Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Press fail to identify key players in Gonaives opposition violence

Press fail to identify key players in Gonaives opposition violence nor do they examine timing of terrorist acts

Michelle Karshan, Foreign Press Liaison - National Palace, Haiti
Tel: (011509) 228-2058 - Fax: (011509) 228-2171 - Email: mkarshan@aol.com

Haiti's Secretary of State for Communications, Mario Dupuy, responded to this week's extreme violence by the opposition in Gonaives explaining that these are "terrorist acts undertaken by the armed wing of the opposition." Indeed, immediately after the attack on the police station in Gonaives (which includes destroying the national prison there, aiding the escape of prisoners, burning of government buildings, homes and stores, murdering police and civilians, setting people on fire) the leaders of the opposition in Port-au-Prince openly praised the terrorist acts in Gonaives.

Journalist Scott Wilson, in his Washington Post article, "Armed Attacks Increase Pressure on Haitian Leader, Groups Extend Reach Into Provincial Areas" published November 18, 2003 (see link at end of this section) described the armed branch of the opposition as follows: "Many of the participants are either former members of Haiti's military, which was dissolved after the 1994 U.S. invasion that restored Aristide to power following a military coup, or they belonged to a paramilitary force that opposed the president's return. The groups have increased the tempo of their attacks in recent months, and are showing signs of coordinating military efforts around the country."

In that same November 2003 article, Prime Minister Yvon Neptune stated, "Our information is that there are links between some elements of these armed groups with the opposition on every level -- financial as well as the political goal of ousting President Aristide," Neptune said. "We're trying to show that this is all a pretext for not wanting to participate in elections."

In reporting on this week's atrocities in Gonaives, the foreign press, so far, has continued to portray the opposition in Gonaives as former Aristide supporters when in fact the former military, macoutes and FRAPH figure prominently amongst them! Today's Associated Press article by Michael Norton does admit the presence of former military in Gonaives but distances their involvement from the high command of the terrorists as follows: "Former soldiers of Haiti's disbanded army carrying heavy weapons patrolled the streets in support of the uprising in Gonaives."

Charles Arthur, of Haiti Support Group London, and author of several books on Haiti, challenged the perpetuation of this myth when he pointed out that mainstream media are filing stories from/on the opposition violence in Gonaives without a mention of Jean Tatoune!

Arthur explains, "At the end of January 2004, Tatoune [Jean Pierre aka Tatoune] was named by the anti-Aristide Artibonite Resistance Front as the new 'departmental police director'. The Front, which unites followers of Tatoune and followers of the murdered Raboteau leader, Amiot Metayer, also named Amiot's brother, Butteur, as 'police inspector.' Bertrand Wilfort, aka Ti Will, as 'departmental police commissioner', and Winter Etienne as 'mayor' of Gonaives. Tatoune has led many of the violent attacks on police in Gonaives since he escaped from prison in August 2002 (along with Amiot Metayer and some 150 other inmates of the city prison). Tatoune is a former FRAPH leader who was sentenced to forced labour for life in 2000 for his participation in the 1994 Raboteau massacre."

Tim Collie, in his February 6, 2004 Sun-Sentinel article, "Opposition movements in Haiti threaten country's stability," did point out the various players although his article fell short of connecting the dots. Collie revealed that, "√Čanother group known as the Motherless Army, composed of former army members, has carried out assassinations of government officials and sacked villages." Collie continues more specifically about the Gonaives situation, "Thursday's uprising was led by a group formally known as the Cannibal Army, now renamed the Artibonite Resistance Front. Based in the shanty town of Raboteau, they are a hardcore mix of former Aristide supporters and elements of the FRAPH, a paramilitary squad that menaced Haiti during the early 1990s, after Aristide was overthrown during his first administration."

In response to the murderous violence and anarchy in Gonaives, Haiti's President of the Senate, Yvon Feuillé, asked is this what the opposition meant by a "social contract." He was referring to the "social contract" of the "civil society" group led by US citizen and Haiti factory owner, Andy Apaid. Robert Fatton, a University of Virginia professor and political analyst on Haiti, in Collie's article, wonders, "If what is happening in Gonaives is the opposition's vision for Haiti, then the future is pretty grim indeed." Fatton goes on to conclude that, "These are not democrats by any means - they don't have a political philosophy other than power and money."

This week's attack on the Gonaives police station came on the heals of two days of talks with the Caricom delegation in Haiti, who met with both sides in an effort to move the process forward towards elections. Also, last week President Aristide committed to continue the government's disarmament campaign (last year the government of Haiti made it clear that this would be applied across the board, regardless of class, political affiliation, or place of residence). Further, the Gonaives attacks follow several positive editorials appearing in leading newspapers in the United States, all supporting Haiti's constitutional government and it's democratic electoral process. The opposition also became outraged this week by President Aristide's interview on CNN in which he stated for the world that he would complete his presidential mandate of five years and discussed the democratic principle of "one man, one vote."

Ira Kurzban, Haiti's General Counsel, views the Gonaives attack as a diversionary tactic. When Caricom finished up their two days of talks in Haiti, it was well established that the opposition had told Caricom that they would not negotiate while Aristide is still in office. Kurzban explains, "I believe that the incident in Gonaives was timed purposely to downplay CARICOM and the opposition's non-response. For those of us who have been involved in this for many years we are aware of the timing of such events to distract the "public" from the real story."

For more on the opposition in Gonaives, see November 18, 2003 Washington Post, Armed Attacks Increase Pressure on Haitian Leader, Groups Extend Reach Into Provincial Areas

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