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29118: Potemaksonje (News) Latortue's disturbing legacy (fwd)

From Potemaksonje@yahoo.com


Latortue's disturbing legacy

On Feb. 29, 2004, former President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide was forcibly removed from Haiti by the Bush
administration. Several days later, Gerard Latortue
was airlifted into Haiti and named the prime minister
with barely a fig-leaf as a process. Latortue was a
radio announcer in Boca Raton.

His major qualification, as with many Iraqi advisors
to the Bush administration, was his strong ties to the
U.S. intelligence community and neoconservatives in
the White House. Having fed the administration what it
wanted to hear about how unpopular and dictatorial
Aristide was in Haiti -- similar to the disinformation
campaign waged by Ahmed Chalabi regarding Iraq -- the
unqualified Latortue was rewarded by being anointed
prime minister.

Brutal regime

The results of his tenure are now in. A study
published this week in The Lancet, the respected
medical journal of the United Kingdom, scientifically
analyzed the brutality of the regime. In the last two
years, reports have documented the gross human-rights
violations in Haiti, but these abuses were sadly
ignored by most mainstream media. The University of
Miami School of Law's Center for Human Rights, led by
the prominent human-rights author and professor Irwin
Stotzky, Harvard University's Human Rights Clinic and
the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti all
detailed executions and systematic human-rights
violations after Aristide's removal.

The Lancet report, however, confirms everyone's worst
suspicions. It concludes that in the 22 months after
Aristide's removal there were 8,000 murders and 35,000
sexual assaults in the greater Port-au-Prince area
alone. More than 50 percent of these murders were
attributed to anti-Aristide and anti-Lavalas factions
including armed anti-Lavalas groups, demobilized army
members and government security forces.

Gangs not guilty

Similarly, almost 30 percent of the sexual assaults
were attributed to anti-Lavalas and anti-Aristide
forces. The remaining murders and sexual assaults were
due to common criminals or of unknown origin. Although
a sustained disinformation campaign by Latortue and
the Bush Administration claimed that violence was due
to Lavalas ''gangs'' -- the study finds just the
opposite. No murders or sexual assaults were
attributed to Lavalas members or partisans during the
22-month period of Latortue's regime.

As in Iraq, the other lasting legacy of the Bush
administration's policies in Haiti has been rampant
corruption. More than $900 million in aid was provided
to the Latortue regime at the request of the United
States, France and Canada. But no visible major
projects warranting such huge expenditures have been
recorded. In a country where the average annual income
is less than $350 per year, the newly elected
legislature is investigating this rampant corruption,
including $6 million that disappeared from Latortue's
Foreign Ministry.

Luxury cars

Latortue also paid a U.S. law firm $250,000 a month
retainer solely to bring against Aristide a civil suit
that was ultimately dismissed. In a parting shot to
the Haitian people, Latortue awarded himself two new
luxury automobiles, which he took to Florida until the
misappropriation was discovered.

The Bush administration legacy of terminating
democracy under Aristide and allowing gross
human-rights abuses and corruption to fester during
Latortue's regime will take many decades to reverse.
Nor was the administration successful in terminating
the Haitian people's desire for the return of
Aristide, who is as popular as ever in Haiti.

Ira Kurzban was the general counsel for Haiti for 13
years during the governments of René Préval and
Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

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