[R-G] The Council on Hemispheric Affairs Deserves an F for Article on Haiti

Anthony Fenton fentona at shaw.ca
Sun Sep 23 14:46:27 MDT 2007

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs Deserves an F for Article on Haiti
Conflicting Reports from the Research Organization Raise Questions  
about Its Reporting in Haiti

By Joe Emersberger
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

September 21, 2007

COHA, The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, recently published a piece  
by one of its research associates, Michael Glenwick, entitled “Préval  
of Haiti — A Provisional Report Card: Grade B+.” In it, Glenwick  
recycles the smears that contributed to Haitian President Aristide’s  
ouster in 2004 and, subsequently, to the worst human rights disaster  
in the Western Hemisphere. There can be no serious dispute about the  
scale of the bloodbath under Gerard Latortue’s coup installed  
government — one that was backed (quite predictably) by the US,  
Canada, France and the UN Security Council. Less predictable, and in  
some ways more important, was the backing Lortortue received from  
progressive and “independent” institutions. Glenwick’s article moves  
COHA decisively into the camp of NGOs and media outlets that have  
served Haiti’s neo-Duvalierists so effectively in recent years. This  
represents a significant loss. Shortly before and after the coup,  
COHA stood admirably apart from the corporate media herd in its  
analysis of events in Haiti.

The opening paragraph of Glenwick’s article says that Latortue’s  
“accomplishments were meager at best” and that those years were  
“unstable” and “wasted.” In the next paragraph Glenwick says that  
“hundreds — if not thousands — of opposition party members were  
murdered” under Latortue. One is left wondering how many Haitians  
would have to die before Glenwick would condemn Latortue rather than  
offer modest praise and mild rebukes. In contrast, COHA’s Jeesica  
Leigh wrote a piece in 2004, coauthored by COHA director Larry Birns,  
about Latortue’s government entitled “A brutal regime shows its true  

Citing no evidence, Glenwick equates Aristide to Latortue by writing  
that Aristide’s time in office was an “equally rocky period” but then  
goes on to assess Aristide much more harshly than Latortue by writing  
“Perhaps due to the attempted coup in late 2001 — or, just as likely,  
his own insensitivity to inclusive rule — Aristide seemed to manifest  
a show of lassitude to the rule of law as well as indifference to  
democratic institution building. He encouraged citizens to use  
violence when needed to fight the nation’s armed opposition, and  
civil liberties and political/human rights were in short supply.”

People who care to look for evidence to evaluate Aristide’s human  
rights record, especially compared to Latortue, Cedras, Duvalier,  
would come to quite a different conclusion.

A scientific survey by Athena Kolbe and Royce Hudson found that at  
least 4000 political murders were perpetrated during Latortue’s time  
in office – overwhelmingly by government security forces and their  
proxies. In contrast, after scouring Amnesty International reports,  
Perter Hallward, a UK based researcher, wrote “Amnesty  
International’s reports covering the years 2000-03 attribute a total  
of around 20 to 30 killings to the police and supporters of the FL  
[Aristide’s party] — a far cry from the 5,000 committed by the junta  
and its supporters in 1991-94, let alone the 50,000 usually  
attributed to the Duvalier dictatorships.”

Pierre Esperance, one of Aristide’s most vehement, and dishonest,  
critics claimed in a (successful) funding request to the Canadian  
government that 100 people had been killed (not all Aristide  
opponents) during the “last several months” before the coup which he  
described as the worst period under Aristide.*

These numbers do not only reveal that Aristide’s track record was  
vastly superior to his opponents, they also show why it was  
inevitable that some of his partisans would conclude that violence  
was justified. Even during most of his second term Aristide’s  
supporters were more likely to be killed than his opponents’  
supporters.[6] Glenwick completely disregards the massive amount of  
violence Haiti’s poor have been subjected to, and the threats they  
continually faced, to join the chorus of pious Western intellectuals  
who condemn Aristide for having said that the poor have the right to  
defend themselves. Many of those intellectuals also argue that the  
U.S. has the right to bomb defenseless countries thousands of miles  
away in “self defense.” The hypocrisy is as breathtaking as it is  
unnoticed by countless writers who have condemned Aristide for  
“incendiary” speeches.

Astonishingly, Glenwick refers to the presidential election that  
Preval won as “Haiti’s fairest election in decades.” In reality, as  
COHA accurately reported at the time, the election was a “caricature  
of the real thing.” Preval won, not because the election was fair,  
but because his opponents were so despised that they couldn’t win an  
election they had rigged.

Prominent Aristide allies such as the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, So Ann,  
and Yvon Neptune were in jail on trumped up charges. Thousands of  
other Aristide supporters were also in prison, exiled or in hiding.  
Aristide strongholds were subjected to state sanctioned terrorism by  
the Haitian National Police (fully supported by UN troops). Again,  
much of this was documented by COHA (for example, in a piece entitled  
“Haiti – And you call this an election?” among other articles.)

Another barrier placed in the way of participation by Haiti’s poor  
was the number of polling stations. About ten times more stations  
were available when Aristide was elected in 2000. COHA reported “many  
Haitians will have to walk more than two hours just to reach a voting  
center.” Haitians endured huge lineups and travel time in order to  
vote. When it was clear Preval was headed for victory in the first  
round a last ditch attempt at fraud was attempted. A truckload of  
ballots marked for Preval was found in the trash. Huge, non-violent  
demonstrations pressured Latortue’s regime to honor the results.

Glenwick noted that Preval was “a close friend and political comrade  
of Aristide” but did not explain the significance of Preval’s  
victory. Preval was untarnished by participation in the coup or  
association with Aristide’s opponents. Haiti’s ambassador to the US,  
in a letter to the New York Times, used Preval’s candidacy to imply  
that Aristide’s Lavalas movement was not being persecuted.[10] Preval  
received the endorsement of the Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, who was not  
allowed to register from prison as a candidate in the election. If  
Glenwick’s characterization of Aristide’s government had been  
accurate then Preval would never had stood a chance in a fair  
election, never mind one designed to disenfranchise most of the  
people who would vote for him.

The Herculean efforts required to elect Preval were not replicated  
during the legislative elections. The turnout was much lower than in  
the presidential election. Unpopular parties heavily backed by  
foreign democratization agencies obtained disproportionate power, but  
Glewnwick approvingly refers to this outcome as a necessary check on  
Preval. Glenwick’s fear is that, like Aristide, Preval might  
demonstrate “insensitivity to inclusive rule” (i.e. be reluctant to  
capitulate to politicians unable to win in fair elections).

Much of the material required to refute Glecnwick is on COHA’s  
website. Did Glenwick read any of it? Did COHA’s editors? Should we  
expect a retraction of the articles COHA published in the past that  
refute Glenwick? Without engaging in Orwellian “doublethink” COHA  
must choose to either stand behind Glenwick’s analysis or their past  
work on Haiti. I hope people contact COHA director Larry Birns  
(larry.birns at gmail.com) and respectfully ask him which COHA articles  
he stands behind.

*Documents obtained under Freedom of Information act by Anthony  
Fenton, a Canadian independent journalist

See also:

COHA: “Travesty of Justice in Haiti: Chamblain Goes Free, Latortue  
and Gousse Cement Their Authoritarian Credentials”

COHA: “Giving Haitian Self-Rule a Bad Name”

COHA: “Powell Returns to Haiti Today to Witness Some of the Damage  
that His Policies Have Wrought”

COHA: “Haiti’s Ship Sails on Without a Captain and With a Very  
Disreputable Crew”

COHA: “Aiding Oppression in Haiti: Kofi Annan and General Heleno’s  
Complicity in Latortue’s Jackal Regime”

See Haiti Analysis for more information on Haiti.

Joe Emersberger contributes to HaitiAnalysis.com

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