MARCH 1994 - VOLUME 15 - NUMBER 3
H A I T I
by the Haitian Information Bureau
PORT-AU-PRINCE - On March 5, 1994, Parliamentarian Samuel Madistin and two other parliamentarians were forced into hiding when they discovered a truck-load of armed men was looking for them. One parliamentarian reported finding a dead body near his home, a sign that he had been targeted for assassination.
The reason for the repression was clear - at a packed press conference held the previous day, Madistin denounced two U.S.-based organizations for intervening in Haitian affairs: the U.S. government-linked Center for Democracy (CFD) and a small, right-wing outfit, the Nation Freedom Institute (NFI), briefly associated with Oliver North and the Iran-Contra scandal. "Because the international community, the people who were putting pressure on the president ... did not have success here, they organized the departure of a group of parliamentarians to go to Washington," he said, so that parliamentarians could meet with "group[s] whose function ... is to destabilize democratic movements in Latin America."
CFD, NFI and a half dozen similar organizations which can trace their origins to the bowels of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council have quietly been operating in Haiti for a decade to ensure that the inevitable decline of Duvalierist rule would not lead to the installment of a popularly oriented government - exactly the sort represented by the administration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. After Aristide was elected in December 1990, these groups-either official U.S. agencies or organizations which receive U.S. government funding and work in tandem with domestic and international agencies - actively worked to undermine his domestic and international support. And, since the September 1991 coup that ousted Aristide, they have dutifully toiled to hinder his return, or to ensure that if he does resume power, he will not be positioned to implement significant social and economic reforms.
NED and "Democracy" in Haiti
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a Congressionally created "private" organization designed to promote what its by-laws define as democracy "consistent ... with the broad concerns of U.S. national interests." In practice, this means that "A lot of what [NED] dozes] today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA," NED's first president and current CFD head Allen Weinstein told the Washington Post in 1991.
NED got involved in Haiti in 1985, just before Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier fled. As with its operations in many Countries, in Haiti, NED and its spin-off organizations, which share many common board members and affiliations, are interlocked with official government institutions such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID).
Between 1986 and 1990, NED funneled over 52.3 million in funds into Haiti.
A 1988 study commissioned by AID noted that Haiti had between 800 and 1,500 "non-governmental organizations," with U.S. funding reaching at least 400.
At a time when the democratic and popular movement was picking up steam, the study recommended more support for "the independent sector" and listed possible recipients.
AID and NED each helped found institutions which later received sizable grants. One of those, the Haitian Institute for Research and Development (IHRED), played a very partisan role in the eighties and especially in the 1990 elections when it was allied with Marc L. Bazin, the U.S. government's preferred candidate, and helped him create his coalition.
(Bazin later served as the second illegal prime minister of the post coup d'etat regime, overseeing rampant corruption and repression. Another NED grantee - Jean-Jacques Honorat from the Haitian Center for the Defence of Rights and Freedom (CHADEL) - served as the first illegal prime minister of the regime.)
Today, IHRED is still active but much more quietly. It is known to be funding "civic education" for health monitors working in Cite Soleil for the Centers for Health and Development (CDS), a health organization run by Bazin-backer Dr. Reginald Boulos and generously funded by AID.
Because they hold the power of virtual life or death over the poor Cite Soled residents, the CDS monitors function like ward captains or even a small-time mafia. Popular organizers report the monitors are attempting to replace grassroots neighborhood organizations with groups they create, and predict the monitors will he crucial in "get-out-the-vote" drives for CDS- and U.S.-favored candidates in future elections.
Other NED funding recipients included the "yellow" Workers Federation Union (FOS), founded in 1984 with Baby Doc's approval so that Haiti, which previously had crushed union-organizing attempts, would qualify for the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative economic package.
AID and "Democracy Enhancement"
Jean-Bertrand Aristide's election took U.S. policymakers by surprise, as they had been counting on Bazin, the candidate they backed and funded, to win. Following Aristide's election, in an effort to channel the Haitians' popular upsurge, Congress hastily approved $24.4 million for a five-year "Democracy Enhancement Project" (DEP) for Haiti. According to AID documents, the DEP's purpose was to work in a "non -partisan" way with elected officials, unions and popular organizations to support "effective and sustainable programs with democratic values; promote pluralism and broad-based participation."
AID documents written a few months after Aristide's inauguration state that funds should be used for "civic education" especially before the 1992 and 1994 regional and local elections where there would not be "a presidential strongman to carry other candidates."
The All) documents betray their clear bias against Haiti's popular nationalist president who was attempting to introduce reforms into Haitian society and institutions, and although AID claims its grants arc awarded in a "non -partisan" manner, Haitian recipients, like those in other countries, will no doubt be what AID and NED call "moderate" and "centrist," and who firmly oppose popular or revolutionary movements.
After being briefly cancelled following the 1991 coup, DEP is now back in full swing, with hundreds of thousands of AID funding dollars going to groups for organizing, and for media and "education" campaigns.
Recent NED funding is unknown, because as a "private" organization it discloses only what it wants to, but many recent AI:) grantees are known. As revealed by the National Labor Committee, many of the groups on the grantee list are renowned not for their embrace of lavalas and the vibrant Haitian popular movement, but rather for being in the so-called "moderate" camp and sometimes even in the opposition.
For instance, one grantee ($300,000 in two years) is the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights. The Center's director, Jean-Claude Bajeux, is a high-level member of the CONACOM political party, which only reluctantly supported Aristide's presidency and openly broke with Aristide and the political front which supports him, the FNCD, in March 1994.
Another grant recipient is the Development and Democracy Foundation (FONDEM) ($190,000 in six months), which has been carrying out massive radio campaigns urging people to be "proud of Port-au-Prince" and to respect human rights, and saying "democracy is discipline" while the army and paramilitary groups continue to shoot, rape, rob and terrorize the unarmed population. Although closely linked to Aristide ally Port-au-Prince Mayor Evans Paul, many in the democratic movement believe the FONDEM messages are deliberately meant to demobilize the population.
Other grants go to two so-called "national platforms" of popular organizations with the acronyms PLANOP and CONAPOP which frequently hold press conferences and issue statements. Both say they represent a broad base of dozens of smaller organizations, but most of the groups did not exist before the coup and it is unlikely, given the repression preventing more than a few people from meeting at one time in poor neighborhoods, that the "platforms" really represent who they claim.
AID also gave $1.6 million to two NED spin-offs - the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the National Republican Institute for International Affairs (NRI), associated with the two major U.S. parties -to work with Haitian parties as well as civilian and military leaders, hut their work to date has not come to light.
The Center for Democracy
The most active grantee of the past few months is Weinstein's CFD, which received more than $620,000 from AID for work in Haiti, and an unknown quantity from "private funders," which may include NED, its traditional principal supporter.
In the past, the CFD has been very active in countries like Nicaragua and the Philippines where the U.S. government 01-as anxious to establish what it defines as "moderate" or "centrist" governments in the face of strong progressive, popular and democratic movements.
For its Haiti work, the CFD has contracted Steve Horblitt, a longtime Haiti watcher known for his "moderate" politics and also a former aid to former U.S. Representative Walter Fauntroy, an open and avid supporter of U.S.-favorite Bazin.
CFD documents say it will be working to "strengthen" the legislature, but also that it has embarked on a "privately-funded" effort to work with "Haitian entrepreneurs."
The outcome of this effort - which included bringing four Haitian delegations to Washington for a series of meetings - is a new private sector group, the Center for Free Enterprise and Democracy (CLED).
The new group, made up of young, right-wing business people, is steered by right-wing "political analyst" Lionel Delatour, who worked for the U.S. State Department as a translator and escort while a student in Washington, D.C. in the 1970s and later as a charge d'affairs for the Haitian embassy during Jean-Claude Duvalier's regime.
CLED first announced itself to the public in June 1993, when it released a 29-page "Economic Policy Proposal" calling for a number of severe neo-liberal adjustments to Haiti's economy, including "zero tariffs" and an across-the-board 20 percent income tax for all Haitians- those earning $150 per year and those earning $1.5 million. CLED also recommended massive public sector lay-offs, privatization and a freeze on Haiti's minimum wage "to improve the attractiveness of Haiti as a source of imports and as an investment destination."
The CLED proposal says the group favors democracy and respects the will of the majority, but notes, quoting Thomas Jefferson, "to be rightful that will must be reasonable" and says it sees democracy as "free elections, free speech, free enterprise and free trade."
After June, CLED seemed to fade from the political scene, but 1994 has seen its reappearance with a vengeance.
When 15 private sector groups announced a 12-day "strike" intended to force the lifting of the embargo in late January 1994, the spokesperson for the groups was CLED's Bernard Craan, a pharmaceuticals importer.
Resolutions issued by the groups following the strike sought to virtually order President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to have the embargo lifted.
On February 24, Parliamentarian Evans Beaubrun (from a party which openly supported the 1991 coup d'etat) announced he was working on a new amnesty law which would cover all sorts of crimes and even include a "fiscal amnesty." On the radio the following day, Craan explained that he and Beaubrun had met twice to prepare the law, and called for "the most diligence possible to vote for this law."
The CFD itself jumped into the fray when it funded the February 7 visit to Washington of a delegation of parliamentarians, half pro-coup and the other half mostly luke-warm supporters of President Aristide, ostensibly to discuss the embargo and ways to resolve the crisis.
On February 19, the parliamentarians announced "their plan" and wrote a letter to United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali outlining the steps: President Aristide names a prime minister, who in turn creates an even broader cabinet than that of Robert Malval, the moderate prime minister appointed by Aristide; the United Nations lifts the embargo; coup leader Lt. General Raoul Cedras (but no other officer) retires; and, at an unspecified time in the future, Aristide returns.
U.S. and U.N. officials called the plan - firmly and immediately rejected by Aristide and dozens of popular organizations and leaders from the democratic movement - the "parliamentary plan." But on March 9, under extensive questioning on Capitol Hill, U.S. Special Advisor on Haiti Lawrence Pezzullo revealed that the parliamentary delegation, led by former Ton Ton Macoute and self-proclaimed neo-Duvalierist Parliamentarian Robert Monde, was hand-picked by himself and U.S. Ambassador to Haiti William Swing, and that the plan originated not with the Haitian parliamentarians hut as a State Department memo last December.
State Department officers apparently provided the memo to the CFD, which then flew the parliamentarians in for three weeks. The delegation adopted the plan (although one democrat, Senate President Firmin Jean-Louis, defected and returned to Haiti) and announccd it as "homegrown." It was a maneuver used repeatedly during the 1990 Nicaragua campaign, where U.S. teams would write press releases and hand them to UNO presidential candidate Violeta Chamorro to read.
The CFD covered the parliamentarians' travel and housing costs, Pezrullo also acknowledged on March 9. An AID representative also present said that the U.S. government funds had probably been used "incorrectly."
(On March 4, CLED's Craan was on the radio again, calling the "parliamentary plan" and the Chamber of Deputies' ratification of it "an act of patriotism.")
Escaping the U.S. Grip
When Pezzullo admitted that the State Department actually wrote the "parliamentary plan" and that parliamentarians' trips were paid for by the CFD, he almost certainly was only revealing the tip of an enormous icebcrg. The State Department and the CIA, directly and indirectly via a number of "private" organizations which they control, are deeply involved in complex and multifaceted efforts to shift power from Aristide and the Popular movement he represents to a "moderate," business-led coalition that will govern the country according to U.S.-approved precepts of free markets, free trade and economic liberalization.
Beyond the "non-partisan" program descriptions, the neatly typed grant descriptions and the publicized overt activities, there are very likely other monies flowing to those individuals and organizations which can best support U.S. "interests" in Haiti. Just as the CIA has admitted it has military "assets" (such as Cedras and other army leaders), it probably has civilian "assets" being groomed for upcoming elections, whether or not Aristide returns.
For Haiti to achieve the true democracy that its people demanded when they voted on December 16, 1990, it will take more than the return of the exiled president. Haiti must escape the insidious, multi-year plan which has been drawn up in Washington and Langley, Virginia, where the CIA is headquartered. Until the vicious tentacles of the "democracy enhancement" octopus are cut off, the Haitian people - and others the world over - will he struggling against not only the opponents of justice, dignity and human rights in their own countries, but also against well-equipped and well-funded international professionals.