Using Radio Waves to Fuel Haiti’s Climate of Fear and Terror

By Richard Sanders, editor, Press for Conversion!


Immediately following the 2004 coup, Haiti’s Comité des Avocats pour le Respect des Libertés Individuelles (CARLI)—the Lawyer’s Committee for Individual Rights—which received support from U.S. and Canadian government sources (including CIDA), played a significant role in escalating the country’s volatile climate of fear.


CARLI was a member of the Group of 184,1 the elite-run coalition that masterminded civil society operations in support of the 2004 coup against Aristide. (See Richard Sanders, “The G184: Exposing the Haitian Elite’s Enthusiasm for Violence,” Press for Conversion! pp.33-41.)


CARLI’s main contribution to Haiti’s post-coup reign of terror was what might at first blush seem to be an innocuous, if not beneficial, service: “to set up, operate and publicize a telephone ‘hotline’ for receiving human rights abuse complaints.”2  For this program, which included publishing regular “written reports detailing the alleged abuses, and...the names of alleged abusers,” CARLI received $54,000 from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the U.S. agency whose staff credited themselves with ousting Aristide.3 (See Richard Sanders, “CIDA Bankrolled Coup’s Deputy Minister of ‘Justice,’” Press for Conversion! pp.29-31.)


In its 2004 annual report, the U.S. State Department referred to CARLI as one of the “major human rights organizations” upon which it relied. It cited CARLI and NCHR-Haiti as groups that “were active and effective in monitoring human rights issues, meeting frequently with government officials,” and praised them for doing “frequent media appearances” and issuing “objective reports on violations.”4


Such glowing commendations, and money, from the leading force behind the coup, burdened CARLI, NCHR and other such groups with a heavy price—their neutrality.


The University of Miami’s Center for the Study of Human Rights (CSHR) said that CARLI—which it called a “small, volunteer-based organization”5

“denied it was being partisan, but failed to explain why it was putting out specious accusations against Lavalas supporters, why it made no accusations of human rights abuses by forces opposed to the elected government, or why it did not denounce acts by the then newly installed interim government.”6


The names gathered as part of CARLI’s “IFES and USAID-sponsored”7 program, were distributed to the coup regimes’ “police, the U.S. Embassy, the OAS,”8 “Canadian authorities, and various anti-Aristide radio stations for the names to be read on air.”9


The Agence Haitienne de Presse, one of the few media outlets not owned by the country’s pro-coup business elite, revealed that CARLI distributed its list “to the press each week of all those that anonymous callers accuse through the hotline. This hotline has become a key element in the terror campaign.”10


This critical assessment was shared by other human rights organizations that were not linked to the U.S. and Canadian governments through funding. For example, the National Lawyers Guild reported that the publication of CARLI’s “list” was

“forcing innocent people into hiding and to fear for their lives, preventing people from returning to their jobs and schools, and...creating the possibility of extrajudicial execution squads and non-judicial arrest[s].”11


The NLG’s 2004 report also condemned CARLI for used “conclusory language condemning the person for...murder and attempted murder, and calling for their immediate arrest.”12


The first unanimous recommendation of NLG’s report stated:

“We demand that Temporary Protective Status be granted to all Haitians facing political persecution, including those whose names are read daily on Haitian radio stations.”13


The NLG also made the following criticisms of CARLI’s work:

·        “There is no evidence that CARLI conducts any investigation before condemning the named person. The person ‘condemned’ never contacted to answer to the allegations.

·        “CARLI insisted that it conducts a thorough investigation of each of the 60 to 100 monthly calls and verifies all information beyond a reasonable doubt before publicly condemning a person.... CARLI has no full time staff, ...[has] only two lawyers at the office, and all are volunteers.

·        “The February list contained the names of approximately 85 [alleged] human rights violators ...and their political affiliations.... All were Lavalas supporters....

·        “Prior lists observed also contained only ...Lavalas supporters.

·        “CARLI leaflets... publiciz[ing] the ‘hot-line’ are ... in French, not Creole. Two-thirds of Haiti’s people [predominantly poor, Aris-tide supporters] do not speak or read French.”14


The Quixote Center shared NLG’s critical analysis of CARLI’s “list,” saying that “each day at 4 pm”:

“Radio stations read the names of people who have been blacklisted.... One of the [Fondasyon Trant Septamn] FTS representatives gave the observation mission a copy of the list, with stars next to the names of those who have disappeared already. Names are read randomly throughout the day, as well.”


The QC report also quoted Patrick Elie, Aristide’s former Minister of Security, as saying: “Names are being listed on the radio, and the political climate is one of a terror campaign against Fanmi Lavalas.” Similarly, the Lavalas Party’s Father Edner DeValcin told the QC human-rights delegation: “[W]hen the radio says your name, you are arrested.”15


Several U.S. human rights delegations met Lavalas activists who were in hiding after being publicly named by CARLI. The NLG said those targeted “insist that the [CARLI] list exists to serve the political ends of the opposition to the elected government and to instil fear.”16


The CSHR reported that IFES became a “strong funding source” for CARLI in October 2003, but “gradually reduced its aid after Aristide’s ouster and ended it in August 2004.”17  CSHR noted that “as those ties have loosened, CARLI’s reporting has been much more objective.”18  CSHR said that CARLI’s

“staff members admitted that the increased balance in their reporting has come as IFES’ grip on them has eased off.... They conceded that IFES had controlled much of their activities.”19


CARLI staff even confessed

“that under pressure from IFES to produce and disseminate names of Aristide or Lavalas often published names after a superficial investigation or no investigation at all. CARLI now concedes that the practice may have resulted in innocent people being subjected to threats, violent attacks and arrests or forced into hiding...”20


While CARLI staff admitted their U.S.-funded program “may have” harmed innocent people, they also said they were considering accepting more grants from IFES. This shows just how susceptible organizations can be to political influence from funding sources.


The Canadian government is also guilty of funding Haitian groups to conduct its pro-coup agenda. CIDA bankrolled many of the same anti-Lavalas organizations that were under the sway of U.S. agencies, including CARLI. According to a CIDA report, the Canadia gave $10 million dollars to an Organization of American States (OAS) for a project that directly benefited CARLI. A significant part of this project was called “Vendredis du CARLI.” This “monthly forum” organized by CARLI “brought human rights specialists discuss various topics with university students, lawyers and several professionals.”21


We can only image why on earth CIDA and OAS officials felt that CARLI was qualified for a contract to organize anything related to “human rights.” They must have been aware that CARLI had successfully used radio broadcasts to aid and abet the rabid persecution of Lavalas members and supporters. And, they must have known that CARLI’s one-sided, anti-Aristide slant on “human rights” coincided with the undemocratic, pro-coup policies of the U.S. and Canadian governments. Presumably, it was this very understanding that convinced CIDA and the OAS that CARLI was best suited to conduct these sessions that were designed to influence Haitian professionals and up and coming univeristy students about the proper approach to “human rights.”



1.  Group of 184 website. List of the organisations of the Groupe des 184.

2.  Thomas Griffin, “Haiti: Human Rights Investigation: Nov. 11-21, 2004,” CSHR, p.29.

3.  Ibid.

4.  “Haiti: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004,” Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. State Dep’t, Feb. 28, 2005.

5.  Griffin. Op. cit.

6.  Griffin. Op. cit.

7.  Summary Report of Haiti Human Rights Delegation—March 29 to April 5, 2004. Phase I. National Lawyers Guild. p.5

8.  Griffin. Op. cit. p.29.

9.  Ibid. p.38.

10.  Quixote Center “Emergency Haiti Observation Mission” (March 23-April 2, 2004), p.33

11.  Summary Report of Haiti Human Rights Delegation—March 29 to April 5, 2004. Phase I. National Lawyers Guild. p.5.

12.  Ibid.

13.  NLG Haiti Delegation Report, Phase II, April 12-19, 2004. p.17

14.  Summary Report. Op. cit., p.5.

15.  Quixote Center Report. Op. cit.

16.  Summary Report. Op. cit., p.6.

17.  Griffin. Op. cit., p.41.

18.  Ibid., p.38.

19.  Ibid.

20.  Ibid., p.39.

21.  Canada-Haiti Cooperation: Result summary - Interim Cooperation Framework - April 2004–March 2006.

This article was published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade in Press for Conversion! (issue #61) September 2007.
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This issue of Press for Conversion! is entitled: "CIDA's Key Role in Haiti's 2004 Coup d'etat: Funding Regime Change, Dictatorship and Human Rights Atrocities, one Haitian 'NGO' at a Time." Here is the table of contents:

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The previous issue of Press for Conversion! (#60) was called:
"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."  

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