First heard on Flashpoints Radio, November 9, 2004
Bernstein: We continue our reporting on the situation in Haiti, a situation that the mainstream, just about every reporting agency in this world has chosen not to report on. Most recently, Brazil moves to expand the 'coalition of the killing' in Haiti.by expanding and sending in more troops. This appears to be a very interesting [back room] collaboration between Brazil and the United States. A significant story, unprecedented, I believe, in this region about collaboration between the UN really, an illegitimate police force and in some cases convicted death squad activists. The attacks against the pro-democracy, pro-Aristide communities continued unabated, including two massacres by the Haitian police just last week. Yesterday and today reports continue of Haitian national police backed by units of the UN, carrying out massive sweeps, continuing the murders, arbitrary arrests and detentions, aimed at eliminating Lavalas.President Aristide's political party. The regime, the U.S. disinformation structure is definitely gearing up to support the continued repression and the continued isolation of the duly elected President of Haiti, President Aristide. The isolation, the separation between him and his people, and of course the demonization. We are delighted to have Kevin Pina back in the studio.
Before we really jump into this, I'm hearing, you know, a lot of people calling and expressing their disappointment, their sadness about the fact that Kerry didn't win the election, and people saying they're having trouble getting out of bed. I guess when you work with people like you work with, when you get phone calls in the middle of the night, people risking their life, not for an election, but for a cause, for a way of life, for a vision, for a future, for a people, it's hard to be lazy, isn't it?
Pina: You have no choice, you can't lament, you've got to keep going forward, and you know I think people forget that, yeah, we're stuck with four more years of the Bush administration, but so is Latin America, the Caribbean, and Haiti, and you can imagine that this has emboldened every right wing idiot in Haiti now. So, it's not just the Haitian police being assisted by the UN eliminating Lavalas, but you've also got the morally repugnant elite, the 150 families who have golfing buddies in the Republican party, who are now emboldened by Bush's election. And you can expect that they're going to pick up their activities as well, to participate in this upcoming, I believe, what is tantamount to genocide in Haiti right now.
Bernstein: And I have to say that while I did not say much about the policies that Kerry supported, the stance that the Democrats took regarding the Middle East, regarding Iraq, and Palestine and Haiti, just their campaign bolstered, ultimately, the policies of the Bush administration because, once again, we had a Democrat trying to 'out-tough' the Republicans. So just the ramifications of that dual policy, that support for this murderous policy, did not help at all. I want to get to the situation on the ground, Kevin. We had these two massacres last week; there's a lot going down on the streets; let's talk about the latest violence; bring us up to date.
Pina: Well, it's funny you know, after Bush's election the other night, fireworks went off in some of the wealthy areas of Petionville up in the hills. The very next day, of course, the United Nations and the Haitian police were back at it again in slums like Bel Air and Cite Soleil, in Grand Ravine and Martissant. It's been almost daily now that they enter those communities; I understand that in Bel Air now the majority of the population don't even dare venture from their homes, they're so afraid that they or one of their loved ones will be caught up in one of these sweeps, because most of them are Lavalas supporters and the police know that, so the sweeps are indiscriminate. Anyone in the street can get picked up and caught up in these dragnets and get put face first on the ground, and never knowing whether its going to be as it was last Tuesday, October 26th, where 13 young men were put face down on the ground and each one had a bullet pumped into the back of their head.
Eight of them ended up in the morgue so we know it happened; the other bodies have not been found yet; we believe that those young men whose bodies have not been found yet, may not have actually died with the first shot to the head, and then were separated from them to ensure that they were killed again and dumped somewhere else. And then on Thursday, October 28th five young men, again, young boys, 14, 15, 16 years old, put face down on the ground and bullets pumped into the back of their head by the Haitian police. It's been relentless and it's clear that, if you saw any of these photos, you would see that one of those young men in Bel Air last Thursday, his head was completely blown off because they fired at him with a large automatic weapon at close range, and they left the bodies in the street for the community to see. That kind of activity is clearly meant to terrorize people, it's clearly left as a calling card and a message. It's not just murders being done here, this is murder with the intent to terrorize.
Bernstein: In these two cases, what exactly do we know about where the UN Forces, the UN troops, the Brazilian so-called peacekeeping troops were? Were they nearby, do we have any record of them?
Pina: No, we don't have record of that, but you know that the U.S. backed government immediately said that they thought this was Lavalas who dressed up in police uniforms and performed this action.to kill their own brothers and sisters to blame it on the government; you hear this kind of nonsense all the time, but the truth is that now we've got really solid evidence and witnesses and family members coming forward now and giving so many details of the uniforms, of the police cars that were used. The United Nations weren't there but you've also got to remember that there have been 100 Royal Canadian Mounted Police who have been instructing the Haitian police since Aristide's forced ouster February 29th; and that the United Nations has taken responsibility for retraining the police force, and what has that meant? That's meant integrating the former military - the killers who overthrew Aristide in 1991 - into the [police force], wholesale. I'll give you an example: before Aristide's departure there were [something like] 10 department commanders in the Haitian police force. Two out of the ten were former military; today, they are 100% former military, and any police who were suspected of having any sort of sympathy with Lavalas have been systematically purged, driven into hiding, [had] false accusations given against them, in order to basically cleanse the ranks of the Haitian police and now it has become, virtually, the Haitian military, again. While at the same time all of this is happening under the control, under the aegis, under the guidance, if you will, of the United Nations mission.
Bernstein: It's shocking to me. For people who consider themselves reporters, this is a story, this is an incredibly interesting story for somebody who really wants to put a feather in their cap and be an investigative reporter, they should document this kind of collaboration because this is a huge story. This is what frustrates me as a journalist because I see, just for instance, in the case of National Public Radio, how they have really simply either misreported fundamentally repeating the knee-jerk crap and moving on, or not covering at all; it is so extraordinarily shocking to see this kind of coverage on NPR, and to see how they can turn their back on this kind of story as we see it unfolding.
I want to focus if we could on Cite Soleil. I've been there; I've been there with President Aristide, to see the extraordinary support that the poorest people: there are probably people who are as poor as the people who live in Cite Soleil but there are very few people who are poorer than them. This is the poorest of the poor, these are the people that Aristide devoted himself to; you could see the love they feel. You could also see how life is about getting through every hour they are so poor. Talk about how that neighbourhood is being targeted now Kevin.
Pina: It's been undergoing not just police actions by the Haitian police from the outside, backed up by the United Nations, externally, but internally its been under heavy destabilization efforts by some of the same people who were in opposition to Aristide and Lavalas. I think there was an article in the New York Times about a week ago, where it portrayed the situation in Cite Soleil as, really, 'inter-gang violence,' gangs that had been with Aristide that turned against Aristide versus gangs that have remained loyal to Aristide. Well, people [at the NYT] don't understand that people like Apaid - Andy Apaid, who's one of the largest sweatshop owners in Haiti, who's part of the Group of 184, which was the so-called "opposition" to Aristide.it's public relations arm is in Washington, D.C., something called the Haiti Democracy Project, which is funded by a right-wing man named Reginald Boulos [of] the Boulos family, which is very intimately involved in Cite Soleil. Both Andy Apaid and Reginald Boulos have pumped tremendous amounts of money into Cite Soleil to actually buy gangs to turn against Lavalas to then battle the pro-Lavalas gangs so that the press can sit back and say 'well, our fair and balanced reporting is to say that inter-gang violence between those who used to support Aristide and those who no longer support him,' without reporting [about] the money that's being dumped into Cite Soleil by Boulos and by Apaid who, obviously, are two of the main backers of the coup against Aristide that overthrew [him] February 29th, before he was taken out by force by U.S. Marines.
They'll never give you background so there's always, whether it's Cite Soleil or whether it's Bel Air, or whether its any part of this story in Haiti, it's the same with all corporate media reporting: there is a false balance. In the name of what they call balance they will usually give credence, for example, to lies by the Haitian government saying that 'well, it wasn't police who carried out that massacre, it was Lavalas dressed like police who committed it.' And so they say, to be fair and balanced, they've got to include that voice which then precludes the truth.
Bernstein: Right, it precludes them taking their own responsibility to investigate and find out what happened, which has been the great stuff of your reporting, to be there and hold them accountable..Father Jean-Juste who we reported, we got him as he was being kidnapped by these masked men who said they were police, [what is] the situation with him now?
Pina: He's still in jail, the charge is still public disorder, a thirty cent fine; he has not seen a judge yet. They are going to do with him what they have done with thousands of Lavalas political prisoners: let him rot in jail.
Dennis Bernstein is a regular contributor to Pacifica's Democracy Now, and Associate Producer of Pacific News Service. He is currently cohost of KPFA's Flashpoints News Magazine, and is a frequent commentator on WBAI airwaves.
Please check the Dennis Bernstein Archive at Satya Center for more stories.