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Haiti on the brink

CAP-HAITIEN, Haiti (AP) -- Armed civilians loyal to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide stoked burning barricades and blocked roads to Haiti's second-largest city for a second day Wednesday, vowing to keep rebels from advancing and to stem a violent uprising that has killed at least 42.

Sporadic gunfire crackled over the northern port city of Cap-Haitien overnight in an apparent attempt to intimidate any rebels or their supporters.

Under cover of darkness, with the city blacked out because there was no fuel for generators, attackers looted a warehouse in the city, carrying away bags of rice, flour and other staples, witnesses said.

A police outpost in the remote northwest hamlet of Bassin Bleu was torched by gunmen Monday in a hit-and-run operation, Radio Vision 2000 reported. It said police had abandoned the town Sunday.

The uprising began Thursday in Haiti's fourth-largest city, Gonaives, presenting a dangerous turning point in a political crisis that began after flawed elections in 2000. A similar revolt in 1985 also started in Gonaives and led to the downfall of the 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship.

cut/ ...  http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/international/AP-Haiti-Uprising.html?ex=1077460459&ei=1&en=26809bf60de5c44e
Radio Netherlands
Haiti on the brink
by Tim Fisher, 11 February 2004

Haiti appears to be on the brink of a major humanitarian crisis as armed groups opposed to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide battle police for control of several towns and cities in the north of the country. The UN's World Food Programme says deliveries of aid supplies are proving difficult because of the security situation.

The latest wave of violence in the Caribbean nation, which began last Thursday, has claimed at least 42 lives and is being described by some as the strongest challenge thus far to the once enormously popular president.

President under fire
Opposition to Mr Aristide - a former priest who was elected for his first term in 1990 - has been growing since controversial elections in 2000, which returned him to power for a second time, and the start of his ruling by decree last year. Once regarded as a champion of the people, and welcomed back enthusiastically when returned to power by the United States after he was deposed by a military coup in 1991, the president has recently been labelled by some as a "dictator and a despot" and accused of violating human rights.

However, while Mr Aristide has accused the opposition of pushing for a coup to force him from office, the "rebel" groups now operating in the north of Haiti appear not to be linked to his political opponents.

According to Christian Girault, an expert on Haitian affairs at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, at least some of the people now in control of the city of Gona´ves are contraband "traffickers [who] don't see any benefit in siding with Aristide any more."

Indeed, opponents of the president in the capital, Port au Prince, admit they want to see Mr Aristide go, but say they are not connected with the armed groups involved in the current fighting.

Relying on the people
Haiti has been without an army since 1995, which leaves the police force of some 5,000 officers with the task of trying to maintain the status quo in a nation of close to 8.5 million people. Prime Minister Yvon Neptune has admitted the police cannot restore order alone, but says the government is also relying on the people to back the president. Pro-Aristide militia groups have already struck back against the rebels, particularly in Haiti's second city, Cap-Haitien, but foreign involvement might be the solution if things escalate, says Christian Girault:

"Probably the international community would have to impose mediation [... ] and the most important influence in that case would be the United States."

The United States has a history of intervening in Haitian affairs, having invaded the country without a fight in 1994 and subsequently steering it back to civilian rule under President Aristide. But it has no immediate plans to intervene this time, and has been calling for a political solution to be brokered with the help of a body such as the Organisation of American States.

Power vacuum
Christian Girault doubts whether President Aristide will serve out his full term, due to end in roughly two years time, but is concerned that the Haitian opposition offers no clear alternative to the country's current leadership:

"The political opposition is very divided, and there also a big risk of some strong men coming and wanting power just for the power, with no programme at all. It's disturbing."

Others, too, fear the possible scenario of the incumbent president being ousted without there being a credible political force to take over the reins.

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50,000 haitians killed during U$ invasion in 1915 11.Feb.2004 08:31

basshead

in efforts to crush peasent revolt. Will it happen again?

is coup linked to 11.Feb.2004 10:38

future US military invasion?

The last coup against Aristide led to the US military occupation of Haiti to "restore democracy" with Bill Clinton as the hero who "saved" the Haitian people from political turmoil. There is evidence that the coup was a collaboration between the CIA and Haitian elites who were afraid Arisitide was too much of a populist. The Lavalas Aristide supporters were the working poor who were suffering in the sugar cane fields and baseball stiching sweatshops, Aristide was at that time making changes in their interest, but not in the interest of the wealthy elites who profit from the labor of the poor. Compounded to this, Castro supported Aristide and hoped he could uplift the Haitian people..

The CIA and wealthy Haitian elite could not tolerate these changes, so a coup was needed to let Aristide know who is really in charge. (USA). By "restoring democracy" to Haiti, Bill Clinton looked like a hero, when the CIA most likely orchestrated the coup in the first place..

Modern day politics are not neccesarily that different, though Aristide may have changed or sold out, the dynamics between the elite and the poor are still depressingly similar. Enough riots and violence would eventually lead to the US military called in to "restore democracy", and make sure that the economic system still benefits the elite at expense of the majority of impoverished sweatshop/sugar plantation workers..

This is not just about sugar and baseballs, it is about freedom from slavery and African independence from European colonialism. Haiti was the first place in the Americas to free themselves from slavery, and racist European colonial powers have been punishing Haiti ever since..

France still claims Haiti owes them money for France's economic upheavel following Haiti's independence from French colonialism. This debt effects the economy of modern Haiti, possibly contributing to the current state of poverty. Is it coincidence that Haiti's current turmoil coincides with the 200 year anniversary of independence?

Though not always visible on the surface, if a nation is experiencing internal strife, that does not rule out external CIA interference. Islands exist geographically, not politically..

American intervention 12.Feb.2004 11:42

Major W

About a month ago I watched Colin Powell give a press conference. One of the reporters asked him a question about violence in Haiti, and Powell said, "Oh, I'm glad you brought that up." It was so odd because those guys are never glad about any question that a reporter asks, plus Powell didn't have much to say about Haiti, just something to the effect that he hopes the violence subsides. It was odd though.

The previous commenter is right about the CIA. Even in Haiti where the CIA would stick out quite obviously, you have to be suspicious about every event in the world, especially when they coincide with other major events. Consider Iraq--it's a huge world event unfolding every day, so when something happens in Palestine or Haiti or other places with American influence, you have to wonder if it's merely a distraction from the major event--Iraq.

An interesting add-on to this unfolding story--I just read that the Bush regime is considering placing Haitian refugees, if there are any, on Guantanamo Bay, and that the base could hold 20,000-40,000 people. This opens up a new can of worms, namely a fresh new insult to Castro, and an extension of the American policy of letting lighter skinned Cubans come to Florida, but trying to keep the darker skinned Haitians away from Florida at all costs. When you think about it, it almost seems racist.

Powell and others in the State Department are currently drawing up plans for "bringing democracy to Cuba." This was announced in October by Bush (go to Google, type in Bush/Cuba). Since then there's been a pre-emptive propaganda attack against Castro, and even some military posturing at Guantanamo Bay. So when something happens in Haiti, we should all be a little bit suspicious. When Powell says he's glad that a reporter asked him a particular question, we should be a little bit worried.