Haiti’s Killing Fields

Anthony Fenton, a Canadian who has been writing some of the best stuff on Haiti since the coup (see Haiti Watch for some of it) has just returned from a delegation in the country. He will be publishing a lot over the next few days, I believe. But what he reports already is truly chilling, the more so because of the inadequacy of the responses by even principled people outside the country to the crisis..

First, a sneak preview of what Fenton has to say. I had a chance to ask him a few questions over email about a week ago.

Have you learned anything about the people behind the coup?

We met with Lavalas today, solid meeting. We have confirmed that the military is executing Lavalas supporters nightly. Over one thousand corpses were seen by Haitian journalists the night after the coup [March 1st], photographed by a Reuters photographer who will not however go on record, fearing for his/her life. We are arranging to meet with victims of the recent atrocities in Bel Air in the next couple of days, where at least 70 people were slaughtered by the US. We hear gunfire nightly, incidentally, from where we are staying. This is how the US does it, nightly carrying out murders of Aristide supporters. As far as people behind the coup go, they defend their position with the typical rhetoric that you are familiar with as I said in the previous message. They deflect all questions that challenge this. We have yet to meet with the OAS, the US and Canadian embassies, and another group of elites.

Now, on to the provocative comment about the inadequacy of the response. I went to a public forum in Toronto just days after the coup. There were very knowledgeable people speaking — these were clearly Haitians, people who had a real commitment to the country, people who had opposed Aristide from the left. What struck me about the forum, though, was that not one of the speakers called what happened in Haiti a ‘coup’. Not one of them called for the restoration of Aristide. Not one of them mentioned the Canadian role in the coup and very little was mentioned of the American role. What was said was imperialism — ‘now that we’re in Haiti, I hope we stay for the long haul’, type stuff. We being the Canadian state, presumably.

Well, *we* are there and people are, apparently, being slaughtered under *our* watch, rather silently because *our* media has left, no longer needed now that the coup has already taken place.

Grassroots International, a good international solidarity organization, was circulating this, in my opinion horrible, call from four people on the Haitian left.

The idea was to prevent Aristide from going to Jamaica, to inform public opinion about the true nature of Aristide’s ‘anti-popular and anti-national regime’, and… as almost an afterthought, to help the Haitian people fight the current military occupation and regime.

Suppose Aristide was everything that they say he was — anti-national, anti-popular, etc. — would that mean that the thing for popular forces and movements to do would be support paramilitaries who spent the previous ten years slaughtering popular forces and movements get into power where they would be in a better position to slaughter… and deliver the country and economy more firmly into the hands of those multinationals that have even a vague interest in super-exploited sweatshop labour… and overthrow the constitution… and bring the US Marines and other colonizing forces back into the country, and this on the 200th anniversary of independence?

It all seems bizarre. But it seems that there have been a few better responses in recent days. I saw a petition that had a sense of proportion and priority yesterday. It calls for: “the unconditional and immediate return of President Aristide to Haiti in order to serve out his term of office until 2006. Respect the vote of the Haitian people.” You can get the petition at petition@haitiaction.org .

Bill Fletcher’s article on Haiti’s coup also hit the right notes, I think.