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#3450: Aristide and violence: Pina comments (fwd)
From: kevin pina <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>From Chamberlain's response I assume that I have now been lumped among the
Aristide "apologists" and knee jerk evocateurs of conspiracies. If exposing
a specious argument and attempting to infuse history into a dialogue can be
labeled as such, than I will graciously claim it. I would rather risk such
a mantle than fall prey to yet another attempt of what I consider the fine
art of obfuscation and misdirection.
Chamberlain writes "One hopes that he has indeed learned from certain
"errors" during the Aristide I period (1991) that calls to violence(even in
desperation) quickly lead nowhere but down." I assume you are referring to
the now infamous "pe lebrun" speech, the first post-coup attempt in the game
of the demonization of Aristide. I was among the international press
assembled when Ellen Cosgrove, then "political officer" of the US Embassy,
called Howard French and several "chosen few" aside to hand them a
transcript of his speech. Despite the fact that hundreds were being killed
each evening, the press was insistent that somehow the central issue was the
dark character of Aristide and not the nightly slaughter in the streets of
Port au Prince. A purported reference to a pungent smell far outweighed the
smell of blood in the weeks that followed.
Most of us are willing to admit, at the risk of being labeled a conspiracy
theorist, that the CIA manufactured lies to portray Aristide as a madman
unfit for office. I first heard the argument in late October 1991, a year
and a half before the company's Brian Latelle released the "official"
documents to the Senate. I received a call in my editing room from a
certain Lynn Garrison who urged me to tell the truth about Aristide. "Just
tell the truth" he kept coaxing and then explained how General Cedras had
allowed him to rummage through Aristide's house and personal effects. He
claimed he had found bottles of lithium, lithium prescriptions and documents
showing Aristide had been institutionalized in Canada for a mental disorder.
I responded that I was a journalist and if he wanted to sway me he should
fax me the evidence. He agreed and several weeks went by before I heard from
him again. This time he leaned on me heavily stating that it was a shame
that the Haitian people had wasted their first attempt at democracy on such
a loser. I reminded him that he had never faxed me the documents and that
there was no way to believe he was telling the truth without them. His
entire demeanor changed and he grew angry stating that I had better "just
tell the truth". I pushed him again for the evidence and suddenly he began
screaming at me "you better just tell the truth god damn it!! I don't have
to show you anything! You better be careful the next time you go to Haiti!!"
and then hung up the phone. I learned then and there that you had better be
careful when pushing Aristide's detractors for evidence. Accusations quickly
turn to threats, and when pushed further, threats turn to violence.
The lesson came full circle in July of 1993 during the period of negotiation
for the failed Governor's Island Accords. I had returned to Haiti to
interview Cedras, Haitian politicos and members of Lavalas in hiding. The
first person to greet me in military headquarters was none other than Lynn
Garrison in the flesh, who had an antechamber office right next to Cedras.
I can say that I was more than a little frightened when I realized this was
the man who had threatened me in the safety of my editing room. Fox TV News
credentials notwithstanding, I felt I had made the mistake of my life. I
left shaken not stirred.
Later that evening I went to interview coup supporter Senator Thomas Eddy
Dupiton at his home in Canape Vert. During the course of the interview the
lights suddenly went out and someone began calling my name from the street.
Two kids from the neighborhood came over and pointed in the direction of the
voice as the Senator stood behind me. A car suddenly appeared out of
nowhere as I saw a handgun emerge from the window. I hit the ground as it
fired in our direction. The senator was hit twice in the forearm before
shouting "pa tire" or "don't shoot" after which they stopped firing and the
car sped off. The kid standing to my left was shot in the neck while the
child to my right was hit in the foot. My dear friend Lucca, who was
himself the victim of violence a little more than a year ago, hid me at his
home amid reports the police had been waiting at the Hotel Ife to arrest me.
There is no doubt in my mind that if I had been killed it would have been
blamed on Aristide supporters and used as justification to break off
negotiations for his return. As it was, Cedras appeared on television the
next morning and accused me of being an American supporter of Lavalas who
was responsible for the attempted assassination of the senator!
I was convoyed safely the next morning to the US Embassy where I was told by
Ellen Cosgrove that I might have to stand trial for the attempted
assassination of a Haitian legislator. I was grilled about my relationship
with Aristide and contacts with Lavalas until I finally demanded to call my
congressman, Ron Dellums of California. He intervened on my behalf and I
was forced to accept interrogation by the infamous Captain Jackson Jonais,
head of the dreaded Anti-Gang squad. They did their best to intimidate me
into implicating myself and Lavalas in the attack but I remained firm. I was
unceremoniously expelled from the country the very next day.
I cite these personal examples to show that there is a thread of consistency
that runs throughout what is arguably a coordinated, if not sometimes
desperate, campaign to discredit and demonize Lavalas and Aristide.
Although the context and accusations may change the end goal is the same and
for some of us it is more than mere theory.
The accusations of a campaign of violence being waged in the name Aristide
by the popular and grassroots in Haiti represents the latest version. These
organizations are not mindless mobs incapable of understanding the
ramifications that such acts have for their movement and how this image is
being used against them. Many of their representatives have clearly stated
that it is not in their best interests to promulgate such a climate. They
are fully aware it only fuels the fire of their opponents in Haiti and
Washington. I have also interviewed members of these organizations who
report contingents appearing out of nowhere shouting Long Live Aristide!!
and then proceeding to incite the crowd to violence. When confronted or
questioned by organizers they either quickly disappear or turn upon the
questioner. With the liberty of a slight change in nuance, accusations
quickly turn to threats, and when pushed further, threats turn to violence.
At the same time, incidents such as these and the ensuing accusations have
served to isolate the popular and grassroots organizations from the
international press. The portrayal of them as violent organizations has
deterred many a journalist from even considering digging deeper into the
story out of fear for their own personal safety. Yet this is exactly what is
needed if we are to have a balanced investigation that accurately portrays
the reality of the situation. How perfect that Aristide gets the blame and
Lavalas is further isolated. It is a time-honored tactic that sullies the
waters and draws a veil over the truth.
Given this, I would think it would be in the interests of NCHR and others to
conduct interviews with the popular and grassroots organizations in a
serious attempt to discover culpability for the violence. Do not further
isolate them by taking the easy way out and pointing a finger at Aristide.
These organizations are accessible. Be courageous and initiate a dialogue
and understanding with these organizations in an honest attempt to discover
the truth together. At the same time, provide leadership in working to put
to rest "conspiracy theories" in Haiti. There is no harm in calling for a
clearing of the waters by demanding full disclosure of US intelligence
policies and activities in Haiti is there? But that is more difficult isn't
it? After all Toto Constant lives comfortably in NJ, Cedras and Biamby in
Panama, Michel Francois is at large and the FRAPH documents have yet to be
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