Letter sheds light on ouster of Haitian leader

A newly released letter from ousted Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune sheds more light on the U.S.-backed coup against the former center-left government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It reveals, among other things, that U.S. officials threatened Neptune with death or imprisonment if he did not leave the country.

In a letter dated Aug. 23, 2004, and sent to James B. Foley, the U.S. ambassador to Haiti, Neptune refers to a meeting he had with Foley to find out why Aristide fled the country on Feb. 29, 2004. That was the day when U.S. military personnel seized Aristide and flew him to the Central African Republic.

With the support of Canada and France, the United States then set up an interim government headed by the Haitian American Gerard Latortue, a former diplomat and economic consultant.

In the letter, Neptune tells Foley that he was not fooled by his attempts to persuade him that Aristide fled the country voluntarily. He says he knows Aristide was forced out in a U.S.-backed coup, supported by Canada and France. He accuses all three governments of having waged a campaign to undermine and destabilize the elected Fanmi Lavalas Party government of Aristide, which governed the country from 1995 until 2004.

Neptune writes: “In effect, having supported three years of pitiless violence of unfair, unjustified and destructive sanctions against Haiti and the poor majority of its children, on Feb. 29, 2004, in the year of the bicentennial of Haiti, your social-Darwinist government, in accord with those revanchists (revenge seekers) of France and suiviste (tag-along elements) of Canada, used armed violence one more time to strip the majority of the people of one of its fundamental democratic assets: respect of its constitutional choices.”

He continues: “Yours and other governments pretend to care and even to be friends of Haiti and the Haitian people. But the past and present life of my country reveal so much disturbing and even repulsive expressions of what they consider to be concerns and tokens of friendship.”

Following Aristide’s so-called voluntary departure from Haiti, Neptune says Foley prevented him from ensuring that a constitutionally legitimate successor took power. Instead, he reports that Foley “forced me to prematurely leave the prime minister’s office where I was lodging since Feb. 29 with no arrangements made for my lodging, fact being that my residence had been ransacked and destroyed on Feb. 29.”

Neptune continues: “On March 2, with the probable approval of Secretary of State Colin Powell and Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, you ‘let me know’ that I should leave Haiti (go into exile) as soon as a new, i.e. putchist prime minister was appointed, or I would risk being jailed and/or assassinated (while the U.S. Marines were, and the UN soldiers are, in Haiti, supposedly to provide at least a sense of security to all sectors?).”

He also reveals that U.S. authorities, prior to Feb. 29, 2004, warned the private American security agents protecting Aristide that in face of an attack by U.S.-backed anti-Aristide rebels, who had invaded the country from the Dominican Republic, the U.S. would not come to their rescue if their lives were in danger.

“I know this letter may trigger, sooner or later, both from the de facto government in Haiti and the U.S. government, additional actions or pressures to the ones I have been subjected to so far,” he concludes, writing from the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince where the U.S.-installed Latortue regime had imprisoned him for two years. “Mr. Ambassador, what next do you know is in store for me?”

In July 2006, a judge provisionally freed Neptune from prison. The Latortue regime had charged him with ordering the massacre of peaceful demonstrators, a charge dismissed by UN officials. In April 2007, an appeals court dismissed the case, citing a technicality, but the current government is threatening to re-raise the charges.

While Neptune was in prison, on Feb. 19, 2005, there was an attempt on his life. A former member of the Haitian army, Anel Belizaire, who was in jail with Neptune, told the World in a telephone interview that officials from Prime Minister Latortue’s office tried to hire him to kill Neptune. In the end, Belizaire decided not to do it, saying Neptune was not the bad person that the interim government made him out to be.

The letter was released by the U.S.-based Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, which translated the letter from French into English for the first time.

tpelzer@shaw.ca