|Since winning independence from the French 200
years ago through a revolutionary slave revolt, Haiti has seen
33 military coups. Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the man overthrown
in the two most recent ones.
In 1991, less than a year after becoming the first
democratically-elected leader in Haiti's history, Aristide was
overthrown by paramilitary death squads working closely with US
intelligence agencies. After a few years in exile, Aristide
returned to Haiti in 1994 in a US military plane to serve the
remaining few months left in his term.
In 2000, Aristide won the presidential election a second
time. Once again, a few years after being elected, Aristide has
been overthrown in a coup - by many of same men who led the
armed insurrection against him a decade earlier. People like
Louis Jodel Chamblain, the former number 2 man in FRAPH
convicted in absentia for 1994 Raboteau massacre and the
September 11, 1993 assassination of democracy-activist Antoine
Izméry; Guy Philippe, a former police chief who fled Haiti in
October 2000 after authorities discovered him plotting a coup
with a clique of other police chiefs who had all been trained by
US Special Forces in Ecuador during the 1991-1994 coup and Jean
Tatoune another leader of FRAPH, also convicted of massacre in
Two weeks ago after being taken by force to the Central
African Republic in what Aristide calls a US-orchestrated coup
d'etat, the Haitian president defied Washington this weekend and
returned to the Caribbean. He is now in Jamaica, just 130 miles
or so from Haiti.
I was one of two journalists allowed on the plane that took a
delegation of US and Jamaican officials to escort President
Aristide and his wife Mildred back to the Caribbean. As we
crossed the Atlantic on our way to Kingston, Jamaica, I had a
chance to conduct an extensive interview with President Aristide
on-board the Gulfstream jet.
Today we play Part II of my interview with Aristide, where he
discusses his time as president, the first coup, disbanding the
military and more:
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: We had an army of 7,000
soldiers controlling 40% of the national region. Not only they
led those coup, they had 32 coup d'etats, the last one 33. After
the coup they led in 1991, they and members of a criminal
organization, well known FRAPH, killed more than 5,000 Haitians.
Some people don't like to hear 5,000 because for them it could
be double or more than that. Let's say more than 5,000 people
were killed by the army at that time with the help of the
well-known criminal organization called FRAPH. When i went back
on October 15, 1994, it was obvious that the Haitian people
couldn't go ahead with killers. The Haitian people wanted people
to protect them, not people to kill them. So, the army was
disbanded. Now they reached a way to have more drug dealers,
like Guy Philippe who was arrested for drugs in Panama, sent
back to Santo Domingo and then back to Haiti with the assistance
of those who pretend to restore peaces to Haiti, Chamblain was
already convicted twice and now he is back. So having criminals,
drug dealers, thugs who were convicted to come back with an
army, then when they guess what we had through those 32 coup
d'etats, leading Haiti from misery to misery while we want to
move from misery to poverty with dignity, this is maybe what
they have in their minds.
AMY GOODMAN: When the CARICOM U.S. Group came and
negotiated the U.S.-backed peace plan that you accepted with
Noriega, Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State
representing the United States, how did they refer to the
opposition, how did they refer to the people you just described
as Jodel Chamblain, Guy Philippe?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: The meeting we had with
members of my government and diplomats and heads of
international delegations in my office, Mr. Noriega referring to
those thugs terrorists said "I will call them
killers", that's what he said. I'm shocked when today I
still see members of the international community acting with
those killers. More than that accompanying Guy Philippe, a
killer, to distribute food to people, so trying to project
another image of him when as a well-known drug dealer and a
killer he should be put in jail. So, it is scandalous. The world
needs to know that. The more they listen to what is going on in
Haiti today, the more they may join the Haitian people to
prevent the killers to continue to do the same, killing people.
AMY GOODMAN: Jean-Bertrand Aristide on board the
chartered jet as we headed over the Atlantic. The U.S.
Delegation headed by congress member Maxine Waters and the
Jamaican Member of Parliament Sharon Hay-Webster. Bringing the
Aristides to Jamaica, this as members of the Bush administration
from Condoleezza Rice to Donald Rumsfeld warned that
Jean-Bertrand Aristide should not return to this hemisphere. I
asked Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide if he could talk
about the killing of the justice minister in Haiti in 1993;
Louis Jodel Chamblain, one of the current so-called rebels, was
convicted of murdering Guy Mallory. This was Jean-Bertrand
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: From 1991 to 1994, the
Minister of Justice, Guy Mallory, Father Mallory's son, Antoine
Izmery, the people they killed [inaudible] lost their lives
because they were calling for democracy, the restoration of the
constitutional order for my return to Haiti. After I returned,
we had a trial. And Chamblain was convicted by a court of us.
Twice. In spite of that, nothing happened only impunity and
assistance and heavy machine guns were provided to him and the
orders to have them appearing as rebels, as if they were not
anymore killers, people already convicted. This is the cynical
AMY GOODMAN: We have our September 11, 2001. Chile has
their September 11, 1973, the day the Salvador Allende died in
the palace as the Pinochet forces rose to power. You have two
separate September 11ths, 1988 and 1993. Can you describe what
happened to you and your parish, your congregation on September
11, 1988 at San Jean Bosco?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: We were praying, we were
celebrating our faith in god, and for us god means love, peace,
justice, freedom, solidarity. Getting together to pray means
empowering all those who share the same faith. If you stand up
for justice, then you cannot close the eyes to not see poor
people willing to have jobs, to eat with dignity. Once you stand
up for that, then you may have people not only rejecting you but
also putting fire in a church, burning people. This is what
happened that day, September 11, 1988. When we had it elsewhere,
not in a church but in a country like Chile and President
Allende willing to stand up for human beings, for the rights to
eat, the rights to go to school, the rights to have health care,
and so and so, people who don't care about human beings rejected
that coup d'etat. When on September 11th 2001, something
tragical happened in the United States called terrorism, we saw
the world rejecting terrorism. Asked if when, for instance, we
have Guy Philippe, Chamblain, well known as terrorists, drug
dealer, convicted people, armed by those who pretend helping
Haiti to kill Haitians, it's like if...it's not anymore
terrorism. So, racism, somehow is linked to that cynical game.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! "The War and
Peace Report" I'm Amy Goodman. As we continue with the
interview with President Aristide, I had asked the Haitian
president on board this flight where he and his wife traveled
for 17 hours to get back to Jamaica, you can go to our website
at democracynow.org to see the chronicle of this trip: brought
to the Central African Republic by the United States with dozens
of U.S. military, and security taken there, the early hours of
February 29, taken out of Haiti, not knowing where they were
going. They said told by the -- one of top men in the U.S.
Embassy, Louis Moreno who had come to the President's residence,
that he would be going to address the press. Instead, he was
rushed on to a -- he was rushed on to a U.S. plane. I asked
Jean-Bertrand Aristide if he could go back in time, as we look
at the current rebel leaders like Chamblain, convicted of the
murders of not only the justice minister in 1993, Guy Mallory,
but the Haitian businessman Antoine Izmery in 1993 about this
significance of Haiti's September 11 in 1988, the massacre at
the church, Jean-Bertrand Aristide's church. He had been a
priest. And that happened September 11, 1988. Five years later,
September 11, 1993, the Haitian multimillionaire businessman
Antoine Izmery join add procession to remember the victims of
the massacre and he, too, was executed. I asked Jean-Bertrand
Aristide about this.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: On September 11, 1988, they
burned the church, they burned people, killed people as I
explained. While I was in exile, Antoine Izmery went to the
church of Sacre Coeur on the same day, on September 11, to
remember what happened in 1988, to bring his solidarity to the
parents, relatives, friends of the victims and also to empower
those who are peacefully fighting for our return, which was
clearly the restoration of democracy to Haiti. And the same
people who made it happen in Saint-Jean Bosco made it happen
again in Sacre Coeur. The worst was already bad, but it's
shameful when we see today, the same hands, killing people,
burning houses almost the same way.
AMY GOODMAN: Jodel Chamblain was convicted of Izmery's
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Yes. Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Yet when we watch television, where most
people get their news and information, we almost never hear them
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: We will not, since last
November, they brought to Haiti a good number of journalists. We
fought hard for the freedom of press. So we will continue to
respect the rights of every single journalist. But
unfortunately, what happened from November to today is a tragic
event where it seems money was spend to bribe journalists, not
all of them, but some of them, money was used to finance radio
stations playing the card of so-called opposition, linked to
Chamblain, linked to Guy Philippe, being their voices. When Jean
Tautoune was convicted, put in jail, escaped from jail, and
giving interviews to those radio stations, to TVs, which kind of
impunity are we talking about? Which kind of freedom for the
press are we talking about? Is it freedom for the press as a
cover for impunity? Or as a full place where you use your rights
to talk, to criticize, to say what you want? Yes. We had that in
Haiti where journalists could talk. But all the journalists who
were in Haiti from November to the coup or kidnapping were not
there just to tell the truth. But also some of them were there
because they were paid to relay the lives which strayed this
information around the world, paving the way for the kidnapping.
AMY GOODMAN: Who paid them?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Every year, for the past
couple of years, $56 million U.S. Dollars went to Haiti to
finance political parties, -- , radio stations, TV stations,
journalists, who got all visa from embassies, lying to discredit
our fragile democracy, our money from those $56 million U.S.
dollars. Recently, for the past year, it became $70 million U.S.
dollars. So, this is well known. It is not a secret.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you're saying the U.S. government
forces poured this money in.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: That money came from abroad:
U.S., Europe, through E.U., and organizations like that.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you see similarities --
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: And maybe this is the last
question for T.V.
AMY GOODMAN: Ok. Do you see similarities with what
happened with you and what is continuing to happen with Hugo
Chavez in Venezuela?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: They say that I was behind a
coup which happened in Venezuela and still behind what is going
on in Venezuela.
AMY GOODMAN: The International Republican Institute?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Correct. They say they have
their hands through what is happening in Haiti. Often, they
organize seminars for the so-called opposition where they had
Guy Philippe, Chamblain and members of the Haitian opposition,
training them to kill, to talk after killing, to project an
image of democratic opposition with heavy machine guns on your
shoulders, blood on their hands, etcetera. So, this is, from my
point of view, the same hands behind the same things happening
in two different countries.
AMY GOODMAN: You have information that people who
support you are people who were part of Lavalas are being
threatened or killed in Haiti right now?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: A good number of them are in
hiding. But because they are cowards, but because this is a
strategy to spend time where they hay not kill you, to come back
in a peaceful way and continue to support democracy calling for
the restoration of the constitution of order. Others were
killed. I'm very sad when they say about those who were killed.
Others left the country by boat to go to Florida. And,
unfortunately, when the house is on fire, those who put fire in
the house are the same who send back the victims fleeing the
fire put in that house. Violation of international law and
attraction to have more people because as long as you continue
to kill people in the country, you invite them to come to your
country because they will continue to flee that occupation.
AMY GOODMAN: When you were ousted in 1991, for the
three-year periods, there was not only a mass movement in Haiti,
but a mass movement in the United States of support and
solidarity. Do you have any message you want to send to the
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I will say thank you to all
the American people who supported democracy with the Haitian
people and who continue to support the Haitian people supporting
democracy in Haiti. We want elections in Haiti. Free, fair,
democratic elections. That means one human being, one vote,
which is a democratic principle. We want to respect that
principle. I know how the American people care for that
democratic principle. They want to see their vote respected. As
we in Haiti want to see the vote of the people respected. By
supporting us, the American people support what they want to be
supported in their own country and because any democratic
process, which is well protected, may be good for any country
where they want democratic systems. I think somehow Haiti and
the United States, we are linked by democracy and democratic
principles. As we are linked to all the countries where they
care for that democratic principle, one human being, one vote,
that's why I thank by expressing our gratitude to our friends
living in the U.S. or being U.S. citizens. We think they find
energy to continue to build solidarity with the Haitian people.
Once we have Haitians in Savannah, I having -- having solidarity
with the American people to free the American people. Once we
got our independence in Haiti, at that time Guyana by itself
represented almost half of the territory of the United States at
that time. So, we have in common many things. Historic ties.
Principles, democratic principles, which makes it good for us to
continue to work hard for democracies, which has to flourish not
only in one country or in two countries, but in our region.
AMY GOODMAN: Very last question. You were going to
Jamaica now, which is very close to Haiti. Do you see yourself
returning to Haiti?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I always paid attention to the
voice of the Haitian people. As I will continue to pay attention
to their voice. Paying attention to their voice respectfully I
will know what to do. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: President Aristide, thank you very much.
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