Bill Clinton Spins His Haiti Intervention
Amid a probe of Aristide, the former president offers a new version of events.
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Reprinted from the Wall Street Journal
It’s tempting to try to forget about all the misery that Bill and Hillary Clinton and their Democrat friends have inflicted on Haiti. But like perpetrators who cannot resist the urge to return to the scene of the crime, the Clintons keep reminding us.
At an Iowa “steak fry” last week, Mr. Clinton bragged about his Haiti record. That was strange: Two decades after using the U.S. military to restore deposed Haitian tyrant Jean Bertrand Aristide to power, five years after becoming the U.N.’s special Haiti envoy, and three years after taking charge of the post-earthquake Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, Mr. Clinton is persona non grata in much of the country due to the dismal results of his involvement.
Yet bringing up Haiti now, even in such an unlikely venue, may come to serve a purpose. Mr. Aristide was put under house arrest in Port-au-Prince earlier this month in connection with an investigation into allegations of money laundering and corruption. If he decides to talk and remembers things differently than Mr. Clinton, the former U.S. president will be out in front with his version of events.
Former US President Bill Clinton visits a peanut plantation in Tierra Muscady, in the central plateau of Haiti, on June 29, 2014. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Speaking after his wife addressed the Iowa crowd, Mr. Clinton explained his 1994 Haiti intervention: “The military dictator down there was putting tires around people’s necks and setting them afire, in an affectionate policy called necklacing,” he recalled satirically. “I was told that nobody gave a rip about Haiti.” But “we did it and no shot was fired. Nobody got hurt.”
That’s some tale. But as any Haitian knows, it was Mr. Aristide who championed Haitian “necklacing,” aka “Père Lebrun” after a domestic tire merchant. Governing a democracy with a national assembly was more difficult than he had anticipated and he urged his followers to give Père Lebrun to his opponents, as an Oct. 1993 Congressional Research Service report documented.
On Sept. 29, 1991, the military stepped in and kicked him out. It employed its own paramilitary, which also practiced repression—but guns, not necklacing, were its weapon of choice.
Mr. Aristide fled to Washington, where President George H.W. Bush released Haiti’s international telephone and airline revenues to him as the government-in-exile. There was never any accounting for those funds but they reportedly topped $50 million. Mr. Aristide lived the high life in Georgetown and mounted an aggressive and costly lobbying campaign for U.S. military intervention to restore his presidency.
Once Mr. Clinton put Mr. Aristide back in the palace in Port-au-Prince, his supporters picked up where they had left off. Opponents were hacked with machetes, set on fire and gunned down. Money disappeared.
The Clinton administration did nothing to contain these abuses. Instead, a company called Fusion, run by Democrats—including Joseph P. Kennedy II, Mack McLarty, who had been Clinton White House chief of staff, and Marvin Rosen, a former finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee—went into the long-distance telephone business with Haiti Teleco, the government-owned monopoly.
In 2000, several Haitians, fearing for their lives, surreptitiously approached me to ask for help in exposing this arrangement, which they said was destroying Haiti-Teleco. Fusion clammed up, but with the help of the Freedom of Information Act I eventually uncovered the sweetheart deal between the friends of Bill and the Haitian despot. (See the Oct. 27, 2008, Americas column.) Fusion has denied any wrongdoing.
Since 2012, Haiti’s judges no longer answer to the executive branch and their independence could reverse decades of impunity. Former dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier is currently under investigation for numerous allegations of human-rights violations during his rule in the 1970s and ’80s.
Sources familiar with the investigation of Mr. Aristide conducted by Judge Lamarre Belizaire tell me that the potential charges include money laundering, drug trafficking and the illicit use of state funds. One credible source told me by telephone from Port-au-Prince last week that the court also is looking at corruption inside Haiti Teleco.
It would be reasonable to expect U.S. authorities to cooperate since they have prosecuted several Haitians for telecom kickback schemes and drug trafficking during Mr. Aristide’s rule. My sources say that the Aristide Foundation for Democracy also is being investigated and that some well-known Americans are involved.
Last week Rep. Maxine Waters (D., Calif.), who has been a vocal supporter of Mr. Aristide and has served on the U.S. board of directors of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry expressing concern that there might be an “effort to illegally arrest” Mr. Aristide and that his supporters might react violently. She asked the U.S. to “intervene immediately.”
Ms. Waters did not mention the importance of setting a precedent in Haiti that no one is above the law. Nor did she show concern for the safety of Judge Belizaire, who according to multiple reports is receiving death threats. Funny that. Just as strange as the unexpected Haiti spiel from Mr. Clinton in Iowa.
TWO MAJOR GOVERNMENT FAILURES: The Opening of Schools and the Closing of the 49th Legislature
by Thomas Péralte
Reprinted from HAITI LIBERTE
This past Mon., Sep. 8, 2014 marked two major events in Haiti: the first day of school and the last day of the regular session of the 49th Legislature.
The former was the bigger calamity of the two. Since the arrival of President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe in power in 2011, the opening of school has always been delayed until October. According to many educators, Martelly’s so-called Free and Compulsory Universal Schooling Program (PSUGO), clumsily and demagogically introduced in his first year, has contributed significantly to the deterioration of education in Haiti. This year, after a dismal success rate of only 22% in the state exams, 3.3 million students are expected to return to classrooms throughout Haiti, according to statistics from the Ministry of National Education and Vocational Training. But less than 3% of students are heading to school on the first day of classes, a telling failure for the government.
Various factors contributed to most students flunking state exams and missing the start of the school year: widespread poverty, chronic unemployment, soaring costs of school materials and tuitions, and growing insecurity.
While every new school year presents a heavy burden for most parents, this year is worse than most. While some schools have opened their doors to welcome a few students, many have not. The state has not yet finished correcting the tests of students who had to retake the Baccalaureate 1 and 2 exams because they failed the first time. While the Martelly-Lamothe regime trumpets education as its priority and arbitrarily and illegally taxes international money transfers for $1.50 and international telephone calls at 5 cents a minute to supposedly pay for free education, Haiti’s poor are nonetheless finding it impossible to send their children to school. Where is the money supposedly collected for education? Three years after the establishment of the National Education Fund (FNE), no clear and transparent accounting of it has ever been presented to the public.
At the same time, teachers are demanding the payment of back salaries owed to them and reform of the system. President Martelly spends a fortune to churn out patently false and outlandish propaganda about what he calls “free education,” which has thrown the antiquated Haitian educational system completely out of whack. He often claims to have sent 1.9 million children to school, but investigations have concluded that only 250,000 children have benefitted from this hyped but substandard education initiative.
Meanwhile, senators and deputies met together in a National Assembly as required by the 1987 Constitution to close the last session of the 49th Legislature. Since Martelly came to power on May 14, 2011, elections to renew senators, deputies, and municipal governments have never been held, as required by law. Deputies have now held the last regular session of the fourth year of their term, and no election for the renewal of the lower house is scheduled. Aware of the poor record of this Parliament, deputies during the final plenary session voted a dozen proposals and bills in about three hours, after having spent four years neglecting the mission entrusted to them by the Constitution: law-making and oversight.
One of the bills passed would change the administrative divisions of the territory. The deputies proposed increasing Haiti’s current 10 departments to 16 to take into account the demographic weight of several regions. The West Department would spin off a new department called the Palms Department, which would encompass Petit-Goâve and the island of La Gonâve. The North Department would be divided into North 1 and North 2, with Cap Haïtien and Grande Rivière du Nord as their respective seats. The Artibonite and Central Plateau Departments would be divided into High and Low. The South would spawn a new Southeast and Southwest, covering such remote towns as Tiburon.
The deputies also elevated several communal sections with significant populations to the rank of commune.
The deputies are now in recess, waiting to see what will happen on the second Monday of January 2015, when Parliament is supposed to reconvene. But because elections have not been held and are not scheduled, it is more likely to expire with the end of the terms of another third of the Senate. (Some legal experts interpret the law to say that the Senators’ terms won’t expire until May 14, 2015, since they took office late, but it appears Martelly would like Parliament out of the way as soon as possible.)
For some opposition deputies, the 49th Legislature was the worst legislature in Haitian history. Some even said that during the reign of the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-1986) the legislature was not as vassalized, sold-out, and corrupt.
Meanwhile, the Haitian people continue to denounce and mobilize against the political persecution of Martelly’s political opponents, including former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and activist lawyer Michel André. People call for respect of the 1987 Constitution, democratic principles, and the rule of law.
The complete failure of students during this summer’s state exams, of getting kids back to school, and of the 49th Legislature demonstrates very clearly the damage that can be done when imperialist nations override a sovereign election to impose incompetent and corrupt stooges in power in the world’s first black republic. Propaganda is killing education in Haiti, just as President Martelly’s arrogance is killing democracy. Martelly is leading the country toward chaos and dictatorship. Democratic institutions are endangered, and democracy will disappear if the people do not take their destiny into their hands.
4word Interview with Susie Krabacher
Everyone asks this question at some point in their young life: “What do I want to do when I grow up?” For Susie Krabacher, her answer was simple: help children with learning and physical disabilities. She traveled to Haiti in 1994 to help the impoverished children there, and soon her organization HaitiChildren was born. She speaks with 4word about the life-altering events she’s experienced during her 20 years of working in Haiti and tells us how we can help save the lives of Haiti’s forgotten children.
4word: Tell us about your work in Haiti. How did you get started there and why?
Susie: From the age of 4 until I was 8, I was sexually abused by my grandfather. Eventually I was placed in the foster care system. This was a lonely time in which I felt worthless. In Alabama, I was considered “trash”. I was eventually able to move into a new home with my brother and start making a better life for myself, but I was left with a desire to help children who had struggled with the same lack of self-worth that I had.
In America, we have such a wealth of resources available to children with learning and physical disabilities. I wanted desperately to be able to participate in the efforts of these American organizations but couldn’t due to my lack of training and education. In 1994, I went to Haiti wanting to do something with the children there. I was under the assumption that there were not a lot of charities and organizations in Haiti that were focused on helping children. When I arrived in Haiti, however, I was surprised to see numerous orphanages. Upon further investigation, I began to notice an absence of special needs children in these orphanages.
Over the course of the year, I traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Haiti, selling a piece of furniture each time to afford the plane ticket! I was intent on finding where the special needs children were being sent, and I eventually found them. That pivotal trip was one of the most life-changing weeks I’ve ever experienced.
For a year, I had been working in a gang-infested slum called Cite Soleil where we now have the Community Institute of Teaching and Education (C.I.T.E.) School with about 100 children in attendance. Most are children of the gang members. One day, I was talking with a gang member and asked him about the absence of handicapped children. He told me that children born handicapped or with special needs were abandoned at the government hospital.
When I arrived at the hospital, I quickly saw an opportunity in the pediatric ward to minister to the impoverished people weeping outside the hospital doors, because they could not afford to fill their children’s prescriptions, and began paying for the medications. One day, a child of a woman that I had been speaking with passed away, and I wanted to give this precious little girl a proper burial. When I arrived at the city morgue to collect her body, I found a dark room off of the morgue that was being used to house 17 handicapped children, stricken with disabilities from clubbed feet to spina bifida. This was where the special needs children were being sent. The hospital placed them in this room, no longer able to afford to care for them, in the hopes that the children’s parents would return for them.
When I found these children, I knew my next ministry would be to care for them. I entered into a contract with the hospital, and for the next 14 years, I offered these children the best quality of life that I could, despite their short lifespans and my legal inability to give them any kind of medication. After the devastating earthquake, my husband and I built an orphanage and began housing these children and caring for them properly. Today, we have 126 children living with us at HaitiChildren Village.
4word: Tell us about your mission to provide quality education to the people of Haiti.
Susie: When we first started working in Haiti in 1994, we didn’t think we would ever need to build a facilities like the C.I.T.E. School, or John Branchizio School. We thought that there would be already established schools that we could place the children we were caring for into. It soon became very apparent that there was a massive need for schools that would help impoverished and disabled children learn and develop.
Using donor funds, we are able to make life plans for these children. We are able to rehabilitate them physically, take care of them medically, love them like our own, and educate them to their fullest potential. Our HaitiChildren Village facility has a full-time medical staff that determines what each child’s specific needs are and what we can do to help them become as functioning and self-sufficient as possible.
Keeping in line with our goal to educate the people of Haiti, we have a vocational school that adults can attend to get a degree in areas such as mechanics, accounting, sewing, and agriculture, and starting this year, we will offer a class in physical therapy that would allow us to hire graduates back into our facility to help care for our special needs children.
4word: Do you have any other goals for HaitiChildren?
Susie: Currently, we are developing a new goal to help keep impoverished Haitian women with their newborns. There are “middle men” working with certain orphanages that will go into villages and convince new mothers to give their children to an orphanage, with the false promise that their children will receive an education and return back to the village when they’re older to care for their mothers. In reality, these orphanages, which receive between $22,000 and $24,000 per child adopted, will turn these children over to adopting families, collect the money, and the child’s mother will never see their baby again.
We noticed that this “middle man” activity was happening in the cluster of villages that we work with, and we knew we needed to do something to end this corruption. Our vision is to make HaitiChildren an information network for charities and non-government organizations wanting to make an impact in Haiti and connect them with these impoverished women being forced to give up their children due to financial hardship. Through donations, we are able to offer these women the opportunity to come to our clinic for medical assistance, to attend physical therapy classes to learn how to care for their special needs child if they have one, and to receive medicine and food if they are in a dire situation.
4word: What keeps you motivated?
Susie: Definitely the kids! I want to leave this world knowing that I have made an impact in a country that desperately needs outside help. Without having an education and without access to endless funds, I have been able to use my God-given talents and gifts to found HaitiChildren and be an advocate for the children of Haiti.
4word: What is Haiti’s greatest need?
Susie: A functioning, stable government. The current government is not taking care of its children, and the medical and social services are so neglected in Haiti. Those services are mostly being supplemented by charities and organizations, but that help will not always be there. I know that Haiti would like to get to a point where they don’t need foreigners to come into their country and help raise their children, but they have a lot of progress to make before they can become self-sustaining again.
4word: What can 4word women do to help?
Susie: I know when people donate, they want to make sure they’re getting the most bang for their buck. HaitiChildren takes every dollar donated and pours everything into our programs. I don’t take a salary. None of that money goes into my pocket. When you donate to HaitiChildren, know that your money will 100% directly impact the lives of Haitian children.
No matter where you are in the world, you can literally save a life in Haiti through a small donation. I was so shocked when I first donated to a village in Haiti and was thanked repeatedly by its residents. They told me that because of my donation, they were able to get a new well in their village. They told me that this new well meant their village would no longer be crippled with the diseases that had spread from having to drink polluted river water. From my donation, an entire village had been affected. I was so humbled and enlightened.
If you would like to help HaitiChildren, we love having our children sponsored. If you would like to make a general donation, we have that option available as well. If you have a question that you would like to ask me about our work in Haiti, you can email me through the website, and I will always reply back to you.
Susie used a devastating time in her life to look deep within and discover a passion and calling for the children of Haiti. Through her perseverance and advocacy, orphaned and impoverished Haitian children now have a bright future to strive for. Consider how you can use a sorrowful or difficult situation from your past to become a beacon of hope for someone who so desperately needs a light to follow. How can you take a tragic or dark time in your past and turn it into something that will help impact the life of someone in a similar situation?