2,000 RALLY IN BROOKLYN TO DENOUNCE U.S. COUP IN HAITI
By Monica Moorehead
April 14, 2004--Dynamic. Spirited. Awe-inspiring. These words describe a truly historic rally that took place on April 7 in the Whitman Theatre at Brooklyn College. A multinational crowd of 2,000, mainly people from Haiti and the English-speaking Caribbean, packed the hall to hear a program entitled "An Evening with Friends of Haiti: The Truth Behind the Haiti Coup."
A broad range of speakers and cultural performers ignited the stage for three-and-a-half hours to express heartfelt anti-imperialist solidarity with the besieged Caribbean country. Haiti has once again suffered a horrific atrocity with the U.S.-orchestrated kidnapping of its democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, on Feb. 29.
This is the second time that Aristide was forcibly removed from office due to blatant interference by U.S. imperialism. The first time was in 1991 under the George Bush Sr. administration. In 1994, Washington was forced to return Aristide to Haiti due to the pressure of the Haitian masses. He was reelected president in 2000. His term was to expire in 2006 according to the current Haitian Constitution.
The Feb. 29 coup came on the heels of the bicentennial celebration of Haitian independence in 1804, which followed the successful slave revolution against France led by the legendary general, Toussaint L'Overture. April 7 marked the 201st anniversary of L'Overture's death in a French colonial prison. Right now, over 1,000 U.S. Marines along with other foreign troops occupy the island. They are there on behalf of an imperialist-backed alliance of former leaders of outlawed paramilitary death squads--including the despised Tonton Macoutes--and the Haitian capitalist class. Together, they have illegally taken over the reins of government.
'ILLEGAL, ILLEGITIMATE' REGIME'
The rally was co-chaired by Kim Ives and Karine Jean-Pierre from Haiti Support Network (HSN), with Pat Chin and Sara Flounders from the International Action Center (IAC). La Troupe Makandal, a Haitian drum group, was an integral part of the rally as they drummed with the enthusiastic applause and cheers that each speaker evoked from the audience. Behind each speaker or performer on stage were large still photos of the Haitian masses in struggle.
Ives remarked, "Washington has gone to great lengths to give the present Haitian coup a constitutional color. But with every passing day, one thing becomes ever clearer to the world: The government set in place by U.S. Marines in 2004, just as in 1915, is illegal, illegitimate and foisted on the Haitian people. Their coup is doomed to fail.
"We are here tonight to seek the truth about the hidden hand and shadowy forces behind the Feb. 29 coup d'etat."
Distinguished African American actor Ossie Davis captivated the audience as he read an 1893 speech by Frederick Douglass, the former slave and first U.S. ambassador to Haiti. Douglass's prophetic speech said in part, "My subject is Haiti, the Black Republic... Her proximity should alone make us deeply interested in her welfare, her history, her progress and her possible destiny, yet we turn the cold shoulder. The reason for coolness between the countries is this: Haiti is Black, and we have not yet forgiven Haiti for being Black... I regard her as the original pioneer emancipator of the nineteenth century."
Dr. Luis Barrios, a Dominican priest in New York, explained the Haiti Commission of Inquiry's findings. The commission, comprised of HSN and IAC representatives, recently sent a delegation to the Dominican Republic to help bring world attention to the reactionary role the Dominican government played in the Feb. 29 coup.
Barrios stated, "Our investigation has proven beyond a doubt that the territory of the Dominican Republic was used for training and arming the so-called Haitian rebels, with the knowledge of the national authorities, and that their attack was launched from Dominican soil... In press accounts, U.S. military officials have confirmed that 20,000 M-16 rifles were given by the U.S. to the Dominican military after November 2002."
Teresa Gutierrez, a leader of the New York Committee to Free the Cuban Five and a Commission of Inquiry delegate, spoke on how the Bush administration would like to repeat in socialist Cuba and Venezuela what it did in Haiti. She exposed Bush's so-called war on terrorism by raising the case of the five Cuban patriots languishing in U.S. federal prisons for daring to defend Cuba's sovereignty against right-wing Cuban-American terrorists based in Miami.
WATERS: 'SALUTE HAITI'
Rep. Maxine Waters, who came from California, electrified the audience as she spoke with great passion about her ongoing contacts with Aristide by cell phone as he was being kidnapped by U.S. forces and sent to the Central African Republic. She was part of a delegation that later traveled to CAR to accompany Aristide to Jamaica, where he and his wife Mildred are now guests of the government.
Waters focused much of her remarks on the complicit roles that Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice played. She stated, "Aristide was elected by the people. Rice was not elected by anybody." She ended her rousing remarks with, "I salute Haiti! I salute Aristide! I salute Lavalas! I support real democracy!"
Ben Dupuy, secretary-general of the National Popular Party (PPN) in Haiti, told the audience, "U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell calls investigations into the latest Haitian coup, even that called for by CARICOM, a waste of time. This shows how much they fear the truth getting out. To add insult to injury, the U.S. is promoting diversionary investigations into Aristide's alleged drug trafficking, human rights abuses and corruption.
"Meanwhile, to carry out their coup, Washington is collaborating with death-squad leaders and soldiers universally recognized as corrupt, drug-dealing human-rights abusers." He called Aristide's ouster a "coup-napping."
Sara Flounders and People's Video Network coordinator Johnnie Stevens traveled to the CAR along with Ives in March to break the media blockade. They demanded to see and interview Aristide. Flounders told the cheering crowd, "CARICOM, representing the 15 Caribbean nations... and the 53-nation African Union have demanded an inquiry into the coup. What a courageous stand! All the U.S. plans for Haiti are unraveling because people are so outraged at this criminal act.
"Just as we see in Iraq today, there is growing resistance to U.S. plans. Brutal occupation is being met with a level of resistance never thought possible," Flounders said. "The U.S. tanks rolling into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, are no different than the U.S. tanks rolling into Fallujah, Iraq."
'REPARATIONS MUST BE PAID'
Stevens talked about the neo-colonial conditions that still exist in the Central African Republic, where Aristide was held under U.S. orders: "There is one flight a week to Central African Republic on Air France. French newspapers are the only print media available. The population of 3.6 million lives on land that contains a wealth of diamonds--making up 54 percent of the CAR's exports. Yet their average life expectancy is 42 years, with infant mortality close to 100 per every 1,000 live births. Nearly half the people cannot read or write.
"Who is profiting from the diamond mines?" Stevens asked. "While most people survive by growing their own crops, the country is paying high interest on an $881 million foreign debt, mainly to French- and U.S.-controlled banks. ... The conclusion to this story is that reparations must be paid."
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who founded the first Haiti Commission of Inquiry in 1991, declared, "If you don't stand up for Haitians, for their rights and their freedom, you don't see the urgent need of the world."
Omar Sierra, representing the Bolivarian Circles in Venezuela, recalled the important support national liberation leader Simon Bolivar received from the Haitian people in the 19th century. He said it is crucial for all Latin American peoples to come to Haiti's aid today.
Other speakers included Alina Sixto, Family Lavalas New York/Tri-State Area; Rep. Major Owens of Brooklyn; Mario Dupuy, Aristide's state secretary of communication; Don Rojas, Amy Goodman and Bernard White, WBAI-Pacifica Radio; Ray LaForest, Haitian labor organizer, District Council 1707; Brian Concannon, human-rights attorney; Brooklyn College student Starr Bernard; Serge Lilavois, Support Committee for PPN; Los Angeles anti-police brutality activist Michael Zinzun; Dominican activist Marc Torres; and Haitian performers Marguerite Laurent and Phantoms.
New York City Councilmember Jose Serrano and Baltimore City Councilmember Kwame Abayomi sent solidarity messages.
Acclaimed filmmaker Katherine Kean presented a video she made of Aristide speaking in CAR and an audio message from death-row political prisoner and journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The rally was sponsored by the Coalition to Resist the Feb. 29 Coup in Haiti. This coalition includes Ajoupa, Haiti Action Committee, International Action Center, International ANSWER, Komite Beton, Lavalas Family, Leve Kanpe, OBNH, Patisan Jezikri and PPN Support Committee. Pat Chin, co-editor of the book "Haiti: A Slave Revolution," said: "The response to this rally shows that all the confusion that once divided the movement is being swept away. As we get the information out there, more people are beginning to understand that Aristide was ousted because even though he made numerous concessions to the International Monetary Fund's 'death plan' for Haiti, he still didn't go far enough to please Washington.
"His ouster is not about alleged human-rights violations or corruption--things that the U.S. is known for worldwide. It's not just Aristide, but the popular movement he symbolizes, that's in imperialism's crosshairs."
Monica Moorehead is the national coordinator of Millions for Mumia of the International Action Center.
Check out the new IAC book, Haiti, A Slave Revolution. Understand 200 years of U.S. hostility to the first successful slave revolution in history. 250 pg. anthology, $19.95 Available at : www.leftbooks.com Chapters available on line at www.iacenter.org/haiti
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