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Recent military operations by the United Nations in Cite Soleil expose an underlying strategy based on a set of false assumptions set in motion by Bush administration policy makers through the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. The argument for this strategy goes like this:

1. Aristide cultivated and armed networks of gangs to harass his opposition and maintain his power
2. These are the remnants of the same gangs controlling Haiti's largest slum and they continue to receive support from Aristide
3. These gangs are behind the large demonstrations that continue to show support for Aristide and his Lavalas movement
4. If you remove the gangs, the demonstrations will cease

The Brazilian generals, who are leading the U.N. military campaign in Haiti, have combined this strategy with tactics they developed to cope with their own "gang" problems in the favelas of Rio and Sao Paolo. This is what created an environment where sweatshop owner, Andy Apaid, of the anti-Lavalas "civil society" coalition, named the Group 184, could support paramilitary gangs as a countervailing force in the slums of Haiti's capital, where support for Aristide remained strong. It was this grafting of Brazilian tactics and U.S. strategy that led to the arming of the Labanye gang in Cite Soleil in 2004 and the subsequent formation of the infamous Little Machete Army in 2005 by the Haitian police. The U.N. also accommodated known gang members who helped to overthrow Aristide and currently run Haiti's fourth largest city Gonaives. They also failed to disarm Haiti's former brutal military and actually rewarded them with a payoff of $29.5 million dollars. The U.N.'s political strategy has been to allow these elements to launder their well-deserved reputations as human rights abusers through elections. Although these groups are deemed dormant and/or sufficiently co-opted for the moment, the U.N.'s long sought after brass ring of political stability has consigned future generations of Haitians to the merry-go-round of political instability.

While the U.N. has faithfully executed the Bush administration's strategy of dismembering Aristide's Lavalas movement at any cost to Haitian society, they are also infiltrated by Haiti's wealthy elite who were the real force behind the corporate media's much trumpeted "popular uprising" that ousted Aristide in Feb. 2004. Arguably, it was the small wealthy elite's way of doing business that created the huge chasm between themselves and the majority of Haiti's desperately poor majority and historically gave rise to Aristide and the Lavalas movement. The mass of the disenfranchised poor saw Aristide and the Lavalas movement as the only political force to ever represent their interests in Haiti's entire history. It is for this reason alone they endured state-sponsored violence and political persecution under the U.S.-installed regime of Gerard Latortue that was provided legitimacy under the aegis of a United Nations Security Council resolution. They continue, to this day, to risk their lives in demonstrations of support for Aristide and Lavalas, in spite of the great toll that has been exacted from them for their belief in Lavalas, whose main tenet was that the poor masses are entitled to play a role in determining the future of Haiti, and by extension, the future of their children.

Massive demonstrations demanding the return of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide throughout Haiti on Feb. 7 went largely unreported by the international corporate media. This stood in contrast to the avalanche of news stories filed two days later when United Nations forces, known by their acronym MINUSTAH, launched yet another in an endless series of military operations in the seaside shantytown of Cite Soleil. Although the raid was ostensibly to rid the neighborhood of gangs, it followed a pattern that pointed back to the overarching strategy already established by the Bush administration.

Prior to this latest UN military offensive in the most desperate slum of Haiti's capital, a pattern had already been established between expressions of support for the ousted president and UN military operations. Last Dec. 16 saw another large demonstration for Aristide that began in Cite Soleil and only six days later the UN would execute a deadly raid that residents and human rights groups say resulted in the wholesale slaughter of innocent victims. Not gang members as the UN would later claim, but unarmed residents trying to flee from gunfire they say came largely from the UN peacekeepers (see victim's list).

Dec. 22, 2006 would be called a second massacre committed by UN forces in Cite Soleil, not unlike earlier accusations resulting from a July 6, 2005 military operation. In the carnage that followed July 6, 2005, the UN would claim that only "six bandits" had been killed while local human rights organizations and community activists claimed as many as 70 unarmed residents may have been felled by UN bullets. The UN took it one step further and claimed that although they were unable to ascertain exactly how many people died that day, if residents were killed, it was at the hands of gangs seeking retribution against those who they hypothesized had applauded their military operation. For supporters of the ousted president, the July 6, 2005 raid was largely viewed as a preemptive strike by the UN and Haiti's wealthy elite to dampen the impact of protests on Aristide's birthday, planned to take place only nine days later on July 15. The parallels between the two events are undeniable and the greatest shame is that not a single international human rights organization, including Amnesty International, ever undertook a serious investigation of these UN military actions, despite pleas from the survivors and the families of the victims.

Demonstrations demanding the return of Aristide and justice for the Lavalas political movement will not cease despite UN military operations that target gangs they mistakenly believe are behind them. Despite the propaganda of well-placed journalists who fed into the perception that Lavalas was solely comprised of thugs, the vast majority of the movement were the very same representatives of Haiti's poor majority who are being murdered by UN bullets today. While many in the corporate media portray the reality of Cite Soleil's population as falling into only two categories, helpless residents caught in the crossfire or gangsters, there is a third force that just will not go away. They are conscious and intelligent and oppose the UN occupation of their country. They do not possess any weapon other than the conviction that Aristide and Lavalas represented them and the best future for their children. The supporters of Aristide and Lavalas believe they have the right to publicly demonstrate their convictions. Unfortunately, the UN has already shown where its position lies in relation to the right of free speech claimed by those who support Aristide and his Lavalas movement.

Mr. Pina is Haiti Information Project Associate Editor, Black Commentator Haiti Special Correspondent and Associate Editor, reports for Flashpoints Radio on Pacifica, and is a frequent guest commentator on Haiti for several local, national and international radio programs. Click here to contact Mr. Pina.


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February 22, 2007
Issue 218

is published every Thursday.

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