The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 13           April 5, 2004  
U.S., French, Canadian forces
widen occupation of Haiti
(front page)
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Spearheaded by U.S. Marines, imperialist troops in Haiti have been widening their occupation beyond the capital since the February 29 rightist takeover of the country and the overthrow of the elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was forcibly expelled from the country by Washington. U.S. Special Forces have set up camps in the center and south of the country, while French troops are deploying to the north.

A big part of the Canadian force, which at 450 troops is around the same size as its French counterpart, has concentrated on building a base at the Toussaint Louverture Airport outside Port-au-Prince, the capital. Others are patrolling inside the city itself. The occupation force also includes troops from Chile.

The 1,700 U.S. Marines are mostly in Port-au-Prince. Their efforts to disarm the population are concentrated in poor, working-class districts like Cite Soleil, a stronghold of support for the ousted president.

During a brief visit to Haiti March 14, U.S. Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that violence would be “dealt with.” Earlier, U.S. troops had notched up their fifth and sixth deaths, killing two men described by witnesses as bystanders.

Two days later 150 French troops were dispatched to the northern city of Cap Haitien. They immediately took control of the city’s airport and the headquarters of the French battalion in the country will be moved there.

French military spokesman Maj. Xavier Pons said in Port-au-Prince that the number of French troops would build up to 400. Around 130 soldiers from the notorious French Legion will be sent to the northwestern city of Gonaives.

In spite of the imperialists’ calls for disarmament and their raids in Port-au-Prince, the rightist forces walk the streets bearing arms in much of Haiti. Asked if French troops would disarm them in Cap Haitien and Gonaives, Pons said, “that is the role of the Haitian police.”

“So far, the rebels have not been hostile,” Lt. Col. Louis Acacio Acacio said. “We are observing them.”

On the first full day in office of the U.S.-installed Prime Minister, Gerard Latortue, Haitian police used tear gas to break up a protest of Aristide supporters in the capital. About 1,000 people marched near the presidential palace chanting slogans against the U.S.-led occupation and the Latortue government inserted in place of the elected president, whose term of office would have ended next year.

In a ceremony at the National Palace, Latortue, who was flown in from Florida after living in the United States for decades, announced a 13-member “nonpartisan” cabinet that excludes any members of Aristide’s Lavalas party.

On March 15 Aristide returned to the region from the Central African Republic where he had been placed in exile. In an interview with Washington Post reporters, he described how had been shanghaied by U.S. diplomatic and military officials and flown out of the country on February 29.

As rightist forces advanced on the capital, Aristide said, U.S. ambassador James Foley told him it was a matter of hours and that his departure was the only way to avoid widespread bloodshed.

The previous day, said Aristide, Foley had agreed to arrange a security escort so that he could appear on television to appeal for calm. The U.S. ambassador did not arrive at the Presidential Palace until the following day, however. When Aristide left in a motorcade with a U.S. “security” detail, he was taken not to a television studio but to the airport, and told to board an unmarked aircraft with a U.S. flag. He and his entourage were never told where they were being taken, under what conditions, and for how long.

A U.S. security guard told the Post that he thought the warning that the palace was about to be overrun by the rightist forces was a “subterfuge” to lure Aristide away.

With their typical arrogance, U.S. officials have never explained why, without his agreement, they sent Aristide to Africa in the first place, especially since other governments in Latin America had offered to welcome him.

As Aristide’s plane touched down in Jamaica, White House officials and Latortue said he would be to blame for any violence by his supporters. National Security advisor Condoleezza Rice called his return to the region a “bad idea.” The Latortue government announced that it was freezing relations with Kingston.

Jamaica’s prime minister, Percival Patterson, who is also chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), replied that his government had granted Aristide temporary residence on “humanitarian” grounds, according to the Jamaican media.

Patterson said Aristide was in the country on the condition that Jamaica would not be used as a staging ground for an attempt to return to Haiti.

Along with Venezuela, Jamaica has refused to recognize the U.S.-backed Latortue government. Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez offered Aristide asylum and said, “We don’t recognize Haiti’s new government. The president of Haiti’s name is Jean-Bertrand Aristide and he was elected by his people.”

Washington has backed an attempted coup and other attempts by the big-business opposition in Venezuela to overthrow the elected Chávez government.

Both the Chávez and Aristide governments earned Washington’s displeasure for their refusal to cut off normal relations with Cuba.  
Cuban doctors continued working
According to an eyewitness report by Tracey Eaton in the Dallas Morning News, the 535 Cuban doctors working in Haiti stayed at their posts serving patients throughout the right-wing coup.

The only clinic or hospital operating in the country at that point, Eaton wrote, was a “makeshift emergency room operated entirely by Cuban doctors.” They treated 22 gunshot victims on February 29 and March 1 alone and more than a hundred patients throughout that week.

“I don’t know what I would have done without these Cuban doctors,” a man treated for a skin infection told Eaton.

Cuban foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque said Cuban doctors in Haiti provide health care to 75 percent of the nation’s 8.3 million people. “To have an idea of how significant their work is,” he said February 12, “one should be aware that Haiti has less than 2,000 doctors,” all but 200 of whom are in Port-au-Prince.  
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