Using NGOs to Destroy Democracy and the Canadian Military Connection
Canadian-based NGOs helped the federal government use "development assistance" as a tool of political influence.
By Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton
excerpt from: CANADA IN HAITI WAGING WAR ON THE POOR MAJORITY
Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton
IMAGINE A PLAN TO provide Canadians their education, healthcare, water, and welfare through private foreign-government-funded charities, corporations and wealthy individuals. How would most Canadians react to this proposal? How about if these same private charities provided funds to opposition parties and supported the armed takeover of Parliament? Could they be regarded as coherent if they justified these acts in the name of building democracy? It is safe to say most Canadians would view this as an insane plot to return the country to nineteenth-century conditions. Yet, in Haiti, supposedly progressive NGOs from Canada and other countries have promoted just this sort of "democracy building"
The U.S. returned Aristide to office in 1994 with the understanding that he would implement an economic agenda proposed by his defeated opponent from the 1990 election. Aristide was to further downsize the state, or as the World Bank put it: "The renovated state must focus on an economic strategy centered on the energy and initiative of Civil Society, especially the private sector, both national and foreign" International creditors argued that the flip-side of this government downsizing would be increased aid, particularly to private sector NGOs. This "aid" money was to be channeled towards projects such as schools and hospitals run by private (usually non-profit) NGOs. This vision fits perfectly with one enunciated earlier, at the time of the creation of the NED, described succinctly by William I. Robinson in Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, U.S Intervention and Hegemony. He argues that the shift from direct CIA involvement to the NEIL was a product of a change in U.S. foreign policy from "earlier strategies to contain social and political mobilization through a focus on control of the state and governmental apparatus" to "democracy promotion," in which "the United States and local elites thoroughly penetrate civil society, and from therein, assure control over popular mobilization and mass movements..." In reality, "democracy promotion" can be understood as a means (democratic or otherwise) to benefit the elite of the U.S.A.
Or the elite in Canada.
In fact, the U.S., France and Canada used Haiti's dependence on international funding to precipitate further social disintegration. In 2001, the International Development Bank conceded, "the major factor behind [Haiti's] economic stagnation is the withholding of both foreign grants and loans, associated with the international community's response to the critical political impasse:" (At one point, in a desperate bid to comply with international donors, Haiti paid millions of dollars in interest - on loans it had never received.)
Canadian-based NGOs helped the federal government use "development assistance" as a tool of political influence. Around the time of Aristide's second election, the Canadian government began a campaign to actively tie Haitian NGOs to their "aid" money. According to CIDA, the 2000-2002 period "was characterized by a shift in support to civil society." It appears that in the eyes of the Canadian government, "civil society" was in effect equated with opposition to Haiti's elected government. Without exception, documents obtained from CIDA reveal that organizations ideologically opposed to Lavalas were the sole recipients of Canadian government funding. Civil society groups supportive of Lavalas simply did not receive development money. (Ironic, since as a movement of the country's poor, Lavalas supporters should qualify as prime recipients of anti-poverty funding.)
It is amazing to discover the extent to which federal government money was able to "buy" the support of supposedly progressive Canadian organizations and individuals. The full story will not be revealed until all CIDA and other government documents are released, but this is what we've managed to discover so far:
. Several Quebec unions received hundreds of thousands of CIDA dollars for work in Haiti through CISO (Centre International de Solidarite Ouvriere) - and were active participants in the Haiti destabilization campaign. In July 2002 the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) released a statement denouncing, "unjustified continued detention of several trade unionists," a call taken up by a number of Quebec unions. The same Quebec unions that denounced the Lavalas government have not made amends and have said nothing about the much more severe harassment of Lulu Cherie (next chapter) and other members of the CTH union. Quebec unions also worked to dilute an anti-coup resolution proposed by a number of English-Canadian unions to the Canadian Labour Congress convention in Montreal in June 2005.
. In September 2003, Rights and Democracy, an Ottawabased NGO (all of its money comes from the federal government), formerly headed by the NDP's Ed Broadbent, released a report on Haiti. The report relied heavily upon CIDA employee Philippe Vixamar and the NCHR (see below). The report called the G-184 "grassroots" and a "promising civil society movement" even though it was funded by the International Republican Institute and headed by the country's leading sweatshop owner, Andy Apaid, who had been active in right-wing Haitian politics for many years. (G-184 spokesperson Charles Henry Baker, like Apaid, is white.) CIDA also gave money to some of the G-184 members.
. Three months after the Rights and Democracy report, AQOCI (VAssociation Quebecoise des Organismes de Cooperation Internationale) - a Quebec-based network of 54 international development groups - urged the Liberal government to withdraw support from the "Lavalas party regime'" and relying upon NCHR, claimed that Aristide's government was "riddled with abuses of human rights:"
. The Concertation Pour Haiti (CPH), an informal group of half a dozen NGOs including AQOCI and unions, branded Aristide a "tyrant;' his government a "dictatorship," and a "regime of terror" and in mid-February 2004 called for Aristide's removal. This demand was made at the same time CIA-trained thugs swept across the country to depose Aristide. But the CPH's antagonism towards Lavalas wasn't just the by-product of the political upheaval of February. In October 2004 - after months of widespread political repression directed at Lavalas sympathizers - the CPH released a statement blaming the victims. The CPH repeated the claim by Haiti's ruling elite and ultra right that Lavalas launched an "Operation Baghdad" which included beheading police officers. "Operation Baghdad" has been called pro-coup propaganda by numerous observers, designed to divert attention from the de facto government's misdeeds, particularly the murder of at least five peaceful pro-constitution demonstrators on September 30, 2004. In April 2005, the CPH organized a delegation from Haiti to Montreal and Ottawa.
. Yolene Gilles, one of the speakers invited by the CPH, was the coordinator of the "human rights" monitoring program at the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH), formerly known as NCHR (National Coalition for Haitian Rights). NCHR-Haiti, funded by CIDA, changed its name in mid-March 2005 after the parent group in the USA, itself prd-coup, condemned the blatantly partisan work of NCHR-Haiti regarding the imprisonment of constitutional Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. Immediately after the coup, Gilles, a "human rights" worker went on elite-owned radio to name wanted Lavalas "bandits," contributing to a climate of anti-Lavalas terror.
. Another delegate, Danielle Magloire, was a member of the "Council of Wise People" that appointed Latortue as interim prime minister. Latortue's appointment was a blatant violation of Haiti's constitution since the USA, France and Canada created the council after overthrowing the elected government.
. One result of this cross funding by CIDA of "civil society" organizations was incredible political gymnastics performed to avoid embarrassing the Canadian government. At the CPH press conference mentioned above, Magloire made the absurd claim that Lavalas administered the transition from Aristide to Latortue. Gilles, the "human rights" worker, denied the existence of statesponsored repression directed at Lavalas, contradicting reports from Amnesty International, The University of Miami, Harvard University, The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and many others. Gilles' close ties to the de facto government, the UN and Canadian government funding are as well documented as the political repression she denied.
. NCHR-Haiti received $100,000 from CIDA in 2004 for the specific purpose of juridical, medical, psychological, and logistical assistance for victims of an alleged massacre at a town near Saint Marc, called La Scierie. The supposed massacre and NCHR's involvement were put into perspective in a March 9, 2005, article in HaitiProgres, which stated: "The illegal government has charged both [former Prime Minister Yvon] Neptune and [former Interior Minister Jocelyn] Privert with involvement in a supposed `massacre' on February 11, 2004 in St. Marc, an event which reporters and human rights groups almost universally agree never happened. Only the procoup U.S.-government-backed National Coalition of Haitian Rights (NCHR) charges that pro-Lavalas partisans slaughtered some 50 people. Pierre Esperance, the NCHR's Haiti bureau chief, says that the remains of the supposed victims were `eaten by dogs' to explain the absence of any forensic evidence:' At the same time that the Canadian embassy in Haiti announced $100,000 for NCHR, an independent report published by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) laid out NCHR's deficiencies as a human rights organization. The NLG stated that NCHR "could not name a single case in which a Lavalas supporter was a victim," and took the delegation to a room "where the wall was adorned with a large `wanted' poster featuring Aristide and his cabinet:' The April 14, 2004, NLG report concluded: "We condemn the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) in Haiti for not maintaining its impartiality as a human rights organization:" Despite its partisan politics, NCHR-RNDDH remains the most frequently cited Haitian "human rights" organization by both the international and local (elite-owned) media as well as international NGOs. Largely uncritical of the Latortue government, NCHR-RNDDH played a crucial role in legitimizing the coup and confusing international public opinion regarding human rights abuses directed against pro-democracy activists. While morgue officials worked overtime, dumping hundreds of bodies (next chapter), NCHR busied themselves with the release of a laudatory report on Latortue's first 45 days in office.
Author and coordinator of the Committee for the Defense of the Haitian People's Rights, Ronald Saint-Jean, documented and analyzed the circumstances surrounding NCHR-RNDDH's role in what he characterizes as the fabrication of the "massacre" in St. Marc. During a tour through Ottawa and Montreal in March of 2005, Saint-Jean denounced Canada's funding of NCHR-RNDDH, informing officials and the press that if Prime Minister Yvon Neptune were to die (there have been at least three close calls while in jail), his blood would be on Canada's hands.
. Canada's involvement in destabilizing the Haitian government included hiring paid agents. The deputy minister of "justice" for the first fifteen months of the interim government, Philippe Vixamar, was on CIDA's payroll for four years up until July 2005 and USAID's payroll for ten years prior to that. He worked under Minister of Justice Bernard Gousse, who was also on USAID's payroll. These two men were in charge of the political portfolio directly responsible for police operations and for all political prisoners in the country. According to the University of Miami investigation: "Vixamar revealed that the United States and Canadian governments play key roles in the justice system in Haiti." The report went on to reveal that Vixamar "stated that he is a political appointee of the Latortue administration, but the Canadian International Development Agency assigned him to this position and is his direct employer."
In 2002, USAID's New Partnerships Initiative described Vixamar as "the coordinator of the Canadian Human Rights Fund in Haiti which is funded.. :" by CIDA. Both Vixamar and Gousse were consultants with IFES. (According to the University of Miami human rights report, IFES staff "want to take credit for the ouster of Aristide, but cannot ,out of respect for the wishes of the U.S. Government:") Researchers for the University of Miami report interviewed Vixamar, who stated that both police activities and the prison system are monitored by NCHR. He added that, "all former militaries are fully vetted by a human rights group [NCHR]" prior to being incorporated into the police force. The report reveals that Vixamar "stated the Ministry of justice is fully confident in its exclusive reliance on human rights group NCHR to alert it when the police or the Courts commit human rights abuses:" In other words, the Canadian-paid deputy justice minister is citing a Canadian-funded "human rights" group to justify or deny abuses such as the illegal imprisonment of Neptune and summary executions carried out by the Haitian police. Canadian officials have refused to discuss Vixamar's role as No. 2 man under Gousse. But, in response to criticism by U.S. Congressman William Delahunt about his ineptitude and corrupt activities as minister of justice, Gousse resigned in June 2005.
. The Canadian government used testimony from NGOs they funded to justify the overthrow of an elected government. On March 25, 2004, representatives from Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (D&P), the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (ICHRDD), the International Centre for Legal Resources (ICLR), and Oxfam Quebec testified to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
. As well as managing Haitian civil society the Canadian government also managed the message. It funded Alternatives, a Quebec-based media NGO that at time of publication worked with 15 groups in Haiti, all of which were anti-Lavalas. ("Founded in 1994, Alternatives, Action and Communication Network for International Development, is a non-governmental, international solidarity organization" that, also according to its website, receives about 50 percent of its funding from the Canadian government, mostly through CIDA.) Alternatives pays for AlterPresse, the most prominent Francophone online Haitian media outlet and newswire. In April 2005 Alternatives received a share of a $2 million CIDA media project to train Haitian journalists about covering elections - the very elections that Canada hopes will legitimate its role in the February 2004 coup. In a striking illustration of the perils of accepting government funding, an Alternatives supplement in Le Devoir in late June 2005, featured a prominent report that parroted the neoconservative narrative about Haiti. Alternatives' reporting has omitted any mention of political prisoners, violent repression of Lavalas activists, or the basic facts about the coup.
Ottawa-based Haiti solidarity activist Kevin Skerrett summarized the CIDA funding nexus, stating, "This means we have a senior CIDA-funded government official's work being assessed by a CIDA-funded `human rights' group, whose criticisms just happen to be either absent or muted, which in turn just happens to shield Canada's recent foreign policy in Haiti from criticism:' And, we would add, the results are reported on by CIDA-funded media outlets.
AS IF THE CANADIAN connection to NGO-based destabilization wasn't sufficiently disturbing, there has also been extensive military involvement in Haiti, particularly since the overthrow of the elected government and perhaps even before.
The Montreal Gazette's Sue Montgomery revealed on March 9, 2004, that Paul Arcelin (see above) had met in early February of that year with Pierre Pettigrew in Montreal. She wrote, "He took advantage of the visit and the political clout of his sister-in-law [former Conservative MP, Nicole-Arcelin-Roy] to meet with [then-] Health Minister Pierre Pettigrew. ... `I explained the reality of Haiti to him, Arcelin said, pulling Pettigrew's business card out of his wallet. `He promised to make a report to the Canadian government about what I had said"' Arcelin went on to make even more revealing comments in an interview reported by CanWest News Service, stating that, "Two years ago, I met [rebel leader] Guy Philippe in Santo Domingo and we spent 10 to 15 hours a day together, plotting against Aristide" He continued the interview, stating, "From time to time we'd [Arcelin and Philippe] cross the border clandestinely through the woods to conspire against Aristide, to meet with the opposition and regional leaders to prepare for Aristide's downfall:"
Ancelin would also prove prophetic. An AFP article on Marc]h 2, 2004: "Paul Arcelin, who serves as `coordinator' for thie insurgency led by Guy Philippe, told a cheering crowd across from the presidential palace, that the rebels woulcl detain Neptune, a close Aristide ally, for him to be tried for unspecified crimes:' Fearing assassination and certain of his innocence, Neptune gave himself over to authoirities. To the day this book was published he languish.ed in prison despite repeated international calls for his release and no formal charges against him.
On March 19, 2004, Latortue heralded as "freedom fighters" the convicted human rights violators and drug dealers who helped overthrow the elected government. The special representative of the OAS and head of the OAS special mission to Haiti, Canadian diplomat David Lee, stood next to Latortue when he made this statement and did not object.
Five hundred Canadian soldiers backed the Latortue regime between March and August 2004 and did little to disarm the paramilitaries. In Petionville, the former military maintained a base and openly wielded high-powered weapons a year after the coup. Three months after the coup, the Haiti Accompaniment Project stated, "The UN military command in the north coordinates its activities with Guy Philippe, the rebel leader who is responsible for major human rights violations - including assassinations - in the period preceding the coup:" As this book went to press, Philippe, who has established a political party and will run for president, functioned unimpeded at his party headquarters in Cap-Haitian.
In January 2005 the installed regime offered each of the 5,000-8,000 ex-soldiers "back pay" of $3,000 US; the UN chipped in over $2.8 million. At the end of March 2005, MINUSTAH (the UN force) commander Juan Gabriel Valdes lobbied the UN for another $40 million to be added to the $29 million already budgeted by Latortue for the reformation of the disbanded army - an astounding sum when one considers that in 2002 total government expenditures were $300 million. To receive the initial funding the soldiers were not required to disarm.
It is unclear whether any Canadian "aid" went directly to these former soldiers. Quite clear, however, is that by June 2005 Canada had given over $100 million to Haiti, about the same as the U.S., which has an economy ten times as big. Directly or indirectly, western countries provided Latortue with money to buy off the hoodlums that helped him to power.
The presence of a non-elected Latortue government also loosened the pocketbooks of international financiers. The World Bank announced in mid January 2005 that it would release $73 million to the installed government. But for Haiti to receive this money it had to pay $52 million in outstanding debt. Canada stepped in to give the regime a $12.7 million grant. A July 2004 Washington donors' conference announced $1.2 billion in aid, $180 million of which was to come from Canada. The International Development Bank, which at the request of the U.S. withheld hundreds of millions of dollars from the elected Lavalas government for three years, announced in March 2005 that it would release $270 million to the de facto government. The World Bank reopened its Port-auPrince office, which had been closed for ten years. All this contrasts with the position of Canada, the U.S. and the European Union to stop aid to the Haitian government due to opposition accusations that the May 2000 elections were "unfair." The interim government did not win an "unfair" election, because it was not elected at all. It completely failed any test of democratic legitimacy, having been installed by foreign powers. Further proof of its illegitimacy was its support for the reinstatement of the notoriously brutal and anti-democratic Haitian army.
Directly recreating the army so soon after the coup would not have looked good, so the police force was expanded to include many former soldiers. Individuals with a military background made up 85 percent of the first class of post-coup police academy graduates. Five hundred former members of the Haitian army were integrated into the police force, with plans for an additional 500-1,000 former soldiers to be hired by the start of 2006. While the Haiti Accompaniment Project was in Haiti, then de facto minister of the interior, former general Herard Abraham, "issued a public call for former military living overseas to submit their files to the Ministry of Interior for consideration:" Already in March 2005, Reuters reported that, "only one of the top-12 police commanders in the Port-au-Prince area does not have a military background, and most regional police chiefs are also ex-soldiers:" The military is effectively being reconstituted, with help from some violent folk from abroad.
The U.S. also chipped in thousands of new weapons for the police. After lifting a thirteen-year arms embargo against Haiti, by April 2005 the Bush administration had, according to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, sold some $7 million worth of arms to the installed government. (The U.S. government disputes this figure.) In a June 2005 ceremony attended by U.S. Assistant-Secretary of State Roger Noriega and Canada's Denis Coderre, the HNP were presented with over $2 million dollars worth of military/policing equipment. This provoked passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of a bill to ban such shipments. Said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who introduced the amendment, "The United States must not be complicit in helping to arm criminals and human rights abusers." At press time, the U.S. Senate had not yet ratified the bill.
According to UN Security Council resolution 1542, MINUSTAH is "to assist the transitional government in monitoring, restructuring and reforming the Haitian National Police consistent with democratic policing standards, including through the vetting and certification of its personnel, advising on its reorganization and training:" While the UN resolution sounds okay on paper it means something different on the ground. Harvard University Law Student Advocates for Human Rights investigators reported that "MINUSTAH's most visible efforts have involved providing logistical support to police operations, which ... are implicated in human rights abuses, such as arbitrary arrest and detention and extra-judicial killings:' A resident of Bel Air told the Harvard investigators that "every time the HNP wants to kill or arrest people, they send in MINUSTAH first:" UN General Augusto Heleno Pereira more or less confirmed the Bel Air resident's claim, stating "we offered the police the protection they didn't have. We give space for the HNP to operate, yes, we do."
It was difficult to ascertain specifics on CIVPOL/ HNP operations as Canadian officials refused requests for this information. A CIVPOL unit commander from Quebec City, however, told Thomas Griffin, lead author of the university of Miami Law School report, that he "engage[d] in daily guerilla warfare:" At press time, HNP Chief Leon Charles and CIVPOL head Beer would both publicly refer to the "urban war" that is being waged.
CARLO DADE, SENIOR ADVISOR for the CIDA-funded FOCAL, on April 1, 2004 told the Foreign Affairs standing committee: "The U.S. would welcome Canadian involvement and Canada's taking the lead in Haiti. The administration in Washington has its hands more than full with Afghanistan, Iraq and the potential in Korea and the Mideast. There is simply not the ability to concentrate ... But it's a sign of the interest and openness in the United States to have Canada take a lead on this:" Canadian action was justified on the grounds that, compared to the U.S. and France, Canada's reputation is not too bad in Haiti, allowing them to "get away" with more.
Canada has contributed significantly to the dismantling of Haiti's democratic government and has unquestionably aligned itself with Haiti's traditional colonial powers - France and the USA. These were the three countries cited when Brazilian commander of the UN mission, General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, told a congressional commission in Brazil in early 2005 that "we are under extreme pressure from the international community to use violence:" These three countries pressed for stronger measures against "gangs" - not the armed paramilitary thugs - supporters of Aristide living in the slums of Port-au-Prince. With the July 2005 reports of direct UN forces involvement in massacres (see below), it looks like Canada, the USA and France got their way.
According to a FOCAL plan for Haiti's future, commissioned by Parliament's foreign affairs committee, the country's different ministries would fall under Canadian oversight. Quebec's ministry of education, for instance, would oversee Haiti's education system, which some say is the reason Jean Charest made the first ever trip by a Quebec premier to Haiti in June 2005. (Paul Martin made the first ever trip by a Canadian prime minister to Haiti in November 2004) The FOCAL plan puts Haiti's environment ministry under Canadian federal government supervision. Contrary to what Paradis may claim, colonialism is not a new concept.
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