PPRC joins with Portland Central America Solidarity Committee to Protest US Coup in Haiti, Kidnapping of President Aristide


Event: PPRC joins with Portland Central America Solidarity Committee to Protest US Coup in Haiti, kidnapping of President Aristide.
Date: Friday, March 6th, 2004
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Place: Pioneer Courthouse Square

At this Friday’s 5:00 p.m. rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition will be joined by the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC) and other local peace & social action organizations to protest the US-engineered and supported coup in Haiti. "As the sordid details of this coup emerge, it looks more and more like another example of America crushing nascent democracy in the hemisphere, just as we saw in Guatemala under Arbenz and Chile under Allende," said William Seaman, a spokesperson for the PPRC. "We even have the spectacle of one of these terrorist thugs, Guy Philippe, telling us that that the man he most admires is former Chilean dictator, the butcher Augusto Pinochet."2 Seaman said that protests of the US-backed coup had already taken place in Washington, DC, and that members of the Congressional Black Caucus had called for protest messages to be sent to the State Department to demand that Aristide be released and that democracy be re-established in Haiti.

"We are calling on US citizens to speak out and to join with us Friday to protest this latest outrage against democracy and against the Haitian people," said Seaman. "The Bush Administration is continuing the long, tragic and criminal history of US interventions in Haiti, suppressing democracy and coming to the aid of business elites whose number one complaint is that they risk losing the slave-labor wages that have been the basis for their wealth and privilege."

Seaman said that a grave threat has now emerged as news of the ‘rebels’ releasing prisoners has been reported from Haiti. "It has been reported that hundreds of former death squad killers of the previous Duvalier and military dictatorship regimes have been broken out of Haiti’s prisons," said Seaman. "These are bands of ruthless murderers, responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Haitians during the struggle to topple the legacy of dictatorship and repression, dictatorships that long enjoyed the support of both the US and France."

For more information about this Friday’s protest, please write to pprcnews@yahoo.com. News reporters may call (503) 888-7455.

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The Portland Peaceful Response Coalition condemns the US-backed coup in Haiti and the direct role played by US personnel in forcing from office the democratically elected President Aristide. "This brutally imposed ‘regime change’, engineered in Washington, DC, is another entry in the long list of answers to the question, 'Why do they hate us?'," said Mikel Clayhold, a spokesperson for the local peace group. "Coupled with the ongoing attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government in Venezuela, the US backed coup in Haiti demonstrates that people around the world do not hate our freedom and democracy, they resent our government's demonstrated ability to deny freedom and democracy in other countries."

Clayhold said that US news reporting on the Haiti crisis also explains why Americans by and large continue to wonder why the US is so reviled throughout the world. "Americans are not told who armed, trained, and funded these so-called ‘rebels’ in Haiti, nor are we told anything about who comprises their leadership," said Clayhold. "Americans following the news are left the impression that war just broke out, like the flu, or that those people just prefer bloodbaths to democracy."

Clayhold explained that Aristide has called several people in the US from his current location in the Central African Republic, saying that he was forcefully taken from his home in Haiti, that he had been threatened by persons he described as US diplomats, reportedly told that if he did not leave Haiti, he would be killed by paramilitary leader Guy Philippe.1 It was reported that these ‘US diplomats’ told Aristide that the US was withdrawing armed security, effectively leaving the President vulnerable to assassination by Philippe’s forces.

"And we ought to be clear about the identity of these so-called ‘rebels’ that have implemented the latest US-sponsored coup," said Seaman. "The opposition is the traditional privileged minority in Haiti, with no hope of gaining power through a democratic election, which is why they have turned to violence to bring about the current crisis and set the stage for this coup." Seaman said that the armed gangs that have taken over several towns in Haiti are reportedly armed with M-16s and M-60 machine guns, weapons recently sent by the US to the Dominican Republic, which shares a border with Haiti. "These gangs have been linked to two organizations for which the Bush Administration has provided lavish funding," explained Seaman. "The right-wing ‘Convergence of Democracy’ and the pro-business ‘Group of 184’, groups with members that range from Duvalierists to some former Aristide supporters."

Of greater concern, according to Seaman, is that the so-called ‘rebels’ count among their leadership former FRAPH paramilitary leaders, such as Louis Chamblain " along with Guy Philippe and Jean Pierre Baptiste " who led the 1991 coup that deposed Aristide, killed as many as 5,000 civilians, and imposed a reign of terror for four years. The FRAPH leadership included persons trained by US personnel and often actually on the payroll of US intelligence. Louis Camblain is a former army sergeant and notorious military death-squad leader and convicted murderer. Guy Philippe is a former police chief and was reportedly involved in previous coup planning.3

The main representative of ‘The Group of 184’ is Andy Apaid, a US citizen. Apaid is widely known for running some of Haiti’s most notorious sweatshops. He owns 15 factories and was prominent in opposing President Aristide’s efforts to raise the minimum wage in Haiti from the abysmal $1.60 per day.4

Also of concern is the treatment of Haitian refugees fleeing the country and requesting asylum in the US. Already hundreds of refugees have been turned back by US forces, in direct violation of international law governing the treatment of refugees. "The threat of violence directed against Aristide supporters in Haiti is severe and growing," said Seaman. "International law requires all countries to accept refugees from these kinds of circumstances, and the fact that our government has had such a direct role in bringing about this disaster makes it all the more imperative that the US recognize the rights of these refugees."

1. "Guy Philippe is a rebel leader in Haiti's Resistance Front - Differing portraits emerge of rebel leader", By Susannah A. Nesmith, Knight Ridder Newspapers, posted at http://www.sunherald.com/mld/sunherald/8059886.htm
2. Reported by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who said she received a call from President Aristide at 9:00 a.m. EST on Monday, March 1, 2004. Randall Robinson, a close friend to the Aristide family, was also called by the Haitian president and verified the report provided by Congresswoman Waters. Congresswoman Waters and Mr. Robinson were interviewed on the radio news and public affairs program, Democracy Now!, available online at www.democracynow.org This information is also reported in "Aristide accuses US of 'staging coup'", By Andrew Buncombe, Andrew Gumbel and Phil Davison, The Independent (UK), 02 March 2004, and in "Aristide: 'Marines forced me to leave'", By Andrew Buncombe and Andrew Gumbel, The Independent (UK), 02 March 2004.
3. "Haiti Q & A", by Mary Turck, posted at Resource Center of the Americas at http://www.americas.org/index.php?cp=item&item_id=13759
4. "Haiti - Insurrection in the Making", by Yifat Susskind; A MADRE Backgrounder; February 25, 2004, posted on Znet, http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm


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