The charges against the former president – deposed by France, the US and Canada - center around corruption, money laundering and drug related, but are part of an ongoing politically motivated harassment against him
On August 12, the Haitian government through magistrate Lamarre Belizaire issued a summons to President Aristide requesting his appearance at court. According to Aristide’s lawyer, Mario Joseph, the summons was never received and therefore Aristide did not attend the court. Joseph himself only managed to attend the court after hearing about the summons on the radio, however the judge who issued the summons was not present. Despite the judge’s absence, an arrest warrant was issued to President Aristide showing clearly that this latest summons and arrest was planned in advance otherwise why would the judge be absent but still manage to issue an arrest warrant?
This last point is important because he is not the original judge assigned to the case. The original judge had done nothing because there was nothing to pursue. However Belizaire took over the case without it being handed over to him and then proceeded with the summons and later the arrest warrant.
The charges against the former president which center around corruption, money laundering and drug related, are part of an on going politically motivated harassment against him. To put into context this latest summons and arrest warrant which is far more threatening that the previous one in May 2013, US journalist Kevin Pina spoke with Pierre Labossiere of the Haiti Action Committee and an updated interview with Pierre on Thursday 14th August [35.36"> August 21st interview with Attorney for Aristide, Ira Kurzban
Labossiere explains the motive behind this latest threat to discredit President Aristide as a continuation of the 2004 coup d’tat against President Aristide. Unsupported accusations are thrown around but they never can present any evidence. What this does then is to cloud the situation, it demonizes him and is good for headlines. The campaign to discredit Aristide and prevent his election goes back to 1991 as recalled by his US counsel, Ira Kurzban.
‘Following the 2004 coup sponsored by the US, France and Canada, the US government engages in a prolonged investigation of President Aristide spending millions and millions of US taxpayers dollars on an ATF, investigation, IRS investigation and DEA all of which came to nothing because there was nothing there.’
Kurzban goes on to explain the reasons there is a revolving smear campaign and attempts to arrest Aristide is that every time Haiti nears an election, the US knows that his party Fanmi Lavalas would win if allowed to participate because they represent the interests of the majority of Haitians. In this sense any charges against Aristide must be viewed through the political context of the moment such as elections.
It is important to also look at the timeframe between the summons which was never received and an arrest warrant issued by a judge who was not present but was issued within 24 hours and if they had managed to implement it, Aristide would now be in jail.
Furthermore, the judge himself has been charged with judicial misconduct and has been disbarred by the Haitian Bar Association. Once he steps down as judge appointed by Michel Martelly he will not be able to practice law for 10 years. He has been responsible for carrying out Martelly’s dirty work, harassing and repressing those who have opposed Martelly’s government.
Following the announcement hundreds of Aristide supporters gathered outside his home in Tabarre to protect him against a potential arrest. Supporters barricaded the road with burning tyres which was followed by clashes with the Haitian National Police. Since then supporters have maintained a 24 hour vigil outside Aristide’s house. The popular masses see this new attack against Aristide as a concerted effort to demonize Aristide and demonizing the people of Haiti.
Since his return in February 2011, Aristide has focused his energy on education through the Aristide Foundation and the University [UNIFA"> yet the US and Martelly’s puppet government are not satisfied. In fact if it was not for South Africa’s insistence and despite the US attempt to pressure the SA government, Aristide would have been prevented from ever returning to his homeland.
Haiti Action Committee has put out a statement denouncing this latest threat against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide:
‘Since his return, [February, 2011"> President Aristide has done exactly what he promised to do – reopen the University of the Aristide Foundation (UNIFA). On September 26, 2011 the Medical School once again opened its doors. Today, there are over 900 students studying medicine, nursing and law at a University whose mission is to provide higher education to all sectors of Haitian society, not just the children of the rich.
And yet, in spite of this powerful and important work, Aristide and other Lavalas leaders and activists remain the target of government harassment and attack. This is not surprising; after all, the Haitian government of Michel Martelly came to power after elections with a historically low turnout in which Fanmi Lavalas, Haiti’s most popular political party, was banned from participation.
Martelly has embraced Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the former Haitian dictator. Human rights organizations estimate that the Duvaliers – “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” – were responsible for the deaths of over 30,000 Haitian citizens during their 29-year rule. While Duvalier now lives freely in Haiti and was honored by Martelly at the January 1st 2014 Haitian Independence Day celebrations, President Aristide and the democratic movement are under assault.
For over a decade, U.S. and Haitian authorities have periodically threatened President Aristide with indictment and “tried” him in the pages of a compliant media. None of these charges has stuck, for the simple reason that they are all lies. This is the third time since his return in 2011 that Haitian authorities have trumpeted charges against President Aristide. Each time, after sensational headlines, the cases were unceremoniously shelved after an initial hearing and interview, before President Aristide could even challenge the accusations.’
Pierre also speaks to the source of the reports on the summons and arrest, the Haiti Caribbean News Network which is owned by Guy Delva. In the early 2000s, Delva was involved with Robert Maynard of Reporters Without Borders, and one of their goals was to demonize President Aristide charging him along with Fidel Castro and the late Hugo Chavez with ‘the worst offenders of press freedom”. Maynard was later reported by the press as having connections with the ultra right wing. Delva was the press attache for Martelly.
The 24-hour vigil outside President Aristide’s home remains as everyone is aware that if Lavalas is allowed to participate in Haiti elections they will no doubt win the election. As Labossiere points out, it is this that is bubbling below the surface. President Aristide has put his energies into providing education through the medical and law schools at the UNIFA yet still the US and their surrogate government of Martelly are hell bent on destroying Aristide and Fanmi Lavalas.
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