US Secretary of State Colin Powell paid a visit to Haiti yesterday, Monday April 5, in an attempt to legitimize the new regime and stop the spread of instability in the region caused by the coup that overthrew Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the end of February. His visit, if anything, has further inflamed the situation and will only lead to further instability.
The New Regime
At the time of the coup at the end of February the exact form and composition of the new regime remained unclear. The US claimed that the paramilitaries would be disarmed (even though the paramilitaries entered Port-au-Prince in conjunction with US and French troops) and that a new national government, including the so-called opposition and Aristide supporters would be formed. A little over a month later, and the situation is a lot more clear.
The US, France, Canada and now Chile sent troops into Haiti singing the chorus of "democracy", "stability" and the "opening of a new period of progress" for the troubled nation. What does this stability, progress, and democracy amount to now that the dust has settled a little bit? A US backed "council of sages" appointed Gérard Latortue - a former talk show host in Florida and before that a UN career officer and business consultant, and long time opponent of Aristide in exile in the US - as the new Prime Minister of Haiti. He was chosen for his opposition to Aristide and his loyalty to the United States.
The new Prime Minister, following the deal that been brokered by the US, Canada, France, CARICOM, and the Aristide government claimed that he would form a government of "national unity" that would include members of Lavalas (Aristide's supporters) and the so-called opposition. The armed paramilitaries, a ragtag collection of well armed murders and death squad leaders from Haiti's past were to be disarmed and were not to play any role in the new government.
Since then, Latortue has reneged on his promise to include Lavalas, which is the biggest movement of the country. He is so indebted to the rebels, that at a celebration of the new government at Gonaïves on March 20, where the paramilitaries recognized the authority of the new government, Latortue referred to the murders, and death squad leaders such as Guy Philippe – the leader of "rebel army", Butteur Metayer, and Jean Tatun (all of whom were dressed up in suits so that people may just forget that they are all murderers) as "freedom fighters" and "liberators." US and OAS officials were present, and the paramilitaries and the Latortue were flown in with the use of US helicopters.
The paramilitaries have been far from disarmed and are now being incorporated into the police force and the state. This is being done because the opposition and the new regime itself are not strong enough to gain control of the situation on their own – support for Aristide is still far too strong, as the mass demonstration one week after the coup calling for the return of Aristide showed. The opposition and the new regime seem to have very little support amongst the population, and as result the only way that the US and their imperialist allies will be able to maintain control of the situation will be through their own armies, and the paramilitaries.
Louis Jodel Chamblain, a former death squad leader of FRAPH, who returned to Haiti with Philippe, has met with police to work out a deal whereby the paramilitaries would help to restore "order". Philippe himself is a hit with the mass media in the US. The New York Times referred to him as "personable", and commented on his media savy nature, reporting as well that the "rebel leader" had promised to put his forces under the new Prime Minister's orders.
We all remember those claims from the US about disarming the paramilitaries and the talk about confiscating arms in order to promote peace in Haiti. US Marine Corp Brig. Gen. Ronald Coleman, head of the UN force in Haiti, has now changed the tune. He claimed recently that "this is a country with a lot of weapons and disarmament is not our mission. Our mission is to stabilize the country."
Stability here means a government strong enough to push through the dictates of US imperialism and crush Aristide supporters – stability through terror. The so-called democratic opposition is not strong enough to keep the Aristide supporters in check, and bring about any real stability, so the US is relying on the paramilitaries. They can only maintain control through use of terror.
The paramilitaries have in fact been on a rampage of terror and murder. Immediately after Aristide's departure, paramilitaries began a murderous campaign against Aristide supporters as UN "peacekeepers" stood idly by and watched. Lavalas supporters are hunted down and killed – any association with Lavalas is dangerous, and some 2000 thousand people are hiding from death squads. Anyone who ever had anything to do with Lavalas is a potential target. Reporters from Haiti claim the findings of bodies and hundreds of bones littering the roads of Titanyen just north of the capital - reporting as well that it is the overflow from the morgues of Port-au-Prince. Public executions are carried out in Les Cayes, and the "peacekeepers" do nothing. Aristide supporters are saying that bodies found on the streets are not an accurate measure of how many people have been murdered by the death squads. When Lavalas members are killed, other supporters and members take away the bodies and give them a proper burial to prevent them from being mutilated and burned. There are nightly raids into the neighbourhoods of Bel Air and Cite Soleil. Somehow the death squads manage to get by the "peacekeepers" and their patrols.
The paramilitaries and the old army are being incorporated into the police at an alarming rate. Before the overthrow of Aristide an estimated ten percent of the police force was comprised of former soldiers and officers from the disbanded army. Now the police are being militarized and they are fully comprised of former soldiers and paramilitaries. The US had claimed that they did not want the army to be reconstituted for fear that it may take power, but by militarizing the police and arming them to the teeth they have effectively installed them into power.
No matter what the US does it is wrong and leads to further instability. If the US had done nothing in Haiti, the instability in the region would have threatened to engulf the entire region, thereby threatening their interest in the region. Sending troops into Haiti and occupying it has done the same. The 15 nation Caribbean Community for the United Nations has refused to recognize the new regime of Latortue, and is now demanding an investigation into the terms of Aristide's departure.
Latortue is considering for his part considering breaking relations with CARICOM over Aristide's temporary stay and asylum in Jamaica. Aristide has returned to the region because he claims that he is still the legitimate President of Haiti and that he was kidnapped and removed from office in a coup orchestrated by US and French imperialism. This has obviously angered the US and Latortue as it caused them certain problems. The will find it difficult to establish order and bolster the authority of Latortue's regime with Aristide in the region. Aristide may yet prove to be a further thorn in their sides if he goes ahead with his plans to sue and take legal action against the US and France for their part in the coup.
The US and Latortue feel the need to deal with Aristide and get him out of the way. That is why Powell announced that US judicial authorities were looking into prosecuting Aristide on corruption or drug trafficking charges – whatever indictment they can find and make stick. Rather than help them though, this will only further inflame the situation and increase tensions with CARICOM.
Added to this Powell also rejected CARICOM's call for an investigation into Aristide's departure, but still maintains that he "will be working hard to reintegrate Haiti in the Caribbean Community" – a task that he may find difficult to achieve without the support of CARICOM.
The only road
Many on the left, including so-called Marxists will be reconsidering their hasty support for the paramilitaries. They have proven their reactionary nature and are working hand in hand at crushing the workers and poor of Haiti in conjunction with US, French and Canadian imperialism. These so-called revolutionaries will find that they now support US imperialism, the UN, and a vicious reactionary regime that came to power through a coup. Beyond this, even if the paramilitaries had been some sort of national liberation guerrilla army, they would have been incapable of bringing about any sort of solution to the problems and the crisis in Haiti and would not have been able to begin the socialist transformation of society. The tactics of guerrilla war cannot be a substitution for the mass action of the working class. Support for these paramilitaries shows only the impatience of these so-called Marxists and the attempt to find the shortcut to the building of a revolutionary party and the revolution.
All illusions in the paramilitaries or the so-called Democratic Opposition have been smashed. The reactionary role of the UN and "peacekeeping" have once again been exposed.
As we have explained before, there can be no solution to the crisis in Haiti on the basis of capitalism or imperialism. The UN and the armies of the US, France and Canada will not solve anything in Haiti - in fact they will only make it worse, as will the new regime around Latortue. The only road out for the workers and poor of Haiti would be to build independent mass organizations such as trade unions and a workers' party to lead the struggle for a socialist revolution. These organizations will be the only ones capable of fighting the occupation of Haiti and leading the revolutionary struggle against imperialism across all of South America.