Truth behind overthrow of Aristide

By Phil Wilayto
Richmond, Va.

The public forum advertised in Richmond, Va., promised to reveal "the real story behind the overthrow of President Aristide" of Haiti. The audience at the May 27 event wasn't disappointed.

The evening's featured speaker was Pat Chin, activist, journalist and co-editor of the recently published book "Haiti: A Slave Rebellion--200 Years after 1804." Jamaica-born Chin is a contributing editor to Workers World newspaper.

Speaking at Asbury United Methodist Church, one of the city's oldest African-American congregations, Chin detailed how President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had tried to improve the lives of Haiti's impoverished masses, only to be undermined by Washington. The International Monetary Fund was pressured to suspend promised development loans. The U.S. big-business media accused his administration of corruption.

By contrast, although former dictators "Papa Doc" and "Baby Doc" Duvalier ran Haiti like a private family business, Washington supported them for decades.

Chin explained how the United States supplied the arms used by anti-Aristide "rebels" to undermine his government's rule. Aristide had abolished the corrupt and notoriously brutal Haitian army. But because he had not replaced it with any kind of people's militia, he and his government had little defense against the U.S.-backed insurgency.

While the news media here faithfully repeated the U.S. State Department lie that Aristide had "resigned" his office on Feb. 29, Chin explained how the popularly elected president had been virtually kidnapped by U.S. Marines and flown to isolation in the Central African Republic. It was only after an emergency solidarity delegation followed Aristide to the CAR and demanded to be allowed to meet with him that he was able to speak to reporters. The delegation included members of the New York-based Haiti Support Network and the International Action Center.

Since the coup, Chin explained, repression has continued. Many former government officials, along with members and supporters of the popular movement that had swept Aristide into office, have been arrested. "U.S. soldiers now work to defend the coup regime while doing little to protect the people," Chin said.

Despite the repression, however, the people of Haiti, the world's first independent Black republic, have courageously mobilized to demand the return of their president and the removal of U.S., French and other foreign troops from their land.

Chin concluded her talk by urging support for the June 5 ANSWER march in Wash ington, D.C., demanding the withdrawal of all U.S. and other foreign forces from Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.

The Richmond forum, which included a showing of the award-winning docu men tary "Bitter Cane," was co-sponsored by the Richmond chapter of International ANSWER and the Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, a predominantly Black community organization.

Also speaking was Zakia Rafiqa Shabazz, founder and national director of United Parents Against Lead, who reported on an ongoing community campaign to end lead poisoning in Richmond.

Reprinted from the June 10, 2004, issue of Workers World newspaper

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