The drama of Haiti and of the Aristide administration implies many dangers for Cuba and Venezuela. It is the final outcome of Washington’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) against popular governments in Latin America: namely, subversion-destruction.
The last phase of this strategy can be seen in Haiti, its initial phases in Nestor Kirchner’s Argentina, and its middle phase in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.
Sometimes this strategy ends with the death of the Latin American protagonist, as was the case with Salvador Allende. In other circumstances, the protagonist manages to go into exile, as in the case of the Guatemalan president Jacobo Arbenz. A third scenario is the “re-education” of the Latin American protagonist within the empire and his subsequent political recycling in his country, and that was the case of Aristide in
Haiti and Michael Manley in Jamaica.
Regardless of the outcomes that Washington’s Standard Operating Procedure may have on our countries, the initial aim of the subversive industrial/military complex of the United States is always the same: to tame a leader or social movement that has come to power through elections or de-facto, and whose political agenda does not reflect the interests of Washington.
The first attempt to dominate these movements and leaders is through co-option and corruption. When these are not effective, then the strategy of subversive-destruction is unleashed.
We are now witnessing the last acts of the drama in Haiti. It started developing in 1986 when the Haitian people managed to throw out the dictator Baby Doc Duvalier, thus ending a history of a century and a half of military interventions by the United States and of regimes of state terror in the service of Washington.
When the chains of United States neocolonialism, which had maintained the people of Haiti in misery, were broken, a vacuum of power was created in which the star of a slum area Salesian priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, began to shine among the dispossessed.
With speech based on the Theology of Liberation and its preferential option for the poor, reclaiming the sovereign right of the country to its self-determination against the domination of the United States, and with “a passionate rhetoric that sometimes incited violence between classes”, as The Wall Street Journal noted with concern, Aristide became a popular tribune and the hope for change among the majority.
The 1990 elections were the first free elections in 187 years. It demonstrated that Aristide had the overwhelming support of the people. Aristide obtained 67.5% of the votes despite having survived several assassination attempts from right-wing paramilitaries and having been expelled in December 1988 from his Salesian Order instigated by the apostolic nuncio. Washington’s candidate and ex-employee of the World Bank, Marc Bazin, merely obtained 15% of the votes.
These results raised the red flag in the White House and set in motion a subversive-destruction strategy against the popular government. It was successful in seven months. The new president, elected by a majority, took possession on February 1991 only to be overthrown in a bloody coup d’etat on September 30th.
The subversive strategy of post-electoral de-stabilization was preceded by another, pre-electoral intervention strategy that used different approaches to get rid of the rebel priest that was trying to implement what Washington considered was a “populist model” of democracy, that is, a democracy with the participation of those at the bottom.
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the public subversive international arm of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party of the United States, financially backed the supporters of Bazin and the former members of the Duvalier dictatorship, so as to impede the electoral triumph of Aristide. With the same aim, NED financed radio stations that demonized Aristide’s candidature.
The main workers’ union in the United States, AFL-CIO collaborated, at the behest of the Department of State, in financing right-wing unions, some with direct influence over Duvalier’s the secret police. The official US agency for international development, USAID, subsidized and advised the right wing factions that favored the United States.
All of these measures did not impede Aristide’s triumph at the polls nor his assuming power in February 1991. Faced with the defeat of Bazin and the “danger” of popular democracy, Washington organized a coup d’etat that would put an end to the priest’s experiment in the island. At the head of the coup was the narco-general and CIA collaborator, Raul Cedras, who was trained at the notorious School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.
His right-hand man was Col. Michel-Joseph Francois, also trained at Fort Benning. Together with Emmanuel Constant, another CIA agent, they controlled two key organizations for the destruction of Aristide’s democratic government: the National Intelligence Service (SIN) and the death squads, known as FRAPH. Both organizations have been established and maintained by the CIA.
In the first two weeks of the coup, more than a thousand people lost their lives in a state terrorist campaign that systematically destroyed popular and democratic organizations that had supported Aristide. When the terror ended, Cedras and Francois had assassinated more than four thousand Haitians.
The administration of Bush Sr. in collusion with the main US media immediately started a propaganda campaign against the deposed president making him responsible for what happened due to his “violations of human rights”, exactly as it did during the coup against Hugo Chavez.
For its part, the Organization of American States (OAS) decreed an embargo against the coup plotters that was never seriously implemented by the European nations nor by Washington.
In February 1992, Bush in effect lifted the embargo against the coup plotters, backed by a fervent Democratic congressman, Robert Torricelli. Torricelli supported the brutal embargo against Cuba, expecting to take advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union to destroy the Cuban Revolution and with the same energy, was in favor of lifting the embargo against the coup plotters in Haiti. In both cases, he succeeded: while aggression against Cuba increased, the boycott against Haiti was cancelled.
Faced with the force of these events, Aristide succumbed. He signed an “accord of national unity” that left him only a symbolic function in the government and a de facto exile in the United States, while Washington’s puppet Marc Bazin, assumed power in June 1992, with the public blessing of the Vatican, the Episcopalian Conference of Haiti, and the national and imperial elites.
The betrayal and degeneration of Aristide, was taken to its paroxysm in his exile to the United States, the systematic destruction of the popular movement in Haiti and a massive exodus of seventy thousand Haitians in two years. This created the conditions for his return, but now as a harmless leader. Twenty-five thousand US soldiers, sent by William Clinton, re-established he legitimate president in power.
Francois took refuge in the Dominican Republic and later in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where he spent millions of dollars he obtained during the terror and through narco-trafficking with the Colombian drug cartels. Cedras went to live in Panama City along with the ex-chief of the army, Biamby and enjoyed the same amenities of his assassin accomplice Francois.
Exile to Panama was a courtesy of the Clinton administration that guaranteed Cedras and Biamby a secure passage to Panama, where a mansion on the beach awaited them with other imperial amenities, all expenses paid by the United States.
Meanwhile, Aristide returned to a devastated country, which nonetheless preserved his image as “The Savior” among its popular sectors. However, this image did not correspond at all with the objective or subjective potential of the historic moment that 1990 represented.
The process of demolishing his administration and his personality had been profound. It had to end inevitably in his expulsion by the same popular forces that fifteen years before had taken him to power. This is what we are now witnessing and this is the result that Washington desired.
There is no better way of killing a popular myth than by getting it killed by its own people. This is what Washington did with ex-colonel Lucio Gutierrez in Ecuador. His corrupt performance as a president discredited the Armed Forces as possible vanguard in a nationalistic process. The support that the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) gave Gutierrez has generated the same disrepute for the indigenous movement and handing over military bases and military sovereignty to the Pentagon has attained Washington’s most deeply felt expectations for Plan Colombia.
The colonel has carried out his historic role for the empire. The only thing that is waiting for him is a kick and exile. The same is valid for the priest: he has become superfluous and will disappear from the scene, sooner than he thinks.
The respective scenario is foreseeable. Under the auspices of Washington, France, CARICOM or the OEA, there will be a new “national unity accord” whose elections will take some puppet of Washington to the presidency.
While the Democratic Platform of the civil organization has some social force, power resides increasingly in armed groups in the north of Haiti. These are made up of the former torturers and military of the Duvalier dictatorship that have returned from their easy exile in the Dominican Republic –among them the former leaders of the death squads (FRAPH), Luis Jodel Chamblain and Jean Pierre Baptise, and another bloody henchman, Guy Phillipe- and Aristide’s paramilitary groups that have switched sides.
Therefore, in a cruel irony of history, Bush Sr.’s plan for dominating Haiti which instigated the coup against Aristide, has now become absolutely viable under the presidency of his son George: duvalierism without Duvalier.
President James Carter tried to implement a somocism without Somoza during the last days of the dictatorship in Nicaragua, but failed, basically because of the so-called “Vietnam trauma”. The possibilities of Bush Jr. accomplishing a similar objective in Haiti are much better.
The implications of the eventual installation of a right-wing government in Haiti are considerable for Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela. The geographic distance between north Haiti and eastern Cuba is barely 90 kilometers. Guantanamo Base is located in those latitudes and any maritime exodus from Haiti could be used by the Bush administration as a pretext for unleashing force in the region.
It is supposed that the State Department of the bellicose Colin Powell is preparing already fifty thousand beds in Guantanamo Base to intern Haitian refugees to the island.
For Venezuela, the detailed study of Aristide’s experience is of vital importance. The military coup of April 2002 failed, but the strategy of subversion-destruction goes ahead.
The public recognition by State Department functionary, Peter Deshazo, that the CIA finances Washington’s mercenaries in Venezuela; the more than eighty assassinations of rural leaders and popular leaders during the Bolivarian government; the continuous envoy of arms to the Venezuelan paramilitaries and the increasing aggression of the Colombian paramilitaries all demonstrate that Washington proceeds without quarter to destroy the government of Hugo Chavez.
Since the strategy of “re-education” and “recycling” in the style of Aristide will not work in the case of Hugo Chavez, the conflict in Venezuela is antagonistic. Therefore, the defeat of the popular forces will have an extremely high human cost, as the experiences in Chile and Haiti demonstrate.
They are doomed to succeed.
Translated by Maria Victor
 Apostolic nuncios are the ambassadors of the Vatican. Translator’s note.