The Haitian organisations that are members of the Assembly of Caribbean People express their concern and indignation at the announced visit of Mr Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Jamaica over the next few weeks.
Haitian organisations are asking their Caribbean partners to exert pressure on their respective governments so that they understand that Mr. Aristide’s presence constitutes a real threat to the fledgling and fragile democratic process. The organisations of civil society in Haiti’s neighbouring countries should work hard to enlighten public opinion, as well as political leaders, as to the character of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s defunct regime which, because it slavishly applied the policies dictated by Washington and the International Financial Institutions, brought our country to its knees by destroying our institutions and a major part of our productive capacity. Jean-Bertrand Aristide betrayed the objectives and the ideals of the 1986 popular movement, and was subsequently rejected by the whole of the country.
We would like to stress the following points to our sister organisations in the Caribbean:
1. CARICOM should modify the nature of its commitment in Haiti by supporting the young and fragile transition process that is offering the opportunity to re-shape the nation in the year of the bicentennial of Haiti’s independence. The main priority today is to help the Haitian people get its destiny back into its own hands, to regain its sovereignty. The friends of the Haitian People should help consolidate the current process by making sure that it will lead to the definition of a new national project. In this sense, the struggle against the military occupation of our territory is a priority. This occupation is a major obstacle to the establishment of a genuine national project.
2. Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s departure from power is the fruit of a long process of popular mobilisation, in the course of which the nation succeeded in defining a broad consensus on the need to end the term of a President elected in a dubious way and who was accelerating the destruction of our country.
3. We condemn the circumstances of Aristide’s departure from Haiti early on the morning of 29th February 2004. We condemn the State Department’s interference with the internal political affairs of our country. The armed insurrection of 5th February, according to the available information, was backed up and financed by the CIA. The intervention of GIs in our country should not be used as a precedent to justify any direct intervention of North American troops in other countries in the region. It is important to understand that the intervention of US American troops was a unilateral decision made without the agreement of Haitian political actors. The US American forces intervened in Haiti to divert and confiscate the victory of the Haitian People against Aristide’s dictatorship. The Haitian People, unlike Jean-Bertrand Aristide, did not ask for the intervention of foreign troops on our soil.
4. We must remember that a few days before 29th February 2004 the former President begged for a GI military intervention to help him preserve his term in office and to break the peaceful popular uprising that was asking for his departure. Unfortunately, CARICOM supported this proposition. Since his return in 1994, ex-President Aristide, despite a nationalistic rhetoric, never distanced himself from the agenda set by the USA, and instead implemented the elements essential to the structural adjustment plan that was imposed as condition for his return to power. Today, the results of these policies are obvious: a country facing rapid economic decline and increasingly dependent upon external aid, institutions in tatters, and extreme poverty afflicting almost 80% of the population.
5. The welcoming of Aristide by PJ Patterson’s government can be interpreted as a positive sign of CARICOM’s independence from the USA, but in reality Mr Aristide’s submission to Washington precludes us from regarding him as a serious ally against US American imperialism. Let us remind ourselves that since October 1994 his personal security had always been ensured by US American army veterans provided by a private company. According to credible estimates, this security set-up was costing the Haitian taxpayers US$9m per year.
6. The presence of Jean-Bertrand Aristide close to Haitian shores threatens to destabilise the process that has been set in motion. CARICOM should clearly acknowledge that Mr Aristide is no longer the President of Haiti.
7. Mr Jean-Bertrand Aristide should appear in court for a number of crimes against the Haitian People, and his assets should be confiscated and returned to the State Treasury. The corruption that characterised his regime is well-known and documented, as is the long list of political killings and the massive and continued systematic violations of human rights that have been denounced by numerous national and international bodies.
8. In view of the discriminatory restrictions implemented by the Caribbean countries to limit the entry of Haitian workers to their territory, it is ironic that Jamaica should welcome with such complacency somebody who did so much harm to our nation. Is it really the case that the Caribbean Community that we would like to build gives more privileges to criminals than to honest workers seeking employment? The latter are often persecuted, chased by the police and forcefully repatriated, sometimes without regard to international conventions. We need to reconsider the migration policies currently in operation and look instead at the free circulation of people as an essential element for the long-term development of our region.
We ask our sister Caribbean organisations:
1. to do everything possible to stop the welcoming of Mr Aristide in Jamaica because his presence there is a serious threat to the Haitian People;
2. to launch a campaign aiming at informing public opinion about the true character of Aristide’s anti-popular and anti-national regime;
3. to launch a campaign aimed at increasing co-operation with Haiti by modifying the current orientation that unfortunately, in the last few years, translated into the support for Aristide’s dictatorship;
4. to contribute to helping the Haitian People fight against the military occupation and to re-conquer its independence, consistent with the resolutions adopted at the Third Assembly of the Caribbean People that took place in Cap-Haitien in August 2003, in the course of which we committed ourselves to building a sovereign, just, and equitable Caribbean.
Another Caribbean is possible.
Long may live the sovereignty and self-determination of the Peoples of the region!!
For the National Executive Committee of the Assembly of the Caribbean People,
Camille Chalmers, PAPDA (Plate-forme haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif, a platform of peasant organisations, unions and non-governmental organisations working on economic issues)
Colette Lespinasse, GARR – Groupe d’Appui aux Rapatriés et Réfugiés, a platform of associations and non-governmental organisations working on migration issues.
Carol Pierre-Paul Jacob, SOFA (Solidarite Famn Ayisyen an organisation that brings urban and rural Haitian women together to defend their political, economic, and social rights)
Ferguens Lormeus, ACO (Action Catholique Ouvrière, an organisation working to empower and organise working men and women)
(Translated from French by Webber Emile for the Haiti Support Group)