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17628: Esser: Haitian Opposition and Corporate Media Press for Regime Change in Haiti (fwd)

From: Dominique Esser torx@joimail.com

Haitian Opposition and Corporate Media
Press for Regime Change in Haiti

from The Black Commentator  Issue 69

In Haiti, as in Venezuela, corporate media act as public relations
agents for a political opposition nurtured by the U.S. government.
Truth is shamelessly obscured by relentless quotes from opposition
figures pursuing American goals of “regime change,” a euphemism for
the overthrow of popularly elected governments.

With scant resources but plenty of courage, Associate Editor Kevin
Pina exposes himself daily to the dangers of telling the truth about a
nation under siege by a superpower. Pina has lost friends to
opposition violence (and gained a newborn baby boy) during his most
recent reporting from Haiti. Meanwhile, the corporate press hobnob
with U.S. embassy officials and fraternize with the Haitian elite,
among the most corrupt in the hemisphere.

Below are two links that demonstrate the hopeless bias of corporate
shills who pretend to be reporters for Reuters and the Associated
Press. The Reuters report is blatant propaganda for the opposition,
who are made to seem victims, while the AP dispatch mentions 21
killings since mid-September, but gives the impression that
pro-Aristide forces are committing most of the violence.

Reuters, December 12

Associated Press, December 14

Yet, as ’s Kevin Pina reports, the ongoing violence is in fact a
deliberate provocation by the U.S. backed opposition, bent on creating
a climate of anarchy to justify outside military intervention.

Following Pina’s article are reports from a Haitian government press
spokesperson and the Haitian Press Agency (AHP)
– The Publishers

US-Backed Haiti Opposition Emboldened Student "Revolt" Unmasked
By Kevin Pina, in Port-au-Prince

The Washington-backed opposition Group 184 has emerged as the true
leadership behind a recent series of marches and street demonstrations
calling for the ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Under the guise of an autonomous student movement against Aristide,
members of Group 184 and its ally, the Democratic Convergence, assumed
clear leadership roles in the attempts to lay siege to the National
Palace in Port-au-Prince on December 11th and 12th.

In a bizarre political twist, Lavalas Senators Dany Toussaint and
Pierre Prince Sonson, joined former military officer Himmler Rebu and
businessman Andre Apaid, of the Democratic Convergence and Group 184
respectively, in calling for Aristide to step down on December 11th.
The greatest irony is that this is the same opposition that had
accused Toussaint, a former military officer and Lavalas Senator, of
having masterminded the assassination of one of Haiti’s most popular
journalists, Jean Dominique. Toussaint now alleges that Aristide had
set him up to take the fall for the murder.

On December 12th Dany Toussaint was quoted as stating that Aristide
had only three choices left to him; resignation and exile, prison or
death. One Lalavas observer commented, “Toussaint is trying to
indemnify himself against a re-opening of the Dominique case and
accusations of drug-trafficking leveled against him by the DEA. He
thinks that joining the Washington-backed movement against Aristide
will provide him with immunity from prosecution. He fears a DEA
indictment more then the emergence of the Aristide ‘dictatorship’ he
claims compelled him to join the opposition. He was also aware that
his political career in Lavalas was coming to an end.”  In a now
well-established pattern in Haiti, Senator Sonson declared that
Aristide and Lavalas militants had threatened his life, giving him no
choice but to join the opposition.

Amid heavy police security and a large contingent of international
corporate media, the December 11th opposition demonstration saw nearly
fifteen thousand people take to the streets calling for President
Aristide’s resignation. A number of them were armed with rocks and
clubs studded with large metal spikes and nails. Chanting, “Lavalas is
a minority and we are the majority,” the demonstrators made their way
down to the front of the National Palace where a small contingent of
Lavalas supporters had taken up defensive positions behind police
erected barricades. Lavalas leaders stated they were determined to
avoid a direct confrontation and a potential bloodbath fearing it
would provide a pretext for the Bush administration, and its
surrogates in the OAS, to intervene militarily in Haiti.

The Haitian police were finally forced to fire tear gas and discharge
warning shots when the opposition demonstrators attacked a police car.
The crowd swung at the police car with spiked clubs before forcing it
to drive through the front line of demonstrators and relative safety
on the other side of the police line. Minutes later, the police and
media were taken by surprise as the same protestors hurled live
teargas canisters that had been stolen from the police car in the
earlier melee. The police responded by firing several volleys of
warning shots into the air and then proceeded to disperse the crowd by

Class and Color

The demonstrators then headed up to the wealthy suburb of Petion-Ville
to reassemble under the leadership of Group 184 and the Democratic
Convergence. As they began to descend Route Delmas back towards the
palace, observers could not help but be struck by the leadership role
assumed by the much lighter-skinned members of Haiti’s mulatto elite,
personified by businessman Andre Apaid and his lieutenants. This stood
in stark contrast to the swelling numbers of exclusively black faces
in the Lavalas counter-demonstration waiting for them in front of the
National Palace.

While the opposition stated this was an example of the diversity of
the movement opposed to President Aristide, many in Lavalas pointed
out that it was Apaid’s class who traditionally ruled Haiti by buying
the loyalty of the now defunct Haitian military. One Lavalas militant
summed it up this way, “In addition to the personal fortunes they have
amassed in Haiti, Apaid and his class have received a lot of financial
backup from Washington and Paris. This is traditional reactionary
politics of the wealthy elite rearing its ugly head once again in
Haiti. Since there is no longer a military for sale to the highest
bidder, they have now resorted to purchasing demonstrators with black
faces to serve as a front for them. There is no difference between
these paid mercenaries and opportunists than the black servants in
Apaid’s household. When they don’t do as they are told, he will fire
them. Just as when he does not do what he is told by Washington, they
will fire him. Anyone who mistakes Apaid and his friends as leaders of
a democratic movement representing the interests of the black poor
majority would do well to re-read their Haitian history. If he were
really interested in breaking the apartheid-like system we have in
Haiti, he would have helped make things work long ago. He would have
supported us when we asked the wealthy elite to pay their taxes to
help improve the country. He would have sat at the table with us in
sincere dialogue instead of letting Washington use him to block our
every move towards changing the conditions of the poor black majority.
Antoine Izmery he is not.” (Antoine Izmery was a wealthy mulatto
businessman and Lavalas supporter assassinated by paramilitary
auxiliaries of the former military known as attachés in September

Campaign of Terror

The opposition demonstration ended before arriving at Haiti’s National
Palace but another series of dramatic events was to take place the
same evening. As night fell a campaign of terror began that would
remain unreported and ignored by the Haitian press and the
international corporate media.

In two separate but similar incidents, unidentified cars drove through
the poor neighborhoods of Cite Soleil and La Saline firing
indiscriminately at pedestrians only to disappear into the night.
Three people were killed and six wounded in the drive-by campaign of
terror. A third incident took place near the National Palace itself,
resulting in the cold-blooded assassination of Andre Jan-Marie, the
Program Coordinator of the government’s literacy program in
Petion-Ville. As Andre got out of his parked car, he was shot once
through the heart and once in the head. Palace security rushed to his
aid and took him to General Hospital where he was pronounced dead on
arrival. Andre Jan-Marie was a member of the development oriented
popular organization the Society of Providence and Union for Economic
Development in Petion-Ville (SOPUDEP). He was also one of the founders
of the SOPUDEP School that serves the poorest children in Petion-Ville
and is housed in the former mansion of Duvalier assassin and drug
dealer Lionel Wooley.

Politics as Theater

The opposition had planned a second day of protest on December 12th
calling for Aristide’s resignation. By 4 a.m. Lavalas militants began
paralyzing the capital with burning barricades at all major
intersections. By 8 a.m. more than 30,000 Lavalas supporters had
massed to defend the National Palace. A group of about 200 opposition
protestors under heavy police escort and led by Andre Apaid, marched
from downtown Port au Prince and arrived in Petion-Ville at 11 a.m.
Once there they were met by scattered bands of Lavalas supporters who
had not received the word to stay away and began throwing rocks.
Contrary to claims by the opposition that the Haitian police show
deference to Lavalas protestors, the police forced the Lavalas
supporters away from Petion-Ville’s central market with teargas as the
opposition cheered.  This seemed to refute opposition charges that
freedom of speech is impossible, and their exaggerated claims that
conditions are worse in Haiti than they were following the coup of

The protestors numbered about three hundred strong as the event took
on a carnavalesque and party-like atmosphere.  Members of Haiti’s
mulatto elite mixed with a few well-known Haitian intellectuals and
artists who congratulate each other and give statements to an eager
Haitian and international press. Meanwhile, several of the poorer
black protesters in the opposition contingent were seen openly
threatening known Lavalas members with reprisal once Aristide is
forced from office. One protestor brazenly threatened a bystander,
“Once Aristide leaves I am coming after you. You better get ready!!”
Abandoning all pretense of professionalism, emotional members of
Haiti’s press corps were caught provoking people in a passing pickup
truck, “Fuck your mother, I know you are a attaché!” (the paramilitary
death squads under the Cedras dictatorship). Another taunted, “Come
down and get me.”

Finally the marchers wandered off in what seemed like an aimless
fashion, in search of more encounters. A market woman who had quietly
watched the madness commented, “I guess that’s what they mean by

Read Kevin Pina’s previous reports on the U.S.-backed offensive
against the Aristide government:

Part 1 Propaganda War Intensifies Against Haiti, October 30

Part 2 U.S. Corporate Media Distorts Haitian Events, November 6

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"
http://store.globalexchange.org/harvest.html . Mr. Pina is also the
Haiti Special Correspondent for the Flashpoints radio program on the
Pacifica Network's flagship station KPFA in Berkeley CA.

 From Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison, National Palace

Rough notes on Friday's events that may have thus far not been
reported. (The following is based on a combination of radio broadcasts
of events and interviews (radio stations across the band), National
Television reporting, conversations with US and local press present at
events, and my own observations.

As I said in an earlier email, Thursday night popular organizations
came out to stand vigilant in front of the National Palace, to guard
the people's choice. Cars circulated Thursday night and Friday morning
(again when pro-government masses were taking to the streets) shooting
indiscriminately into crowds (approx. 10 shot, approx. 7 dead.  See
below for some details).

Nevertheless, in sharp contrast to the violent demands of the
opposition for the immediate overthrow of the government, the people
took to the streets by the tens of thousands Friday to call for
respect of the constitutional mandate of President Jean-Bertrand

Tens of thousands (seen on National Television and reports by press
present) of pro-government supporters marched through the streets of
downtown Port-au-Prince Friday morning to mid-day.  Amongst them were
women, children, elderly and students who identified themselves as the
Collective of University Students, and parliamentary and local
representatives from throughout the country.

The majority responds to the minority. With both hands thrust in the
air displaying all five fingers on each hand to represent the
five-year presidential term and the people's will to see the President
finish his term, people chanted, "Elections, YES!  Coup d'etat, NO!
Aristide for FIVE YEARS!"

People said if the opposition thinks they are the majority then why
don't they go to elections to prove it.  (To date the opposition has
sabotaged all efforts to hold elections.

The people expressed their commitment to democracy and its processes
saying that if after Aristide's term of five years is over, whoever
runs for President and is democratically elected, then their term will
be respected, no matter who it is, but that the five years of this
President must be allowed to finish its term.

Representatives of the Collective, a pro-government group of public
and private university students, spoke to the press (aired on National
Television) and said they also denounce the violent incident that took
place at one of the universities last week but that they stand for
education and that it is patriotic to go to school and as such they
stand against the closing of the schools.  Schools have been closed
because of the demonstrations held by the opposition.  They said yes
to schooling, no to closing the universities!

The people who flooded the streets - diverse members of the popular
movement - were heard on numerous radio stations across the band as
well as on the National Television. People also came out in different
towns and also were interviewed on the radio stations, particularly
Radio Ginen. Some spoke of a class struggle between the rich and the
poor. Many denounced the former army and reiterated the people's
determination not to go backwards.  In response to Dany Toussaint's
comments Thursday, many people interviewed said the people are
watching the former military, and now Dany is standing face to face
against the people once again as the military did.  They said they say
no to going backwards, and reiterated that the people have chosen
democracy as the way!

Saying that children need schooling, families need food and houses to
live in, the people said they will not go backwards, only forwards in
solidarity.  They asked for respect for the people's choice.

People said that the opposition is trying to boycott and sabotage the
upcoming 2004 bicentennial celebrations – plunging Haiti into violence
and paralysis. People said the masses are for Jean-Bertrand Aristide
and will continue to mobilize for 2004.

People said, There will be no coup d'etat in the country again.  The
people are clear, the Haitian people have stood up. No to anarchy, yes
to democracy!  They cannot bring down the resistance of the people! 
No matter what, the President will finish his term.

Some people addressed the university students who were working with
the opposition, asking them not to allow themselves to be manipulated
by the opposition by gifts of visas or money.  They also said they
don't want ambassadors to visit universities anymore because they are
luring people with offers of visas.

Some people interviewed said that former military and FRAPH members
had infiltrated the "student" march the day before (on Thursday)
swelling the numbers of persons in their march.

People said they will remain vigilant in the streets throughout the
country to demand respect for democratic principles.

Mario Dupuy, the Secretary of State for Communications, said, "We will
protect the rights of all citizens… All people should help the police
to protect the radio stations."  He also said, "We will continue to
mobilize and celebrate in peace our bicentennial of independence." The
police secured various radio stations.

I spoke with three journalists who each visited the hospital on Friday
at different times during the day.  They interviewed persons (two of
the journalists told me they were persons who identified themselves as
militants who were taking to the streets in support of the government)
who were shot either Thursday night or Friday morning by cars
circulating (some said without license plates) and shooting
indiscriminately at people.  One person was shot by the marketplace
downtown, one on Rue Pavee, one woman was injured when she fled from a
car that was speeding at people.

Kevin Pina interviewed these gunshot victims on film.  (Press can
contact me for his contact information).  (Evens Sanon photographed
these victims.  Press can contact me for his contact information). 
(Amy Bracken of Reuters interviewed these victims).  As I said, from
talking with these journalists I estimated that approximately 10
persons were at the General Hospital as a result of these shootings. 
Approximately 7 of them died on Friday.

As for the gentleman (Andre Jean-Marie) I talked about in my earlier
email, it seems that he had arrived in a car near the Palace Thursday
evening to join other popular organizations in front of the Palace to
give his support to the President, when he was struck by bullets. 
Kevin Pina describes the tragic incident as follows:
Dear Friends,
It is with great grief and sadness that I inform you of the
assassination of my dear friend Andre Jan-Marie the evening of
December 11, 2003. He was killed in a drive by shooting near the
National Palace by unknown assailants who apparently followed his
vehicle and waited for him to leave his car. Andre had gone to the
palace for a literacy campaign meeting earlier that same evening but
had returned to lend his presence to the thousands of supporters
camped in front of the palace to defend their constitutional
president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Andre was the coordinator of the government's literacy program in
Petion-Ville and his only crime was that he was committed to teaching
the poor majority how to read and write. He was also a co-founder of
the SOPUDEP school that serves the poorest children in Petion-Ville. I
am affiliated with the school and can testify to the difference it has
made to the community.

Andre is survived by his wife and two young sons. He is truly a hero
in the struggle for democracy on behalf of Haiti's poor majority. He
will always live in hearts and dreams for a better Haiti. God bless
you and keep you safe Andre Jan-Marie.

Kevin Pina December 13, 2003 Port au Prince, Haiti

Andre Jean-Marie, in his late thirties, was the official coordinator
of the literacy program in Petionville.  When the literacy centers
noticed that parents were bringing their children with them to the
literacy centers to also learn how to read and write, Mr. Jean-Marie
and others discovered that these very poorest of the poor families
could not access education for their children (see below). This brings
to mind the IDB loans, one of which is for expansion of schools, and
which still have not been released to the government of Haiti).

As a result, Mr. Jean-Marie and others founded and oversaw a
non-profit elementary school in Petionville (SOPUDEP). The building
the school was in was seized by the government and turned over for
non-profit use.

Just this week a peace and justice delegation from the Church of St.
Joan of Arc in Minnesota met with this school and interviewed its
director and Mr. Jean-Marie.  They have this interview on film.  The
head of this delegation is Paul Miller.  They returned to Minnesota
today as scheduled. (Press interested in contact information for Paul
Miller can contact me).

The Church of St. Joan of Arc described SOPUDEP in their delegation
materials prior to arriving in Haiti as follows:
"SOPUDEP.  A local community group that has started an elementary
school in the former residence of a former Ton Ton Macoute member. 
The school provides education for children whose parents could not
afford to send them to school and could not find a place for them in
the over crowded classrooms of the already overwhelmed public schools

 From the AHP (Haitian Press Agency) News:
Thousands of students and members of the opposition engage in violent
demonstrations in Port-au-Prince: one of their objectives is to seize
the National Palace

Port-au-Prince, December 11, 2003-(AHP)- Several thousand students
along with members of the Democratic Convergence political coalition
and the Group of 184 demonstrated this Thursday in Port-au-Prince
seeking the departure of the current government.

The demonstrators set off from the Faculty of Ethnology without having
a pre-determined route. From the Champ de mars, they next moved toward
Turgeau before taking Lalue by way of Alix Roi Street.

On their way back to the Champ de Mars, the students and members of
the opposition, armed with hammers and batons filled with nails bumped
up against the perimeter in front of the National Palace, an area that
had been marked off by the police as restricted access not open to the

"Our objective is to besiege the Palace and oust the government
authorities," the demonstrators then said.

At the same moment, some of them threw volleys of stones at the
police, injuring three police officers, while other demonstrators
threw tear gas. The security forces then fired into the air to cause
the demonstrators to disperse.

Rumors reported by the radio stations that the police fired directly
into the crowd have been rejected. There have been no injuries or
deaths reported from the police action.

At the front of the procession, not far from the U.S. Consulate, a
group of students had beat up a group of young people whom they chased
into an alley.

"We will not give in to this provocation" the victims yelled as they

Some demonstrators also beat students who were not involved in the
anti-government demonstration at the moment they were about to start a
press conference at the faculty of Ethnology to state their position
on the crisis affecting the university.

A camera operator from Télé Timoun who was covering the events was
violently manhandled. He said that a student had aimed a revolver at

In the vicinity of Poste-Marchand, demonstrators also threw volleys of
stones at private residences in response, they said, to stones that
had been thrown at them.

The occupants of several of these homes were violently beaten by
students who were then accused of resorting to the same abuses which
they accuse government supporters of committing.

On the Delmas Road, students threw rocks at the ONA office (National
Office of Senior Citizen Insurance), causing significant damage. The
students accused the agency of financing chimères (underprivileged

The demonstrators enjoyed the support of former major Dany Toussaint,
who for a long time was accused by the opposition and some human
rights organizations of involvement in the assassination of  Jean
Dominique. The demonstrations were also supported by former colonel
Himler Rébu.

Several radio stations in the capital, stating that they were quoting
demonstrators, said that with the presence of these two men, the
objective was to take over the National Palace by force.

Several other opposition officials took part in the demonstration,
including former Secretary of State for Youth and Sports Evans
Lescouflair, as well as members of the "No Collective", and some
active members of NCHR.

Senator Prince Pierre Sonson, whom the opposition has accused of
involvement in the violence of December 17, 2001, was also among the
demonstration's leaders.

In the early afternoon, former colonel Rébu, who led the failed coup
d'Etat against the military ruler General Prosper Avril in 1989, took
the lead of the demonstration as it passed in front of the office of
the Organization of American States (OAS) in Musseau.

Mr. Rébu, one of the leaders of the Democratic Convergence, then
accused the OAS of preventing the opposition from ousting the
officials of the elected government.

The students, massed in front of the headquarters of the OAS in Haiti,
said that they will take power with or without the help of the OAS, by
utilizing, they said, all means available to them.

As they returned to the downtown area, the demonstrators were finally
dispersed by means of tear gas as they attempted for a second time to
break through the perimeter of the restricted area with the objective
of taking the National Palace by force.

© The Black Commentator 2003