Propaganda and Destabilization in Haiti

June 02, 2004

by Anthony Fenton

In his seminal text on the subject of destabilization "Grenada: the Struggle Against Destabilization", Chris Searle characterized the essential role of propaganda in this historical context:

"The examples of propaganda destabilization in Guyana under Cheddi Jagan's People's Progressive Party, the media blitz suffered by Allende's Popular Unity Government in Chile.and the outright war declared upon the Manley government in Jamaica.were cogent examples to [Grenada's] People's revolutionary Government of how the imperialist press and its local branches would work against them too." [1983, p. 60]

A close look at the role of the "imperialist press" is most helpful in the current case of Haiti. The "disinformation loop" that functioned so effectively during the lead up to the February 29th coup has its work cut out for it as its propagandists attempt to diffuse investigations into the systematic destabilization and eventual overthrow of Haiti's democratically elected government.

Along these lines Letta Tayler's recent New York Newsday article "After Aristide, Haiti faces organizing rebels" [June 1st, 2004], is very revealing despite the usual [and expected] mainstream distortions. The general thrust of the article is that in Haiti there is currently "a literal army of trouble" brewing, given the presence throughout "vast portions of this desperately poor and troubled nation" of "between 2,500 and 5,000" rebels, the "ex-soldiers who ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide three months ago."

According to Tayler, the "former Haitian soldiers" in the town of Mireblais are functioning as "mayor, police chief, judge and jury". In this opening paragraph we find Tayler's first glaring omission. Added to her list of functions should have been "executioner", but this would not fit into the corporate-government climate of denial that has prevailed since these "rebels" invaded Haiti from the Dominican Republic, while proceeding to hunt down Lavalas supporters once U.S.-Canadian-French troops arrived to assist them.

Tayler begins the next paragraph with clarification vis a vis another omission. She writes that these soldiers are "dressed in uniforms from the army of the neighbouring Dominican Republic." That is the extent of Tayler's analysis into the rebels' "Dominican connection". The omission is found in the lack of elaboration or critical questioning, such as, for starters: 'How did these people get Dominican army uniforms?'

It should be recalled that during the build up to the coup, that is, at the height of the recent four-year "phase" of destabilization by the United States, Canada and France, the corporate media did allow for some predictably narrow] speculation into the origins of these "rebels". Guy Philippe is quoted in several articles confirming that he had indeed trained in the Dominican, and had earlier trained at the School of the Americas in Ecuador. It was also reported in The Economist [on April 22nd, 2004] that a Pentagon official confirmed knowledge of these Dominican operations a full year before the coup.

Recent [suppressed] evidence shows that the U.S. had its hands dirty in the Dominican Republic beginning in 2000. A retired Dominican army General Noble Espejo has confirmed that these Haitian paramilitaries were incorporated into the Dominican army, wearing Dominican army uniforms, beginning in 2000, under the Clinton administration. These activities, according to Stan Goff who interviewed Espejo as part of the International Action Committee investigation into U.S. involvement in the Haiti coup, had the full knowledge of the U.S. Embassy:

"It turns out that according to Espejo.a military base.called Constanza, was normally home to a battalion of what they call Castadores, which is like "Rangers" or "Shock Infantry". One battalion was stationed here. At one point in the year 2000.they transferred two additional battalions of Castadores over to Constanza. They did this because the people of the town of Constanza already knew the people that were assigned there. Any new faces would stand out but by bringing in two additional battalions from, other bases into Constanza, they overwhelmed the community with a bunch of new soldiers and mixed in with those soldiers were the Haitian paramilitaries, who were wearing Dominican uniforms, integrated into the Dominican units, and receiving training with the Dominican military." [See: ]

The timing of this is interesting, given that Philippe had fled Haiti in October of 2000 after helping destabilize the Haitian National Police with his murderous tactics, and after having been caught planning the first of several coup attempts. It seems now that Philippe's persistence [not to mention U.S. training, funding, and arming] paid off. The military exercises undertaken by Philippe and his IRI and NED [See: CIA] backed forces can now be seen as, at once, military exercises in preparation for the "big event" and, more generally and perhaps more importantly, as helping fuel the destabilization process, creating a climate of "insecurity".

Not long after the IAC released its findings [See:], which included details of how 200 U.S. Special Forces trained these paramilitaries for the eventual assault on Haiti, the Right Wing released its spin on the rebels.

David Adams writes in "Anatomy of a Ragtag Rebellion" on April 15, 2004 [St. Petersburg Times]:

"A month after Aristide's whirlwind exit, questions still linger about Aristide's departure. Was there U.S. complicity in his removal? And who was behind the seemingly all-powerful rebel army?"

While there appears to be a pretence here of serious examination of these "lingering questions", the conclusions that Adams comes to exemplify classic destabilization propaganda:

"Far from being a well-equipped army.the Haitian rebels were a ragtag bunch of former soldiers and opportunists who begged and borrowed to raise the money for their guns." [1]

Adams quotes several sources, who sound strangely like the hucksters peddling their wares on late night infomercials. For example:

"Amazing as it seems, this was just a group of seven or eight guys."

Another incredulous response: "I was kind of amazed that it happened like it did, because I didn't think they had a chance."

In another typical propaganda-destabilization move, Adams hedges his bets by conceding that the rebels "enjoyed the tacit support of the Dominican armed forces". We are now to believe that the Dominican forces "tacitly" provided the paramilitaries with uniforms. Adams also concedes the point that U.S. officials were aware of the rebels activities:

"U.S. officials acknowledge they were keeping a close eye on the rebels, but say they declined to provide assistance because they viewed them as revolutionary has-beens."

The International Republican Institute reportedly provided these rebels with $1.5 million [according to the IAC], however, despite the denials that Adams cites to the contrary: "One institute official described the [IRI "democracy enhancement"] program as "Democracy 101," covering issues that should be no threat to an open society." An IRI representative added, "Violent regime change was not part of the picture."

The major omission from Adams piece, similar to that of Tayler's, is the IAC investigation, which specifically went into the questions that "still linger about Aristide's departure." Indeed, the IAC investigation conclusively established many facts that put the lie to Adams and Tayler, as well as the official story as "acknowledged" by U.S. officials or the Haitian paramilitaries themselves.

What is also of course missing from these articles, and universally from all mainstream coverage, are reports of the widespread human rights abuses that have taken place . It is anyone's guess as to how many Haitians have thus far been murdered since February 29th. The National Lawyers Guild [2] reported that 1000 bodies were disposed of within three weeks of President Aristide's overthrow, according to the Director of the State Morgue in Haiti. This does not include the dozens of reported cases since then, nor does it include the 60 bodies that the NLG found - and photographed - burning in a field, and this doesn't include the [as many as 9] people murdered by the Special Tactical Squad of the Haitian National Police during the May 18th Flag Day demonstrations. This Squad fired indiscriminately on crowds of demonstrators while U.S. marines watched. [See:] Lt. Col. Dave Lapan denied the version of events on May 18th, as reported by journalist Kevin Pina, in a letter to the San Francisco Bay View [].

This is the same Lapan who has recently claimed that when U.S. forces leave at the end of June [handing over the reigns to a Brazilian "peacekeeping" contingent] "we'll leave with a sense of accomplishment," and that "In a relatively short time we've done a lot to help." [AP, May 31, 2004]

It's not surprising that the Marines currently occupying Haiti "are scheduled to go to Iraq next." These Marines will bring to Iraq the much-needed experience of slaughtering civilians, arresting people without legal pretence, repressing popular dissent, and extending the U.S.-fuelled climate of terror, destruction, and permanent destabilization from the Caribbean to the Middle East. [1] 20,000 M16s and one million cartridges were shipped to the Dominican Republic in 2003, to deal with "border security issues". Many of these are believed to be in the hands of Haitian paramilitaries. Perhaps these machine guns were issued with the uniforms? Additionally, as if by magic, the newly militarized Haitian police are brandishing new arms [the ones they use to fire on demonstrators], arms that imperial forces refused to send to the Haitian government despite repeated requests prior to the coup.

[2] An interesting example of censorship and historical erasure of this issue can be found on the Right-Wing Haiti Democracy Project website []. On April 28th, the HDP announced that it would be "Pulling National Lawyers' Guild Report from the Web Page", citing its policy "not to post items we know to be false". Claiming that the NLG's investigation into human rights abuses was undertaken "with a predetermined conclusion", the HDP neglects to substantiate this argument. Several post-coup delegations have documented reports of human rights abuses against Lavalas supporters, who are the logical target of political persecution. The NLG specified that they would be investigating these reports.

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