CIDA-funded “NGOs” Herald Aristide’s “Departure”
By Richard Sanders, editor,
Press for Conversion! and coordinator,
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.
(See also "Did he Jump or was he Pushed?
Canada’s parliamentary committee hearings on Haiti during the 2004 coup were a farce. Top CIDA-paid agents of the government, spouting Canada’s official propaganda line on Aristide’s kidnapping and the Canadian-backed overthrow of his government, appeared before MPs to representative so-called "non-governmental organizations" (NGOs).
The prime example of this charade was on March 25, 2004, less than a month after the Canadian-backed regime change that illegally ousted President Aristide. At that time, the dismantling of all levels of Haiti’s government had begun. (Some 7,500 elected officials were eventually sacked by the coup-empowered regime.) Despite the travesty of justice then underway, Canadian MPs were treated to a rather positive review of Haiti’s supposedly encouraging "transition" to democracy.
Thus, while Haiti experienced one of its most violent periods in decades, Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade heard nothing of the brutal repression and intimation of Aristide’s supporters. Instead, the Canadian government’s loyal retinue of agents from contracted "NGOs"—those purportedly dedicated to promoting human rights, peace, justice and Third World development—proved their worth to the powers-that-be by parroting the official narratives on Haiti.
For example, these recipients of government largesse—unanimously ignoring evidence to the contrary—presented President Aristide’s kidnapping as if he had voluntarily resigned and left the country on his own accord. This they all concurred was a positive step in Haitian affairs. They treated with utter contempt Aristide’s contention that he had been "kidnapped" and that there had just been a coup d’état in Haiti. They also agreed that Aristide himself was to blame not only for his demise but for trying to stir up even more violence by having the audacity to say that he had been kidnapped and forced out of office in a putsch.
The four CIDA-funded agencies that were hand-picked to testify before this committee were the:
Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (aka Development and Peace)
International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (aka Rights and Democracy)
International Centre for Legal Resources (ICLR), and
Instead of referring to Aristide’s "kidnapping," "forced removal" or "exile," the term used repeatedly by these quasi-government agencies was his "departure." This bland-sounding term was used 14 times during the hearing and on three occasions it was simply stated that Aristide had "left" Haiti.
The first witness to mention Aristide’s "departure" was Jean-Louis Roy, the president of Rights and Democracy. This agency was created by the Canadian government and is funded almost entirely by CIDA and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. However, putting on the airs of an NGO official who was frustrated in his efforts to lobby the government, Roy began in this way:
"Mr. Chairman, I first want to express our very deep disappointment with the work of the Canadian government on this file in the six months preceding President Aristide’s departure."
Of course, Roy was not complaining that the government had bank-rolled R&D (or the other assembled organizations) to destabilize Haiti’s government. Nor was he critiquing the government’s role in financing Haiti’s elite organizations to lead the drive demanding Aristide’s ouster. Neither was Roy complaining that Canada’s government had drastically reduced development assistance to Haiti. His view was, rather, that Canada had not been hard enough on Aristide!
Then, it was the ICLR director’s turn to chastise the government. Catherine Duhamel pushed MPs to enact legislation criminalizing Aristide’s elected government as a "terrorist" regime in the same class as the Duvalier dictatorships, the Afghan Talibhan and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. She argued that the lack of RCMP resources going into investigations and laying charges against Aristide’s "cronies" was "not only unacceptable," it was "absolutely ridiculous." She did not suggest charging those who had just kidnapped Aristide. Nor was she interested in laying charges against those then murdering hundreds of Aristide supporters, and illegally imprisoning thousands of government supporters. Her only reference to Aristide’s "departure" that:
"certain members of the Aristide government and some of his cronies have been going back and forth between Canada and Haiti with ease since the departure of Jean-Bertrand Aristide."
The next up against Aristide was Michel Verret, director of Oxfam-Quebec’s Overseas Programs. After mentioned Aristide’s "departure" three times, he referred to "the end of the Aristide regime," saying:
"The events leading to President Aristide’s departure are known to all of us. Pressure from the civil society, the opposition and the international community, and failed negotiations between the various stakeholders, prompted President Aristide to leave."
Verrett did not mention that U.S. diplomats with heavily armed forces entered Aristide’s home in the middle of the night and threatened him with a "bloodbath" if he didn’t leave. Nor did he or the CIDA-funded representatives mention that Haiti’s "civil society" also included hundreds of pro-Aristide groups. Also ignored was the minor fact that Aristide and his party had been empowered in two landslide elections.
Verret did however euphemistically express Oxfam-Quebec’s support for the U.S.-led occupation of Haiti that had so craftily facilitated the coup process after Aristide’s forced exile:
"Oxfam-Quebec can only applaud the decision of the Security Council on February 29 to authorize the deployment of an international stabilization force to Haiti."
The first MP to speak at this hearing was Deepak Obhrai, the Conservative MP for Calgary East. After thanking the government’s carefully-selected antiAristide witnesses, Obhrai began with an astute observation:
"From all of your testimony, it seems to me you are all in agreement that Aristide had to go. You seem to accept his departure from Haiti."
Then, this MP displayed his ignorance about Haiti by saying:
"Here we have a fellow [Aristide] who was put back in power [by U.S. Marines in 1994] and now—I don’t know how many years after that he came into power [in 2000 elec-tions]...we intervened [in 2004]. We put him in power, and then what? We walked away and totally ignored Haiti. We didn’t do anything, didn’t put any kind of pressure on Mr. Aristide to fix up the political situation in that country.... We had good leverage when we put him back in power, so how come you never used the leverage?"
Then, admitting that he really knew nothing about Haiti, Obhrai went on: "I’m asking as a layman. I haven’t been to Haiti and you guys are involved in Haiti. It will be interesting." The chair then gave the floor to the delegation’s defacto leader, Marthe Lapierre of the Catholic church’s D&P. Her response began with "Aristide’s departure" and degenerated into the official lie regarding the supposed unpopularity of Aristide’s elected government.
"We’re not talking about a situation where a rebel group suddenly orchestrated Aristide’s departure. We’re talking about a situation where the Aristide government, since 2000, had gradually lost all legitimacy.... [T]his was a profoundly undemocratic government....
"People went down in the streets and for two months, there were practically daily demonstrations, not only in Port-au-Prince, but in every major city in the country, where people were demanding that Aristide leave."
Following these untruths"—and noting in the most neutral of terms that "Aristide had left"—Lapierre was eager to take some credit for having helped oust Haiti’s government:
"We support a network of community radio stations that reach people living in the most remote areas of Haiti and civil organizations as a whole. All these organizations took a position as early as December 2002 in support of Aristide’s departure; they were demanding he leave. They are the people that have the strength, and that made the difference... The entire population was mobilized."
This was, of course, simply not true. In the months before Aristide’s kidnapping, his supporters organized mass rallies attended by hundreds of thousands of poor Haitians. These events, such as the one on January 1, 2004, were far bigger than the relatively puny, anti-Aristide protests sponsored by U.S.- and Canadian-government funded groups and led by Haiti’s elite, even though their events were supported by Haiti’s corporate media.
Then, R&D’s director, Jean-Louis Roy, tried to rationalize how it was that so-called "NGOs" could support the ousting of an elected government. His explanation used the now familiar "D" word ("departure") in a novel way to refer not merely to Aristide but to his entire government.
"Nobody can take any satisfaction in the fact that an elected government, even inappropriately elected, could be overturned by people in the street. That cannot be considered to be a viable way of organizing societies across the globe, recognizing at the same time that the Aristide government had acted in a way that led to its eventual departure."
Bloc Québécois MP Francine Lalonde then raised a very troubling matter. After being held incommunicado during his forced exile, Aristide had managed to get the word out that he had been kidnapped. By the time of the SCFAIT meetings this fact had been widely reported. To deal with this elephant in the room, Lalonde posed a leading question revealing her position that Aristide’s accusations were now to blame for Haiti’s "insecurity":
"Aristide’s departure is the subject of controversy. The United Nations resolution is clear, but newspapers close to Aristide, and Aristide himself, are promoting the idea that he was kidnapped and that what occurred, consequently, was a coup d’État. Are these statements by Aristide helping to maintain the sense of insecurity there?"
In response, Carlos Arancibia, Oxfam-Quebec’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, made no reference to the kidnapping or Haiti’s coup. The closest he come to this delicate matter was to echo what D&P’s representative had said earlier, namely, "Aristide has left." Arancibia wanted to make sure he was perceived as a team player. In response to the question of Aristide’s accusations, Arancibia said:
"I fully agree with the analysis presented by others. It’s important to understand that things went off the rails starting in the year 2000, with the election."
Then, Arancibia fell back on the official narrative of Aristide’s unpopularity and voiced support for "civil society" which is always equated, by the government and CIDA-funded agencies, with the forces that opposed Aristide:
"In the wake of the crisis... we have witnessed people mobilizing.... But the Haitian people and the civil society sent a very clear message. When people went down into the streets..., they declared that they didn’t want to see a return to dictatorship, that they wanted democracy.... There was a democratic opposition, an opposition that was taking peaceful action."
Oxfam-Quebec’s position clearly ignored the inconvenient fact that the so-called "democratic opposition" was a small minority and that the masses of Haiti’s "civil society" wanted Aristide to finish his five-year mandate to govern. This afterall was why they had democratically elected him.
After the discussion of Aris-tide’s "departure" was further side-railed, Roy finally picked up Lalonde’s line of questioning about Aristide’s accusations that he had been kidnapped:
Roy: "Is Aristide a factor, Ms. Lalonde? Are his statements… Yes, because I believe there are still people who support Aristide."
Lalonde: "We’re talking about achieving consensus, when Aristide is saying the kinds of things he has been saying."
Roy: "Yes. That does complicate matters, but we can’t prevent him from talking."
The issue of Aristide’s forced removal from office and from Haiti was again dropped until the NDP’s Alexa McDonough had the floor. After asking about CIDA funding cutbacks to Haiti, she returned to Aristide’s allegations and very cautiously asked whether there may have been "a kind of illegitimate regime change":
"To what extent is there some problem associated with the manner in which Aristide’s departure took place? There is I think a strong consensus that clearly this is not a government that was working and Aristide was not going to be able to re-establish legitimacy. Around the real questions of the illegitimate manner in which his departure took place, is there a problem about Canada’s credibility, whether we’ve compromised our own ability to be seen as a trustworthy independent nation? Have we become contaminated somewhat by having been associated with what may be an exaggeration, but a kind of illegitimate regime change, that has now aroused a lot of mistrust in the community, notwithstanding people’s concerns about the Aristide administration?"
In response, Lapierre took another stab at "the circumstances under which Aristide left the country":
"I see there is some concern about this. We certainly can’t prevent Mr. Aristide from now alleging that he was the victim of a coup d’État. But I ask you: if there really was a coup d’État, who seized power?
"That is not what happened. What happened is that the entire population turned against him. This was a movement for which there was unanimous support in Haiti, except in those areas armed by Aristide himself. Aristide did in fact sign a letter of resignation. Even though some people are now talking about that and perhaps interpreting what it says differently, the fact remains that is what he did.
"I want to come back to this just to clarify. Ms. Lalonde referred a little earlier to an opposite concern in Haiti. Given that Aristide is in Jamaica, that the Chimera have not been disarmed and that there is always the possibility of a putsch, that is a concern. I think we have to be attentive in that regard and not allow that kind of situation to recur."
The irony of Lapierre’s "concern" is laughable. The spectre she raised was the "possibility of a putsch" led by Aristide’s so-called "chimère" to overthrow the coup-installed regime. (See "Epithets without Borders" and "What does Chimère Really Mean?") It is ludicrous to believe that the poorest of the poor in this hemisphere’s most impoverished country had the ability to violently oust thousands of U.S., Canadian, French and Brazilian troops then occupying Haiti. Her "concern" was even more absurd considering the fact that these troops were working in concert with death squads and Haiti’s former military, that Aristide had disbanded more than a decade earlier.
Under the pretext of enforcing security, a "putsch" had already taken place enforced by the US, French and Canadian troops that occupied Haiti.
But in the topsy-turvy world of CIDA-funded "NGOs" who kowtow to government propaganda, the "possibility" that supporters of Aristide’s democratically-elected government might somehow reverse the illegal coup process, restore the constitution and put their elected president back in power was seen as a possible "putsch."
While MPs and representatives of Canada’s quasi-governmental agencies discussed the finer points of Aristide’s "departure," they completely ignored the unconstitutional regime change process then taking place. In this way, the parliamentary hearing about the 2004 crisis in Haiti was a shameful coverup in which government-funded "NGOs" disguised Aris-tide’s kidnapping, the ouster of his elected government and the mass murder of his supporters as a great stride towards democracy and human rights.
Reference: The quotes throughout this article are from a meeting of the Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, March 25, 2004.
The above article is from Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue
#63 (November 2008)
Previous issues of this
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade publication include:
#62 "Putting the Aid in Aiding and Abetting:
CIDA's Agents of Regime Change in Haiti's 2004 Coup"
#61 "CIDA's Key Role in Haiti's 2004 Coup d’état:
Funding Regime Change, Dictatorship and Human Rights Atrocities, one Haitian 'NGO' at a Time"
#60 "A Very Canadian Coup d’état in Haiti:
The Top 10 Ways that Canada’s Government helped the 2004 Coup and its Reign of Terror"
Subscribe, order a hard copy or back issues