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CMM ALERT: The Canadian Princes of Bel Air

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Posted 09 March 2010 - 04:03 AM

The Canadian Princes of Bel Air

Andrew Chung's lengthy article about the impoverished Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bel Air ("Princes of Bel Air", Toronto Star March 7, 2010) makes three key claims about Haiti:

1) Deposed Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide was a corrupt and thuggish leader.

Chung describes Bel Air as a "slum with the reputation for gang violence, pro-Aristide thuggery, and, like Cité Soleil, danger, especially after dark" and describes Aristide as "populist but corrupt ". Chung claims that

"Guns have played an outsized role in Bel Air. Apart from the thugs and drug gangs, there were the feared chimères, armed militias loyal to Aristide, a soft-spoken former Catholic priest. Guns are why the U.N. labelled Bel Air a 'red zone.'"

Chung's characterization of Aristide is stated as if it were common knowledge. No evidence is offered to substantiate it aside from an assertion by one Bel Air resident, apparently on the payroll of a Canadian funded NGO, who says that Aristide armed his supporters. [1]

Chung's article ignores, perhaps out of ignorance, several court cases that should have made him extremely skeptical about his assumptions about Aristide.

Aristide's most prominent allies – former Prime Minster Yvon Neptune, So Ann, the late Father Gerard Jean Juste were subjected to lengthy, illegal, and very dangerous prison terms after the coup of 2004. Canada oversaw the Haitian judiciary as these arrests were made. Less prominent Aristide loyalists such as Rene Civil, Ronald Dauphin, Amanus Mayette were also imprisoned without trial. [2]

Allegations against Aristide and his supporters have never been in short supply – especially those spread by the Canadian funded "human rights group" – RNDDH. However, a funny thing happened when these cases above were, very belatedly, tested in courts that were stacked against the accused by the Canadian backed Latortue dictatorship. Every single case that went to trial was thrown out because not a shred of evidence materialized.

Allegations of Aristide's corruption have not been tested in court but not from lack of effort .Aristide's personal residence was ransacked after the coup of 2004 and lawsuits against him were initiated but quietly abandoned after it was clear they were a waste of time. [3]

As for the "guns" that Chung writes about so ominously, Canadian author Peter Hallward, in his 2007 book "Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide and the politics of containment", made a very thorough investigation of the claims that Chung regurgitates and found them to be wild exaggerations and outright lies used to justify the violent consolidation of the coup. Hallward wrote

"It is not hard to find a gun in Haiti, and no-one denies that some Aristide supporters had guns. What has always been just as obvious to anyone in Cite Soleil or Bel Air is that their enemies have bigger guns, more of them, and more ways to get hold of them....after 1994 military and FRAPH personnel were never disarmed, and they had powerful friends both in the moneyed hills above Port-au-Prince and across the border in the Dominican Republic..,."[4]

Hallward made the further point that it was Aristide enemies who always had the most to gain from violence.

In 2005, years before Hallward's book was published, Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton effectively exposed Canada's role in Haiti in a very concise book ("Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority"). Chung is hardly alone among Canadian journalists who write about Haiti in apparent ignorance that a serious challenge to the Canadian government's narrative has been available for years. [5]

2) Conditions in Bel Air were improving because of Canada's involvement in Haiti.

Chung assures us that

"….the point to remember is that Bel Air was making progress, with Canada's help in funding a number of innovative social projects there… The earthquake has shattered everything."

In reality, the point to remember is that Canada backed the coup that ousted Aristide's democratically elected government in 2004 and that led to a human rights catastrophe. Canadian troops secured the airport as US troops flew Aristide out of Haiti – against his will says Aristide. Calls for a formal investigation by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union were dismissed and effectively blocked by Canada and the US.

Chung simplifies all this by merely writing that Aristide "fled a mounting armed rebellion".

The coup led to the murder of thousands of Aristide partisans according to various human rights reports and a scientific study published in the Lancet medical journal. [6] Chung wrote that

"After Aristide was forced out, long-standing social problems in Bel Air boiled over. Bel Air became known for its barricades and burning tire demonstrations against the police. Anti-Aristide rebels hunted his partisans."

By neglecting to mention that Aristide was "forced out" with Canada's help, he obscures Canada's contribution to the bloodbath that followed. Additionally, it was the UN (led by the US, Canada and France) that took over Haiti in 2004 – not local "anti-Aristide rebels". The "hunting" of Aristide partisans, which included murder and arbitrary imprisonment, was carried out by the Haitian Nation Police backed by UN troops. Armed vigilantes, such as the Lame Ti Manchèt gang, often worked with the police to perpetrator massacres like the one that took place at a soccer match on August 20 of 2005. [7]

3) The young men of Bel Air pose a grave, violent threat – a ticking bomb that Canada hopes to diffuse.

Support for Aristide in Bel Air is acknowledged by Chung - not as evidence that his assumptions about Aristide are wrong - but to insinuate how dangerous Haiti's poor young men remain.

A young Aristide supporter named Woosny Grangé is cited to reveal the "bitterness" that lack lingers in Bel Air – along with a frightening lack of appreciation for the work done by the Canada and the UN.

"Will the new princes of Bel Air be the gang members of old?" Chung asks.

He ends the article with the following quote:

"A little spark can bring a bomb to Bel Air."

In lieu of evidence for his assertions, Chung provides descriptive passages that convey the sights and sounds of Bel Air. Local color is used as a cheap substitute for depth in a one dimensional piece of propaganda.

History shows that the most dangerous people in Haiti are not the poor, but, among others, Haitian businessmen who financed coups in 1991 and 2004 and who urge the UN and the police to be even more brutal; the UN troops and Haitian police who have terrorized places like Bel Air and Cite Soleil; and Canadian officials always ready with money, excuses and lies in support of criminal polices.

SUGGESTED ACTION(S)

1) If you haven't already, make a donation to one the relief organizations recommended by the Canada Haiti Action Network (CHAN)
http://canadahaitiaction.ca/

2) Send polite, non-abusive emails to the following
( copy all letters and replies to Joe@canuckmedeiamonitor.org )

Toronto Star
lettertoed@thestar.ca

Andrew Chung
achung@thestar.ca

3) Forward this alert far and wide

NOTES

[1] Chung's article is at
http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/articl...of-bel-air?bn=1

Chung says the Bel Air resident who claims Aristide armed his supporters receives a "stipend" to produce artwork as part of an "innovative program". The provider of the stipend is most likely Viva Rio, a Brazil an NGO funded by Canada whom Chung praises in his article.

[2] The website of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) has detailed information on these cases.
http://www.ijdh.org/

Also see HaitiAnlysis.com and HaitiAction.net

[3] See Steve Lendman's "Targeting Aristide in Exile"
http://www.atlanticfreepress.com/news/1/59...-in-exile-.html

[4] page 170-71 "Damming the Flood" by Peter Hallward

FRAPH was a death squad responsible for the murder of thousands after the first coup that ousted Aristide in 1991. Its founder, Emmanuel Constant, was on the CIA payroll and lived freely in the US for years, protected from accountability for his crimes Haiti by both Clinton and Bush administrations.

[5] I have yet to correspond with corporate journalist who has read either book.

See the CMM alert "Benighted Journalists Assail Haiti"
http://canuckmediamonitor.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=350

[6] Athena R Kolbe, Royce A Hutson. Human rights abuse and other criminal violations in Port-au-Prince, Haiti: a random survey of households. Lancet 2006; 368:864-873; http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/a...692118/abstract

[7] See this article by Jeb Sprague for details on the soccer match massacre and other crimes by Lame Ti Manchèt

http://www.haitianalysis.com/2007/1/26/hai...photojournalist
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