by Dan Beeton
RINF Alternative News
Mar 1, 2014
It has been 10 years since the February 29, 2004 coup d’etat that ousted the democratically-elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti. Paramilitary groups – including many former members of Haiti’s disbanded army and/or CIA-funded death squads – had engaged in a campaign of violence directed against supporters of the government, and the Haitian National Police (HNP), for years before. Supported by the Dominican government and advised by groups based in Washington, they unleashed a wave of terror, killing innocent civilians including children and women, assaulting and brutalizing others, and burning down police stations and other government buildings. In the end, however, these groups seem to have realized they could not mount a successful incursion into Port-au-Prince, and it was a U.S. plane that flew Aristide out of the country.
As CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot wrote after the coup, Washington also directed international financial institutions to withhold funds from the Aristide government (some of which were designated for potable water – their being withheld helping to create the conditions for the cholera epidemic several years later):
[T]he Administration has been working on toppling Aristide for the past three years, plunging the country into chaos in the process.
The major international financial institutions (IFI’s) — including the IMF, World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, supported the administration’s destabilization efforts by cutting off hundreds of millions of dollars in credit to one of the most desperately poor countries in the world.
The pretext was a dispute over the election of seven senators of Aristide’s party in 2001. Aristide offered every possible solution but it didn’t matter. With Washington and the IFI’s backing them, the opposition refused any agreement short of Aristide’s resignation.
In the end, Aristide did not resign – although the Bush administration claimed he did. Aristide himself claimed instead that he was the victim of a “kidnapping in the service of a coup d’etat.” His account is verified by witnesses, as Randall Robinson has pointed out in his account of events related to the coup. Bundled onto a plane, he and First Lady Mildred Aristide were flown to an unknown destination, what turned out to be the Central African Republic.
Ottawa Actively Participated in Haiti Coup d’Etat: Canadians Apologize to Haiti, Ten Years after the Coup
We sign this statement to tell the world, and especially the Haitian people, that we are ashamed and outraged by the Canadian Government’s active participation in the February 29, 2004 Coup d’Etat that toppled the duly-elected Government of Haiti led by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.On behalf of all Canadians, the great majority of whom are kept ignorant of this Coup and its aftermath, we sincerely apologize for the terrible, lasting damage it has caused.
Ten (10) years after the Coup, we sign this statement because there is disturbing and compelling evidence that:
1) Canada was centrally involved in planning the Coup. A year in advance, on January 31 and February 1, 2003, Canada hosted the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti. This controversial meeting was held at the Meech Lake Government Resort, near Gatineau, Québec, to plan and consolidate the Coup.
2) Canada took an active part in the actual forced removal from Haiti and exile to Africa of President Aristide. Canadian soldiers, notably those serving in Joint Task Force 2, were assigned by Canadian government leaders to join local paramilitary mercenaries and U.S. troops illegally deployed to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to conduct the Coup d’État.Records of the Canadian Parliament show that on March 10, 2004, ten days after the coup, Stockwell Day, then-foreign affairs critic for the Conservative opposition, declared in Parliament: “… we have an elected leader Aristide. We may not have wanted to vote for him… But the (Canadian) government makes a decision that there should be a regime change. It is a serious question that we need to address. That decision was based on what criteria? We must have this discussion…This was clearly a regime change. Whether we like to admit it or not, we took part.”
3) The Coup was followed by several documented massacres and arbitrary arrests of pro-democracy activists. It dismantled Haiti’s entire elected government structure, and U.S.-appointed post-coup regimes — backed financially, militarily and diplomatically by Canada — are marred by serious human rights abuses.
4) One of the most disastrous consequences of the Coup and subsequent U.N. tutelage is that Haiti, a country with no known cases of cholera for the past 100 years, now has one of the worst cholera epidemics in the world. The cholera death toll has already reached 8500 and as of January 2014, more than 700,000 have gotten sick from the deadly bacterium.
Several independent scientific studies unequivocally implicate the UN for introducing cholera to Haiti. According to these studies, UN soldiers stationed near Haiti’s La Mielle and Artibonite Rivers contaminated these major water sources in October 2010 with improperly disposed feces.
To date, the UN refuses to assume responsibility for this grave act of criminal negligence. We support the worthy efforts of human rights groups Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) to seek redress from the UN for the thousands of victims of cholera in Haiti.5) The grassroots pro-democracy movement in Haiti, which bravely overthrew the brutal dictatorship of Jean Claude Duvalier in 1986, has suffered major setbacks since the Coup took place. The people of Haiti are currently ruled by a U.S.-imposed neo-Duvalierist regime, under which the former dictator benefits from open support from powerful national and international allies. Duvalier has brazenly mocked his victims since his January 2011 return to U.N.-occupied Haiti.
Canada’s role in planning and carrying out the February 29, 2004 Coup d’État, and in the equally disastrous and illegal U.N. tutelage our government imposed on Haiti to consolidate the coup, is an ongoing source of misery and injustice for the Haitian people. We urge all Canadians, their organizations and representatives to take effective action to compel the foreign occupation forces to acknowledge and to make adequate amends for the harm they have caused the People of Haiti.
sign petition at
June 28, 2012
As some 500 000 Haitians still live in displaced camps, five star hotels are being built amid shanty towns.
As part of the country’s “Reconstruction”, The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund recently invested $2 million in the Royal Oasis Hotel, a deluxe structure to be built in a poverty-stricken metropolitan area “filled with displaced-persons camps housing hundreds of thousands”. Royal Oasis belongs to a Haitian investment group (SCIOP SA) and will be managed by the Spanish chain Occidental Hotels & Resorts.
AP reported in April that funds raised by the former US Presidents to help the neediest Haitians are now being used to build a hotel for “rich foreigners” including tourists as well many foreign NGO “aid workers” currently in Haiti. (Daniel Trenton, AP: New hotels arise amid ruins in Haitian capital, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, April 29, 2012)
It is worth noting that Western governments have insisted that aid money for Haiti be given to NGOs and foundations rather than to the Haitian government, which they consider to be “corrupt”.
In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, people in the US, Canada and the EU, who made donations to those humanitarian organisations and NGOs did not realize that their contribution to Haiti’s reconstruction would be channeled towards the building of five star hotels to house foreign businessmen. Their expectation was that the money would be used to provide food and housing for the Haitian people.
Royal Oasis hotel. More pictures at http://www.oasishaiti.com/
Royal Oasis Infomercial
The Royal Oasis as well as other hotel projects totalling over $100 million are, according to AP, “raising hopes that thousands of [foreign] investors will soon fill their air-conditioned rooms looking to build factories and tourist infrastructure” (emphasis added)
The “10-story building […] will include an art gallery, three restaurants, a commercial bank and high-end shops. Construction on the Royal Oasis began before the earthquake and is expected to finish by the end of the year.” The earthquake was therefore a blessing for the hotel promoter and contractors, bringing $2 million dollars originally raised to “go directly to supplying these material needs [food, water, shelter, first-aid supplies]” (see add below). Among the companies involved in the construction of the Royal Oasis two are Haitian, one is Canadian (Montreal) and the other American (Miami).
Foreign Aid: Who Benefits?
Foreign “aid” often benefits NGOs of the donor country as well as the local business elites in the recipient country. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has blamed both Bill Clinton as well previous U.S. presidents for having maintained Haiti in conditions of “endemic poverty through a self-serving U.S. rice export policy […] By 2003, approximately 80% of all rice consumed in Haiti was imported from the United States.” (Leah Chavla,Bill Clinton’s Heavy Hand on Haiti’s Vulnerable Agricultural Economy: The American Rice Scandal, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, April 13, 2010.)
Last January iWatch News reported:
According to [U.S] government figures, 1,537 contracts had been awarded [to U.S. Companies] for a total of $204,604,670, as of last fall. Only 23 of the contracts went to Haitian companies, totaling $4,841,426. (Marjorie Valbrun, Haitian firms few and far between on reconstruction rosters, iWatch News, January 11, 2012.)
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a division of the World Bank, has also invested $7.5 million in the project, claiming it will “create employment, generate business opportunities for small businesses and promote sustainable development.” Since 2006, $68.6 millions have been invested by IFC in the Haitian private sector. Despite those investments, the per capita GDP in Haiti has seen very little improvement during that period. There is a fine line between slavery and an average $2 a day salary, which ousted president Jean Bertrand Aristide wanted to abolish prior to his overthrow in a US-French-Canadian sponsored Coup d’Etat. (La Société Financière Internationale (IFC) investit dans un projet hôtelier en Haiti pour supporter les efforts de reconstruction, IFC, June 30, 2010.)
“The good news” is that the project will create jobs for Haitians. The Oasis foundation has also created a program to train workers for the tourism industry. The project promoter, Jerry Tardieu told AP “the new hotels will help more people get out of the camps by giving them jobs to pay for rent on homes being rehabilitated by government and non-profit organizations.” He says 600 people have been employed for the hotel’s construction and once open and running, 250 to 300 new jobs will be created. On top of the $2 million invested in the hotel, a modest grant of $264,000 goes to the “Oasis Hotel’s nonprofit arm, the Oasis Foundation […] bolstering the hospitality sector by reopening l’École Hôtelière Haitienne (the Haiti Hotel School) […] (Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Programs: Oasis). Basically those funds are used to make comfortable hotel rooms, lounges and cafes for foreigners and “train Haitians to serve them ” in a congenial five star environment.
While, Haiti was lacking in hotel rooms in the wake of the earthquake and job creation is a key to poverty reduction, a majority of the population still live in makeshift shelters of cardboard, scrap metal and old bed sheets. People struggle to have water to drink and food on their table — and in many cases they do not have a table. Meanwhile, the construction of luxury hotels for foreigners is a number one priority, in comparison to “housing for the locals”.
Tourism Minister Stephanie B. Villedrouin “said all of those  hotel rooms [destroyed in the earthquake] will have been replaced by the end of the year […] Villedrouin said Port-au-Prince officially has a 60 percent occupancy rate but many of the hotels are too rustic for international travelers [including the NGO, World Bank and USAID staff on mission to Haiti].”(AP, op cit, emphasis added)
The “international travelers” are the unspoken victims of rudimentary and rustic hotel accomodation when on mission to Haiti, according to Mariott’s executive Alejandro Acevedo. “Marriott International, …is building a $45 million, 174-room hotel [in Haiti] in partnership with mobile phone company Digicel Group.” Marriott’s Acevedo complained that “even he had to share a room with his boss on a recent visit because of the dearth of hotel space.”
Camp near Royal Oasis (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Meanwhile, most Haitians live in overcrowded camps such as Champ de Mars camp in Port-au-Prince, “densely packed with shacks made from bed sheets, tarpaulin and scrap metal, which provide flimsy shelter for some 17,000 people.” Forced evictions also take place regularly, according to AlertNet. (Anastasia Moloney, Haiti‘s homeless face housing lottery, AlertNet, February 23, 2012.)
Champ de Mars camp. Photo: Haiti Press Network
The Role of the Red Cross
The AP report confirms that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) bought land for $10.5 million and are also thinking of building a hotel: “The money came from donations raised by national Red Cross agencies for quake recovery, causing some to wonder if the money would be better used to house displaced people rather than aid workers.” (AP, op. cit, emphasis added).
Where did the money come from? Where did that money go?
Millions of people in the US, Canada and Western Europe donated part of their savings to their local Red Cross, which was then channeled to the IFRC, the world’s largest humanitarian umbrella organization. The IFRC claims to be “providing assistance without discrimination as to nationality, race, religious beliefs, class or political opinions.” (See IFRC website, emphasis added)
This land purchase by IFRC not only violates its humantiarian mandate but also the trust of its constituent Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations worldwide. Red Cross donations should have supported the IFRC’s stated mandate pertaining to “shelter recovery and settlement planning”, in a post-disaster environment as clearly stated on the IFC website:
“Most people who have lost their homes through a disaster want to repair or rebuilt their homes as soon as possible. Many start the reconstruction process immediately after a disaster, whenever circumstances and resources permit. Shelter assistance provided by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) recognises this, and where appropriate prioritises the provision of materials, tools, cash and technical assistance to support the process.” (emphasis added)
According to the AP report: “Signs of Haiti‘s comeback can also be seen in the 105-room Best Western hotel being built within blocks of shanty-covered hillsides.” The five star Best Western project is worth $15.7 million and is located in the plush city of Petionville. The “first US hotel in Haiti” is funded by local investors but will be managed by a Dallas firm and is expected to create 150 jobs. (Ibid.)
While several hotels are being built to provide “room and board” for potential foreign investors, very few homes are being built for locals and “the vast majority of construction has been temporary shelters with a life span between two, maximum five years”, according to Gerardo Ducos from Amnesty International. (AlertNet, op. cit.)
In order to shut down the Champ de Mars camp, which would be tantamount to the expulsion of more than 17,000 people, a controversial Haitian government program funded by Canada has been offering 500$ to dwellers who leave and find a home elsewhere. In practice this project leads to the de facto expropriation of slum dwellers in high value central downtown area of Port-au-Prince. While the amount is enough to pay the rent for a year, Ducos wonders: “What happens to the people when their rent money runs out in a year?” (Ibid.).
Will there be enough jobs for them in the hotel industry?
Will the salaries be high enough to pay the rent?
A lot of unanswered questions remain.
Julie Lévesque is a journalist and researcher with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal. She was among the first independent journalists to visit Haiti in the immediate wake of the January 2010 earthquake.