Malign Neglect or Imperialism?
Date: Wednesday, October 26 2005
ZNet | Haiti
Malign Neglect or Imperialism?
NGOs Blind to Canada's Crimes in Haiti
by Nik Barry-Shaw; October 24, 2005
What is happening right now in Haiti is probably Canada's worst foreign policy crime in the last 50 years. The Canadian government helped plan and carry out the destabilization of Haiti's elected government, culminating in the February 2004 coup d'Útat/kidnapping of President Jean Bertrand Aristide by U.S. Marines and Canada's Joint Task Force 2. Since then, the coup-installed government and its death squad allies have waged an all-out war against Aristide's Lavalas movement and its supporters with the full and enthusiastic backing of Paul Martin's Liberal government.
Canadian police lead the UN police mission (UNPOL) responsible for training, vetting and overseeing the new Haitian National Police (HNP). Under their watch, hundreds of former Haitian Army (FAd'H) officers, death squad members and individuals who "have been involved in drug rackets, kidnappings, extra judicial killings or other illegal activities," have been integrated into the HNP, according to the Catholic Institute for International Relations. The result has been massacres, violent and indiscriminate raids on poor neighborhoods, summary executions, attacks on journalists and peaceful demonstrators and arbitrary mass arrests. Thousands have been killed and thousands more have gone into hiding or taken exile in another country. When asked about reports of these abuses by human rights groups and mainstream news agencies, Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew has scornfully dismissed all evidence as "propaganda which is absolutely not interesting."
Canada is also deeply involved in the functioning of Haiti's justice system. Deputy Justice Minister Philippe Vixamar is a direct employee of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and was assigned to his position by the Agency. In an interview, Vixamar revealed that the U.S. and Canadian governments play key roles in the criminal justice system, including paying high-level government officials. The prison system is massively overcrowded with hundreds if not thousands of political prisoners, including Lavalas presidential candidate and Amnesty International "prisoner of conscience" Father Gerard Jean-Juste. Meanwhile, death squad leaders such as Louis Jodel Chamblain are acquitted in sham trials. Special Advisor to the PM on Haiti Denis Coderre has been exceptionally duplicitous on the matter, claiming, without apparent irony, "Canada would not get involved in Haiti's justice system." Repression is the only means of holding power available to an illegitimate government pushing through an anti-popular program, as the installed regime of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has amply demonstrated. Canada helped craft the neoliberal plan for post-coup Haiti and has played a crucial part in propping up the corrupt cabal of technocrats and supporters of the former Duvalier dictatorship that forms the interim government. As part of this plan, subsidies for Haiti's impoverished farmers have been slashed, the minimum wage has been reduced and an extremely successful adult literacy program has been dismantled by the Latortue regime, while large businesses have been given a three-year tax holiday and ex-FAd'H soldiers have been paid the outrageous sum of $30 million in "back wages". The ground is also being prepared for the privatization of Haiti's state enterprises, a policy vigorously opposed by the Haitian people. The Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF), a documen! t outlining the priorities of the "transitional government" and the donor countries, touts "private sector participation" in state enterprises and makes clear the anti-democratic nature of these reforms: "The transition period . . . provide[s] a window of opportunity for implementing economic governance reforms . . . that may be hard for a future government to undo." Canada helped draft the ICF and has donated $147 million in support of it.
Straightforward graft is flourishing under the installed government. Early on, the Office of the Prime Minister was rocked by a corruption scandal that involved diverting 15,000 bags of rice destined for the poor of Port-au-Prince, resulting in the suspension of two high-level officials close to Gerard Latortue. Youri Latortue, nephew of the Prime Minister and security chief of the National Palace, has been dubbed "Mister 30 Percent" by the French press for the cut he takes on favours, and is reportedly involved with smuggling drugs and guns. Recently, the Haitian news service Agence Haitien de Presse revealed that the government had been writing monthly checks for 6,000 police officers, despite there being only 4,000 officers in the HNP.