[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#3450: Aristide and violence: Pina comments (fwd)

From: kevin pina <cariborganics@hotmail.com>

>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 

Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at http://www.hotmail.com