Latortue lacks credibility for UN post in Guinea

April 8, 2008
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2006 Haiti Information Project - Gerard Latortue and former U.N. Envoy Juan-Gabriel Valdes share a moment of levity before signing an accord that effectively left the administration of Rene Preval with little or no control over the shape and direction of Haitian affairs.
Latortue and Valdez
Conakry 2007
Police and military massacre peaceful protesters in Guinea on February 12, 2007. Watch the Radio KanKan video
PNH massacre February 28, 2005
Under the Latortue regime, Haitian police massacred peaceful protesters on February 28, 2005 as the UN stood by and watched. Watch HIP trailer  -  Read story

Latortue lacks credibility for UN post in Guinea

By Kevin Pina

On March 20, 2008, the United Nations announced that Gerard Latortue, the former Prime Minister of Haiti, was appointed to go to Guinea to conduct a social and political dialogue that will lead ultimately to national elections.

Many in Haiti question the choice of Latortue to broker a settlement in Guinea given his lack of democratic credentials and involvement in mass human rights abuses in Haiti.

Guinea background

In January 2007, in response to deteriorating living standards in Guinea caused by wholesale corruption by officials of the administration of President Lansana Conte, unions called a national strike. Massive numbers of Guineans demonstrated in the streets throughout Guinea and were met with brutal violence by Guinean police and military; on several occasions the police and military opened fire on crowds of unarmed demonstrators. While a final tally is not available, close to 1,000 marchers were killed and hundreds injured according to estimates on the ground.

Through a plan worked out in mediation between the government and the unions, a Prime Minister was appointed in March 2007, to oversee a dialogue by which the concerns of the people of Guinea would be reviewed and an investigation into the state-sponsored violence during the national strike would be pursued.

After a few months, it became apparent that the new Prime Minister of Guinea, Lansana Kouyate had lost the confidence of the people of Guinea and neither their concerns about living conditions nor the violence against the demonstrators would be addressed.

It was Lansana Kouyate who pushed the UN for Haiti’s former PM, Gerard Latortue, to broker a dialogue between so-called sectors of ‘civil society’ that would lead to new elections.

Lack of democratic credentials

There is absolutely nothing in Latortue’s history to indicate that he is qualified to broker an inclusive settlement in Guinea based upon democratic principles. Latortue became Prime Minister of Haiti through an extra-constitutional process where the U.S., France and Canada circumvented the law of the land. They appointed a so-called seven member Council of the Wise who in turn selected Latortue as Prime Minister following the ouster of Jean Bertrand Aristide on February 29, 2004. Nothing in Haiti’s constitution ever allowed for the empowerment of such a body or the process that led to his subsequent appointment. Haiti’s constitution calls for the Prime Minister to be appointed by a duly elected president and ratified by Haiti’s parliament to govern. He was selected to assume the office by virtue of foreign parties outside of the law and contrary to the popular democratic choice of the Haitian electorate.

©Black Commentator - click image for original story
"Colin Powell's Crime in Progress" - Dec 9, 2004 - Issue 117- used by permission Artist: Cartoonist 29
Latortue an Powell

Latortue’s human rights violations

Upon being selected for the office of Prime Minister, Latortue led a regime from 2004-2006 that was responsible for the killing, imprisonment and forced exile of thousands of followers of president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his political movement known as Lavalas. Following the massacre of unarmed demonstrators in Haiti on Sept. 30, 2004, Latortue stated, "We shot them, some of the them fell, others were injured, others ran away." This was merely an introduction and the tip of the iceberg, as thousands of Haitians would ultimately fall prey to false incarceration and death during Latortue’s tenure as Prime Minister of Haiti. U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters summed up the history of human rights abuses under Latortue best when she wrote,

“There have been over 1,000 killings in Haiti since Gerard Latortue took office. Lavalas members have been found shot in the head with their hands tied behind their backs. There are reports of Lavalas members being placed in a container and drowned at sea. Many Aristide-supporters are in hiding. Delegations from Amnesty International, the National Lawyers Guild and Let Haiti Live have documented the repression and killing of Lavalas party members.

Gerard Latortue is a shameful Boca Raton buffoon -- incapable of independent leadership. He is but a misguided tool being used to prop up an illegitimate government until the Haitian business elite with the support of Roger Noriega, France and Canada can install their own leaders with a controlled election and a pretense of democracy.”

It should also be noted that the U.S. House of Representatives tabled and effectively killed a motion to honor Latortue for his tenure as the selected Prime Minister of Haiti despite the protests of the Bush administration.

Latortue’s role in election fiasco

The entire premise of intervention by the international community in Haiti after Aristide’s ouster was designed to justify the overthrow of a democratically elected government. After two years of intense repression against Aristide’s Lavalas movement, U.N.-sponsored elections in Haiti take place at an estimated cost of $76 million. After months of stalling, by an election council known as the Conseil Electoral Provisoire (CEP) that was handpicked by Latortue and the U.N., national elections are held on February 7, 2006.

A latecomer to the campaign and a former Prime Minister and protégé of Aristide, Rene Garcia Preval, enters the race and is clearly the choice of the Haitian people in the elections. Aristide’s Lavalas political movement throws their qualified support behind Preval to end the repression, free Lavalas political prisoners and pave the way for the ousted president’s return.

Initial election returns show Preval with a comfortable lead over his opponents who mostly represent the so-called opposition that had supported Aristide’s ouster. Based on exit polls and independent observers, Preval clearly had more than 50% of the popular vote necessary to avoid a runoff and a second round of balloting. Overnight, the U.N./Latortue election council announced that Preval’s tally had fallen to a mere 43%. In response, thousands of Haitians took to the streets and paralyzed the capital of Port au Prince for nearly two weeks. Their determination was intensified in the last week, and the political climate turned incendiary, when thousands of ballots for Preval were discovered uncounted in several dumpsites throughout the capital.

At that moment, most Haitians in the streets believed that the U.N. and the Latortue regime had colluded to keep Preval from assuming office. They constructed burning barricades at every major intersection of the capital.

It was then that a backroom deal was made that would allow the U.N. to save face despite the fact that they had sponsored an electoral fraud to the tune of $76 million. Like the extra-constitutional Council of the Wise that selected Latortue as Prime Minister, they circumvented the Haitian constitution to determine the validity of blank ballots cast in the election. According to Haitian law the blank ballots, where no clear vote is cast or the choice of candidate is unclear, are cast out and not counted in the final tally of the election.

The U.N. in collusion with the U.S., France and Canada decided to use the election law of another country to handle the question of blank ballots. It became known as the “Belgian Option” where instead of being disqualified under Haitian law, the blank ballots would instead be distributed evenly among the presidential candidates. Incredibly, they would apply Belgian electoral law in Haiti to provide Preval with a margin of more than 50% of the vote to assume office. More importantly, it would allow Latortue, the U.N. and the ‘international community’ to save face after sponsoring and delivering a $76 million dollar election fiasco.

Latortue stated to the Haitian press he didn’t know what he was signing but a video crew documented the entire sordid affair, including his review and signing of the accord.
Special Session of the U.N. Security Council on February 22, 2006 that was chaired by U.S. representative John Bolton. Note he is flanked by U.N. representatives Juan Gabriel Valdes and Hédi Annabi showing where the real initiative for U.N. policy in Haiti really lies.

Latortue saddles Haitian democracy

On February 28, 2005, the Haitian police slaughtered peaceful demonstrators demanding the return of Aristide. This marked a turning point in Haiti. After many such killings, the U.N. envoy to Haiti Mr. Juan Gabriel Valdes, was finally forced to declare that U.N. troops would intervene to stop the Haitian police from shooting unarmed demonstrators. The immediate reaction of the Latortue regime was delivered by then Justice Minister Bernard Gousse who stated unequivocally that this impinged on Haitian sovereignty. It should be noted the U.N. backed off and the killing of unarmed demonstrators commenced again unabated. Protests by the U.N. against the indiscriminate killing of Lavalas supporters ended as suddenly as they began in the name Haitian sovereignty.

Before leaving office, Latortue was more than willing to sign an agreement with the U.N. on February 22, 2006, that effectively left the administration of Rene Preval with little or no control over the shape and direction of Haitian affairs. National sovereignty, that Latortue had earlier invoked to continue killing Aristide supporters, was replaced with an accord that virtually gave all control of the Haitian police and judiciary over to the command and control of the United Nations. Latortue stated to the Haitian press he didn’t know what he was signing but a video crew documented the entire sordid affair, including his review and signing of the accord.

The same day he signed the accord with the U.N., Latortue went before a Special Session of the U.N. Security Council that was chaired by U.S. representative John Bolton who was flanked by U.N. representatives Juan Gabriel Valdes and Hédi Annabi. Latortue gave what amounted to an apologia for the elections fiasco and his testimony gave credibility to his signing over any control Preval may have had over Haiti’s government and institutions before assuming the office of the presidency.

Haiti would now be under the control of the U.N. and the ‘international community’, leaving Preval with the title of Head of State and virtually little or no power to institute real change. The president of Haiti effectively became a figurehead representing the dictates of international powerbrokers in his own country. Unfortunately, Preval gracefully accepted the terms but the jury is still out on his prowess for maneuvering the landscape foisted upon him.

Latortue and Haiti’s false ‘positive image’

The relentless campaign waged by the UN, religious missionary groups and the ‘international community’ to portray Haiti in a positive light has become almost comical. Despite indicators that most Haitians cannot afford to eat they continue to pay for and get positive press that runs contrary to the reality. The UN and other international organizations continue to fail to report on current actual statistics of poverty, malnutrition and life expectancy in Haiti. Most Haitians cannot eat more than one meal a day while unemployment continues to run more than 80%, a large part of which can be directly attributed to the history of Latortue’s tenure as the selected Prime Minister of Haiti.

Under Latortue’s administration the monopolistic grip of the small wealthy elite in Haiti was reinforced by granting them a moratorium on taxes paid to the state for a period of two years. This small class of wealthy businessmen also became involved in the affairs of state at a level not seen since the days of the infamous Duvalier dictatorship. It was Latortue’s administration that sold the country to the highest bidder and embraced neo-liberal economic policies that favored and unleashed the predatory monopolists among Haiti’s wealthy elite. Along with the backward economic policies imposed by the international community, this largely accounts for the current desperate situation of poverty and misery facing most Haitians today.

Latortue helped the international community to set in motion an economic policy in Haiti that favors entrenched economic elites over the growth of small and medium sized businesses and fair competition in the marketplace. Together, they institutionalized a system that favors the wealthy. This has resulted in untold suffering among the Haitian poor who are now dying in the streets from hunger or are being gunned down in current protests against the starvation and misery.

Lessons for Guinea

Many Haitians and their supporters question whether Latortue can be expected to provide any more positive results in Guinea, an African country that is not his own. They make it clear his track record in Haiti speaks for itself. Whether it was supporting state-sponsored terror to achieve political objectives or ultimately selling out the sovereignty of his own nation to foreign governments, Latortue simply cannot be trusted.

The U.N. is merely bowing to the Bush administration and applying a subtle form of cronyism to reward Latortue for supporting their policy to oust the democratically elected government of Aristide in Haiti. Latortue is no more qualified to represent democracy or peace in Guinea than his own record affords. His is a legacy of anti-democratic and brutal behavior that should be noted by the people of Guinea. As the U.N. now seeks to impose Latortue upon them as he was once imposed upon the Haitian people, the people of Guinea would do well to heed the facts of this man’s role in history

©2008 Haiti Information Project - All Rights Reserved

The Haiti Information Project (HIP) is a non-profit alternative news service providing coverage and analysis of breaking developments in Haiti.

Winner of the CENSORED 2008 REAL NEWS AWARD for Outstanding Investigative Journalism

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