|Remilitarization in Haiti|
|Written by Jeb Sprague|
Following the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, the country’s small right wing has had a political comeback.
As with the shocking return of former dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in early 2011 (who remains unaccountable for his crimes), through a controversial and poorly attended election, musician Michel Martelly, a longtime neo-Duvalierist, was able to woo a small part of the population as an “outsider” candidate.
Since the 2004 coup d’état in Haiti, there has been a clear rollback of the slow but positive reforms that had been undertaken by Haiti’s popularly elected governments. Judicial rulings that had held accountable some of the country’s most violent elites, army, and paramilitary criminals in the early 2000s and late 1990s were overturned. As we now know through WikiLeaks, 400 paramilitaries were integrated into Haiti’s revamped post-coup police force. A UN force has also remained in the country since mid-2004.
The most stunning achievement of Haiti’s democratic period, though, has been more difficult to undo: this was the disbandment of Haiti’s brutal military and rural section chiefs. The forces had been built up to support the US occupation in the early 20th century and by the 1960s a symbiotic relationship had formed between the forces and a cold war paramilitary apparatus set up in the country. The Tonton Macoute paramilitary force, set up under François “Papa Doc” Duvalier (and responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands), eventually would become even more reliant on Haiti’s military following the fall of Papa Doc’s son, Jean Claude.
Today, with a UN occupation and hard-line right-wing government in power, the victory of Haiti’s grassroots pro-democracy movement in disbanding the military, is being put to the test. In recent months Haiti’s government formed a ministry of defense, which has already begun rebuilding the army.
Haiti’s population is widely opposed to the army’s reformation. Yet, unable to win by free and fair elections, dominant sectors have sought to disenfranchise or manipulate the country’s voters, yet they have still required periodic doses of political violence.
There is a clear danger that history will repeat itself in Haiti. Whereas France has offered to help rebuild the ex-army, Ecuador and Brazil are reportedly moving forward to help train it.
As of now, officials from the Canadian government and U.S. Department of State have said the force would be a waste of resources. However, agencies within these governments often carry out contradictory policies. The U.S. has a long history of facilitating army and paramilitary forces in the country. Infamous macoute killers, such as Frank Romain, received their training at the School of the Americas.
Jeb Sprague is the author of Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti
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Interview with Father Fausto Mila in Honduras
SOA Watch participated in the International Human Rights Encuentro in Honduras in February 2012. Laura Jung spoke with Father Fausto Milla, a religious leader in the Honduran movement who has been persecuted by the State of Honduras.
H.R. 2989, the Latin America Military Training Review Act of 2013 renews the legislative efforts against the notorious U.S. military training institute, formerly known as the School of the Americas.
By Pablo Ruiz, Equipo Latinoamericano of SOA Watch
SOAW Chile achieved an important victory; to declassify the names of over 760 Chilean soldiers who took courses at the School of the Americas/WHINSEC during the past decade.
School of the Americas Watch Chile, with the participation of other human rights organizations (La Agrupación de Familiares de Ejecutados Políticos, La Comisión Ética Contra la Tortura, La Comunidad Ecuménica Martín Luther King, La Corporación 3 y 4 Álamos and La Juventud Guevarista) used Chile’s “Transparency Law” to achieve a first victory in their home country.
The Defense Ministry, the Chilean Army, Navy, and Air Force handed over lists that include first and last names, dates, and courses attended by Chilean military personnel at SOA/WHINSEC between 2001-2015.
The declassified materials also mention the names of “invited instructors” who assisted the military school in Georgia as well as those of other high-ranking Chilean officials who are part of the WHINSEC leadership. Additionally noteworthy about the response by the military is the mention of WHINSEC personnel that travelled to Chile to instruct the “Personal Development Course for Cadets” at the Chilean Escuela Militar. Nonetheless, what is left out is the “Combined Operations Course 2012,” held at the Academia de Guerra and organized by the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Estado Mayor Conjunto ) together with the mobile team of WHINSEC.
Although the information is incomplete, the declassification still represents an important step since one of the characteristics of the SOAW movement is to monitor the behavior of the troops that receive training at the military base and for that purpose it is indispensable to know, who its graduates are.
Despite the Army not revealing the identities of Escuela Militar students and of some other officials, using the argument that this is “legally secret information,” it is an important accomplishment in the fight for more transparency and for continuing with the to demand to stop sending Chilean soldiers to the School of the Americas.
SOA graduates participated in the assassination of the singer songwriter Víctor Jara, in the car bomb attack, carried out in the middle of Washington, DC, that killed Orlando Letelier and Ronnie Moffitt, and in the death of union leader Tucapel Jiménez; among hundreds of other cases that involved soldiers who received training in the US.
The fight for accountability in the US
It is important to remember that the lists with names of Latin American soldiers who trained at the SOA/WHINSEC after 2005 are classified and secret information in the US.
Prior to that year, from 1946-2004, the names had been declassified. This allowed SOA Watch to know that a significant number of soldiers, who committed human rights abuses, had been trained in counterinsurgency methods in the US; including courses that suggested “to use torture, blackmail, extortion and reward payments for murdered enemies.”
In April 2013, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton from the District of Northern California, responded favorably to a Freedom of Information request presented by SOAW activists Theresa Cameranesi and Judith Liteky, demanding the declassification of the names of all Latin American soldiers who received training at the so-called “School of the Assassins.”
Judge Hamilton reminded in her verdict that the Freedom of Information Act is meant to “assure a well-informed citizenry, a fundamental thing for making a democratic society work and necessary to stop acts of corruption as well as to hold the governing body accountable to the governed.” Her verdict was immediately appealed by the lawyers of the US government and the trail continues to this day.
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There is no way to peace, peace is the way.
- A. J. Muste
A challenging new documentary has quickly become one of the
widest-reaching films to encapsulate the history of the SOA Watch
An in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver in Afghanistan who was tortured and killed in 2002.