Report from Haiti

April 11, 2004

The following is excerpted from an article by Tom Driver which appeared in Znet, April 5, 2004.

Haiti exists, but not happily. Before getting home to all my catching- up, I want to send you some news about Haiti. I have been visiting since March 23, when I came down with the first non-governmental delegation that's gone there since the United States forcibly removed Pres. Aristide on Feb. 29. The delegation was put together by "Haiti Reborn," an arm of The Quixote Center in Maryland....

One day when we returned in our van to the house where we lodged, a visitor cautioned that someone was watching the house and street - something we had not noticed and weren't sure whether to believe. Our visitor had brought with him, for an interview with us, two men who were prominent in Pres. Aristide's Lavalas political party. Since Aristide's ouster over a month ago, one of the men has not dared sleep in the same house two nights running. He quit our meeting early so as to stay on the move. Later that day we found out that his name was read out on the radio, which is like being marked for death. Every afternoon around 4 p.m. names are broadcast. Perhaps they are on a list of those whom the new government wants to arrest, or perhaps listeners call in with the name of so-and-so. All are linked with Aristide in some way. Some of those named soon disappear. Today most of Haiti's radio stations have fallen silent, while the remaining ones are owned by members of "the opposition," which of course is no longer in opposition to the government, because during the night of February 28-29 the United States brought about a regime change in Haiti.

Although there is a "transitional" President in the National Palace (we met with him), the building is mostly occupied by U.S. Marines, who also patrol the streets and the airport, and fly helicopters almost constantly over the poorer parts of Port-au-Prince night and day. U.S. forces have made many nighttime raids into some of the poorest quarters, particularly the one called Belair. In these raids they have killed an uncertain number of people, estimates going as high as 70. Occasionally the foreign soldiers venture into middle class neighborhoods, but never threaten the houses on the hills where the wealthy live.

We met with groups very loyal to Aristide and groups who hate him, but only one group, which is dominated by wealthy businessmen, failed to condemn in the strongest terms the occupation of Haiti by the

U. S.-led multinational force. It is an insult to Haiti's spirit of freedom and self-worth; and it has come, perhaps not by accident, during the 200th anniversary of Haiti's declaration of independence in 1804....

There is no effort by the U.S.-led multinational force or the Haitian police to arrest the known criminals among the armed rebels who played the key role in bringing down the government. Not only are all the rebels insurrectionists who took up arms against a legitimate government, some of their leaders had previously been tried and convicted of politically motivated crimes. Upon entering Haiti from the Dominican Republic, they released about 2000 more criminals from jail. Staff at the U.S. Embassy told us that to capture and disarm them is not part of the mission of the U.S. forces. Meanwhile, the mission does include the use of lethal force against militants in the slums who were loyal to Aristide....