Prime Minister Yvon Neptune: CIDA's Top Political Prisoner
By Richard Sanders, editor,
Press for Conversion! and coordinator,
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.
(See also "The Mysterious Case of Haiti’s Disappeared Political Prisoners" and "Why was Sò Anne Imprisoned for 27 Months?")
One of the CIDA-funded tasks taken on by the National Coalition for Haitian Rights-Haiti (NCHR-Haiti), was to fabricate stories to frame that country’s elected Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune. This was part of a $100,000 "special project" contracted by CIDA on March 11, 2004,1 the day before the coup-installed Prime Minister, Gerard Latortue, took power.
NCHR-Haiti’s rumours against Neptune, and other Lavalas leaders, were pushed relentlessly by Pierre Espérance, CIDA’s prime advocate for human rights in Haiti. He concocted an absurd story blaming Neptune for provoking a "genocide" in the La Scierie district of St. Marc on February 11, 2004. It was, however, a "genocide" that never actually took place.
When Espérance wrote NCHR’s second progress report to CIDA on its project to help victims of this fabricated "massacre," it proudly took credit for putting Neptune behind bars. Under the subheading "Assessment of progress towards projected results," NCHR-Haiti listed the primary "result" as: "Arrest of former Prime Minister, Yvon NEPTUNE, on June 24, 2004."2
On July 28, 2006, after Neptune had languished in jail for more than 25 months, he was released on humanitarian grounds.3 Besides being separated from friends and family, and having "survived at least two assassination attempts, as well as a prison massacre,"4 Neptune—like thousands of other political prisoners—missed his chance to take part in the 2006 elections.
Because Prime Minister Neptune was illegally imprisoned during the entire period of the Canadian-backed coup regime, he could not serve as a candidate in the 2006 election; nor was he able to campaign for Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party. This was one of the main functions of Haiti’s political persecution. It removed Lavalas as a force in the 2006 elections, that were hailed as a breakthough for democracy by the Canadian government and its paid NGOs.
Neptune’s case was all but entirely ignored by the CIDA-funded "NGOs" in Canada that were active in Haiti during the 2004-2006 coup-regime period. This is evidenced by an electronic scan of the entire contents of websites created by 70 such organizations. Only three of these "NGOs" have ever even mentioned Prime Minister Neptune.
On the entire Alternatives’ website there are only three documents mentioning Yvon Neptune. The first5 and second6 were published just before the first anniversary of Neptune’s arrest, while the third appeared one day after he had spent one year in jail.7 However, none of these articles even mentions that Neptune had been arrested, let alone that he was being held illegally without formal charges, or that no actual evidence was ever offered to justify his imprisonment. Instead, all three Alternatives’ articles promote an extremely partisan anti-Aristide slant—seemingly shared by all CIDA-funded "NGOs"—that ridiculously blames all of the violence during the coup-regime period on the ousted Lavalas government of Aristide and Neptune.
EMI published an unsourced chronology of Haitian events that included several terse references to the criminal case against Prime Minister Neptune.8 One of these brief notes says that Neptune was "accused of involvement in the murder...of about fifty opponents of Aristide."9 This uncritical repetition of NCHR-Haiti’s baseless allegation was not balanced with judgements from the UN, international media or other sources revealing that there was, in fact, no such massacre.10
When mentioning, in passing, that Neptune had finally been released after more than two years in jail,11 EMI did not bother to retract their earlier allegation that there was a massacre in which "fifty opponents of Aristide" had supposedly been murdered. Neither did EMI say that no evidence against Neptune had ever been produced or that he was widely recognized as Haiti’s most prominent political prisoner.
On the contrary, EMI seemed eager to support the biased contention that Neptune was not a political prisoner. With their March-May 2005 newsletter, EMI enclosed two documents from Haiti’s so-called "Council of the Wise,"12 the handpicked, unconstitutional clique that facilitated the 2004 coup process by selecting Gerard Latortue to replace Haiti’s real Prime Minister, Yvon Neptune. One of these documents, signed by "Council" member and longtime CIDA-beneficiary, Danièle Magloire,13 was said by EMI to explain that Neptune was "not jailed for political reasons" but for his role "in the massacre in la Scierie." 14
This same EMI newsletter uncritically summarized a CIDA news release about Canada’s provision of $34 million "to improve the quality of life of the people of Haiti."15 EMI did not mention however that $18 million of that amount was to provide funding for the coup-installed regime itself, including presumably for its police and prisons,16 while the remainder was divided up into such efforts as a $2-million media project run by CIDA-funded "NGOs" Réseau Liberté and Alternatives, which provided assistance to anti-Aristide newspapers, radio and TV stations in Haiti.17
Mennonite Central Committee
Another organization that did not recognize the need for any proof that the "La Scierie massacre" had indeed ever happened, was the MCC. For it, and other CIDA-funded groups, the fact that NCHR-Haiti said there was a "massacre," was proof enough.
The MCC published an article called "Seeds of Hope" by NCHR-Haiti’s executive director, Pierre Espérance. Although this article does not mention Prime Minister Neptune by name, it does discuss the supposed crime he was alleged by NCHR-Haiti to have committed. In the article—which is a self-congratulatory puff piece, published in MCC’s Peace Office Newsletter—Espérance decried the "La Scierie massacre" as
"the largest and most horrific of the mass murders that took place during Aristide’s presidency [with] several dozen dead or missing."
Citing it as an example of what he called "The Noose of Impunity" that has been "strangling" Haiti "for many years," this CIDA-funded "human rights" darling in Haiti, described the supposed "massacre" as one of the "high profile" "savage crimes....that are well documented" involving "government officials....and Lavalas Party affiliates." He used his MCC platform to demand that the "cycle of impunity" be broken by "judging and holding people accountable."18
This rhetorical flight of fancy by Espérance, however, was still not balanced with any actual evidence. Unfortunately, even when Neptune and others were eventually released, the MCC never saw fit to revisit the phoney accusations raised concerning Lavalas government officials and their supposed responsibility for this nonexistent massacre.
Development and Peace
The only document on the D&P website that mentions Prime Minister Neptune19 is a 13-page anti-Aristide diatribe containing two paragraphs about "Illegal Detentions and the Judicial System." This report was published by D&P after the coup-installed dictatorship was finally ousted by elections in 2006.
The second paragraph of this section discusses two incidents: (1) the 1994 massacre of Aristide supporters at Raboteau by a ruthless, death squad leader named Jodel Chamblain, and (2) the "much cited case of La Scierie in St. Marc" for which D&P notes that "former PM Yvon Neptune" had been "accused of violence."20 D&P neglects to mention not only that there was no evidence to back up these accusations against Neptune but also that no evidence existed of the alleged "massacre" itself. However, the effect created by equating Chamblain and Raboteau with Neptune and La Scierie seems to have been carefully calculated to guide readers into making unfounded assumptions about the latter’s guilt.
D&P concludes with some other mischievous suggestions. For one thing, D&P actually blames the Aristide/Neptune government for the travesty of justice inflicted on Neptune by the coup-installed regime by saying "we must recognise that the dysfunctionality of the judicial system is in part a legacy left by Lavalas Family and other previous governments."21 D&P then delivers a mild critique of the Latortue dictatorship saying that
"the Interim [i.e., coup-empowered] government has been less than even handed in its prosecution of those implicated in politically motivated violence."22
This blame-the-victim approach—typical of CIDA’s anti-Aristide partners—followed by a mild slap on the wrist to the naughty "Interim government" for its "less than even handed" efforts, was capped with a final reminder to D&P readers that Neptune was, after all, "implicated in politically motivated violence." Considering the fact that this was supposed to be a critique of the outgoing coup regime for persecuting innocent Lavalas victims, it is remarkable how often D&P managed to continue to play its ongoing blame-game against Aristide.
Later, in a June 2007 report on its 2005-2006 activities, D&P referred obliquely to the Neptune file. Although all charges against those accused of violence at La Scierie had been dropped as unconstitutional, and due to lack of evidence, D&P actually cited the case as the prime example of "symbolic human rights cases, like the many murders and killers that enjoyed immunity (e.g. the Scierie massacre...)."23 All charges against Neptune had been dropped only weeks before the publication of this D&P report.
Like the Undead, Lies are hard to Kill
In July 2007, NCHR-Haiti published an article called "Frustration of the Victims of the La Scierie Massacre,"24 which—mentioning the word "massacre" five times —vented the same concerns about "immunity" that were expressed in D&P’s report of a month earlier. Stating that although the "Aristide/Neptune government repulsively orchestrated a massacre," and that there were "clues and sufficient charges brought against approximately 30 people," NCHR-Haiti bemoaned the "charade of justice" that allowed "the silent backers and perpetrators of this massacre" to go free.25 Despite its bluster, NCHR-Haiti did not seem to realise that "clues and sufficient charges" are no substitute for facts and evidence.
But, despite this wholesale lack of evidence, NCHR-Haiti—like D&P, MCC, EMI and CIDA—still found it useful to perpetuate the politically-valuable myth of a "massacre," complete with more than fifty victims, that no one could ever find, and high-ranking Lavalas politicians who, though innocent, were none-the-less imprisoned. Such stories are simply too good to be true and CIDA-funded groups in both Haiti and Canada were undaunted by the complete dearth of evidence. Fortunately for them, the truth is not required when producing effective propaganda. The idea that a "massacre" had occurred still lives on, as do the fifty nonexistent ghosts that, like the mythical "undead," can be called upon to carry out political character assassinations.
1. ATI documents obtained by Anthony Fenton, p.13. "CGF, Note de Service."
2. ATI documents. Op. cit. p.58. Report covering June 1 to September 30, 2004.
3. "Haiti ex-PM released from prison," BBC News.
4. "All Charges Dropped Against Former Haitian PM," Hastings Human Rights Project for Haiti, April 20, 2007.
5. Yanick Lahens and Raoul Peck, "Haïti: Un pays pris en otage," May 27, 2005.
6. Anthony Barbier, "Transition politique et reconstruction nationale en Haïti," June 19, 2005.
7. Francoise Escarpit and Susy Castor, "Le pays n’est pas à reconstruire, mais à construire," June 25, 2005.
8. Neptune is mentioned in seven of EMI’s bulletins, "Brève chronologie des événements relatifs à la situation en Haïti," Dec. 2004-Nov. 2006.
9. Brève chronologie..., April-June 2006.
10. Kevin Skerrett, "Faking Genocide in Haiti," Press for Conversion! September 2007. pp.23-28.
11. Brève rétrospective des événements survenus en Haïti au cours des derniers mois, July-November 2006.
12. EMI cover letter, June 10, 2005.
13. Yves Engler, "Pro-Coup Haitians on Tour in Canada," Press for Conversion! May 2008, p.49.
14. Brève chronologie..., March-May 2005.
16. "Canada Project Details"
17. Richard Sanders, "Embedded CBC Reporters in Haiti’s Elitist Media," Press for Conversion! May 2008, pp.26-33.
18. Pierre Espérance, Seeds of Hope, Peace Office Newsletter, January-March 2005.
19. "Background Paper on Haiti: Addressing the Issue of the Departure of Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide," Development and Peace, March 2006.
23. Report on Results 2005-2006
24. Human Rights Indicator, RNDDH, July 2007.
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