MPP Speaks to the New Dimension of the Haitian Crisis
Haiti is going through a structural crisis which began with independence 200 years ago. We are also in a conjunctural crisis dating from the stolen elections of May 21 and the mascarade elections of 26 November.
Remember that it was Arisitde himself who drew up the list of people nominated for posts at all levels in the May 21st elections.
It was he who sent heavily armed gangs into all the departments to stuff the ballot boxes on the afternoon of election day. Many directors of the Electoral Councils were beaten that day. The President of the Electoral Council, a seventy year old man, was forced to flee the country seeking international protection.
In the Central Plateau, MPP was a witness to events. An employee of MPP who was an election observer in Thomonde, had a heart attack when the Lavalas candidate for deputy saw him. The Lavalas candidate pointed a gun at him because he had seen him stuff the ballot box with Fanmi Lavalas ballots after forcing all the election officials to lie on the ground. The candidate also pointed his weapon at a woman he had known in University, threatening her, demanding she not speak about what she had seen.
In the Plateau, men dressed in black, who said they were on a special mission from the National Palace, collected all the ballot boxes and chased out all the election officials working at there. So it is impossible for people to talk about a fair election. That is why we call it a stolen election. The President of the Election Bureau for the department of the Center, a Haitian citizen who had been living in Canada, came back to his home for elections. But he became so enraged at these events that he returned to Canada.
So on May 21, 2000 there were no elections in this country. MPP denounced the process publicly. Fanmi Lavalas ridiculed the citizens of Haiti with this vote. MPP does not recognize as legitimate any person nominated by Lavalas at any level of government. We asked the political parties, the civil society initiative not to enter into negotiations with OAS or Aristide because it makes no sense to negotiate with a thief.
Since August of 2000, MPNKP has taken a public position calling for unity of all sectors in the country to MOBILIZE against these stolen elections, which are unacceptable.
The international community denounced the electoral disorder only of the political parties. They sent no observers for the second round of elections. Preval, as the puppet of Aristide, did all he could to assure that there was no real candidate to oppose Aristide on November 26, 2000. They organized phony elections where Aristide made himself President. At least 95% of the population stayed home. In Papay where there are 2500 registered voters, 3 people voted for Aristide in 2000.
In conclusion, MPP has never recognized the election results of May 21 nor of November 26 when Aristide made himself President. We and MPNKP have always called for unity of all sectors to find a way out from under the dictatorship of Aristide.
2- Origins of the Cannibal Army which has become the Resistance Front of Gonaives against Aristide
Because Aristide recognized he has no popular base, he decided to make a series of gangs his power base. They had all sorts of names: Create Order from Disorder, What Happens Will Happen, Red Army, Sleep in Wood, Clean Sweep, Cannibal Army etc.
Aristide armed all these gangs. He also had a series of other groups called chime which worked in the Ministry of the Interior, the Customs, TELECO(the telephone company) and in all the mayors offices. The role of the gangs and the chime, both of which were heavily armed, was to “sow the peace of the cemetary” throughout the country.
The gangs had authority under the judicial system to occupy all public administration; they had authority under the police, who were working directly for Aristide. In many places, Aristide put chime over the heads of those training the police. He created a real mess in the police. It can be said that Aristide destroyed the police and turned this force into a political militia in his service.
In Gonaives, Cannibal Army was led by a powerful chief named Amiot Metayer. That army destroyed all activities of the political organizations, all activities of civil society. Independent journalists could not work in Gonaives; Cannibal destroyed the independent radio stations. Cannibal Army created terror in the Artibonite.
OAS Resolution 822 called for the arrest of several chiefs of these gangs, including Amiot Metayer. A delegation from the international community which came in March 2003 insisted on the arrest of Metayer. Aristede was obliged to go through the charade of arresting Metayer and imprisoning him in Port au Prince.
His followers insisted that he be moved to the prison in Gonaives. They moved him to Gonaives where his followers liberated him after destroying one side of the prison with a bulldozer. It was during this prison break that Jean Tatoune, imprisoned for life for his role in the massacre at Raboto during the coup d’etat, was freed.
After that, the government made a simulation of justice against Metayer until they decided to kill him. A good friend of his who worked in the National Palace came to find him at home. After that they found his body on the road to San Mark.
This infuriated Cannibal Army because Metayer was a very popular chief. They decided to truly turn against Aristide; they had made an appearance of turning against Aristide after the liberation of Metayer from prison. (Metayer himself had reconciled with Aristide.)
Many people did not want to take them seriously in this act because they had fallen out with Aristide on another occasion and reconciled with him. However, they created the Front against Aristide in Gonaives. They began actions against Aristide in Gonaives. Eventually, they occupied the entire city. They took charge of the city and drove out all the Lavalas authorities.
3- Creation of the National Liberation Front of Haiti
In the middle of February 2004, the spokesperson for the Front in Gonaives, Winter Etienne, announced that the Front had formed an alliance with Guy Phillipe, the former chief of police in the North and with Louis Jodel Chamblain, the number two man in FRAPH (Front for the Advancement and Progress of during the coup’d’etat. Haiti), the organization which sowed terror during the Coup.
Several days after the announcement of this new alliance, Guy Phillipe became commander in chief of the National Front for the Liberation of Haiti. At that time they announced their plan to liberate what they called the Greater North: the Artibonite, the Center, the Northeast, North and Northwest. They said that after that they would proceed to take Port au Prince and put Aristide out.
Monday the 16th of February at 12:30 a military command arrived at Hinche, attacked the police headquarters. The head of the police and his body guard were killed when the guard appeared to grab his gun, as well as a prisoner who was shot while attempting to run away. Three were killed. All the rest of the police ran away without any resistance.
When they arrived in Hinche they had already passed through Maisade because they came from the Artibonite via San Michel. After they took Hinche they went to Thomonde. In the Lower Plateau, the police abandoned Belade, which has a headquarters on the border of the DR. The same thing happened at Savannette. It is only Mirabalais which still has a police presence. According to the information we have they are chime dressed in police uniforms.
In Cerca La Source and Tomasik, two other communities in the Plateau, the police abandoned their post once they had heard what had happened at Hinche. So all of the Plateau is without police a presence except Mirabalais.
Things then went swiftly-the Northeast fell between Friday and Saturday and then Cap Haitian fell on the 22nd. The Front has announced that before the end of February they will liberate Port au Prince.
4 What Relationship does MPP Have with This Group?
On Thursday the 16th of February at 4 in the afternoon, 2 or 3 military vehicles arrived at the administration of MPP. They said they wanted to see Chavannes. Because Chavannes was at the Training Center up the road they went there. At the Center, many people who were attending an organizing training session rose up. A few were hurt. Chavannes sent one member of his security team to talk to the chief. Chavannes agreed to speak with one chief, Sergeant Joseph Jean-Baptiste.
The commando chief said to Chavannes: As we know the strength of MPP in this region, we took the police barracks in Hinche, and we have come to see how we can collaborate. We want to have a demonstration of support immediately. Also, we want you to immediately name people to run the public administration.
Chavannes answered: Collaboration is not possible. You lead an armed group, MPP is an organization struggling against Aristide but struggling peacefully. A few moments before you took the police barracks 3 leaders of MPP were there negotiating for security for a march we have organized for the 17th of February. These events which have occurred require us to cancel this march to avoid the appearance that this is a show of support for the former military.
The chief of the group told Chavannes that the military had remobilized to take the Plateau and that they would continue to take other departments in the country until they force Aristide to leave the Palace. He said they are not interested in political power but that the army is a constitutional entity and it will retake its place. Chavannes said nothing in response to this last point and the man left.
The next day the representative of the Front returned while a dozen international journalists were talking with Chavannes. He said MPP must march in support of the Front. Chavannes told him MPP would not march in support of the Front, as he had already said. MPP would march as their leaders had planned, to continue to push for Aristide’s departure. There was some pressure during the visit but we would never march under pressure.
That same evening, on the 17th, the executive committee of MPP decided to hold the march on Feb 20th and that news was broadcast on the radio. We said nothing about that in our discussion with the representative of the Front.
On the 20th the Front were present. They came to ask if they could give security for Chavannes during the march; we categorically said don’t go anywhere near Chavannes, he has his own system of security. They never approached Chavannes during the march, which included 12,000 people.
5 What is MPP’s Position Facing this New Situation?
a) We are in a de facto situation not a legal situation. The Front has taken the “Greater North”. The are fighting to force the departure of Aristide; we ourselves have been fighting to get Aristide out since he returned to the National Palace. There we have a coincidence; both of us want Aristide out. It is the only thing we have in common, but they have just now come to the position we have held for a very long time.
b) Both of us want Aristide to go, but we have different methods. MPP for all time, has used peaceful methods based on mobilization of the population. They have chosen arms.
c) We want a normal country based in participatory democracy where we can continue to work to change the situation of the popular masses especially the peasantry, which represents over 70% of the population. We don’t know what plan the Front has. We have problems with the origin of all the sectors which form the Front. We see former military who tortured MPP militants during the coup d’etat, FRAPH which caused all the militants of MPP to go into hiding, the Cannibal Army mistreats and kills Aristide supporters.
d) We cannot make an alliance with this group just because we are both against Aristide. An alliance requires more than that. But at the same time they agreed on the need for a provisional President who comes from civil society, they agree to give up their arms as soon as there is a government to replace Aristide. There is no assurance that they don’t have a plan to take power. There is just one thing they are clear about, and that is the existence of the army in the Haitian constitution. They want the army to return. It is true that the army is constitutional, but that would be a long discussion.
e) Before the current situation, the position of MPP was clear. Aristide is a criminal, an assassin, a thief, a liar, a traitor, a gang leader, a dictator. There is no hope with him. All sectors of national life are finished with him. No compromise with him is possible. Democracy is not possible with Aristide. It is over. We must remove him from power. The presence of the Front cannot make us accept anything with Aristide. Aristide must leave. That is the principal objective of the Haitian people at this time. We must cut out this cancer.
f) The directors of MPP held a special meeting on the 21st of February to analyze the current situation. The outcome:
-The principal enemy of the people today is Aristide. If the Front, which is not liberal, is the enemy, they are the second enemy. We cannot struggle against the eventual enemy at the same time that we struggle against the principal enemy. We don’t have the means for that. Perhaps the Front will become the principal enemy tomorrow. When that happens, the Haitian people will have to struggle against the Front just as they struggle against Arisitde now.
– The activities of MPP will not be suspended unless it becomes impossible to work. Until now, the only problem we have is that some people have difficulty travelling to the trainings in Papay. But during February people have come to Papay from Grandanse, South, Southeast, Northwest, North, Northeast to participate in MPP seminars.
– The annual plan of MPP will continue, the quarterly planning program will continue until we cannot any longer work, as we have already said.
6 Analysis of MPP
Today according to our analysis the great majority of the Haitian people want Aristide to quit. The international community until now has stood firmly behind him. Because OAS has lost so much face in this affair, they are standing behind CARICOM in their proposition to end the crisis. The Haitian people don’t like this proposition for two reasons: They don’t understand- if OAS failed with the dossier how can CARICOM succeed? It is as if a General fails a policeman will succeed. Secondly, because CARICOM always showed their support for Aristide, no one in Haiti takes them seriously.
Today no sector in national life has any confidence in the international community and how they view the resolution of the crisis.
One important element in the crisis is that the Front is armed. When we look at the ease with which the cities and towns fell to the Front, there are several things which are clear:
-Haiti cannot resist an armed force. The police have no training to fight against military force. They were not trained for that.
-The police have no motivation to die in combat for a man like Aristide. They have no sense of patriotism to defend.
-They say they are a force of 700. The country has a police force of 5000. We think the police were weak in front of the rebels.
-According to us, it is difficult to think that the rebels don’t have some international sector behind them. We don’t know what plan this sector has.
-The only force Aristide has in Port au Prince is the chime, a lot of them. But how many of them can fight militarily is not clear. We want to think it will be the same course of events that occurred in Cap Haitian. They destroyed, they smashed everything, and when they faced the reality of a military battle, they ran away immediately.
In that sense, according to us, if the rebels have the will to enter Port au Prince, they will enter without problem because there will be no police resistance except from a few loyal to Aristide and they don’t have the necessary military training.
In conclusion, if there is no political agreement, it is possible that the rebels will take the department of the West and turn Aristide out of power. It is certain that will be heavier resistance in Port than there was in other places, but the rebels can take Port au Prince. That is our thinking about the situation here.