March 3rd, 2004
We are appalled and horrified by our government's apparent covert and overt role in recent events in Haiti resulting in the deposition of President Aristide. Documentation exists to support the key role the U.S. played in the first coup against Aristide, including a virulent misinformation campaign against him. Now the United States, the supposed protector of democracy for the world, apparently helped topple a legitimately elected Head of State causing a humanitarian crisis in the process. Jean Bertrand Aristide was democratically elected in 1990 and again in 2000 by overwhelming majorities of the Haitian people. His term does not expire until 2006.
A brief background explanation: Reports of the 2000 Haitian elections relate to questions concerning the election of eight seats in the Haitian senate - not the presidential election. According to the Haitian constitution, a candidate must secure more than 50 percent of the vote to be declared a winner. Since as many as eight people were running for a single senate seat, no single candidate in the contested elections won greater than 50 percent of the vote. The winners of those eight contested elections were declared based on who had won the plurality of the vote, although technically, there should have been a run-off. Complying with complaints that immediately surfaced from the opposition, all eight elected senators stepped down at President Aristide's request. It is important to note that in response to these relatively minor flaws in the 2000 legislative elections, official aid to the Haitian government (from sources including the IMF, World Bank and the U.S. government) was cut off. Rarely, if ever, has a country been denied aid due to questions concerning legislative elections. Despite being the poorest country in the western hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the world, Haiti was also expected to pay services on Inter-American Development Bank loans for money it had not actually received due to the freezing of aid to the Haitian government after the 2000 elections. This led to an economic crisis that has been blamed on Aristide, but over which he had no control.
Throughout this crisis, Mr. Aristide had shown an openness to negotiate with the opposition, having most recently accepted a peace plan brokered by the international community. The Haitian opposition refused to negotiate on any level, flatly rejected the peace plan, and refused any kind of negotiation until Mr. Aristide was removed from the presidency. The opposition, largely former paramilitary leaders exiled after the last Haitian dictators were deposed from power, should never be allowed to retake power. This 'armed opposition' is nothing more than a band of thugs who see their chance to resume power in a most undemocratic, violent and repressive way. The apparent U.S. answer was to force President Aristide to step down, despite the fact that the opposition has offered no plan for the power vacuum period that would ensue.
Also appalling, the Bush administration has stated its plan to return all Haitians to Haiti who are caught trying to reach American shores, despite a United Nations appeal for neighboring countries to prepare to take in Haitian refugees, upholding international law regarding fleeing refugees. If the U.S. government truly wanted to promote a democratic process, it should have stood behind the democratically elected Haitian president and helped provide troops for an international peacekeeping force that would have restored calm to Haiti until next year's presidential elections.
Doctors for Global Health implores the U.S. Congress to demand a full investigation into the administration's role in the likely abduction of Aristide by U.S. forces, a travesty of democracy. In addition, we strongly urge the U.S. government, in accordance with international law, to welcome to our shores Haitian refugees fleeing the political repression they are currently facing in their country.
In Solidarity with the People of Haiti and In Pursuit of Human Rights,
Jennifer Kasper, MD, MPH
President, Doctors for Global Health
P.O. Box 1761
Decatur, GA 30031
Voice and Fax: 404-377-3566
This DGH Position Statement has been sent to the following U.S. government officials:
Roger Noriega, Undersecretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs
Colin Powell, Secretary of State
James B. Foley, U.S. Ambassador to Haiti
U.S. President George W. Bush
Richard Cheney, President of the Senate
J. Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House
Ted Stevens, President Pro-temp of the Senate
Bill Frist, Majority Leader in the Senate
Duncan Hunter, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee
John Warner, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Richard Lugar, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate
Henry J. Hyde, Chair of the International Relations Committee in the House
The Representatives from Georgia, the home base of DGH:
Fax: (202) 224-0103
Sen. Zell Miller
Fax: 202. 228-2090
Officers and Select Members of the Congressional Black Caucus:
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Chair
Rep. Elijah Cummings, 1st Vice-Chair
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, 2nd Vice-Chair
Rep. Bobby Rush, Secretary
Rep. Gregory Meeks, Whip
Rep. Corrine Brown
Fax: (202) 225-2256
Rep. Barbara Lee
Rep. Danny Davis
Rep. Charlie Rangel
Rep. Donald Payne
Rep. Maxine Waters
Rep. John Lewis
Please use this DGH statement or your own version to reach as many government officials as possible. Please also send copies to your local newspaper's "Letter to the Editor" page to inform others as well. We would be most appreciative of your sending DGH an Web siteemail (dghinfo at dghonline.org) to inform us of your actions, knowing that more letters increase chances for justice to prevail in Haiti.
In Solidarity and Justice for the People of Haiti,
Shirley Novak, MA