Originally: Terrorists in Haiti and the American Presidential Election
Terrorists in Haiti and the American Presidential Election
RAYMOND A. JOSEPH
In the final days before the presidential elections in America, terrorists
are desperately trying to disrupt or influence them. Obviously, and for
good reason, the world seems fixated by the actions of the terrorists in
Iraq. Even the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said that the stepped-up
terrorist campaign in Iraq has one aim: the defeat of President Bush. But
few people are paying attention to the terrorists who are closer to
America, the ones in Haiti.
Make no mistake, the Haitian terrorists are intent on defeating Mr. Bush.
They accuse him of forcing their idol, President Aristide, out of power
February 29. And they put stock in Senator Kerry’s statement of last March.
The New York Times reported on March 4 that Mr. Kerry said if he were
president “I would have been prepared to send troops immediately, period”
to shore up Mr. Aristide, who had faced a popular uprising.
As the presidential election reaches the homestretch in America, Mr.
Kerry’s statement is again making news and apparently causing havoc in
Haiti. The Brazilian general who heads the United Nations force in Haiti,
Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, said that the views expressed by Mr. Kerry have
emboldened supporters of Mr. Aristide. They believe that a President Kerry
would do for Mr. Aristide what President Clinton did for him in 1994.More
than 20,000 American soldiers were dispatched to Haiti on September 19,
1994, to prepare for the return on October 15 of the president, who was
then exiled in Washington.
Since September 30, when Mr. Aristide’s supporters started what they call
“Operation Baghdad” in Port-au-Prince, they have killed about 50 people,
including nine police officers, three of whom have been beheaded. The first
coup d’état that toppled the “democratically elected” Mr. Aristide occurred
on September 30, 1991, and that date is usually commemorated angrily by
Lavalassians, as the members of Mr. Aristide’s Lavalas, or ravaging flood,
Party are called.
This year, September 30 took on a particular significance. The Lavalas
strategists determined that they would launch a multi-pronged campaign of
intimidation against the Alexandre-Latortue government to underscore what
they want to project as Mr. Bush’s failure in Haiti. Wherever Mr. Bush
attempts a regime change, as in Iraq and in Haiti, it leads to chaos, they
say.(They prefer not to mention Afghanistan, where recent elections have
proved the efficacy of defeating terrorists.)
The violent anti-government campaign has not been popular. In front of the
Haitian Embassy in Washington on October 8, it drew a lone Caucasian woman
in her 60’s with a placard calling for Mr. Aristide’s return to power. In
New York, five Lavalas stalwarts answered the call to a “massive
demonstration” October 18 in front of the Haitian Consulate on Madison
Avenue. In Florida, a terrorist who telephoned threats to the prime
minister’s home was arrested.
But in Port-au-Prince, the center of Lavalas violence, the situation is
more troubling. A few thugs have gone on a rampage of murder and
destruction, prompting the arrest of key leaders, including the former
president of the Lavalas Senate and a Catholic priest, Gerard Jean-Juste, a
well-known activist close to Mr. Aristide. These arrests and the seizure of
$800,000 in $100 bills at the Port-au-Prince airport October 13 disrupted
plans for the assassination of government officials on October 15. (Arnoux
Laveau, the Canadian citizen of Haitian ancestry, said he stole the
money-loaded suitcase from a passenger.)
The security measures undertaken by the Haitian authorities have sparked a
letter-writing campaign by supporters of Mr. Aristide in this country. I
have received more than 100 e-mails and telephone calls at the Embassy from
individuals concerned about the welfare of Rev. Jean-Juste. But the same
“human rights advocates” show no sympathy for the relatives of civilians
killed and the law officers who have been beheaded to facilitate Mr.
The situation in Haiti is having international repercussions as Mr.
Latortue accuses Thabo Mbeki’s South African government of allowing Mr.
Aristide to use South African hospitality to create chaos in Haiti. In
turn, South Africa blames Mr. Latortue for not being able to secure the
peace in Haiti. And Mr. Aristide has weighed in by calling Mr. Latortue “a
liar” and “murderer” who is looking for “a scapegoat” for his failure.
But would Mr. Kerry really embrace Mr. Aristide to the point of dispatching
American troops to restore him to power in Port-au-Prince if he were
president? The candidate recognized the character of the former Haitian
president. “Look, Aristide was no picnic and did a lot of things wrong,”
Mr. Kerry told the New York Times. But he went on to add that Washington
“had understandings in the region about the right of a democratic regime to
ask for help. And we contravened all of that. I think it’s a terrible
message to the region’s democracies, and it’s short-sighted.” Meanwhile,
the fallout from the violent campaign can be seen in certain actions of the
international community. On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund
postponed talks on financial aid to Haiti that were scheduled for next week
in Port-au-Prince. It blamed the “renewed political unrest” in the country.
America, Canada, and the U.N. approved the departure of their nonessential
diplomatic personnel from Haiti. This can only be interpreted as
preparation for a showdown. Certainly the kidnapping, and possibly
beheading, of foreigners by the Haitian terrorists would bring home the
inability or ineptness of the current administration in dealing with
terrorists close to America’s shores.
Thus, attending to a seemingly insignificant threat in America’s backyard
or belittling it could have profound effect this year, especially in