MABE Orphanage -- Port au Prince, Haiti

MABE Orphanage -- Port au Prince, Haiti

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Return Of Aristide And Haiti’s Future

by Bill Fletcher, Jr
NNPA Columnist
The Seattle Medium, 3/30/2011


It happened on March 18th. After more than seven years, the democratically elected—yet ousted—president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned home. Accompanied by his family as well as allies, such as actor/activist Danny Glove,r and noted journalist Amy Goodman, he returned to, in his words, make a modest contribution to Haiti.

Aristide returned immediately prior to a runoff presidential election between two individuals, a former first lady and an entertainer, that has about as much legitimacy as a crap game with shaved dice. Haiti, the victim of a U.S.-supported coup in 2004 against Aristide, followed by occupations and a disappointing administration of Rene Preval, was not permitted to have a truly democratic election for president. The proof? Neither former President Aristide nor his party (Fanmi Lavalas) was permitted to participate in the election. Permitted by who? At the end of the day, by the U.S.A. Had George Bush still been the President of the United States, I would have understood such a position, even while objecting. But, Bush is long gone and his successor, President Obama, not only refused to permit the participation of Fanmi Lavalas in the recent elections, but made its objections to the return of Aristide as clear as the beautiful blue of the Caribbean Sea.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Former President Aristide on His Party’s Exclusion from Haiti’s Election: “Exclusion is the Problem, Inclusion is the Solution”

With Aristide's Return Comes Hope

We don't know how Haiti will react to an election that excluded his party, but the former president will take his cue from the people

Selma James
The Guardian, Monday 21 March 2011

The return of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his family to Haiti ends seven long years of campaigning – the 92% of voters who elected him had never accepted his overthrow in 2004 by a US-backed military coup. They risked their lives against a UN occupation that killed and brutalised thousands to demand his return. And last Friday he flew back from South Africa, where he had been living in forced exile, to a rapturous welcome in Port-au-Prince.

Former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide greets followers
on his to his  home in Port-au-Prince on 18 March.
Photograph: Andr S Mart Nez Casares/EPA
I was one of those waiting to greet him at his modest house, from where he was kidnapped seven years ago. Some of the waiting crowd were former political prisoners, others were visiting from exile. Yet others, disheartened after so many defeats – dictators, coups, hurricanes, earthquake, then cholera – had returned from Haiti's diaspora.

We listened on transistor radios for news of his arrival. Finally Aristide's plane had landed, and he was addressing supporters in a number of languages. He was back on Haitian soil two days before the fraudulent election from which his party has been excluded.

Much later his car was heard in the driveway. As the barrier that protected the house began to slide open, mainly young people began to flood the path and climb the walls, until we were surrounded by a torrent of the joyous. Lavalas, meaning "flash flood", was the name of Titid's party, and here it was. In their midst, hidden from our view, was the Aristides' car.

We waited another hour to be escorted inside through the singing and dancing crowd. I was welcomed into the arms of his wife and my friend Mildred Trouillot. She was unafraid, elated to be back and part of this historic event. Her girls, 14 and 12 years old, had to see how their father was greeted, she told me, so "they understood who he was. Nothing else can explain it". The girls' non-negotiable demand was that they bring their beloved little dog.

Later we were brought to meet their father. Aristide spoke about learning from the people, a practical strategy now.

He embraced me as the living connection with my late husband CLR James's Black Jacobins. Thabo Mbeki, the president of South Africa when Aristide first arrived there, had told him that when Mbeki read this history of revolutionary slaves triumphant, he felt confident they would end apartheid. It was not so much a book as a weapon for freedom fighters. James had implied in the book that that was his intention. How unfair that he never knew of his real success.

On election day we visited Cité Soleil, an impoverished area which has been an Aristide stronghold. We heard that two days earlier the presidential candidate Michel Martelly, a popular musician associated with the Tonton Macoutes – the Duvalier murder squads that terrorised Haiti for decades – had been driven out by Aristide supporters. UN soldiers from Brazil were all around the polling station, menacing, rifles at the ready.

We asked people about Aristide and the elections: they were happy he was back, but he wasn't on the ballot and they urgently needed to hold a government to account.

Yet the presence of Aristide in Haiti has immediately shifted everyone's situation. When he landed he spoke of "the humiliation of the people under tents" and said that "modern-day slavery will have to end today".

What's clear is that the 1804 revolution never ended. The US and the Haitian elite seem as determined as 19th-century France to keep Haitians enslaved, though sweatshops have replaced plantations and UN tanks Napoleon's army.

Nobody knows yet how Haitians will deal with the rigged election results. Aristide spoke to us about "learning from the people". He is likely to take his cue from their collective response. Having achieved the victory of his return, the movement has again a powerful, compassionate voice.

Barack Obama, Oscar Romero and Structural Sin

Greg Grandin | March 23, 2011
Published on The Nation (http://www.thenation.com)

In El Salvador, on the last leg of his Latin American tour, President Barack Obama paid a highly symbolic visit to the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero, shot through the heart as he raised the Eucharist chalice during a mass, in March 1980. His assassination was ordered by Salvadoran military officer Roberto D’Aubuisson [1], a School of the America’s graduate.

As El Faro [2]—an important online source of independent Central American news—put it, Obama’s homage to Romero is a “truly extraordinary” gesture, since D’Aubuisson not only ran private-sector financed death squads but was a founder of ARENA, an ultraconservative political party that until 2009 had governed the country for two decades and enjoyed excellent relations with Washington.

Today, El Salvador is led by President Mauricio Funes, head of a center-left coalition government that includes the FMLN, the insurgent group turned political party Ronald Reagan wasted billions of dollars and over 70,000 lives trying to defeat in the 1980s. By lighting a candle for Romero, Obama, it might be said, was tacitly doing in El Salvador what he wouldn’t—or couldn’t—do in Chile: apologize for US actions that resulted in horrific human tragedy.

Obama in San Salvador focused on trade and immigration and celebrated Central America’s transition away from the civil wars of the 1980s and early 1990s. But hope, in reality, is in short supply; it would be difficult to exaggerate the crisis that today engulfs Central America, one that might very well turn out to be as bad as the 1980s.

Squeezed by Plan Colombia to the south and Mexico’s disastrous War on Drugs to the north, Central American violence has skyrocketed. Whole regions in Honduras and Guatemala are either overrun by narcos, or militarized by security forces, themselves deeply involved in criminal activity, including drugs, illegal logging, car theft and kidnapping. The explosion of biofuels production and the intensification of mining (particularly gold mining) has created an ecological disaster and generated widespread social dislocation. Protesting peasants, especially in Honduras and Guatemala, have been checked by a revived planter-death squad alliance, though now “death squads” generally go under the euphemism “private security.” An increasing number activists are turning up dead. In February, the bullet-ridden bodies of four Q’eqchi’ Mayan community leaders—Catalina Muca Maas, Alberto Coc Cal, Amilcar Choc and Sebastian Xuc Coc [3]—were found in a river.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

South Africa working to help Aristide return, says US should discuss any objections with Haiti

By DONNA BRYSON, Tuesday, March 15

PRETORIA, South Africa — South Africa is helping ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide return to his homeland from exile in Pretoria, and any problems Washington has with that should be taken up with Haiti, the deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.

Marius Fransman told reporters that Aristide could return to Haiti in the next few days, or a week. A South African official last week said Aristide planned to return before a presidential run-off vote on Sunday. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner acknowledged Aristide’s right to return from South Africa, but he said returning this week “can only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Haiti’s elections.”

Toner urged Aristide to “delay his return until after the electoral process has concluded to permit the Haitian people to cast their ballots in a peaceful atmosphere.”

Fransman said: “It is not our responsibility if America feels that he should only go in two weeks or three weeks or four weeks.

“They need to engage the Haitian government,” he said.

Aristide has lived in South Africa since leaving Haiti in 2004 on a U.S. plane. He accused U.S. diplomats of kidnapping him. Washington denies the charge.

The former slum priest was Haiti’s first democratically elected president and remains popular with the poor.

Aristide has been saying for months that he wants to return to help his homeland recover from a devastating January 2010 earthquake. The way was opened when Aristide’s diplomatic passport was delivered last month.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Haiti wants Aristide: let him go

Jean-Bertrand Aristide's picture is held up by a demonstrator protesting
against Haiti's President René Préval. Photograph: Ramon Espinosa/AP
Even now, to prop up a fatally flawed election, Washington is trying to sabotage the return of Haiti's ousted former president

Kim Ives
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 March 2011

Jean-Bertrand Aristide's picture is held up by a demonstrator protesting against Haiti's President René Préval. Photograph: Ramon Espinosa/AP
The arrogance of Washington's renewed efforts to thwart former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return to Haiti from a seven-year exile in South Africa is mind-boggling.

During the 29 February 2004 coup d'état, in the middle of the night, a US Navy Seal team, under the direction of American deputy ambassador Luis Moreno, kidnapped President Aristide and his wife Mildred from their home in Tabarre and flew them, under guard in an unmarked US jet, into a first stint of exile in the Central African Republic. Since then, tens of thousands from all over Haiti have taken to the streets several times each year to demand his return.

During the US-appointed post-coup de facto government of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue (2004-2006), Haitian police and United Nations occupation troops regularly gunned down the demonstrators and carried out murderous assaults on Aristide strongholds in popular neighborhoods like Cité Soleil and Belair, killing dozens of residents, including women and children. When in late March 2004, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters and a team of other VIPs rescued the Aristides from virtual house arrest in CAR and flew them in a private jet to Jamaica, the Bush administration was livid. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice spent an hour on the phone threatening then Prime Minister PJ Patterson to get Aristide out of there.

Aristide to end exile and return to Haiti before vote, lawyer says

Supporter of former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide are
eagerly awaiting his return to the country ahead of March elections.
by Rich Phillips, CNN  March 13, 2011


(CNN) -- Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide will end his exile and return to Haiti within the next week or so, ahead of the country's elections, his lawyer told CNN Saturday.

"He is headed back to Haiti," said Ira Kurzban, Aristide's longtime attorney. "We don't know when yet, but it will be before the elections."

A presidential runoff is scheduled for March 20.

Aristide was Haiti's first democratically-elected president. He was toppled in 2004 after a bloody revolt by street gangs and soldiers and has since been living in exile in South Africa.

The Haitian government issued a new passport to Aristide in February.

His lawyer says the former president simply wants to go home.

"He has no interest in meddling or being involved in the election. He has no interest in being involved in politics," said Kurzban.

According to his lawyer, Aristide is concerned about the perception created by returning to Haiti just days before the election. He is more worried, however, about the possibility of not being able to go back at all after the vote, if the new administration is not receptive to his return and revokes his visa, Kurzban said.

"He wants to go home. He's been in exile for seven years," Aristide's lawyer said. "He wants to get his medical school up and operating given the conditions in Haiti. That's his interest."

Aristide, who was whisked out of the country in a U.S. jet, has claimed his ouster was orchestrated by Western powers. The former Roman Catholic priest, considered by many to be a champion for the poor, remains both a beloved and polarizing figure.

He has often expressed his desire to go home and reiterated that wish in January after former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier returned to Haiti.

Aristide's return would come at crucial time in Haiti's history.

The Caribbean nation's efforts to recover from a devastating 2010 earthquake have been compounded by a cholera epidemic and political chaos sparked by allegations of fraud in the presidential elections held in late November.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Haiti: U.S. Asks South Africa to Delay Aristide’s Departure

March 14, 2011
Haiti: U.S. Asks South Africa to Delay Aristide’s Departure
By REUTERS

The Obama administration said Monday that the former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide should refrain from returning to Haiti before the presidential runoff election on Sunday. A State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said that Mr. Aristide, above, had the right to return, but doing so this week “can only be seen as a conscious choice to impact Haiti’s elections.” A delay, Mr. Toner said, would “permit the Haitian people to cast their ballots in a peaceful atmosphere.” He said the United States was asking South Africa, where Mr. Aristide has lived in exile since 2004, to delay his departure. Mr. Aristide’s lawyer, Ira Kurzban, said the United States “should leave that decision to the democratically elected government instead of seeking to dictate the terms under which a Haitian citizen may return to his country.”

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Latin America Breaks Free

By Benjamin Dangl, The Progressive, February 2009

Five years ago, when Evo Morales was a rising political star as a congressman and coca farmer, I met him in his office in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He was drinking orange juice and sifting through the morning newspapers when I asked him about a meeting he just had with Brazilian President Lula. “The main issue that we spoke about was how we can construct a political instrument of liberation and unity for Latin America,” Morales told me.

Now President Morales is one of many left-leaning South American leaders playing that instrument. This unified bloc is effectively replacing Washington’s presence in the region, from military training grounds to diplomatic meetings. In varying degrees, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Venezuela are demonstrating that the days of U.S.-backed coups, gunship diplomacy, and Chicago Boys’ neoliberalism may very well be over for South America. The election of Barack Obama also gave hope for a less cowboy approach from Washington.

While many of the current left-of-center leaders in Latin America were elected on anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal platforms, the general scope of their policies varies widely. On the left side of the spectrum sit Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. They have focused on nationalizing natural resources and redistributing the subsequent wealth to social programs to benefit the countries’ poor majorities. They have also enacted constitutional changes aimed at redistributing land and increasing popular participation in government policy, decision-making, and budgeting. Chávez, Morales, and Correa were also more outspoken than other leaders in their critique of the Bush Administration.

Lula, Michelle Bachelet of Chile, and Nestor and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina have been more moderate in their approach toward confronting neoliberalism, but have been trailblazers in human rights and in their dealings with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Though they haven’t been as radical in their economic and social policies, they have shown solidarity with Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

A conflict in Bolivia this past September proved to be a litmus test for the new regional unity. Just weeks after a recall vote invigorated Morales with 67 percent support across the country, a small group of thugs hired by the rightwing opposition led a wave of violence against Morales’s supporters. The worst of these days of road blockades, protests, and racist attacks took place on September 11 in the tropical state of Pando. A private militia allegedly funded by the rightwing governor, Leopoldo Fernández, fired on a thousand unarmed pro-Morales men, women, and children marching toward the state’s capital. The attack left dozens dead and wounded.

Just before this violence hit a boiling point, Morales kicked U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia Philip Goldberg out of the country, accusing him of supporting the rightwing opposition. Morales said of Goldberg, “He is conspiring against democracy and seeking the division of Bolivia.” Numerous interviews and declassified documents prove that the U.S. Embassy has supported the Bolivian opposition. Goldberg denies these charges. At a protest in which effigies of opposition governors and American flags were burned, Edgar Patana, the leader of the Regional Workers’ Center of Bolivia, spoke to reporters of Morales’s decision to kick out Goldberg: “If he hadn’t expelled him we would be tearing down the U.S. Embassy today.” Chávez followed Morales’s lead and kicked out the U.S. ambassador in that country. The Bush Administration responded by ejecting both nations’ ambassadors from Washington.

Friday, March 11, 2011

An Assessment of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution at Twelve Years


Feb 2nd 2011 , by Gregory Wilpert - Venezuelanalysis.com


On the 12th anniversary of Chavez’s first oath of office as president of Venezuela on February 2, 1999, one can easily get the impression from the international mainstream media that Venezuela is trapped in a terminal spiral towards becoming a state socialist dictatorship. One reads about a failing economy, presidential authoritarianism, rampant crime and corruption, arbitrary nationalizations of companies, and persecution of the private media and of opposition leaders. If all of this is true, then why does President Chavez continue to enjoy widespread support within Venezuela, according to polls? True, recent electoral successes have been relatively narrow for Chavez, but he and his supporters continue to maintain the support of approximately half the country’s population.[1] [3] More importantly, opinion polls regularly show that Venezuelans say their political system is more democratic and their economy is functioning better than the polities and economies of most other countries in the region. Leaving aside the theoretical possibility that the opinion polls and electoral results are false, how can it be explained that Chavez and his government continue to enjoy this much support when Venezuela is supposedly a nightmare of crime, repression, and a failing economy?


I argue that Venezuela is far from being a failed leftist experiment. Rather, there is substantial evidence that just the opposite is the case. Venezuela has made significant progress in the past 12 years of Chavez’s presidency towards creating a more egalitarian, inclusive, and participatory society. Indeed, these advances explain the government’s ongoing popularity. At the same time, though, one must recognize that there are significant shortcomings that have either persisted throughout Chavez’s presidency or in some cases are new. This helps to explain why the Chavez government’s popularity seems to have peaked with Chavez’s 2006 reelection (winning 62.8% of the vote in December of that year) and has gradually declined since.


In order to explain the relatively high level of support after 12 years in office I will first present some of the most important advances of the Chavez government in the areas of polity, economy, society, and international relations. I will then also take a look at what some of the most important shortcomings are and what factors or obstacles might explain the persistence of these shortcomings. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but merely a summary of what I consider to be the most important advances, shortcomings, and obstacles.

America Campaigns to Keep Aristide in South Africa

March 10, 2011
Black Agenda Report


by Glen Ford


If diplomacy is a form of lying, then the United States’ efforts to delay indefinitely the return to Haiti of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is a triumph of the most foul diplomacy. Aristide has a passport, but no permission to land in Haiti and, it appears, no permission to take off from South Africa, where he has lived in exile since his overthrow in a U.S.-backed coup in 2004. The outgoing government of Aristide’s onetime ally, President Rene Préval, provided the passport.


A ‘distraction’
But the U.S. – which really runs the country in a troika with France and Canada – is unalterably opposed to an Aristide comeback. After last year’s devastating earthquake, the Americans said Aristide would be a distraction from the job of national reconstruction. Very little in the way of reconstruction has gotten done since then, but the Americans now claim that Aristide would distract from the runoff elections scheduled for March 20.


Three out of four Haitians were already distracted from taking part in the first round of elections in November, without Aristide’s presence. That was undoubtedly because Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas, by far the most popular political grouping in the country, was prohibited from participating – also at the insistence of the Americans and the tiny Haitian elite with which they are allied.


Brazil silent
Brazil acts as rent-a-cop for the United Nations mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, but WikiLeaks documents show the United States has pressured Brazil to use its influence with South Africa to keep Aristide’s feet planted firmly on African soil.


Brazil dearly wants to get a seat on the United Nations Security Council, and feels it cannot afford to make the Yankees angry.


South Africa claims it’s under no pressure from anybody, but then claims it has an obligation to consult "all the role-players to work out the ideal conditions for him to go back." Clearly, those "role-players" are the Americans and their French and Canadian co-conspirators.


Aristide’s lawyer says he will not attempt to leave South Africa without permission. Of course, if South Africa gave its blessing to an Aristide flight to Haiti, the U.S. would be forced to abandon the charade and give Aristide a yes or a no, in its own voice – which would expose Washington as the occupying power in Haiti. Gone would be all pretensions that the Americans favor Haitian democracy.


In hopes of putting the U.S. on the spot, a group of social activists, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, Randall Robinson, Dick Gregory, and 11 others sent a letter to South African President Jacob Zuma.


No obstacles
The letter expressed hope that President Zuma "can assist the Aristides in making their transition as soon as possible." It said, "All the last remaining obstacles to the Aristides’ return have been removed," and expectations have been raised among Haitians that Aristide will soon arrive. But even Aristide’s lawyer, Ira Kurzban – who was wildly optimistic only a few weeks ago – seems resigned that Aristide won’t be going home any time soon.


So all the Haitian people have to look forward to is this month’s elections that they didn’t want anyway, for candidates that were essentially forced on them by the United States – an exercise that nobody but Americans believes has anything to do with democracy.


Glen Ford is executive editor of BlackAgendaReport.com. E-mail him at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rev. Jesse Jackson, "An Open Letter to Our Brother, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide"

To Our Brother, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide:

We wish to extend to you our full support for your return to your beloved homeland, Haiti.

As people of faith, we know that the road to democracy and justice is not an easy one. These years of enforced exile have been painful -- not only for you and your family, but for the people of Haiti. We join the call from all over the world for this exile to end.

The poor of Haiti, those you have represented with such tenacity and dignity over all these years, continue to demand your presence. We hear their voices and we join their call.

In the strongest terms, we urge the United States government to cease its opposition to your return. There can be no democratic development while a democratically elected leader is banished. And there can be no true reconstruction without the participation of the majority of Haiti's people.

In the aftermath of the terrible earthquake of 2010, your return will provide hope and lift spirits. Please know that when you get to Haiti, we will be there with you.

You are in our hearts and in our prayers.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Archdiocese of Detroit

Rev. Phil Lawson, Interfaith Program Director, East Bay Housing Organizations

Rev. C.T. Vivian, Civil Rights Activist, Atlanta, GA

Rev. Sir John Alleyne, Church of England, UK

Dr. Amer Araim, Dar-ul-Islam Mosque, Concord CA

Father Roy Bourgeois, Founder, SOA Watch

Kathy Boylan, Catholic Worker, Washington, D.C.

Rev. Dr. Lorenzo Carlisle, Pastor, Faith Healing Prayer Deliverance Christian Center, Oakland, California

Rabbi David J. Cooper & Rabbi Burt Jacobson

Kehilla Community Synagogue*, Oakland California

Sister Maureen Duignan, OSF, Executive Director, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

Father Renaud Francois, Montreal, Canada

Sister Stella Goodpasture, OP, Justice Promoter, Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose

Dr. Jacqueline Grant, Womanist and Director of Systematic Theology, Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, GA

Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler, Senior Pastor, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C. and National President, Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice of the United Church of Christ

Father Lawrence Lucas, Our Lady of Lourdes, R.C. Church, Harlem, NY

Rev. Dr. Carolyn McCrary, Womanist and Director of Pastoral Care, Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, GA

Rev. Paul Nicolson, Chair, Zacchaeus 2000, UK

Dr. Itihari Ture, Director of Center for African Biblical Studies, DeKalb County, GA

Mama Zogbe, Chief Priestess, Mami Wata Healers Society of North America

Mamissii Makena Zannu, Priestess, Mami Wata Healers Society

Reverend Doctor Nozomi Ikuta, Interfaith Prisoners of Conscience Project

*for identification purposes only