If a foreign power invaded the US and sent the president packing in the night under threat of death, would the US be able to move without the exiled president being allowed to return to his country even if he would no longer be president?
After I posted my starry-eyed, can't-we-all-just-get-along evaluation of what's next for Haiti that did more to reveal that I don't have any idea of what's going on in Haiti than anything else, an email blast from Margueritte Laurent showed up in my mailbox. Laurent is an artist and activist. This is from her biography, which appears at her site:
She is founder of The Haitian Lawyers Leadership, a network of lawyers dedicated to institutionalizing the rule of law and protecting the civil and cultural rights of Haitians at home and abroad. She has written a judicial reform agenda for Haiti. Her most challenging and memorablework thus far has been as legal advisor, in 1994-1995, to Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide in promoting the democratizing process in Haiti. The "Red, Black & Moonlight" performance series is a musical memoir based on that story and her life and work in the United States.
So she worked for Aristide in the mid-nineties. I've known that for a while so I wasn't surprised to see the call for Aristide's return show up in the email. It's a big part of quite a few of the emails from HLLN. This is the kind of question that makes outsiders like me want to throw up their hands and ask, Is Aristide that big a deal?
Still I think the emotions expressed in this email are real in Haiti, although I'm not sure the whole country pins as much importance on Aristide's return as Laurent does. I have to believe that most Haitians want a peaceful, economically just Haiti with full employment. If that means Aristide will never come home, they'd be okay with that. But the fact is, I don't know.
I'll start the email here and put the rest after the jump. It's long and rambles a bit but if you're interested in Haiti, give it a read. Laurent talks about Haitian history, Haitian identity, the coup that sent Aristide into exile, the UN occupation, Preval's inaugural address and what she thinks needs to happen to get to that peaceful, economically just Haiti. File it under "another county heard from" or "information you'll never get in the corporate media."
Hope and Humiliation: May 18, 2006 and the Inaugural of President Rene Preval by Marguerite Laurent
Today, May 18, 2006 is Flag Day in Haiti. It's a time to remember why the African general, general Jean Jacques Dessalines took the tri-colored French flag, ripped out the white and threw it into the sea, leaving our flag, blue, and the red. It's a time to remember why the emblem engraved in the coat of arms of Haiti is "L'union Fait La Force" – “in unity lies our strength”.
It's a time to remember that after 300 years of European barbarity in Haiti – Haiti, the first place Africans where transported as European captives for the "New World" - that on May 18, 1803, after beating the armies of Great Britain, Spain, France and the embargo and arms of the US white settlers, the Africans, who became "Haitian," in the land of the Taino-Arawaks Amerindians had, with this great feat, even Spartacus couldn’t achieved, liberated the sons and daughters of Africa, eviscerating the white men's fatalistic idea that the child of a Black woman was lesser than that of the white men.
HLLN created a flag for the FreeHaitiMovement which represents this Haitian struggle against tyranny that continues to this day, May 18, 2006, some two centuries later.
We take this opportunity to thank all those who have ANSWERED THE CALL and joined the list of sponsors to the FreeHaitiMovement.- Dessalines Is Rising Worldwide
Today, May 18, 2006 and throughout the rest of the month, in countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas, decent people worldwide will stand in solidarity with the people of Haiti against the Coup, the de facto protectorate and the foreign occupation of Haiti.
There will be teach-ins, rallies and lectures before and on May 18, 2006 about Haiti's historical accomplishments; vigils, pickets outside embassies and U.N. buildings; audio and video streaming for internet and DVD distribution of testimony from victims and resisters of the 2004 coup d'etat; the wearing and flying of the blue and red colors of Haiti; and, the sacrilege of the 2004 bicentennial coup, shall be remembered as Africans and friends of Haiti worldwide commit to fax, call-in and deliver to French and US Embassies and Consulates worldwide the People of Haiti’s demand that France pays back the 22 Billion dollars it extorted from Haiti, and the US pays back its portion of this illegal slave-trade debt which was “refinanced” by the US in 1914 (enforced, through a 19-year occupation), the final payment made in 1947 to the United States, after Haiti’s people had broken the chains of racial slavery to win their independence.
The year, 2006, also marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Haiti's liberator, general Jean Jacques Dessalines. Pro-democracy Haitians worldwide shall continue to call on the vision of Dessalines for Haitians as we struggle to liberate Haiti of its current France/US/Canada and UN occupiers. HLLN will culminate our year-long celebration of the life and works of Dessalines, on Oct 17, 2006, the day marking the first coup d'etat in Haiti and Dessalines assassination.
Haitians have live through and survived 33-such coup d'etats as part and parcel of the legacy of struggle against Euro/US debt, domination and dependency.
The February 29, 2004 coup d'etat against Haiti's democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide continues to this day, as Haitian sovereignty continues to be humiliated by the white saviors and their Black overseers in Haiti - Haiti's morally repugnant wealthy few.
The imperialist and their Black overseers say Haiti is a failed state and they will save us. 20,000 Haitians have died, over 4,000 are in prison, there are children jails now in Haiti, something Haitians have never had before. And though the people of Haiti continue to resist this tyranny, have elected and fought for the speedy installation of President Rene Preval to office. The repression continues.
One only has to analyze the May 14, 2006 Presidential inaugural events to understand how both hope and humiliation still vie for a place in the Haitian psyche.
Hope, of course, is represented by the Haitian peoples' courage, commitment and living legacy as pioneers in the human rights struggle for life with dignity. Humiliation as represented by the presence of foreign troops to Haiti to install the Latortue death regime. Humiliation as represented by the fact that these Neocon fascists even controlled the inaugural day of the people's new president. Humiliation as represented by the fact that since the ouster of Haiti's democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, there has been systematic repression of the people and their voice in Haiti. Humiliation in that, even as President Preval officially took power, two months after his election, the claws of the coup d'etat vampires are so deep inside the backs of the Haitian poor, Haiti still cannot liberate Yvon Neptune, So Ann, Jacques Mathelier and thousands of others who have languished in Canada/US/France-supported indefinite incarceration on Dessaline's land.
Even though President Preval has taken power, there is still a gun to Haiti's head. A gun held by the coup d'etat governments of the US, France, Canada, with the UN as their "peacekeeping" cover. There is no justice in Haiti. For Haitians cannot forget all of Latortue’s human rights violations, will not forget the 20,000 Haitians slaughtered since Feb. 29, 2004 and 4,000 in prison, mostly all political prisoners; cannot forget the multinationals, NGOs, foreigners and IFCs’ fleecing Haiti these last two coup d’etat years and calling it “bringing development, justice and democracy.”
It wasn't an easy job for these folks to turn Haiti back to this miserable level. But, as President Preval stated in his inaugural speech - and HLLN takes the liberty of forgetting the double entendres, high-society proprieties and diplomatic protocols, to say what a manacled President perhaps cannot and even may not have intended to say – but we, HLLN say, on behalf of the people of Haiti who were not INVITED to the inaugural of the President they elected, that "it wasn't easy but the illegal Boniface Alexandre, Gerard Latortue, their cabinet members and their illegal Provisional Electoral Council did EVERYTHING they could to undermine the people of Haiti, so Haiti could get to this point of humiliation, this point of insanity, bloodshed and chaos that it is today.” It was not easy, but they had powerful US/Canada/France/UN guns behind them to push Haiti to here:
HERE where Prosper Avril, a former general who escaped two years ago from the National Penitentiary where he was being held as a threat to national security, had a front row seat, while Rene Civil, who HLLN is told, allegedly had a letter of invitation in his hand to attend the inaugural, was illegally arrested, on the Friday (May 12, 2006) before the inaugural, at the border of the Dominican Republic.
So, at Preval’s inauguration, Proper Avril was out of prison and in a front row seat of the Legislative Palace. So Ann, Yvon Neptune and thousands of political prisoners, with no human rights violation records, still languish in jail.
That’s where we-Haitians are.
HERE where we hear an unconfirmed report that even Louis Jodel Chamblain attended the inaugural.
HERE where the Haitian people’s duly chosen President has no control of the police force, the UN soldiers, not even the National Palace.
BUT, but, in spite of all of the Boca Raton regime and their powerful Western supporter’s undemocratic efforts, the people of Haiti still won back the presidency.
This folks, is how the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network explains the comment made by President Rene Preval at the inaugural that:
“…President Boniface Alexandre, Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, cabinet members [applause], you have done EVERYTHING you could so Haiti could get to this point. It was not easy, but we got here. [Applause]
Members of the Provisional Electoral Council, your job was not easy,
either. Since 1987, elections in Haiti have been trouble. The first
one ended in blood. Most of the others ended in challenges. These
elections also had their problems, but everybody acknowledges that
there was no violence. The people participated en masse, and
everybody acknowledges the results. [Applause] “
Our work at HLLN is to give voice to the voiceless people of Haiti, a voice not often found in the mainstream press or the powerful citadels of power on this planet. That the Boca Raton regime did everything to destroy justice, democracy and anyone associated with the Constitutional governement of Haiti is undisputable. Fortunately, like the Haitian people outside the inaugural halls, who came to make their presence known, their grievances heard, HLLN also has no diplomatic need or practical reasons to couch this truth behind double entendres or diplomatic protocols.
But, true also, is the fact that, even as there is hope today in Haiti, we are still being humiliated as a people, a nation. That is why when HLLN ponders at what point are we-Haitians in the struggle today for self-determination, self-respect, self-defense and national sovereignty, we singled out the noted paragraph from President Preval’s inaugural speech and ask:
Is President Preval being held prisoner in plain sight without the bars, for instance, locking in So Ann and Yvon Neptune? Is Preval unable to freely speak? Is that what we fought for? Or, in the alternative, if President Preval meant to freely praise the Boca Raton regime for “doing everything” to get us “to this point” - to this repression point that continues right up to this very moment, is that what we all fought for?
It doesn’t take much thinking to figure out why the double entendre. Why President Preval, who is hobbled by the events of the coup d’etat, the presence of a police force trained by Haiti’s enemies, backed by UN guns, is limited. The humiliating part we are in right now as a nation is that Haiti is under domination and pretending to be electing a president, hoping we can transform the dynamics of the situation: buy ourselves breathing room, stop the killings, free the political prisoners, get the return of President Aristide, alleviate the people’s total repression since the 2004 coup d’etat.
The inaugural of President Rene Preval is one step in this direction. For that hope, Haiti has paid with the lives of over 20,000 of its sons and daughters and continues to pay, as at least 12 political prisoners are reported to have been killed by the defacto police with UN firepower cover just hours before President Preval’s inaugural.
Haiti’s humiliation continues this May 18, 2006.
But Haitians know how to fight US/Euro containment-in-poverty.
Those of us who stand without shackles, like the Haitians in the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, owe our success and survival to this legacy.
We teach our children, the example of Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, that NO, it is not alright to reconcile with injustice. We teach our children what Dred Wilme and the people of Site Soley, Bel Air, Solino, Martissant and all over Haiti have taught the world these last two nightmarish years, NO, it is not acceptable to "get along on our knees" rather than telling the truth because that would mean risking losing a job, a social status, even prison or a bullet in the head.
On this May 18, 2006, Haitians worldwide will continue teaching these values, celebrating our roots, Dessalines legacy, Catherine Fon’s flag and the Ancestors “live free or die” principle and heavy example. Our ancestors would not reconcile with injustice. Even if they died for this, they would not accept injustice.
Are today’s Haitians to live in discord with the legacy the African Ancestors left us in Haiti? No. Haitians cannot and still BE “Haitian.”
There is a humiliation still to be erased in this current coup d’etat struggle. President Preval has begun the process on behalf of the people of Haiti at his inaugural.
THERE, he made three critical points.
MINUSTHA was clearly informed Haiti prefers tractors and bulldozers to MINUSTHA’s heavy weapons, armored vehicles and war tanks. The speech was entirely in Kreyol. This is a first for Haiti, has never been done before to anyone’s memory and is CRITICALLY significant to Haitians. BUT, equally and the most satisfying action of President Preval at the inaugural, what made us-Haitians feel he is OURS, was the way President Preval dexterously and without fanfare, skipped “the propriety” of having Boniface place the presidential sash on him. This says much to Haitians and pro-democracy advocates. It rejects and soothes our many wounds since Feb. 29, 2004.
Still, the repression continues and is suffocating us. Haiti is still not free. That is why today, May 18, 2006 is also International Solidarity Day with Haiti. And why people of conscience worldwide will be flying the blue and red colors of Haiti’s liberty to support our struggle and let the poor majority in Haiti know: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
Today May 18, 2006 is better than the last two flag days we have had, in 2004 and 2005. Again, this year we remember the Haitian woman who face-off the US Marines’ guns and refused to give them the body of the unarmed Haitian demonstrator that was shot, in cold blood, in front of said “peacekeepers” with impunity. We remember how, on that May 18, 2004 day, this anonymous Haitian woman, refused to give up to fallen body of this demonstrator. She took off all her clothes, staring down the US Marines tanks and guns, to show them she was not armed. Then, she wrapped her naked body up in a large Haitian flag, hoisting up the dead man upon her back, walking off with him on her back, daring the “peacemakers” to shoot her.
This exemplifies Haiti’s “to live free or die” motto. It is why Haitians celebrate Flag Day. It is why today, we pro-democracy Haitians, we too hoist on our back the 20,000 dead since the coup d’etat, the thousands still in prison, the 33 coup d’etat’s, the 200 years of containment-in-poverty and before that, the 300 years of slavery. Haitians are a strong people and hoist all of this on our back. We may buckle down under the weight, nou plie pa case, but we shall NEVER reconcile with injustice.
On Flag Day 2004, at least 9 unarmed demonstrators were shot dead fighting for Haiti’s liberty. On Flag Day 2005, Sanel Joseph lost his life, along with many others. Today Flag Day 2006, we hope no Haitian life is lost. We hope that the inaugural of President Preval will mean Haitians will stop getting killed by organized, state-sponsored forces.
At Preval's inaugural the crowd outside were chanting “arrest Boniface and Latortue” and remembering how, after the September 30th killings of unarmed demonstrators, Latortue said “We shot them, some of them fell, others were injured, others ran away…”
We-Haitians who commit to protect the Feb. 7th vote, who discount the polemics aimed at “the gallery,” and international community during inaugural, we who congratulate President Rene Preval for safely traversing the dangerous coup d’etat gauntlet set for his team to bridge at the inaugural, we find, May 18, 2006 is a good time to ask, “Did you hear Mr. President, the PUBLIC CLAMOR for the arrest of Boniface and Latortue? When, sir, will the political prisoners be free? “
The people of Haiti voted for President Preval in order to wipe out the humiliation of Feb. 29, 2004. The crowd outside told the world, at Preval’s inaugural, what must be done for Haiti’s humiliation to be assuaged?
It is wonderful that President Preval has officially been inaugurated, taken power. But, according to the wishes of Haiti’s majority, who elected President Preval to office, justice must be done. The people, as documented by the reporters on the scene at the inaugural, were requesting the arrest of Boniface and Latortue, asking for the release of the political prisoners and that MINUSTHA stop killing the people along with the Haitian police. But, for Haiti’s humiliation to be assuaged, for that to be done, the return of President Aristide to Haitian soil is the only event Haiti’s majority poor FEEL will BEGIN to erase the total humiliation Haiti has suffered, at the hands of the US, Canada, France and the UN, since 2004
Marguerite Laurent, Esq.
Chair and Founder, Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network
May 18, 2006