Press Memorandum: Violence in Haiti: Colin Powell and Gerard Latortue Blame Aristide, When the Blame Lies With Them

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Council On Hemispheric Affairs

Monitoring Political, Economic and Diplomatic Issues Affecting the Western Hemisphere

Memorandum to the Press 04.72


Word Count: 1500

Wednesday, 13 October 2004


Violence in Haiti: Colin Powell and Gerard Latortue Blame Aristide, When the Blame Lies With Them

On October 4, Haitians staged yet another in the country’s growing number of street demonstrations, calling for the return of democratically-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted by a State Department-scripted coup last February 29. In recent days, these manifestations have cost 30 lives in the
Port-au-Prince area alone, generating further popular anger against the U.S.-sanctioned local authorities. The latest protest pitted the island’s ill-trained police and Brazilian-led U.N. peacekeepers against pro-Aristide supporters, resulting in fourteen dead, including three police officers, who were later beheaded. In comments to the Miami Herald, Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue blamed the violence on “The Aristide loyalists [who] were trying to intimidate and derail the municipal, legislative and presidential elections scheduled for next year.”

Setting the Scene
From Latortue’s first days in office, members of Aristide’s Lavalas Party—rather than renegade ex-police and military personnel, and members of the previous junta—were the interim president’s enemy. But in recent days, Latortue has been stepping up his anti-Aristide rhetoric with the probable goal of building a case against the participation of the former Haitian president and his party in next year’s elections. There is no doubt that Latortue will soon be using the perilous security situation to build support for reconstituting the brutal Haitian armed forces. He will also use the situation to advance the electoral prospects of
Haiti’s business-led rightwing political movement, in particular the Group of 184, led by the unscrupulous sweatshop labor king, Andy Apaid Jr., a U.S. national.
Rather than this far-fetched explanation of the alleged threat posed by Aristide, based on a ballot that might not happen (at least not by next year), Latortue instead should have traced part of the blame for the recent series of public protests to the gross incompetence that he and his government have displayed ever since he was raised up from obscurity by a State Department press release declaring the formation of his government. Latortue’s appointment was announced shortly after Aristide had been hustled onto an airplane and flown into exile in the
Central African Republic.


This analysis was prepared by Jenna Michelle Liut and Larry Birns, respectively COHA Research Associate and Director.

October 13, 2004

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