TransAfrica Founder Randall Robinson chronicles the 2004 U.S.-backed coup that ousted Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Robinson challenges the Bush administration’s claim that the Aristides voluntarily left Haiti and recalls his trip to the Central African Republic to bring the Aristides back to the Caribbean. He also reveals new details on the U.S.-backed coup militants armed and trained in neighboring Dominican Republic, including the accused drug smuggler Guy Philippe. As the Aristides remain in exile, Randall Robinson joins us in the Firehouse studio for the hour to talk about the coup, the history of Haiti and the state of affairs there since the 2004 coup. [includes rush transcript]
Over 10,000 people marched in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince last Sunday. They were calling for the return of the exiled president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It was his fifty-fourth birthday. A number of people spoke, we begin with the folksinger Annette Auguste, popularly known as "So An."
- Annette Auguste
On February 29th, 2004, the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was removed from office by the United States and flown to the Central African Republic. Two weeks later, in defiance of the United States, a delegation led by California Congressmember Maxine Waters and TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson chartered a plane and headed off to Central African Republic themselves to bring President Aristide and his wife back to the Caribbean. I accompanied them on that trip. After hours of negotiating with the dictator in the capital Bangui they freed the Aristides. As we flew back over the Atlantic, President Aristide said that he had been kidnapped in a US-backed coup d’etat.
- Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
Its now more than three years later. The Aristides remain in exile in South Africa and Randall Robinson has just written a book called "An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President."
He flew in from the Carribean island of St. Kitts last night and joins us in our firehouse studio today.
- Randall Robinson, author of "An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President." He is founder and past president of TransAfrica and the author of the bestsellers "The Debt", "The Reckoning", and "Defending the Spirit." His website is RandallRobinson.com.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: 10,000 people marched in the Haitian capital of Port Au-Prince last Sunday. They were calling for the return of the exiled president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It was his fifty-fourth birthday. This is Haitian folksinger and Lavalas leader Annette Auguste, more well known as "So An," speaking at the rally.
ANNETTE AUGUSTE: [translated] It is a nice way to say happy birthday to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who is in exile in South Africa today. There are people watching the final between Brazil and Argentina. Still, it is good to see so many of the population who took to the streets for a good cause. I always say that since December of 1991. nothing has changed for the population.
LOUIS GERARD GILLES: [translated] Today’s rally shows that the majority of the Haitian people are asking for the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. If there is a state of right existing in Haiti today, it is just for the government of President Rene Preval to do the right thing. It is unjust to have this politician in exile.
DEMONSTRATOR: [translated] President Aristide will come back, and when he does, we will all cry for victory, because the real hope is with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, not with Preval.
AMY GOODMAN: On February 29th, 2004, three years ago, the democratically elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was removed from office by the United States and flown to the Central African Republic. Two weeks later, in defiance of the United States, a delegation led by California Congressmember Maxine Waters and TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson chartered a plane and headed off to the Central African Republic themselves to bring President Aristide and his wife Mildred back to the Caribbean. I accompanied them on that trip. After hours of negotiating with the dictator in the capital Bangui, they freed the Aristides. As we flew back over the Atlantic President Aristide said he had been kidnapped in a US-backed coup d’etat.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I will not go into details, maybe next time. But as I said, they used force. When you have militaries coming from abroad, surrounding your house, taking control of the airport, surrounding the national palace, being in the streets, and taking you from your house to put you in a plane where you have to spend twenty hours without knowing where they were going to go with you, without talking about details, which I already did somehow on other occasions, it was using force to take an elected president out of his country.
AMY GOODMAN: And was that US military that took you out?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: There were US military, and I suspect it could be also completed with the presence of other militaries from other countries.
AMY GOODMAN: When they came to your house, in the early morning of February 29th, was it US military that came?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: There were diplomats. There were US military. There were US people.
AMY GOODMAN: The Bush administration said that when you — after you got on the plane, when you were leaving, you spoke with CARICOM leaders. Is this true?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: They lied. I never had any opportunity from February 28 at night, when they started, to the minute I arrived in car, I never had any conversation with anyone from CARICOM within that frame of time.
AMY GOODMAN: How many US military were on the plane with you?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: I cannot know how many were there, but I know it’s the plane with fifty-five seats. Among them we had nineteen American agents […] The rest, they were American militaries.
AMY GOODMAN: Were they dressed in military uniform?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: They were not only dressed in — with their uniform, it was like if they were going to war. For the first period of time on the ground, when we went to the plane, after the plane took off, that’s the way they were. Then they changed, moving from the uniform to other kind of clothes.
AMY GOODMAN: Civilian clothing?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And did they go with you all the way to the Central African Republic?
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: They did, without telling me where they were taking me, without telling me how long it would take us to be there.
AMY GOODMAN: Exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a plane heading back to the Caribbean. Then it was to Jamaica. It’s now more than three years later. The Aristides remain in exile in South Africa. And Randall Robinson has just written a book called An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. He flew in from the Caribbean island of St. Kitts last night and joins us in our firehouse studio today. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Randall Robinson.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s been three years since you and Congressmember Maxine Waters, Sharon Hay-Webster, the member of parliament from Jamaica, led that delegation on this small plane to the Central African Republic, actually won the release of the Aristides and brought them to Jamaica. Talk about that, as you watched President Aristide three years ago in the plane that you were in, as well, what you have learned since?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, we talked to — I talked to a number of witnesses, eyewitnesses to the abduction itself, witnesses in Antigua who saw the plane on the ground, airport officials, and, of course, witnesses to the whole operation and things that have gone on in Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you flesh out that entire experience that President Aristide was just talking about, as you understand it today? What happened February 29, 2004?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, Franz Gabriel was the president’s helicopter pilot. Franz Gabriel was a sergeant in the US military and a Haitian citizen who had gone home to serve in the government and to helicopter the president around. At about 3:00 on the morning of the 29th, he was called by one of the Haitian security people at the president’s home in Tabar and told that something wrong was developing in the president’s house.
I had placed a call to the president earlier that evening on the 28th, and a voice that didn’t belong to the house answered the phone. It was an American voice, a male American voice. And I said, "May I speak to President Aristide?" "He’s not here." "May I speak to Madame Aristide?" His American-born wife, Mildred Trouillot Aristide. And, "She’s not here." "When will they be?" And I’m cut off. I became concerned. I had never heard a strange voice answer their private phones before.
We had — my wife Hazel had worked to arrange a visit of Tavis Smiley to Haiti on the 29th. He was to interview the president downtown in central Port-au-Prince at the palace about this turmoil that was unfolding in the north of the country. The rebels, armed by the United States, had entered the country early in February, moved north and away from the capital and never showed, never demonstrated any inclination to attack Port-au-Prince. And so, we were concerned in the United States, because most of us didn’t know that they posed no threat to the democratic government, and so Tavis was going there to interview the president, and George Stephanopoulos was to interview him, as well.
And so, after I was unable to reach the president, Tavis Smiley called me, or called my wife, because my wife was the one who was organizing his visit. He said, "The visit’s off." And my wife said, "Oh, no! Has something happened to them?" And Tavis said, "No. I just got a call from Secretary of State Colin Powell. And Secretary of State Powell said to me that" —
AMY GOODMAN: This is Tavis?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Tavis, no — well, yes, no. Tavis said that he got a call from Ron Dellums. And Ron Dellums also worked with my wife on the Haiti team. And Ron Dellums reported to Tavis that he had just gotten a call from Secretary of State Colin Powell and that the secretary said that Guy Philippe, the leader of the paramilitaries, the American-armed and -trained paramilitaries, was coming to Port-au-Prince on Sunday to kill the president. "And I want you, Ron Dellums, to let the president know that this is going to happen, and let him know that the United States will do nothing to protect him." And so, Tavis said, of course, the trip is off.
And then my wife called Ron Dellums, and Ron said, "Yes, I’ve just heard from the secretary, and Guy Philippe is in Port-au-Prince and will kill Aristide tomorrow, according to Secretary of State Powell," who had to have known that Guy Philippe was nowhere near Port-au-Prince. President Aristide, of course, knew, because he had gotten reports from Franz Gabriel. The idea was to frighten Aristide into abdicating his office and fleeing the country on a plane provided by the United States. And Aristide refused.
Later that morning, about thirty American Special Forces troops in full combat gear, in twelve or thirteen white Chevy Suburbans of the American embassy, surrounded the Aristide home, took positions on the wall around the home. And you could see the red tracer pattern crisscrossing, crosshatching in the yard of the home. And into the yard came one Chevy Suburban with one of the Special Forces people fully armed, who was attending Luis Moreno of the American embassy, who walked into the house and told the president, "I was here when you came back in '94, and I'm here tonight to tell you it’s time for you to leave."
They removed the president — Moreno and the American Special Forces — from his home, took them to the airport — the president, Mrs. Aristide and Franz Gabriel — took them from their home, boarded them on this large wide-bodied aircraft with no markings, no tail number, only the sort of large flag, American flag, on the vertical tail assembly, and flew off, making their first refueling stop in the eastern Caribbean in Antigua.
Friends of ours at the airport in Antigua, airport officials, were not allowed to board the plane, as is the custom for customs purposes. All of the windows were drawn. The plane sat on the tarmac for five hours or so. Secretary Rumsfeld said that when President Aristide was in Antigua, he had met with members of the Caribbean leadership community. President Aristide, as he said on the tapes — quite right, and this is borne out by witnesses in Antigua — couldn’t have known where he was. He was not allowed to see out of the plane, and no one on the outside was allowed access to anyone who was on the plane.
And as I’ve published in the book — I’ve published copies of the American customs declarations — and one of the declarations has been altered from fifty present on the plane to no people on the plane by the Americans who submitted the customs declarations to the Antiguan authorities.
And then they flew off to the Ascension Island. And only when they were approaching the Central African Republic were the Aristides told where they were. And after they landed, no American official deplaned, no soldiers, no one else. The Aristides were simply put off the plane, as if they were parcels, along with Franz Gabriel. They weren’t even told or treated or given any medication for the sometimes lethal malaria strand that affects the Central African Republic and were kept there in a small room for two weeks until our delegation arrived to try and negotiate their release.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll find out what happened after. This is Randall Robinson. He’s just written a book called An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Randall Robinson. He has just flown up from St. Kitts in the Caribbean where he has lived for the past six years. He has written a new book. It’s called An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. Randall Robinson is founder and past president of TransAfrica, also author of The Debt, The Reckoning, and Defending the Spirit. Randall Robinson, you just described that day, February 29, into March 1, as the Aristides were taken by the US military and security from their home in Haiti to the Central African Republic. Why CAR, the Central African Republic?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Any number of Caribbean countries would have welcomed the Aristides, but the United States wanted to get him out of the hemisphere, as far away from Haiti as they possibly could. And they wanted to send him to a country over which either the United States or France had great sway.
The Central African Republic is de facto still a colony of France. And it was under military dictatorship at the time that President Aristide was taken there. And so, when we arrived, we saw cheek-by-jaw to the airport was a French military establishment. It was no common civilian-use airport. There were no planes. It was a very frightening affair. Troops were all about. Obviously, the president was very nervous about threats to his one-year-old military coup. And so, that’s how he was sent there, and that’s how the country was chosen.
And President Bozize made plain to us that he had done this at the request of the United States. Prime Minister Patterson of Jamaica demonstrated enormous courage in giving to his parliamentarian Sharon Hay-Webster, who went with us, a letter saying that he would welcome to — providing temporary refuge, asylum to President Aristide in Jamaica. And it was with the presentation of that letter that we were able to prevail, but not before President Bozize had to call France and the United States to seek permission to release the Aristides to us. It was clear that the United States was in control and that President Bozize was doing this at the request of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: We were reporting back to Pacifica and to Reuters, following these hours of negotiations. As you negotiated with the president, went to the presidential palace, the decision was being made, are the Aristides going to be released. But the US had an unusual situation here. They said that the Aristides had chosen to go there, were free to leave. And yet, here you were negotiating, not with them, but with the dictator for their release.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Oh, it was absolutely clear that they weren’t free to go anywhere. And Bozize made that clear. The Aristides had never been to that country before, knew no one in that country and certainly wouldn’t have gone to a country that was a virtual colony of France, because France was implicated in the coup with the United States. I think Secretary Powell confesses much of his role in a recent statement that he made. He said on April the 18th, says — "If there are people who don’t want American troops there, should they be there?" was the question. "It depends. They’re there because they serve our interest, American troops, and they also hopefully serve the interest of the country. In the case of Haiti, Haiti is an example where we were not invited in, but there was a civil war." There was no civil war, and the secretary knew that.
AMY GOODMAN: On March 1, 2004, Democracy Now! broke the story, because you, Randall Robinson, and Congressmember Maxine Waters called us right after President Aristide called you, saying he was trapped in the Central African Republic. We broke the story that Aristide was directly accusing the United States of overthrowing him in a coup, kidnapping him and taking him and his wife Mildred by force to the Central African Republic. So that day, after we broadcast your and the Congressmember Maxine Waters’s descriptions of that scratchy phone call that the President Aristide had made to you from the CAR, our transcripts went online. Reporters took those transcripts and questioned US officials both at the Pentagon and the White House about Aristide’s accusations. Then Secretaries of Defense and State Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell responded.
DONALD RUMSFELD: The idea that someone was abducted is just totally inconsistent with everything I heard or saw or am aware of. So I think that, that — I do not believe he is saying what you say — are saying he is saying.
COLIN POWELL: He was not kidnapped. We did not force him onto the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly. And that’s the truth.
AMY GOODMAN: "And thats the truth," says then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. Your response, Randall Robinson?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, several things. Number one, a cursory investigation would demonstrate the factual accuracy of what I have described here. The Caribbean countries asked for an investigation, and they were told by the United States that were they to press for an investigation at the UN Security Council level, that either France or the United States, or both, would veto such a resolution. And so, the US was prepared to block any investigation into what they had done that night.
Of course, the president didn’t go on the plane voluntarily. All of the previous coups that have occurred in Haiti of dictators that were there with the support of the United States, when they were chased out of the country, all of the cameras were there to record that. Then they were taken to nearby places like Panama to live comfortably, the US even renting the house of Cedras in Haiti, taking care of these American client dictators. When Aristide left the country, there was no camera, not one, not one reporter at the airport. And I — you did what no other American journalist, save Eisner of the Washington Post, was willing to do. The New York Times suggested in their description that President Aristide left Haiti and went to South Africa, never even reported that they were taken to the Central African Republic.
AMY GOODMAN: You also point out in An Unbroken Agony the video clips that the media was showing after Aristide left. I mean, here you had — they were not at the airport, yet they did show video of President Aristide shaking hands with dignitaries, I think, at the airport.
RANDALL ROBINSON: He was making his way along a long line of government ministers in daytime clips, making his way along a line, leaving the country. And that was represented to the American public to be film of his departure from the country. He left the country at 4:00 a.m., boarding a plane at the airport with absolutely nobody there.
AMY GOODMAN: Randall Robinson, I interviewed Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, on Haiti, about Haiti, November 2005. He defended the US role in the removal of President Aristide from power.
AMY GOODMAN: He said it was the US that pressed him to leave, that pushed him out, that put him onto this plane with US military and security. He had no idea where he was going until he was dumped in the Central African Republic.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I can’t imagine a man like Aristide, whose will to power is excessive, even obsessive, saying anything differently. Colin Powell, as you said, did know the situation in Haiti, probably as well as anyone in America. Colin Powell made the decision based on our ambassador in Haiti’s very clear presentation of the circumstances, and the President made the decision ultimately, and it was a good decision, and I would stand by that decision.
Haiti is a situation that picks at all our hearts all the time. Haiti is right next to being a failed state. And because of its proximity to the United States, we know what that failure means. And Haiti is not apparently capable of coming out of that situation. It’s a situation that, as I said, drags at all our hearts, but in this particular instance, I think a good decision was made, a decision that prevented further bloodshed that would have been widespread had it not been made.
AMY GOODMAN: Why say that the president, Aristide, had an obsession with power? This was a man who was the democratically elected president of Haiti, certainly got a higher percentage of the vote than President Bush got in this country.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Please, don’t refer to the percentage of vote as equatable to democracy, as equatable to the kinds of institutions we have reflecting democracy in America. Hitler was elected by popular vote.
AMY GOODMAN: I spoke to the head of the Steele Foundation. That was the American foundation that provided the security for the people around President Aristide, who was not allowed to send in reinforcements. Again, since we’re talking about such a small group of people who are moving in on the capital, the Steele Foundation felt he could be secured, but the US government stopped Aristide’s own security from being able to come in.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Aristide felt like he couldn’t be secured. That’s the only — I was privy to the cables that came in from our ambassador. I was privy to some of the information that the secretary let me know about what was happening down there in terms of telephone calls and so forth. Aristide made the decision deep into the night that his life was in danger and that the bloodshed that would occur would probably fall at his feet, and so Aristide made a mutual decision with our ambassador to leave the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Why would —
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Despite what he says now, that’s what the record reflects.
AMY GOODMAN: Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff of the former secretary of state, Colin Powell. Randall Robinson?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, here are the facts. No one disputes that the United States provided weapons, uniforms, steel pots, recoil-less rifles, rocket-powered grenades, all of that, to some 200 paramilitary forces that were trained in the Dominican Republic. The US armed and trained them. No one disputes that they crossed the border, went north, away from the capital, and stopped at Gonaive, at least a hundred kilometers north of Port-au-Prince, which was where they were spotted, verifiably, on the evening of the 28th and the morning of the 29th. They never came near Port-au-Prince. No one in Haiti would dispute that they ever posed a threat to the government. No 200 armed men could overrun a city of a million people that were hostile to them and supportive of the president.
The president won two elections, the last with 90% of the vote. If he were in Haiti today and he ran again, he would win overwhelmingly again. The United States provided money through the International Republican Institute to form a false opposition to Aristide in the country. The rich and the elites, who were threatened because he raised the minimum wage from $1 to $2 a day, threatened because he had proposed to banish the use of the word "peasants" on the birth certificate of poor black Haitians, threatened by a man who was loved by his people because he wanted to protect the interests of the poorest among them. And the United States overthrew that democracy. And it is so simply provable. The smallest investigation would prove what the United States has done in this case.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Randall Robinson on An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. When we come back, we’ll talk about what the US continues to do in Haiti. We’ll also talk about France’s role. And we’ll talk about Randall Robinson not living anymore in this country, as he put it in a previous book, "quitting America." Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour, Randall Robinson, just up from St. Kitts, where he has been living for the last six years. He has just published a new book called An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President.
Let’s talk history for a minute, something the US press doesn’t give us very much of. To understand the US role today in Haiti, can you go back in time to how Haiti was founded in 1804?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, Haiti was the largest piece of France’s global empire. It was its great profit center, that slave colony with 465,000 enslaved Africans working there, many of whom had been soldiers in African armies before they were brought to Haiti. And in August of 1789 — or 1791, rather, 40,000 of those slaves revolted and started a war that lasted twelve-and-a-half years under the leadership of an ex-slave and a military genius named Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. And this army of ex-slaves defeated two French armies, first the French army before the completion of their revolution and then another army dispatched by Napoleon under the leadership of his brother-in-law, and then the armies of England and Spain. 150,000 blacks died in that twelve-and-a-half-year war. And in January of 19 — 1804, rather, they declared Haiti the first free republic in the Americas, because the United States was then a country that held slaves.
During the revolution, Thomas Jefferson said he would like to reduce Toussaint to starvation. George Washington lamented and vilified that revolution. The US imposed an embargo, recognized a new French government, but did not recognize the new Haitian free government and imposed a comprehensive economic embargo on Haiti until the Emancipation Proclamation. In fact, France imposed reparations on Haiti in 1825, and the interest that Haiti had to pay in loans that were American and French loans to service this debt to France, absorbed virtually 80% of Haiti’s available budget 111 years after the completion of their revolution until 1915. It was only in 1947 that Haiti was able to pay off its debt.
AMY GOODMAN: The debt that was incurred as a result of France not having access to the enslaved people of Haiti.
RANDALL ROBINSON: The Haitians had to pay France for no longer having the privilege of owning Haitian slaves. That revolution provoked the end of slavery in the Americas. And so, that’s why it is so important that all African people, people generally in the Americas, because Haiti funded and fought in South American revolutions. That’s why Haiti is so honored in places like Venezuela by people like Simon Bolivar. Haiti was central to all of this. And we’re in Haiti’s debt. But it is for that —
AMY GOODMAN: Simon Bolivar came to Haiti.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Haiti, and was given arms and was given men, was given a printing press, because the Haitians believed that anybody who was enslaved anywhere had a home and a refuge in Haiti. Anybody seeking freedom had a sympathetic ear in Haiti. But because of that, the United States and France and the other Western governments, even the Vatican, made them pay for so terribly long. It’s as if the anger of it never abated. I mean, you can hear Frederick Douglass talking about it in the late 1800s, about this thing in the American craw.
AMY GOODMAN: The US government didn’t recognize Haiti for decades, the Congress, going back to Thomas Jefferson, afraid that the slave uprising would inspire US slaves.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Would inspire US slaves to revolt against him in Virginia, and George Washington, and on and on and on. And so, they opposed everything that was being done in Haiti that won their freedom.
AMY GOODMAN: The US government invaded Haiti in 1915 under Wilson.
RANDALL ROBINSON: Woodrow Wilson invaded Haiti in 1915. And when a Haitian, Peralte, Charlemagne Peralte, organized the Cacos soldiers, these farmers, to fight against this American occupation, the Americans killed him and nailed him to a cross, crucifixion-style, and stood him up, his corpse, in a public place in Haiti to demonstrate to Haitians what would be the price of any defense against the American invasion. The US has played a terrible role in Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: So even as the US and France were at loggerheads after the US invasion of Iraq, because France opposed the invasion — that was 2003 —- in 2004, they were working together -—
RANDALL ROBINSON: Working very much together.
AMY GOODMAN: — in pushing out, forcing out Aristide and bringing him to the Central African Republic.
RANDALL ROBINSON: As a matter of fact, in 2003, late 2003, Aristide organized a reparations conference, and the result of which was a request to France that it repair Haiti by repaying Haiti the $21 billion in current money that Haiti had paid in reparations unjustly to France. Dominique de Villepin responded by sending his sister.
AMY GOODMAN: The foreign minister of France.
RANDALL ROBINSON: The foreign minister of France sending his sister to Haiti to tell Aristide that it was time for him to leave. And that’s how we have — the Western world, France and particularly the United States — have meddled in Haitian affairs. After the abduction of the president, Bush spoke with Chirac on the phone, congratulating each other about how smoothly the abduction of the president had been carried off by both countries.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Randall Robinson. Let’s talk about today. Rene Preval was elected president after the US installed the Gerard Latortue after Aristide was forced out. What about today in Haiti? We see this protest of thousands last week on Aristide’s fifty-fourth birthday, calling for the exiled president to return. He’s in South Africa. What’s happening today?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, many of the people who were trained by the United States to pretend over the president are still very much in place. They have not been apprehended. The business class that contributed money to the rebels, to the first coup they contributed money to people who would shoot into any crowd of demonstrators. This time around, they contributed money, we’re now hearing from Guy Philippe, to him, to do what he did. And so, you have this collaboration between white, mulatto, wealthy elites in Haiti with the United States and Western Europe to repress the large black majority. That continues. Some 4,000 people have been killed by the international forces in Haiti since then. The supreme court has been replaced, in large part, by the interim government that was installed by the United States. So Preval’s government has no control over the judiciary. We don’t have an authentic democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: Randall, you talked about how when President Aristide was president, before he was forced out, he was supposed to be getting hundreds of millions of dollars from the Inter-American Development Bank, I think it was, for health issues.
RANDALL ROBINSON: The loan had been fully approved. It was for $146 million. It was for health issues, for literacy, for things associated with social programs, roads and some infrastructure projects. The United States blocked that loan. And so, on the one hand, it starved the economy of Haiti. On the other hand, it trained the opposition. On another hand, it armed the paramilitaries. And in the last analysis, American forces invaded and abducted the president.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, apparently last week, there was an attempt to arrest Guy Philippe, Guy Philippe, who was the US-supported — in fact, you said in your book that he was trained in Ecuador.
RANDALL ROBINSON: He was, plucked by the CIA for special training by the United States when he was a police captain in the Del Mar district of Port-au-Prince.
AMY GOODMAN: So one of the coup leaders, along with Jodel Chamblain, the number two man in FRAP —
RANDALL ROBINSON: One of the coup leaders.
AMY GOODMAN: — paramilitary death squad.
RANDALL ROBINSON: — is now running from the DEA, apparently. He says, through his deputy, that that’s the case, because he is prepared to use information about how the elites in Haiti gave him money to destabilize the government.
AMY GOODMAN: But he wasn’t arrested, Guy Philippe.
RANDALL ROBINSON: No, he hasn’t been arrested yet, so far as we know.
AMY GOODMAN: They didn’t get him.
RANDALL ROBINSON: No.
AMY GOODMAN: The US role, how well known is it in Haiti by Haitians?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Oh, I think it’s very well known in Haiti by Haitians. If it were so well known by Americans, our democracy would work better. The problem is with our democracy. It wasn’t ever with theirs. The problem is what our undemocratic or the behavior, undemocratic behavior, of our government means for struggling democracies across the world. We feel that we, by divine right, can go in and overthrow governments willy-nilly, when they are living under leadership of their own clear choice. It’s a shameful chapter for Americans and particularly for this administration.
AMY GOODMAN: Randall Robinson, you "quit" America, as you put it, wrote the book Quitting America. You live in St. Kitts right now in the Caribbean. What is it like to look at the United States from that perspective? You lived here for years, headed TransAfrica for a quarter of a century, spearheaded the movement to stop the support of Apartheid South Africa. You fasted almost to death, twenty-seven days, to protest President Clinton’s handling of the Haitian refugees in the first coup against Aristide.
RANDALL ROBINSON: I can give you an illustrative example. When Vieques was in the news and the American use of that area as a bombing range, and the people then becoming very upset because of high cancer rates and that sort of thing, a member of the American Congress spoke to the prime minister of St. Kitts about — with a straight face — about the possibility of using — the Americans making use — of the island nation of St. Kitts as a bombing range. This is the thing — one of the kinds of things that we do, and how we see the rest of the world. And I think it, in large part, is why we have come to be as a nation loathed so much. And so, when Americans look at themselves, they see an America that is very different from what the rest of the world gets to see.
AMY GOODMAN: Will you be returning to the United States to live?
RANDALL ROBINSON: I don’t think so.
AMY GOODMAN: Why not?
RANDALL ROBINSON: Well, I love St. Kitts. I wanted to live — I’m sixty-six years old. I wanted to live some of my life out from under the weight of racism, the weight of a sort of cauterized public empathy, or the lack thereof. I’m not sure anymore that entire cultures cannot be sociopathic, where they refuse to see what they do to other people in other places. It wore me out. I wanted to see a different place, and we wanted our daughter to have her adolescence and her high school in a different place. And it is the country of my wife, and so we are quite at home. It is a small, intimate, wonderful democracy and very pretty to look at.
AMY GOODMAN: Randall Robinson, I want to thank you very much for joining us today. Randall Robinson is the founder and former president of TransAfrica, moved to St. Kitts in the Caribbean six years ago, has written a number of books, including The Debt, The Reckoning, Quitting America, Defending the Spirit. His latest is An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President.