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17172: torx: Esser: US Corporate Media Distort Haitian Events (fwd)

From: torx@joimail.com

From: Dominique Esser  torx@joimail.com

US Corporate Media Distort Haitian Events
The Ambulance Chasers or How Many AP Photographers Can Dance
on the Head of a Pin?

Part 2 of a series by Kevin Pina
from http://BlackCommentator.com

Immediately after Transparency International took its turn
trying to beat the Haitian government’s credibility
senseless, the so-called independent voices of the US press
stepped in to deliver a few more uncritical yet fatal blows.
The message of these so-called independent voices was
uncannily similar and nearly indistinguishable: Amiot
Metayer was a demon created by the devil President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The underlying theme was that the
Haitian government deserves to fall because it has brought
violence on itself through its own actions. Never mind that
the violence against the government is being led by Jean
Tatoune, a former member of the CIA-inspired Front for
Advancement and Progress in Haiti or FRAPH, who has a
history of betrayal where Metayer is concerned.

On October 12th, novelist Amy Wilentz wrote in the Los
Angeles Times, “At the end of September, a thug from one
of Haiti's notorious shantytowns was murdered, his body left
for the flies, both his eyes shot out by whoever did the
deed. By all accounts, Amiot Metayer was not a good man, but
the future of Haiti may turn on his assassination.”

To add more of her famous artistic license Wilentz
continues, “Metayer's killing is in the grand style, down
to the shot-out eyes, signifying perhaps that he had seen
too much. That's the Haitian street interpretation, in any
case.” This last sentence, despite its disclaimer, was
clearly written to give credence to the opposition charge
that Aristide had killed Meteyer in order to silence him.

Like tag-team bullies in a one-sided brawl, Jane Regan then
took her turn in an article published in The Christian
Science Monitor on October 16 entitled, “ Former Haitian
allies become enemies: Weeks of protest have followed the
killing of a government opponent.” Echoing Wilentz and the
opposition’s accusation against the Haitian government,
Regan wrote, “Metayer’s pro-government ‘Cannibal
Army’ gang, some of whose members are armed, used to
harass Aristide-opposition marches. Now, convinced that the
strongman was eliminated because he had become a nuisance,
the ‘Army’ has turned on Aristide and has kept Haiti's
fourth-largest city shut for more than three weeks with
violent protests and burning barricades.”

After Regan took her turn on the mat, long-time Aristide
opponent, novelist Herb Gold, followed with an article in
the San Francisco Chronicle on October 19th entitled,
“Haiti is the tragedy you can dance to: Iraq and
Afghanistan should take note of the Caribbean's failed
experiment in nation-building.”  Having recovered from
his hard work, sitting on the veranda of the Oloffson Hotel
in Port au Prince, Herb Gold wrote, “When I left Haiti a
few weeks ago, news came of the anonymous but unusually
precise execution of a thug named Amiot Metayer, leader of
the pro-President Aristide gang called the Cannibal Army.
One bullet to the heart, one in each eye.”  Smelling
blood and moving in for the kill Gold continued, “Under
other Haitian regimes, the president's personal enforcers
have been called Cagoulards, Tonton Macoutes, Attachés,
and now for the ex-saintly priest Aristide, the poetically
named Chimères, or chimeras. Metayer was an elite case, a

Besides giving nearly the same spin on events in Haiti,
these articles have more in common than meets the eye. 
One would find it hard to believe they could not manage a
single quote representing the views and opinions of the
hundreds of thousands of Aristide supporters in Haiti. Given
Wilentz, Regan and Gold’s rendition of the truth, these
people no longer exist.  It is probably too much to ask
given that the voices in support of Lavalas have been absent
from corporate media coverage of events in Haiti for quite
sometime now.  As was the case in Venezuela, the strength
of the opposition to the government is exaggerated while
pro-government support is at best, understated, and at
worst, not mentioned at all.

Perhaps the most glaring omission on their part is any
attempt to explain who Amiot Metayer really was. Was he just
“not a good man” as Wilentz would have us believe? Was
Metayer merely a “strongman” enforcer for Aristide and a
“megathug”, as Regan and Gold have claimed? As usual,
the context is missing because Metayer’s real history is
inconvenient to their one-dimensional message. It may be
inconvenient for these worthy scribes to put a human face on
Amiot Metayer, but his personal history must be told to
fully understand the impact of his murder. It also
contributes to understanding who would have the most to gain
by killing him.

Metayer was a native son of the coastal township of Gonaives
in Haiti. He grew up in a slum known as Raboteau. He was no
saint in his personal life, few of us are, and it was said
he would drink too much when stress got the better of him.
He could be hardheaded and self-serving but no one who knew
him questioned that he believed in putting the interests of
Haiti’s poor majority ahead of the wealthy elite and their
golfing buddies in Washington D.C.

Metayer joined the growing movement calling for the ouster
of the Duvalier regime at about the same time as his friend
from a rival neighborhood, Jean Pierre, a.k.a. “Jean
Tatoune.” Metayer’s lessons were hard won over the years

ihe struggled, first against the Duvalier regime as a youth,
and later as an adult against the military dictatorship that
overthrew Aristide in September 1991.

Amiot Metayer sacrificed much following Haiti’s last
military coup. He dropped out of law school because of his
determination that democracy and Aristide should return to
Haiti. He built clandestine networks of supporters who would
plaster Gonaives with the president’s photo when such a
simple act of resistance could easily get you tortured and
killed. Metayer was also one of the pioneers of  “flash
demonstrations” against the dictatorship where hundreds,
and sometimes thousands, of Lavalas supporters would appear
out of nowhere to protest for five minutes and then
disappear before the military and their henchmen arrived on
the scene. According to Brian Concannon, who works for the
Bureau des Avocats Internationaux, a group of lawyers
helping Haitian victims and the judiciary prosecute human
rights cases, “In Gonaives, especially later in the coup,
they would light tires and run.  The soldiers would come
and put it out, but not before a black cloud of resistance
rose above the Gonaives plain, visible for miles.”

Perhaps one of Metayer’s greatest weaknesses was his
loyalty to his friend Jean Tatoune even after the first in a
long list of personal betrayals. Tatoune informed the
military of his friend’s whereabouts and the strategy
being used to organize resistance against the dictatorship.
Tatoune’s betrayal led to one of the Haitian military’s
most infamous crimes during their rule, the Raboteau
Massacre. Jean Tatoune was rewarded with a new car and
money, and finally with a position in the CIA-inspired death
squad the Front for Advancement and Progress in Haiti or

In the now famous Raboteau trial, Colin Granderson, who
headed the joint United Nations/Organization of American
States' mission monitoring human rights, testified that by
early 1994, the repression had forced the resistance to stop
making public protests everywhere, except in Raboteau. 
The military took vengeance against Metayer by arresting his
father and brother and trashing the family’s house. They
beat one of his sisters, who was eight months pregnant, so
viciously her body expelled the small, bloodied corpse of
her unborn child. Afterwards, the US embassy offered
Metayer’s family political exile far from their homeland
as they have done with so many key militants of Lavalas
before and since.  While he encouraged his family to go
and the US government resettled them in the mid-western
United States, Amiot Metayer refused to leave and stayed
behind to continue the struggle.

The people of the Raboteau neighborhood in Gonaives still
recount how Metayer was forced to live in hiding after
Tatoune’s betrayal. They tell how he survived for a time
by sleeping in makeshift hammocks that hung under the toilet
in the small space above the excrement at the bottom of
larger outhouses. Half dead and feverish from being bitten
by rats and insects, he would later regroup to create a
network of small fishing boats off the coast where he would
live and continue to organize the resistance.

Metayer always remained loyal to his people after
Aristide’s return in 1994: he remained in the
neighborhood, living in his parent’s very modest home in
Raboteau.  He did not wear expensive clothes or drive
flashy cars.  He found jobs for the poor youth of
Raboteau, helped the sick out with medical bills and made
sure that people had enough to eat.  For this reason many
people in Raboteau continue to mourn his passing and hold
him in high esteem, including those who disapproved of some
of his tactics. Some say he was too heavy-handed in
responding to the opposition but others, who share his
fears, ask what could you expect from a man who suffered so
much under the Cedras dictatorship? This situation
intensified following pipe-bombings and drive-by shootings,
which were widely ignored by the international community,
during the last presidential elections. After the elections,
the political atmosphere was polluted even further when the
Democratic Convergence openly called for the return of the
Haitian military as part of its platform. As one observer
noted, “In their mad rush for power they had become so
hateful they would return the same military to power that
has historically been responsible for so much death and
suffering in Haiti, as long as it serves the purpose of
destroying President Aristide’s legacy. The one
incontestable achievement of President Aristide is that he
abolished those predators. And what of the poor who suffered
so much at the hands of the military? Can you not understand
how frightened they must be that the same military who raped
their mothers, sisters and daughters is being asked to
return to power by the opposition in Haiti? Can we not
understand how the brutal murder of 7,000 of their own
people, at the hands of the same military, frightens them to
their core, making them increasingly angry and defiant? Is
this really so difficult to understand as events unfold in
Haiti today?”

This was the reason, according to Haitian officials, that
president Aristide met with Metayer’s family in the
national palace to pay his condolences. It was to recognize
a man who is considered a hero by many in the struggle for
democracy in Haiti. Wilentz, Regan and Gold went for
straight-up demonization and omitted any reference to
Metayer’s history. This myopic approach to journalism only
served to bolster charges by the opposition that
Aristide’s meeting was only intended to buy Metayer’s
family off and keep them quiet. After reading the words of
this cacophonous trio wouldn’t you tend to believe the
opposition claim that this was the only motive behind the
president’s meeting with the family of his alleged victim?

What is the other important but widely ignored context to
Metayer’s killing? Just three days before his murder,
President Aristide assured the people of Haiti, and the
international community, that new elections were possible. A
press release dated September 19, 2003 confirms this:
“President Jean-Bertrand Aristide held a press conference
this morning reiterating that local and parliamentary
elections will be held this year. This comes a day after the
new US Ambassador to Haiti, James B. Foley, presented his
credentials to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide at Haiti's
National Palace.” Calling for elections that the
opposition is sure to lose is dangerous business in Haiti.

Next, Part 3

The Bush Administration’s End Game for Haiti

Kevin Pina is a documentary filmmaker and freelance
journalist who has been working and living in Haiti for the
past three years. He has been covering events in Haiti for
the past decade and produced a documentary film entitled
"Haiti: Harvest of Hope". Mr. Pina is also the Haiti Special
Correspondent for the Flashpoints radio program on the
Pacifica Network's flagship station KPFA in Berkeley CA.