This week on GR, Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness on their campaign to aid the people of Iraq and other places where oppression persists.
And, Jean Saint-Vil on the horror that is Haiti today, and Canada's complicity in the misery of the people there.
And, Janine Bandcroft, brings us up to speed with all that's good to do in and around Victoria this week.
Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Monday, 5-6pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, 104.3 cable, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca He also serves as a contributing editor at the progressive web news site: http://www.pej.org.
You can check out the GR blog at: http://GorillaRadioBlog.blogspot.com
Gorilla Radio for July 25th, 2005
How far would you be willing to go in defying an injustice so grotesque it would allow for the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent children? How many of us would risk imprisonment defying a government determined to continue such policies?
Kathy Kelly is the founder of Voices in the Wilderness, a group that worked tirelessly to end the U.S./U.N. sanctions against Iraq, and opposed the invasion and subsequent occupation of that benighted country. She’s a three-time Nobel peace prize nominee, and multiple offender in the eyes of American Justice.
She’s the author of the book detailing her experiences, ‘Other Lands Have Dreams: From Baghdad to Pekin Prison’
She and Voices in the Wilderness recently were in court, again to answer to charges of breaking the U.S./U.N sanctions against Iraq by personally delivering medicines there. She’s just back form Switzerland, where she participated in a 15 day fast in front of the offices of the United Nations.
Kathy Kelly and fast action on Iraq in the first half.
And; few Canadians are aware of the great injustice being perpetrated in their name. In February of 2004, the Canadian government, in collusion with the administrations of France and the United States, staged a coup d’etat against the democratically elected government of Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Aristide was spirited out of the country by U.S. military personnel and taken to the Central African Republic. In his stead, Gerard Latortue, a known gangster and murderer was installed. His gangs now run rough-shod over the rights of the people, terrorizing especially the slums.
But they are not alone in their marauding; the United Nations too has joined the killing.
In the wee hours of July 6th, several hundred U.N. troops assaulted the Cite Soleil neighbourhood in the Haitian capital, killing at least two dozen people, and wounding many more. Though the U.N. denies a massacre occurred that day, much of the aftermath was caught on tape and aired by Democracy Now! Calls of “massacre” are yet being denied by the U.N.
Jean Saint-Vil is an Ottawa-based activist and journalist and member of Haiti Solidarity Committee. He also hosts Rendez-Vous Haitien on CKCU FM.
Jean Saint-Vil and Haiti’s long dark night in the second half.
And; Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with all that’s good to do in and around Victoria this week. But first, sanctions buster, Kathy Kelly.
Some past guests include: M. Junaid Alam, Joel Bakan, Maude Barlow, David Barsamian, William Blum, Vincent Bugliosi, Helen Caldicott, Noam Chomsky, Michel Chossudovsky, Diane Christian, Juan Cole, David Cromwell, Jon Elmer, Reese Erlich, Jim Fetzer, Laura Flanders, Susan George, Stan Goff, Robert Greenwald, Denis Halliday, Chris Hedges, Julia Butterfly Hill, Robert Jensen, Dahr Jamail, Diana Johnstone, Kathy Kelly, Naomi Klein, Anthony Lappe, Frances Moore Lappe, Dave Lindorff, Jim Lobe, Wayne Madsen, Stephen Marshall, Linda McQuaig, George Monbiot, Loretta Napoleoni, John Nichols, Kurt Nimmo, Greg Palast, Michael Parenti, William Rivers Pitt, Sheldon Rampton, Paul de Rooij, John Ross, Danny Schechter, Vandana Shiva, Norman Solomon, Starhawk, Grant Wakefield, Bernard Weiner, Mickey Z., Dave Zirin, and many others.
G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the mainstream media.
Haiti's Canada-backed coup: Interview with Jean Saint-Vil
Submitted by Anthony on July 3, 2005 - 12:45pm.
A&S News Wire
Haiti's Canada-backed coup: An Interview with Haiti solidarity activist Jean Saint-Vil
On February 29th, 2004 progressive and popular Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide was ousted from power in a military coup that was (and remains) actively assisted by the US, France and Canada. Kevin Skerrett interviewed Jean Saint-Vil about the current situation in Haiti and Canada's involvement.
KS: Recent human rights reports describe a very grim situation in post-coup Haiti. Independent investigative reports from the University of Miami and Harvard, and now Amnesty International and United Nations (UN) investigators, all are concluding that the human rights situation in the country is a disaster. The Harvard report describes a campaign of terror by the Haitian National Police against the residents of poor neighbourhoods known for supporting President Aristide and the Lavalas movement the mass movement to which Aristide's party belongs —NS. Can you update us on the current picture?
JSV: Well it is still a situation of terror. There have been many attempts to have demonstrations in Haiti demanding the return of the President and constitutional government. Every time there is a demonstration, there is a high likelihood that people are going to get killed. So the repression is continuing.
And the UN is participating in this. During the daytime, you do not see UN forces actually shooting at people. You have the Haitian police doing the shooting and the UN forces providing back-up.
KS: You mention the role of the UN as problematic. My sense is that at times it has played a positive role, protecting demonstrations, but other times it has blocked demonstrations or even stood by while Haitian police carry out attacks. It’s almost like there's a struggle going on over what the UN forces are going to do.
JSV: There has been a struggle like this from the beginning. There’d be statements from the UN commander that he is receiving significant pressure from Canada and the US to use more violence, and then next thing you know there’s an escalation in violence. Then, when the University of Miami and Harvard reports came out, the UN forces worked to reduce violence by demanding that the Haitian National Police stay away from demonstrations. With UN protection, demonstrations happened without anyone being shot. Because of this, the UN was even being applauded by people in the poor neighbourhoods. But this honeymoon lasted about a week and then the UN returned to their previous role.
KS: Let's talk about Canada’s involvement. A lot of Canadian money is being sent to support the coup. What muddies the situation is that this aid is being channeled through development agencies and NGOs that are otherwise very progressive and part of the anti-war movement. These groups are linked in Haiti to individuals and groups on the ground who supported the coup. They see themselves supporting a unanimous social and popular movement of opposition to Aristide who had lost all of his support. How would you explain this drastic mis-reading of the situation?
JSV: It's amazing to me that these groups don't understand what’s happening in Haiti, given that a very similar thing happened in Venezuela, where the US worked to foment opposition to Chavez by working through NGOs. Haiti is seeing the same kind of infiltration by NGOs we saw in Venezuela. The model of US imperialism is no longer what it was in 1980, where the military just goes in, conducts the coup and then gets out. Imperialism today is conducted behind the illusion of humanitarianism, and that’s why NGOs are important and why imperialists have infiltrated them.
The involvement of NGOs and development agencies in the imperialist agenda is partly explained by how Aristide was represented in the media. Aristide was portrayed as someone who climbed to power because of his personal charisma and ability to manipulate the public. This played into racist and classist perspectives that see the Haitian people as unintelligent and easily duped. It also hid the fact that the coup involved not only the overthrow of the President, but also of seven thousand other elected officials.
KS: And that's seven thousand officials whose election was never questioned even by the OAS (Organization of American States) and pro-US international observer groups.
JSV: No. Supporters of the coup have been claiming that the election that put Aristide’s people in power was never legitimate to begin with. But we may reply that if Aristide had stolen the election in 2000, who did he steal it from? There’s no figure emerging in the post-coup situation, no political party, nothing. People knew that if Aristide was forced out of power there would be chaos in Haiti because it would create a complete vacuum. All you have now are people from the "Republic of Port-au-Prince" claiming to represent people who don’t see them as their representatives: essentially petty bourgeois politicians, all Port-au-Prince based, without connections with the peasantry claiming to represent the majority of the population in the inner country or in the poor urban areas, like Bel-Air and Cite Soleil.
In Haiti, there is very little connection between the peasantry, the middle class and the rich. People are basically in their different corners. Lavalas, back in 1990, had clear connections between the peasantry and the middle class, and even some people like Jean Dominique, who were actually part of the rich class.
KS: It was a multi-class movement at that point?
JSV: Absolutely. And it had a future, if it wasn't for the military coup of 1991.
KS: So you're saying what was once a multi-class coalition in the early Aristide period was abandoned by the middle class and bourgeois elements, leaving Lavalas and Aristide with a political movement which was narrowed to the peasant class and the poor (which of course still constitutes a huge percentage of the population)?
JSV: Yes, Aristide's social base became that huge percentage of the population comprised of peasants and the poor. But it is a population that doesn’t have access to state power. Those who left Aristide blamed him for indirectly orchestrating that shift by relying increasingly on mob violence or whatever — views that express strong class biases. When the coup took place, some in the poor neighbourhoods managed to get guns from the police who were abandoning their posts. With guns in their hands, these people were defending themselves. Now, we can say that they are not supposed to be using violence, but this is a case of self-defense.
KS: We just had May 18, Haiti's Flag Day, marked by coordinated political demonstrations across Canada and the US in solidarity with the people of Haiti. I wonder if you can update us on the state of the solidarity movement — where its going, how it can intervene, and what kind of demands it can articulate?
JSV: The solidarity movement can do a lot, because while the conflict has a national dimension, its international dimension is even more important. Haiti's national budget is utterly dependent on IMF/WB loans and grants, so Haiti remains incredibly dependent on the US, Canada, France, EU, etc.
I think the movement outside Haiti is significant because one of the key things that has to happen if Haiti is to get out of this hell is the complete cancellation of Haiti’s $1 billion-plus (US) foreign debt. This debt has to go, given that most of it is leftover from the thirty-year Duvalier dictatorship. Organizations representing the interests of international capital keep the people poor while claiming to advance the fight against corruption.
KS: This connects to my next question. Elections are planned for October, November and December. There is a risk that we’ll see another sham exercise, as we have seen to different degrees in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is a pattern of setting up internationally-monitored elections in places where regime change has taken place, as a way to legitimize and sanction that change. How can solidarity activists intervene?
JSV: The main thing we need to do is focus on certain principles. Until we get a legitimate leadership elected in Haiti, until we get Haiti in the hands of Haitians — not the sham we have now where you have the US, Canada and France running the country through a puppet — you are going to have violence. You cannot be talking about real elections when Yvon Neptune, Aristide's Prime Minister — the only legitimate one — is in jail. The fact that he has been detained for almost a year without charges, shows that he should be released.
Of course, the Haitian bourgeoisie doesn’t want real elections, because if they take place the Lavalas candidate is going to win. And since the demographic of Haiti isn’t going to change, there's no way around the problem. The only option for the bourgeoisie is to try to institute a dictatorship. But if there’s a move in that direction, I can guarantee you there’s going to be a fight from the population.
KS: Because it will be a class dictatorship, a coalition of the very wealthy, with some elements of the middle class.
JSV: Yes, and unfortunately there have been recent signals that the US, Canada and France want to prop up the Haitian elite.
And you know, there's also a racial undertone to this that’s very dangerous. A lot of the members of this Haitian elite are not of African origin. 97% or 98% of the population is of African origin, so the elites are playing with fire. What do you think is going to happen if you keep pitting this one group of Haitians against the vast majority who happen to be impoverished, who happen to be blacker than the group who is enjoying power?
We have to make sure that international solidarity activists are well-informed to influence the politicians to do the right thing. If we don't learn from what happened in Haiti, and if organizations such as the NGOs, peace activists, the labour movement and the NDP don’t get their act together, we will find ourselves in a situation where coups led by the US against countries like Cuba or Venezuela will take place with Canadian complicity again.
Resources on the current situation in Haiti: www.zmag.org and www.haitiaction.net
To subscribe to the email info-list for the Canada-Haiti Action Network (CHAN), email Kevin Skerrett at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Skerrett is an activist with the Ottawa anti-war group Nowar-Paix, and the Ottawa Haiti Solidarity Committee (Kozayiti).
Jean Saint-Vil is an Ottawa-Gatineau based activist and journalist, a member of the Ottawa Haiti Solidarity Committee (Kozayiti) and L'association Canado-Haitien pour sauvegarder la souverainete d'Haiti (Lachasausha). He has been a featured political analyst on CBC television's (now cancelled) Counterspin, CPAC’s Talk Politics, and CBC Radio's The Current. He is also the host of CKCU-FM's "Rendez-Vous Haitien" and CHUO-FM's "Bouyon-Rasin."