugs, but beyond that there is
nothing." Haiti suffers from an estimated 75% unemployment rate
and has about 200,000 children who live in the streets.
The demonstrators also claimed that Aristide had used them and
the orphanage to become rich, a common right-wing refrain. They
then began throwing rocks and bottles at passing vehicles and
pedestrians and threatened to burn down the center, along with
the radio and television studios. Soon the police arrived and
lobbed tear-gas grenades over the wall. As the occupiers fled the
smoke-filled compound, the police arrested about 30 of them.
Several escaped arrest, and no arms were recovered. One
policeman and four kids were injured in the melee.
"These were people who were manipulated to create disorder since
we are only some days from an election," said Dany Toussaint, a
leading member of Aristide's Lavalas Family party (FL), who came
to the scene. Toussaint, who was the former head of the Interim
Police Force and now has his own security company, identified a
number of those arrested as known zenglendo, professional
criminals who are often veterans of Duvalierist or putschist
military or paramilitary forces.
On Jun. 28, about 100 members of the Association of Young
Progressives of Lafanmi Selavi (AJPL) held a press conference
where they profusely apologized for the incident. "There were 17
of us who had not yet received our letter to get work, and we
wanted to show our solidarity with them," said Hubert Saintil, an
AJPL spokesman. "But at that moment, there was infiltration by
the zenglendo and everything got messed up... We don't want
people butting into our dealings with Titid [Aristide's nickname]
whom we greatly love, and we don't want any hypocritical
politicians sticking their nose in our business."
But it was a little too late to hope for that. Outspoken
putschist politician Reynold Georges, speaking in the name of his
party ALAH as well as the Patriotic Movement to Save the Nation
(MPSN), a neo-Duvalierist alliance, attacked Dany Toussaint's
declarations about the young people involved in the incident. "If
they have become zenglendo, it is due to the education that they
give them [in Lafanmi Selavi] which made them zenglendo,"
Georges said. "They are exploiting the children, exploiting their
ignorance, exploiting their youth."
The police say they are still investigating the roots of the
incident, which seemed to have been brewing over the previous
week. Most Haitians, however, subscribe to the theory that the
attack was work of the "laboratory," as the invisible alliance of
the Pentagon, CIA, Republicans, and Macoutes is called. In street
corner discussions and radio programs, commentators note the
recent departure from Haiti of the International Republican
Institute (IRI), the right-arm of Washington's National Endowment
of Democracy, which meddles in the internal political affairs of
sovereign nations around the world. In a Jun. 18 press release,
IRI President Lorne W. Craner announced that his organization was
pulling out because "IRI staff have faced increasing intimidation
and violent threats that come against a background of flagrant
killings of political figures." Craner also directly charged that
the violence is coming "from Aristide's camp."
IRI produced a long list of examples of aggression, which many
have scoffed at. For instance, a scuffle outside a funeral last
August where a popular organization leader was roughed up is
termed "an assassination attempt." Legal posters, demonstrations,
declarations, and graffiti protesting IRI's meddling in Haiti are
also deemed "threatening." In fact, almost every act of violence
in the country is presented as somehow masterminded by Aristide
and directed against IRI.
Michael Zarin, IRI's regional program director for Latin America
and the Caribbean, followed up with Jun. 25 essay in the Wall
Street Journal where he writes that of "Haiti's 200-year pattern
of undemocratic governance," Aristide is "the most recent
incarnation." Never mind that Aristide was elected with 67% of
the vote, passed on the presidency to a duly elected successor
three and a half years ago, and is not even in office now.
Nonetheless, Zarin concludes: "As long as Mr. Aristide and the
culture of violence he promotes remain on the scene, Haiti's
courageous democrats will continue to face an uphill struggle for
a genuinely pluralistic, tolerant society." And who are the
"courageous democrats" with whom Zarin works? Men like Reynold
Georges, Hubert Deronceray, and other reviled neo-Duvalierists
who spearheaded and championed the 1991 coup d'etat against
Aristide which claimed the lives of about 5000 Haitians. Does
Zarin dare equate that 3-year Republican-sanctioned terror with
some anti-IRI graffiti, posters, and remarks made between
individuals in bars?
And why didn't IRI pull out of Haiti during the coup? Because its
"courageous democrats" were happy and working with the
"pluralistic, tolerant" military dictatorship. No wonder the
Haitian people so disdain Zarin and his crew.
One purpose of IRI's pull-out and accusations is to play the
victim for North American public relations points. "It is a
maneuver aimed at tarnishing the image of Jean Bertrand
Aristide," said Yvon Feuille, an FL leader. "Everybody knows that
the work of IRI in the country is to undermine the bases of the
Lavalas Family and the accusations are a part of this all out
But the major reason behind IRI's departure is to clear the way
for more occult forces, according to another analyst. "The IRI
has announced its departure but the embryos it has created are
remaining in the country to sow trouble," noted Sterne Jean-
Joseph, an officer at the Aristide Foundation for Democracy.
In the weeks ahead, the country can expect to see even more
trouble sown by lumpen goons, right-wing politicians coached by
IRI, and the "forces of darkness" coached by the CIA. The goal is
to derail Aristide's march toward re-election in Dec. 2000. Until
then the "laboratory" will likely try to create the chaos which
usually precedes, and is used to justify, coups and
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