Dear supporters of Haiti:
As you know, Haitian democracy is under its gravest threat since the 1991-1994 dictatorship. As of this writing, armed groups led by former Haitian military and FRAPH members have taken control of Haiti's 2nd and 4th largest cities. In both places, democracy supporters and police have been tortured, killed and mutilated. If the terrorists succeed in taking Port-au-Prince, there is every reason to expect a repetition of Haiti's last unconstitutional power grab in 1991, when 5,000 Haitians were killed, and hundreds of thousands tortured or forced to flee the country.
The U.S. has responded to this threat to life and to democracy by refusing to help fight the terrorism unless the elected Haitian authorities agree to an unconstitutional transfer of power to unelected members of Haiti's opposition.
The number of terrorists is small, less than 500 by most accounts. Some are well-trained former soldiers and paramilitaries, but most are not. They are only successful because of their international support, and because the Haitian police have been weakened by three years of embargoes, which now include an embargo on tear gas and other police supplies. The rebellion could be quashed quickly by international support for the Haitian police, without a foreign peace-keeping force or exposing foreign troops to combat.
The U.S. media has been systematically biased in its coverage of Haitian events. This bias is not an academic issue, but a matter of life and death. Positive media coverage of the terrorists and their allies emboldens them, and the Bush Administration uses unfair reporting about Haiti's elected government and its supporters to justify withholding support from Haiti's democracy in its hour of need. Both lead to people getting killed.
The Haiti Action Committee encourages everyone who supports democracy in Haiti or wants to avoid a repetition of 1991's massive violence, to write newspaper editors and complain about inaccurate reports on Haiti. Please write to your local paper, as well as to national papers, Reuters and AP, and NPR. Letters should be short (less than 200 words or half a page). You should choose the one or two points that you feel most strongly about, and leave other points for other writers. Do not send attachments; they will not be read. Letters must include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers.
Below are short discussions of some of the most common inaccuracies. Feel free to borrow any language, or use your own, as you think appropriate. Below that are addresses for several newspapers. For more information about the situation in Haiti, visit www.haitiaction.net.
Haiti Action Committee
1. The armed opposition are terrorists. The press often refers to them as "rebels" and treats them as if they were fighting for some principle. The leaders were responsible for thousands of deaths, and hundreds of thousands of rapes, beatings and other tortures during the 1991-1994 dictatorship. They are doing the same things now, bragging to the press about systematically hunting down democracy supporters and executing them. They have announced repeatedly since December their intention to attack any government supporter in areas they control, and they have kept their word. Terrorist leader Louis Jodel Chamblain was the #2 leader of the brutal FRAPH death squad. He has been convicted in absentia at trials for the Raboteau massacre and the assassination of businessman Antoine Izmery. Co-leader Guy Philippe was a member of the military during the dictatorship, and has been implicated in a coup attempt and an attack on the police academy in 2001, and several attacks in the Central Plateau over the last two years. FRAPH leader Jean Pierre, alias Tatoune, was serving a life sentence for the Raboteau massacre when he escaped in 2002. He has been terrorizing the Raboteau victims who fought so courageously to bring him to justice (more on this below).
2. The vast majority of government supporters are ordinary citizens with no history of violent crime, but the press consistently refers to people persecuted by the terrorists as members of armed gangs or chimeres. This implies that their tortures, executions and mutilations are somehow deserved. In January 1991, September 1991, December 2001 and today, the supporters of democracy have again and again taken to the streets to defend democracy. Most have been unarmed, and each time the majority of those killed have been unarmed civilians. Demonizing them all is inaccurate, unfair, and an insult to their courage.
3. Haiti's Police force is stretched thin, in large part because of the multiple embargoes against Haiti. The U.S. has led a development assistance embargo against Haiti for three years, and prematurely cancelled its police training program, which stunted the force's development. The U.S. has also refused export licenses for the private sale of police supplies, including tear gas and lethal and non-lethal weapons. This leaves the police without adequate training, material, transport and weapons. The U.S. also undermined the police force from the beginning by using police training for intelligence service recruiting. When the American director of the training program complained, she was fired (Legal Times, March 1, 1999).
4. International support for the Haitian police would by itself end the armed rebellion, without a major peace-keeping force. The armed groups fighting to topple Haiti's elected authorities are not numerous and most are not well-trained (a few are highly trained former military and paramilitary, some U.S.-trained). A very small amount of support by the international community at the beginning of this year- providing minimal support to the Haitian police, such as tear gas, transport, money, training, perhaps some weapons, and preventing the terrorists from crossing over from the Dominican Republic- would have nipped the violence in the bud. Although the putschists have gained momentum, cutting off their supplies and providing additional support to the Haitian police would adequately resolve the problem now.
5. The U.S. has long-standing ties to the terrorist leaders. Louis Jodel Chamblain was the number two leader of FRAPH, a violent paramilitary organization founded with U.S. encouragement in 1993. U.S. government sources have confirmed the claims of FRAPH's top leader, Emmanuel Constant, that U.S. intelligence officials encouraged him in his activities, and paid him a monthly salary (www.theatlantic.com/issues/2001/06/grann.htm). Constant has been allowed to live freely in New York, despite a 1995 deportation order and a 2000 murder conviction. Constant admits to being active in Haitian affairs. Another top leader, Guy Philippe, received specialized U.S. training as a member of the Haitian armed forces, and again as a member of the Haitian National Police. The Dominican Republic allowed both Chamblain and Philippe to operate from its territory, despite requests for Philippe to return to face charges of organizing several coup d'etats, and for Chamblain to answer murder charges.
6. The so-called civilian opposition to the government have extensive ties to Haitian dictatorships. The most prominent member of the opposition, Andre Apaid, had his assets frozen by the U.S. Treasury for his support for the 1991-1994 de facto dictatorship. He is an American citizen, whose support for violent regime change in Haiti violates the U.S. Neutrality Act. He acquired his Haitian citizenship with documents fraudulently claiming that he was born in Haiti, when he was born in New York. He led the fight to keep the Haitian minimum wage at its current rate, about $1.60/day. Another prominent member of the opposition, Leslie Manigat, was installed as President by a military dictatorship in 1987 three months after the dictatorship cancelled elections by allowing paramilitary and military massacres at polling sites. Several other members, including Hubert de Ronceray, were prominent Duvalierists. Others, including Evans Paul, collaborated with the de facto dictatorship.
7. The so-called civilian opposition is closely linked to the violent opposition. Although some of its members, under U.S. pressure, have recently distanced themselves from the violent methods, they continue to publicly and explicitly support the violent groups' goals. The violent groups have, over the course of several months, maintained that they are collaborating with the civilian opposition. Civilian demonstrations in Port-au-Prince have been planned to coincide with violent actions, and have been intentionally provocative, placing increased pressure on an over-extended police force. Last weekend, civilian opposition leaders called for a delay in responding to the international compromise proposal, in order to give the terrorists time to attack Cap Haitian, which they did on Sunday. The U.S. has explicitly linked the violent and the civilian opposition, by refusing to support the elected government against the violent groups unless it agrees to unconstitutional power-sharing with the civilian opposition.
8. President Aristide was duly elected, and the Constitution provides for a five year term ending on February 7, 2006. Prime Minister Neptune was approved by Parliament, according to the Constitution's provisions. Although the press does not deny these facts, it discusses changes in the powers of the President and Prime Minister without noting that these changes violate the Constitution.
9. The press repeatedly refers to "fraudulent elections in 2000." There was no documented fraud in the November 2000 elections, in which President Aristide and 1/3 of the Senate were elected. The only international monitors for those elections found the official Electoral Commission results to be consistent with their observations. Subsequent U.S.-sponsored Gallup Polls confirmed the official figures for turnout and results. The only documented, systematic problem with the earlier May 2000 legislative and local elections were the calculation of run-off percentages for eight senate seats. Those were resolved long ago, when one of the seats was re-run, and those holding the other seven resigned to eliminate the crisis (in 2001). By all accounts, those eight seats did not affect the balance of power in the legislature.
10. The press repeatedly refers to a fall in President Aristide's popularity, without providing any basis for the statement. President Aristide and his allies have won every single democratic election ever held in Haiti by a landslide. Although some elections were controversial, the controversy has always been about the extent of the landslide, not its existence. Although there have been increasing anti-government demonstrations in the last few months, every one has been matched by a larger, pro-government demonstration. Many supporters of Aristide and the constitutional process are putting their lives on the line to combat the terrorists.
11. The Haitian government is often described as intractable, when it has in fact made many enormous concessions, some of them unprecedented in modern history. In 2001, seven sitting senators resigned. In 2002, the remaining legislators agreed to early elections, and the government agreed to an Electoral Counsel dominated by government opponents. In 2003, the government obtained the resignation of two police chiefs to please the opposition and the international community. Late last year, the government agreed to a compromise set out by the Catholic Bishops Conference, which promptly withdrew the proposal. Recently the government has agreed to a series of onerous concessions through the CARICOM and OAS processes. In return, neither the violent opposition, its civilian allies, or the international governments that support them have conceded anything.
Addresses for Letter to the Editor:
New York Times:
Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
Letters to the Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20071
National Public Radio
Comment Line: 202 513-3232 weekdays 10:00am-5:00pm(sometimes they play these on the air).
Morning Edition: Morning@npr.org
All Things Considered: firstname.lastname@example.org
send copies of all comments on reporting to email@example.com
Letters to the Editor
The Boston Globe
P.O. Box 2378
Boston, MA 02107-2378
Or by fax to (617) 929-2098
Los Angeles Times:
The Readers' Forum
The Miami Herald
One Herald Plaza
Miami, Florida 33132-1693
Fax: (305) 376-8950
South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
More information on the terrorist leadership:
Louis Jodel Chamblain
Chamblain was the National Coordinator (the #2 position) of the Front révolutionnaire pour l'avancement et le progrès haïtien, (Revolutionary Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress) known by its acronym - FRAPH - which phonetically resembles the French and Creole words for 'to beat' or 'to thrash'. FRAPH was formed during the 1991-94 military regime, and was responsible for numerous human rights violations before the 1994 restoration of democratic governance.
Chamblain was the operational leader of FRAPH, while co-leader Emmanuel Constant did the public relations. Chamblain organized attacks against democracy supporters, issued FRAPH ID cards, and obtained official recognition for FRAPH from the dictatorship. Among the victims of FRAPH under Chamblain's leadership was Haitian Justice Minister Guy Malary. He was ambushed and machine-gunned to death with his body-guard and a driver on October 14, 1993. According to an October 28, 1993 CIA Intelligence Memorandum obtained by the Center for Constitutional Rights: "FRAPH members Jodel Chamblain, Emmanuel Constant, and Gabriel Douzable met with an unidentified military officer on the morning of 14 October to discuss plans to kill Malary." (Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, the leader of FRAPH, is now living freely in Queens, NYC.)
In September 1995, Chamblain was among seven senior military and FRAPH leaders convicted in absentia and sentenced to forced labor for life for involvement in the September 1993 extrajudicial execution of Antoine Izméry, a well-known pro-democracy activist. In November 2000, Chamblain was convicted in absentia in the Raboteau massacre trial.
In late 1994 or early 1995, Chamblain went into exile to the Dominican Republic in order to avoid prosecution. He was regularly spotted by Haitian expatriates and international journalists in public.
Guy Philippe is a former member of the FAD'H (Haitian Army). During the 1991-94 military regime, he and a number of other officers received training from the US Special Forces in Ecuador, and when the FAD'H was dissolved by Aristide in early 1995, Philippe was incorporated into the new National Police Force. He served as police chief in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas and in the second city, Cap-Haitien, before he fled Haiti in October 2000 when Haitian authorities discovered him plotting what they described as a coup, together with a clique of other police chiefs. Since that time, the Haitian government has accused Philippe of master-minding deadly attacks on the Haitian Police Academy and the National Palace in July and December 2001, as well as hit-and-run raids against police stations on Haiti's Central Plateau over last two years.
According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report on Haiti, dated 7 September 1988, FAD'H Captain Ernst Ravix, was the military commander of Saint Marc, and head of a paramilitary squad of "sub-proletariat youths" who called themselves the Sans Manman (Motherless Ones). In May 1988, the government of President Manigat tried to reduce contraband and corruption in the port city of Saint Marc, but Ravix, the local Army commander, responded by organizing a demonstration against the President in which some three thousand residents marched, chanted, and burned barricades. Manigat removed Ravix from his post, but after Manigat's ouster, he was reinstated by the military dictator, Lt. Gen. Namphy.
Ravix was not heard of again until December 2001 when former FAD'H sergeant, Pierre Richardson, the person captured following the 17 December attack on the National Palace, reportedly confessed that the attack was a coup attempt planned in the Dominican Republic by three former police chiefs- Guy Philippe, Jean-Jacques Nau and Gilbert Dragon - and that it was led by former Captain Ernst Ravix. According to Richardson, Ravix's group withdrew from the National Palace and fled to the Dominican Republic when reinforcements failed to arrive.
Jean Pierre Baptiste, alias "Jean Tatoune", first came to prominence as a leader of the anti-Duvalier mobilizations in his home town of Gonaives in 1985. For some years he was known and respected for his anti-Duvalierist activities but during the 1991-94 military regime he emerged as a local leader of FRAPH. On 22 April 1994, he led a force of dozens of soldiers and FRAPH members in an attack on Raboteau, a desperately poor slum area in Gonaives and a stronghold of support for Aristide. Between 15 and 25 people were killed in what became known as the Raboteau massacre.
In 2000, Tatoune was put on trial and sentenced to forced labor for life for his participation in the Raboteau massacre. He was subsequently imprisoned in Gonaives, from where he escaped in August 2002, and took up arms again in his base in a poor area of the city. He has led numerous terrorist attacks in Gonaives over the last four months, including police killings, destruction of government buildings and attacks against the Raboteau victims who testified in the case against him.
Joseph is a former Haitian Army sergeant who, following the disbanding of the FAD'H in 1995, headed an association of former FAD'H members. The formation of the Rassemblement des Militaires Révoqués Sans Motifs (RAMIRESM), the Assembly of Soldiers Retired Without Cause was announced at a 1 August 1995 press conference in Port-au-Prince. During 1995 and 1996, RAMIRESM was closely associated with Hubert De Ronceray's neo-Duvalierist party, Mobilization pour le développement national, (MDN) Mobilization for National Development.
On 17 August 1996, Joseph was one of 15 former soldiers arrested at the MDN party headquarters and accused of plotting against the government. Two days later, approximately twenty armed men, reportedly in uniforms and thought to be former soldiers, fired on the main Port-au-Prince police station, killing one bystander.
Since then nothing had been heard of Joseph, until he emerged in Hinche with the rebel forces last week. The right-wing MDN party is a leading member of the Democratic Convergence coalition.
Dear supporters of Haiti: