U.S. Helped Impose Death Sentence on Democracy in Haiti

[ “Tom Griffin, part of a delegation sent by the National Lawyers Guild to Haiti to meet with victims and their families, witnesses and grassroots leaders,” reports that the de facto leaders of Haiti — praised by the U.S.-installed interim leader, Gerard Latortue — are military thugs who have been summarily executing supporters of the popular Lavalas Party (i.e., the party of Aristide, the leader deposed in a recent U.S.-backed coup). Based on previous reports, we know that the rebels had freed human rights violators from jail, and used violence against Lavalas supporters. In the interview introduced below, Griffin reports that the military has taken over police stations, and that the morgue in Port-Au-Prince (which usually processes about 100 bodies per month) had to dump more than 800 bodies on March 7 (a week after the U.S.-backed coup), and 200 more two weeks later. “The director of the morgue admitted to us that many of the bodies coming in have their hands tied behind their back, and have black plastic bags over their heads.” This is what the Bush Administration thinks of as progress for democracy? Why would the U.S. back the recent anti-democratic changes, which are so predictably resulting in wide-spread human rights abuses and violence? Elsewhere, I argue that the answer is: in large part, money … “free trade,” to be more precise. –doclalor ]

Hundreds of Corpses Fill Haiti Morgues

April 12, 2004, DemocracyNow!

We speak with an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild which recently sent a delegation to Haiti. He says he saw hundreds of corpses being dumped by morgues in Haiti and describes bodies coming in with plastic bags over their heads and hands tied behind their backs, piles of corpses burning in fields and pigs eating their flesh. It has been a little over a month since Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted and a new U.S.-backed government was installed in what Aristide has called a “modern-day kidnapping in service of a coup.”

U.S. troops were ordered to Haiti within one hour of President Aristide’s departure even though both President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell had said they would not deploy more forces there until there was a political solution. Despite the 3,500 U.S.-led troops in the country, the battle for control is still being waged in numerous Haitian towns.

The Jamaica Observer is reporting that gang leaders and paramilitaries still control large swaths of northern Haiti, sometimes jailing suspected criminals, sometimes persecuting Aristide supporters. They patrol the streets, dispensing their own brand of justice, arresting and jailing alleged criminals while hoping to eventually become paid police officers or soldiers in a new Haitian army.

Louis Jodel Chamblain, convicted in absentia for the 1994 Raboteau massacre, spends much of his time in Cap Haitien. Most of his men, 20 to 35 years old, have a new long-term objective: to serve in a new version of the Haitian army. Aristide abolished the army in 1995 as a coup-prone machine responsible for human rights violations.

The National Lawyers Guild and several organizations denounced the U.S. government for its role in the forced removal of President Aristide. They demanded a Congressional investigation into the role of the U.S. government in the deliberate destabilization of the Haitian government and the implementation of the coup; an immediate end to the repression and daily attacks on those demanding the return of President Aristide; and support for Haitian refugees.

The National Lawyers Guild recently sent a delegation to Haiti to meet with victims and their families, witnesses and grassroots leaders. Attorney Tom Griffin was part of that delegation. He joins us on the phone from Philadelphia [click to hear interview].

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