The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 11           March 22, 2004  
Haiti: U.S. gov’t seeks to patch together
new regime in wake of rightist takeover
(front page)
MIAMI—With U.S. and French troops policing the streets, rightist forces organized a march through downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, on March 7 to assert their influence in the wake of their ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

U.S. officials, under the auspices of the Organization of American States, engineered the creation of a “transitional council” to appoint a new prime minister and government officials who will be acceptable to Washington and Paris. The opposition demanded the replacement of the provisional prime minister, Yvon Neptune, formerly a close Aristide ally.

The rightists, led by former military and police officials, launched an armed revolt in early February against the Aristide government, whose popular support had dwindled in face of a grinding economic crisis, the austerity measures the regime imposed at the behest of imperialist finance capital, the regime’s increased corruption, and its distancing from the masses of the Haitian people.

As the rightist forces advanced and the government—which had dissolved the army in 1995 at the demand of the imperialist powers—failed to put up an effective defense, Washington and Paris stepped up pressure on Aristide to resign. On February 29 he signed his resignation letter and was whisked off into exile on a U.S.-chartered plane. The rebels swept into the capital, taking over the national police headquarters, as U.S. Marines, along with French and Canadian troops entered Haiti—the third U.S. military intervention in that country in the last century.

An initial U.S.-led force of 2,500 troops, which also includes 800 French, 60 Canadian, and 120 Chilean soldiers, has already been deployed in Haiti. It is commanded by U.S. Marine Col. Mark Gurganus. The imperialist force, organized under the aegis of the United Nations Security Council, is to expand to around 5,000 troops and will be headed by a UN commander. U.S. Marines and French troops have secured key sites in the capital such as the presidential palace and the port. Teams of U.S. Special Forces and their French counterparts have been sent to cities outside Port-au-Prince.

Five days after Aristide’s resignation, U.S. officials arranged for the establishment of a “Council of Wise Men” to pick a new prime minister and government.The council is made up of four supporters of the “civilian” opposition, one Aristide supporter, and one representative each of the Catholic and Episcopal church hierarchies.

Among the top candidates for prime minister is Smarck Michel, a businessman who held the post in 1994-95 but who broke with Aristide when the government hesitated in stepping up the pace of carrying out austerity programs and the selloff of state-owned companies. Another prospect is Lt. Gen. Herard Abraham, who in 1990 replaced Gen. Prosper Avril in the military regime and then handed power over to civilian leaders, a process that culminated in the election of Aristide. The main leaders of the armed revolt are Guy Philippe, who was assistant police chief for northern Haiti under Aristide until he was charged with attempting a coup, and Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a leader of the notorious death squad FRAPH.

As the rightist troops entered the capital after Aristide was flown out of the country, Philippe announced, “I am the chief” and called for reconstituting the Haitian army. The army had been dissolved by the Aristide government in 1995.

U.S. officials have called on the rightists to give up their weapons. Despite a pledge by Philippe to disarm, these forces have so far refused to do so. They have stopped patrolling the streets of the capital, however.

Washington does not want to be too closely identified with the Philippe and Chamblain forces. Instead, the U.S. rulers are hoping to rapidly pull together a government of the “civilian” opposition and some Aristide supporters to stabilize the country.

Gen. James Hill, head of the U.S. Southern Command, ruled out reconstituting the Haitian army at a press conference at Haiti’s international airport. “There is no need for a Haitian army,” he said. “I was here when President Aristide disbanded it, and that was the correct thing to do at the time.”

Instead, Washington hopes to pull the police forces back together. One of its first measures was to beef up the Haitian Coast Guard. U.S. officials announced they will pay the salaries of 500 Coast Guard officers for the next three months.They want the Coast Guard to aid U.S. forces in intercepting any Haitians who attempt to leave the island  
How Aristide government lost support
Aristide became a popular figure in the early 1980s for his outspoken criticism of the dictatorship of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. In 1986 a popular rebellion toppled the U.S.-backed Duvalier regime. Elections were held in 1990 and his Lavalas party, a bourgeois nationalist organization, won by a landslide.

Just seven months after taking office, Aristide was overthrown in a right-wing military coup. In 1994 he was returned to office by a U.S. invasion of the country. Even more dependent on Washington, the government willingly carried out imperialist-backed economic measures such as the lowering of tariffs on U.S. goods, hoping to curry favor with the U.S. rulers. But Washington never fully trusted Aristide’s ability to keep a lid on struggles by working people, many of whom initially hoped he would back their aspirations for relief from exploitation.

But the Aristide administration was increasingly tarnished by the worsening economic crisis—whose effects were magnified by the government’s pro-imperialist economic policies—and by its use of thuggish methods to combat his opponents.

Washington increasingly distanced itself from the regime as it became less reliable as a source of stability. Under the pretext that the 2000 elections were “flawed,” the U.S. government began cutting off economic aid to Port-au-Prince.

Since Aristide’s ouster, the main complaint by liberal critics of the White House, such as U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has been that the Bush administration did not send an invasion force sooner, before the Haitian president’s resignation. Aristide himself had appealed for U.S. military intervention to save his government from the advance of the rightist forces.

Now in exile in the Central African Republic, Aristide has bitterly declared that he was kidnapped by U.S. Marines and forced to leave Haiti.

Luis Moreno, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, said he showed up at Aristide’s home at about 4:00 a.m. on February 29 to escort him to the airport. Aristide had already packed his bags. “He knew why I was there,” Moreno said. At the airport, said Moreno, he asked for the letter of resignation and Aristide handed it to him.

Initially, after the rightist forces marched triumphantly into Port-au-Prince, supporters of Aristide largely stayed off the streets. In subsequent days they have held protests.

On March 5 several thousand Aristide supporters demonstrated outside the National Palace carrying his picture. They expressed their anger at the U.S. government and shouted at the U.S. Marine guards slogans such as “Come back with Aristide.”
Related article:
U.S. troops out of Haiti!  
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