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Beast of the Month - April 2004
Guy Philippe, Haitian Coup Leader
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
Infamous line from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
On February 29, Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted as leader of his country. In the US korporate media, the coup was celebrated as a legitimate revolt against an increasingly dictatorial authoritarian who rejected democracy.
Sorry if The Konformist reacts to this with a case of deja vu, but frankly, we have seen this before. It was exactly two years ago in April 2002, when Hugo Chavez of Venezuela (who, like Aristide, was democratically elected president of his country twice, or two more times than George W. Bush) was overthrown by a coup as well, albeit for only one day. In an incredible sense of timing, Disinformation released a book that month as well, titled Everything You Know Is Wrong. The book included an article by Konformist editor Robert Sterling, titled "Viva Kadaffi!" The article specifically cited both Chavez and Aristide as the two elected leaders of countries who had aroused the enmity of the IMF-World Bank crowd with their policies.
Of course, as Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein prove, just because someone has the worst of enemies proves they are the best of men. While there certainly appears to be more than a tad of establishment propaganda against Aristide (like there was against Chavez) that doesn't invalidate that there were legitimate reasons to criticize him, protest him, and even rebel against him. Among his supporters were armed gangs of poverty-stricken males nicknamed chimeres (Creole mythical monsters) which engaged in thuggery: destruction of property, looting, hijacking and even murder (usually of Aristide's opponents.) While it doesn't appear Aristide controlled these gangs, as President he had a responsibility to stop their criminal activity (even more so since they are his supporters) and his weak response to their behavior shows gross negligence at best. Likewise, corruption and drug-trafficking have continued unabated under his reign: in February, one former Aristide ally Beaudoin "Jacques" Ketant was busted in Florida on trafficking charges, and alleged in court Aristide was personally involved in the lucrative underground industry. His claim seems like a desperate ploy to cut a bargain, but it underscores just how high the corruption has gone.
Then again, this is Haiti. The supposed outrage and shock in the American korporate press of Aristide's nation being mired in corruption, narco-profits and violent political battles seems an intentional denial of historical reality.
The poverty stricken nation of 8 million has an annual GDP of $3.9 billion - an amount that would hardly dent Bill Gates checkbook. The per capita income in $480, less than a buck and quarter a day, making it the poorest nation in the Americas. There is only one telephone for every hundred people. Literacy is at fifty percent, while half of the population is also undernourished as well, the same percentage that lack access to clean water or sanitation. Life expectancy is under fifty years, with only 25 doctors per 100,000 people and 300,000 cases of AIDS, the highest in Latin America.
Haiti has a long history of misery: indeed it was founded in 1804 by a slave revolt led by Toussaint L'Ouverture against French colonial masters. It had been a slave state from the moment Christopher Columbus landed in 1492, and to this day the L'Ouverture revolution is the only successful slave rebellion in history. How successful can be debated, as the massive poverty and health crisis implies. Even more telling, the lighter skinned French-speaking mulattos, 1% of the population, own half of the country's wealth, underscoring that the racist slave economy may have been rebelled against but has never been fully reformed.
Under this context, the appeal of Aristide is understandable - as is the intense opposition he faces. A charismatic speaker, the former Catholic priest was a proponent of the radical liberation theology. He once declared: "Capitalism is a mortal sin." His political base is the Creole black majority of the nation, the 99 percent living in abysmal poverty.
He won an overwhelming election victory in 1990 with over two-thirds of the vote, the first democratic election in Haiti's history. It didn't last long: the nation's military and the Haitian death squad known as FRAPH (Front for the Advancement of Progress of the Haitian People) overthrew his regime less than a year later, killing 4,000 civilians in the process. As in 2004, the mainstream media blamed Aristide, claiming he had become power-hungry and alluding to CIA documents that alleged he was "mentally unstable" and a "murderer and psychopath." FRAPH's leader was Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, who was on CIA payroll, making it a de facto CIA coup.
Bill Clinton backed his reinstallation with military force, but only on the condition that he not run for reelection, and thus Aristide became an impotent lame duck. Still, he remained quite popular with the Creole population and was elected again with 92 percent of the votes on November 26, 2000. Right-wing forces in both Haiti and the US declared his election a "sham" - including those supporting "president" George W. Bush. Considering this was less than a month after the Florida Votescam, the charge was both amusing in its irony and repulsive for its duplicity.
The punchline is perhaps the greatest indictment of Aristide is he hasn't done enough to fight poverty in his nation. Then again, it's not entirely his fault: after his election, the Bush Team cut off aid to the nation over claims of corruption, which only increased the corruption and sent Haiti's economy into a tailspin. Despite this, he is still beloved by the Creole majority, most of whom view him as the Haitian Nelson Mandella. With a tad of desperation, the impoverished have celebrated him as the inheritor of the L'Ouverture spirit and a symbol of hope. As with his first election, however, the hope has again been crushed: exactly 200 years after Haitian independence and ten years after his reinstallation, Aristide has fell victim to a coup once again. Happy anniversary. (The overthrow of Aristide is the 33rd coup in Haiti's history. For Illuminati fans, that is the number of the highest degree in Freemasonry.)
But enough of Aristide. The best way to judge a revolution is not by whom it overthrew but who heads the revolutionaries. Leading the list is Guy Philippe, The Konformist Beast of the Month., leader of the ragtag rebels that took over Haiti. After the coup, Phillipe told reporters while flanked by coup leaders and senior police officials, "I am the chief." He would add boastfully over the radio, "The country is in my hands!" Philippe had just returned in early February from the Dominican Republic, where he fled in 2000 on charges of coup plotting. He also is alleged to be behind a December 2001 attempt to seize the President's National Palace. A former army officer and police chief in Cap Haitien, his officers executed dozens under his reign, and Colombian cocaine cartels were given easy access to his port during his tenure. During his stay in the Dominican, he had a taste for luxury hotels, which gives evidence that he personally profited off the narcotics black market. He has since led numerous violent attacks on Haiti from across the border, the coup just the latest.
But Philippe isn't the only dubious member of this motley crew. Here's a little list of names and bios:
* Louis-Jodel Chamblain - Perhaps the most infamous member of the coalition, Chamblain was a co-founder of FRAPH with Constant. A former army officer, in the late eighties, Chamblain ran death squads during the last years of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier's dictatorships. After FRAPH was formed, it hunted down supporters of Aristide's Lavalas Family party, torching entire neighborhoods during its terrorizing military rule. Chamblain was convicted in absentia for the slum massacre of at least 15 people. (Jean Tatoune, also implicated in the massacre, is also part of the coup.) Another murder was of a prominent businessman and Aristide supporter, Antoine Izmery, who was dragged from a church, forced to kneel, and executed. On Chamblain's involvement in the coup, Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch stated, "It would be a sad day if Haitians woke up and found that Louis Jodel Chamblain and 'Toto' Constant and those people who terrorized Haiti for three years were part of the government." Tellingly, on Chamblain's dirty history and involvement in the coup, Phillipe replied with a shrug: "Who hasn't made mistakes?"
* Andre "Andy" Apaid - Leader of the Haitian political opposition to Aristide, Group of 184, which is modeled after pro-coup coalitions in Allende's Chile and Chavez's Venezuela. Apaid, a dual national of Haiti and the US, is also head of Alpha Industries, one of the oldest and largest assembly factories in Haiti. Of course, "assembly factory" is a misnomer: "sweatshop" is the accurate term. He has consistently evaded taxes (the Aristide administration increased tax collection) and forced union organizers away at gunpoint that were trying to stop the brutal working conditions. He is also the founder of Tele-Haiti, a radio station which (along others owned by the ruling elite) frequently aired commercials inciting Haitians to overthrow Aristide. Despite his outrage at the supposed misdeeds of Aristide, he supports the Duvalier dictatorship, and his father was a close friend to Baby Doc. The final straw for Apaid appears to be Aristide doubling the minimum wage, which some believe was "the straw that broke the camel's back" in the minds of Haiti's establishment.
* Dany Toussaint - A man who some peg as the country's next leader, Toussaint is a former Aristide bodyguard who once headed Haiti's police force. He made a break with Aristide in 2003 when his popularity began to plummet. Haitian and U.S. officials have investigated him for crimes ranging from assassinations of Aristide foes to narcotics trafficking. Curiously, it is the man who may be most directly responsible for the worst crimes under Aristide who is part of the coup leaders, which gives lie again to the claims of moral outrage against Aristide's reign. Toussaint has admitted to plans of running for president.
* Butteur Metayer - another former Aristide supporter who has turned against him, Metayer (who wears bands of bullets across his chest) was the leader of the notorious Cannibal Army street gang, the worst of the thuggish groups. The gang turned against Aristide after his brother Amiot was assassinated last year: Metayer claims it was a government job to prevent him giving damaging information. While Butteur claims the information directly linked to Aristide, it more likely is of lesser officials such as Toussaint.
One sleazy name not on this list is Baby Doc himself, but don't hold your breathe: Mr. Dictator for Life has told reporters that he wants to return to his homeland now that Aristide has fled.
Of course, there is another name to add to this list of coup supporters: George W. Bush, who led another successful American coup in November 2000. During the entire rebellion, Bush and his cronies said they didn't want to intervene in Haiti's internal political affairs: as soon as Aristide left, the US Marines were immediately ordered in. Mr. Smirk-in-Chief then announced, "I would urge the people of Haiti to reject violence, to give this break from the past a chance to work." Curious why there was no urge to reject violence before the coup was completed. Also curious, as one critic of US policy put it to UPI: "It is clear that the rebel forces crossed the Dominican border heavily armed with equipment that even the former Haitian military did not have, which could not have been done without the knowledge of the Dominican army. We also know that the Dominican government would not have allowed this to happen unless it had clearance from the United States government." Aristide himself claims US military forces forced his resignation and exile, a claim backed by his caretaker.
(Amusingly, another covert promoter of the coup: those cowardly quiche-eating French. France faced a $21 billion lawsuit from the Aristide regime over slavery reparations, and was not-so-secretly backing the destabilization of its former slave colony as well. Their tactics and behavior show that while their stand against the US in Iraq may have been correct, it certainly wasn't based on moral principles.)
How will this all turn out? After the coup, a US-sponsored group of "eminent persons" (i.e. leaders of the Haitian establishment) took over and promised a government that would represent all of Haiti's major political forces. Yet not one member of thirteen member cabinet was from Aristide's Lavalas Party. Meanwhile, foreign forces (primarily US and French, of course) have focused on the slums, disarming the poor who were Aristide's primary backers. Naturally, the rebel forces have been given free reign, and predictable reports of bloody massacres continue.
In the end, to call what is happening in Haiti a revolution would be dishonest: it is more accurately a counter-revolution. It appears the Bush Team have learned their lesson well over the Chavez fiasco, and now have their own successful Allende-style coup in Haiti.
In any case, we salute Guy Philippe as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, Guy!!!
From the collection Everything You Know Is Wrong, edited by Russ Kick
Guy Philippe: The rebelling soldier
Haiti: An economic basket-case
Steve Schifferes, BBC News
Debunking the Media's Lies about President Aristide
March 14, 2004
U.S.-Sponsored Regime Change in Haiti
Nirit Ben-Ari and Bill Weinberg, World War 3 Report
March 1, 2004
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