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Eyes on Haiti

March 2004

Forty-eight hours have now passed since the announcement that Jean Bertrand Aristide had left Haiti. This is a very dangerous time in Haiti as armed groups and individuals continue to operate in the context of very little security presence. International peacekeepers are arriving in Haiti as I write this, but they have not yet established any security presence beyond the National Palace, the airport and the seaport. The Haitian National Police have apparently reappeared, but they are unlikely to be any more effective in maintaining security than they have been over the past few weeks.

Our communications with our partner organizations has been very limited since Sunday. Making contact is difficult and we expect that these organizations are extremely busy right now. As soon as we hear anything of substance, we will share it in this log. We have just posted an analysis of the pre-Sunday situation by the Papaye Peasant Movement. While it is, in a sense out of date already, it provides important insights into how this influential organization will approach the post-Aristide period.

One comment received yesterday about our log asked, “Isn’t it a bit early to suggest that JBA is no longer the issue in Haiti?” He certainly remains the issue among Haiti solidarity activists and the alternative press in the US after his declarations Monday that US officials and military men forced him to leave Haiti in a virtual kidnapping of the Haitian head of state. Aristide denies ever resigning his post and has appealed to activists and supportive politicians in the US and Europe for support.

News reports suggest that members of the Black Congressional Caucus and leading solidarity organizations have demanded both a Congressional and a United Nations investigation. Given the history of our country in such matters, the Bush Administration should be compelled to produce hard evidence that its account of Sunday’s events is truthful. The word of Colin Powell and Scott McClellan is not sufficient. A full investigation of the events surrounding Aristide’s departure should take place.

At the same time, events in Washington and the Central African Republic should not completely divert our attention from events on the streets of Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti. Colin Powell has also declared that neither of the armed groups that faced off over the past few weeks should have a role in any transitional government. With armed ex-military personnel occupying the headquarters of the National Police, it is important that the State Department also hear our concern on that issue.

When I arrived at the office today, a fax from a foundation supporter of Haiti sat on my desk. That fax informed me of the preliminary approval of a large grant to help the agricultural cooperatives of the Central Plateau access that most necessary of resources, water. That is a remarkable statement of at least one organization’s hope for Haiti’s future. What an encouraging way to start the day! Of course conditions will have to stabilize considerably before the equipment related to this project can even reach the Plateau, but this is a reminder that the Haitians continue to work on those things that they can do in the current context. We will continue to try to support them in that work.

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