When the popular Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide was elected in 2000 with 93% of the popular vote (in elections deemed free and fair by international observers), this was a result that neither the United States, nor the rich in Haiti could accept. Aristide had been brought to office by a popular movement of the poor, known as the Lavalas movement. For the lighter-skinned and French-speaking wealthy elite (in a country where 90% are Creole-speaking, dark skinned, and poor) the coming to office of a representative of the poor was deemed unacceptable.
Consequently, the United States, alongside the help of France and Canada, worked to undermine the ability of Aristide and the Lavalas movement to govern. First, the Haitian government was cut-off from access to loans and aid – with what aid that did enter the country being directed to the unelected opponents of Aristide. All of the so-called Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) being funded by the Canadian and American governments were actually anti-Aristide groups, meaning that the hard-earned tax-payer dollars of Canadians were spent to help the rich, undemocratic elite attack Haiti’s poor majority.
With the Aristide government cut off from all loans and aid funding, it was very difficult for the administration to govern. With a flood of NGOs pouring into the country from Canada and the United States, no doubt Haitians would have been asking themselves why foreigners were claiming to be there to help them but refused to cooperate with their elected government.
At the same time that Canada and France were attempting to take the moral high ground by refusing to participate in the Iraq war, officials from those countries joined with the United States to hatch a plan to violently overthrow Aristide and occupy Haiti. Canada and France were not against invasion and occupation of sovereign countries per se and were more than willing to participate if they viewed it as being in their interest. At a high-profile meeting held in Ottawa in January 2003 the decision was made that Aristide had to go, regardless of the will of the Haitian people.
On February 29, 2004 the three countries invaded Haiti with more than 7,000 troops. Backed by local paramilitary forces, the government was overthrown, Aristide kidnapped, and deported to a French military base in the Central African Republic. A dictatorship was appointed by the three invaders, headed up by a wealthy Haitian, Gerard Latortue - the uncle of Haiti’s top cocaine dealer and alleged CIA agent, Yuri Latortue. Yuri Latortue became a senator and now heads up a commission to re-instate Haiti’s brutal military apparatus, disbanded under Aristide.
The American, Canadian, and French troops were soon replaced by a United Nations ‘peacekeeping’ team, but the invaders would still maintain decisive control of the situation in Haiti. Canada maintained a contingent of about 100 RCMP officers in Haiti training the new Haitian police force, composed of the same former thugs and paramilitaries that had been paid and armed by the US to destabilize Aristide’s government.
The impact of the invasion and occupation is only starting to come to light. A recent study by the esteemed British medical journal The Lancet revealed that in the period after Aristide’s overthrow, over 8,000 people were killed and 35,000 women were raped in the Port-au-Prince area alone. Most of the crimes were committed by United Nations forces, RCMP-trained police forces, or gangs linked to Haiti’s elite and were directed at supporters of Aristide and Lavalas party officials.
In an attempt to blame the victims, the Canadian government has claimed (without evidence) that the murdered Aristide supporters were gang members and terrorists. One former Lavalas official, Jean Candio, fled to Canada to claim political asylum to avoid assassination. However, upon entering the country he was arrested, held in prison, and accused of being a terrorist based on claims made by a Washington-based “human rights” organization, one of the many foreign-funded anti-Aristide NGOs. This will almost certainly jeopardize Candio’s claim for status.
After more than two years of a brutal occupation, and after much stalling by the occupiers, elections were finally held in Haiti on May 7, 2006. However, these elections, costing more than all of the democratic elections held in Haiti’s history put together, were riddled with fraudulence. Every other democratic election in Haiti’s history brought in a popular leader from the Lavalas-associated party, the presidential candidate associated with the movement. René Préval, the Lavalas-backed candidate should have had no problems winning – even with the slaughter of Lavalas officials, supports, and over-all intimidation of the Haitian masses.
But when Préval could not get past the first round of voting with a clear majority, and with evidence emerging that the Canadian-organized elections were a complete fraud, a popular uprising took place. The militant uprising of Haiti’s poor forced the occupiers to concede to the democratic will of the people and allow Préval to take the presidency.
Even with Préval in power, Haiti has not returned to a state of normalcy. The United Nations continues to occupy the country, killing Lavalas supporters and many other innocent bystanders, women and children included. Several peaceful demonstrations have been machine-gunned by the RCMP-trained Haitian police forces. Washington and Ottawa have also made it very clear that Aristide will not be permitted to return to his own country to revive the popular movement of Haiti’s poor majority.
It is clear that for the Canadian state Haiti is not a humanitarian mission. Canada must respect Haitian sovereignty and the will of the Haitian people and stop subverting the democratically elected government. Canada must pull its troops and RCMP forces out now!