We speak with Rep. Maxine Waters about the arrests of Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and prominent Haitian singer Annette Auguste (So Anne) by the new US-backed regime in Haiti. And labor leader David Welsh, who recently returned from Haiti, discusses the situation on the ground and the case of a local Haitian mayor who has been in hiding since the overthrow of democratically-elected Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide. [includes transcript]
Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune was arrested Sunday after living in hiding since the March 12 installation of the new US-backed interim Prime Minister Gererd Latortue.
Neptune is being detained at a prison in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. In an interview from his prison cell Tuesday with the Associated Press and two Haitian radio stations, Neptune said he has no confidence in new Haitian leaders who allowed his home to be looted and burned after the removal of President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Aristide says he was the victim of a modern-day kidnapping in the service of a coup backed by the United States.
Neptune says he went into hiding when Latortue was installed three days before he agreed to step down as prime minister and was told “by official sources that there were people in a position of power who were trying to harm me.” He was barred from leaving Haiti along with some 40 ex-officials.
He surrendered after learning there was a warrant for his arrest. The arrest is connected with the killings of anti-Aristide gang members on February 9th. Authorities have yet to list charges, and Neptune has said he is innocent.
In the cell next to Neptune is Jocelerme Privert, the interior minister under Aristide, who said he hadn’t seen a judge since being detained in April on similar accusations. At least five other Aristide officials are in the same prison.
Since President Aristide’s removal, the new US-backed Haitian regime has unleashed a campaign of terror, particularly supporters of Aristide’s Lavalas party. One report from the National Lawyer’s Guild found that over a thousand bodies were dumped in a mass grave by the state morgue in March. Today we take a look at some of the stories in the new Haiti. From Prime Minister Yvon Neptune to the arrest of prominent Haitian singer and voodoo priestess Annette Auguste, known as So Anne. We begin with Congresswoman Maxine Waters who has denounced the arrest of Neptune calling it “part of a politically-motivated campaign to arrest and intimidate” Lavalas members.
- Rep. Maxine Waters, Democratic Congresswoman from California serving in her seventh term. She is the Chief Deputy Whip of the Democratic Party and serves as Co-Chair of the House Democratic Steering Committee. She is the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
- David Welsh, labor leader in Bay area who recently returned from Haiti as part of a delegation with the San Francisco Labor Council.
AMY GOODMAN: Today we look at some of the stories in the new Haiti from Prime Minister Yvon Neptune to the arrest of a prominent Haitian singer and voodoo priestess, Annette Auguste, known as So Anne to the murder of a U.S. citizen, Cassey Auguste. We begin with Congress member Maxine Waters who denounced the arrest of Neptune calling it, quote, “part of a politically motivated campaign to arrest and intimidate Lavalas members.”
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Thank you. Thank you for giving some time and attention to Haiti. I wish the corporate media would do the same thing. Poor Haiti is forgotten and while the United States and none of the corporate media is paying any attention to what’s going on, perhaps not caring about what is going on, we have this campaign that is being run by this new puppet government where they are either jailing or killing Lavalas party members and people that were close to president Aristide. It is absolutely ridiculous that they have arrested the real prime minister, Neptune. They should be arresting the killers, who were part of the coup d’etat. Guy Philippe is still running around up in Cape Haitien in the north some place, Gererd, Louis Jodel Chamblain pulled this cute trick with a puppet government pretending that he was turning himself in. I understand that he’s out at night drinking beer, and Jean Tatun is still running loose. All of the killers that were involved in the coup d’etat and the threats to President Aristide. What is happening in Haiti is shameful. The world is not paying any attention. The United States who had a hand in the removal of president Aristide, is doing nothing, not lifting a finger to this kind of injustice that’s taking place now. I did release a letter — a press release, and a letter to Colin Powell that I’m sending to ask them to do something about this reign of terror. It is absolutely outrageous.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Congress member waters, in terms of the situation on the ground for the Haitian people, has there been any kind of improvement in the economic situations, the daily life of the Haitian people?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, it is absolutely — absolute crisis and chaos in Haiti. You know, poor people are even poorer. They don’t have jobs. You know, people in Cite Soleil and Bel Air and other places are being killed. They’re — they’re without safe drinking water. It’s absolutely in crisis. With the floods that they just experienced, it is just absolutely devastating.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking with U.S. Congress member Maxine Waters, who is part of a small delegation in mid march along with Trans Africa founder, Randall Robinson and a member of the Jamaican parliament, Sharon Hey Webster and President Aristide’s lawyer Ira Kursban, chartered a plane to retrieve the Aristides from the Central African Republic, where they had been brought in a plane, a U.S. Plane, with U.S. military and security. President Aristide saying he was kidnapped in a coup backed by the United States. Now the organization of american states is saying they have launched an inquiry into what happened to President Aristide, who first wept to Jamaica and now is living in South Africa, as he decides his next move. Juan.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, in the reports coming out of Haiti, Congress member waters, have talked about the Lavalas movement not being able to decide whether to continue to press for the return of President Aristide or to begin dealing with a new type of resistance within the new — within the new government. Your sense of how the popular movement there will be proceeding or is proceeding right now?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, I think some of those reports are correct that there are problems with the attacks on leadership. It is very difficult for the masses to be able to come to conclusions about exactly what to do. They know exactly what they’re doing when they attack the strong leaders of Lavalas. This leaves the party in disarray. People are not happy about this new puppet government. They do not wish necessarily to participate with them, with the illegitimate government. On the other hand, it has not been decided what to do and how to do it, whether or not there should be just a continued — resistance movement, so there is some indecision in the rank and file and the masses of the Lavalas party. That’s exactly what this puppet government wants to do. I understand that the C.I.A. is down there, and the C.I.A. is down there supposedly there to help organize political activity. And so, I don’t know, this is a part of the C.I.A. activity or what, but I do know that with the arrests that some of which you identified, So Anne, and Yvon Neptune, that’s what the intend: to weaken the leadership so there will this be disarray.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Congress member Maxine Waters. We have been playing the music of So Anne, a Haitian-American singer who lived for many years in the United States in Brooklyn, New York, who is now in prison as well as Yvon Neptune, the Haitian prime minister. Can you tell us about her case, why she has been arrested?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, you know, this was very, very startling and disturbing. The military or the police, so-called police, came to her place along with the United States marines. They literally blasted her gates that are in front of the home. They killed the dog. They went in and they handcuffed a five-year-old, a 14-year-old, and other adults in the complex. There are two houses. So Anne’s house and her sister’s house, and they carted them off to jail. Then they released everybody except So Anne. I called both the American ambassador down there, and the head of the southern command, general hill, to find out what was going on. General Hill said to me that, yes, they had been involved. They had the warrant was issued by the Haitian government, and that the marines went down and blasted the home with grenades, I believe it was, because there was — they had some evidence that So Anne had been involved in activities threaten being the United States marines. I asked him exactly what was that supposed to have been, and he could not tell me. He said that it was classified, that he could not give me that information. Then I heard that they were arresting her because she was involved in a confrontation up at the university that has become one of the stories told about the incidents leading up to the coup d’etat, where I guess the dean or the professor up the university had been harmed. So, there have been two different stories about why So Anne was arrested, but those people who know and understand who she is and how powerful she is really believe that again that’s the campaign of intimidation and terror getting rid of the strong heads of Lavalas. She was close to President Aristide, well respected by Haitians, a woman who dedicated her life to helping take care of the poor. She is a singer, creative person and just the kind person that people would rally behind. So, again — rally behind. And so, again, destroying the Lavalas movement, they are arresting, jailing and killing the strong leaders.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to U.S. Congress member Maxine Waters about the situation in Haiti. We’re going to break with music from the Haitian musician singer So Anne and then when we come back, we’re going to, in addition to Congress member Maxine Waters, talk with the labor leader of the Bay area who has just been in Haiti, and interview the mayor of Milot, another member of the Lavalas party who has been in hiding since President Aristide has been ousted. He is fearing for his life.
AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Maxine Waters, also David Welsh joins us, labor leader from the Bay area who recently returned from Haiti as part of a delegation with the San Francisco labor council investigating labor issues there. He interviewed the mayor of Milot, who has been in hiding since President Aristide was ousted at the end of February. David Welsh, welcome. Can you tell us his story?
DAVID WELSH: Right. We went down to Haiti as part of a labor-religious delegation at the invitation of the confederation of Haitian workers and one of the things that we did was we went up to the north of Haiti to the town of Cape-Haitien and we drove down to Milot, which is a small peasant community not far from there. This is the area that was controlled very heavily by the paramilitary forces, death squad forces of Guy Philippe, and still is. We interviewed Mayor Moise. I had met him before when I was in Haiti in 1997 with the Pastor for Peace delegation. So we knew each other. We interviewed him. I was there with sister Maureen from the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant out here in the bay area. And we interviewed him. He was still in hiding. But he told us about the bloody repression that happened in the week following the — preceding the coup when Guy Philippe’s forces rampaged across the northern part of Haiti. He told us about the many bodies that had been — of people who had been killed, and the bodies were thrown in the sea. Fishermen who were fishing off the coast would find these bodies in the — the week following the coup. Every day, they would come up with more bodies. They were filling the morgues. The national lawyers guild sent a delegation to Haiti, and they investigated the numbers of bodies that were showing up in the morgues. They were–normally there would be 30 or 40 bodies in the morgue. This time, it would be 800 or 1,000 bodies in the morgue. The people were so concerned about the number of bodies that were turning up in the water off the coast of Cape Haitien, they stopped eating the fish. This Mayor Moise is one of the grassroots leaders. You know, there were 7,000 Lavalas grassroots leaders who were elected in Haiti. Not only do you have a large city where you have a mayor, but a small district would have a mayor. These were people responsive to the people who were trusted by the people. It was a form of grassroots organization that was happening throughout Haiti, in fact, some of the labor people that we met were also members of grassroots organizations in every corner of Haiti.
JUAN GONZALEZ: David, I’d like to ask you about the labor leaders. What is the situation with the labor movement, because obviously there were many industrialists and merchants who were part of the move to oust President Aristide, and what is the situation now with the labor movement that you were looking at versus what was the conditions prior to this coup.
DAVID WELSH: Well, the situation is much worse for workers. The unemployment is approximately 70%, going to most estimates. People just don’t have enough to eat. You talk about union dues. I mean, here in this country, we pay union dues so that people can represent the membership. In situations where you have 70% unemployment, you can imagine that these unions are also very poor. One of the groups of people we have talked to were the members of the assembly workers and manufacturing workers union. They represent workers in the sweatshops. They had visited with workers from the sweatshops of Andrea Ped in the Port-Au-Prince area, making electronic products, garments for the U.S. market and elsewhere, and they said that the conditions there are terrible. There’s no union in any of Andrea Peds’ sweatshop. Now, Andrea Ped is a U.S. citizen who was the instigator of one of the prime movers behind the group 184, which helped to organize the preparations for the coup d’etat when President Aristide was kidnapped by the United States forces and forced out of the country. So, it’s very interesting that–and he had opposed President Aristide’s doubling of the minimum wage to 70 Gud per day, which is about $1.90. So, you see a confluence of interests between these sweatshop owners and other members of the tiny Haitian elite, and the — their direct material interests and the coup d’etat which overthrew the government of the person, Aristide, who represented the interests of the masses Haiti.
AMY GOODMAN: David Welsh, labor leader in the bay area, went to Haiti with part of a delegation of the San Francisco labor council, also talking with us about the young Mayor Moise, renowned in Haiti for organizing small farmer cooperatives and for Milot’s radio station, RVPM, 100.3 FM, the radio voice of the peasants of Milot, which reaches some half million Haitians, who is in hiding right now. Finally, as we wrap up, and we only have about 30 seconds before we move on to London to a report, just out, to what’s happened to billions of dollars that the U.S. sent to Iraq, Congress member Maxine Waters, the O.A.S. launching this inquiry. What’s happening in the U.S.? You are a Democratic Congress member in the U.S. Congress. What is the candidate for President, Democratic candidate, John Kerry, saying about Haiti right now?
MAXINE WATERS: Well, first of all, I’m really pleased about the O.A.S. investigation, and we can credit CARICOM for that. They stood up and they insisted on the investigation and O.A.S. despite the fact that they were being intimidated by Condoleezza Rice and others who do not want an investigation. The United States was opposed to the investigation by the O.A.S. and they got outvoted. So, I’m very pleased that CARICOM persisted in that, and that that appears to be taking place. Not is happening in the Congress of the United States. All of our committees are controlled by Republicans, as you know. They refuse to take up this issue in our committees. Nothing is going on in our Foreign Relations Committee, in the Judiciary Committee. Nowhere. As a matter of fact, all that we see from afar is Jeb Bush out of Florida going in to Haiti pretending that he’s concerned about the Haitian people when in fact he does nothing to encourage the ability of Haitians who are in the United States to stay, because of the terror that’s going on in Haiti and, of course, he and his brother, the President of the United States, were absolutely harsh in not allowing Haitians to escape the island at its worst point of terror that was going on, turning people back at sea, and folks whose stay in the United States is running out, who would like to be able to stay, and not go back to this crisis at this time. He’s doing nothing to help, but he’s going down there talking about putting together a commission and some kind of town hall meeting. Now, if people pay close attention to what Jeb Bush is doing, I’m going to predict that he is in cahoots with Andy Apaid. They’re going to try to open up camps down there for cheap labor. He’s going to bring his industrialist friends in to exploit the Haitian people one more time. They’re Bush does not care about the well-being of the Haitian people. Neither does his brother. Nothing is going on in the Congress of the United States, and a blind eye is being turned to the fact that this puppet government, which was installed by the United States has the audacity to be jailing innocent people while Guy Philippe and Jean Tatun and the real killers are still running around killing people.
AMY GOODMAN: Congress member Maxine Waters we just have ten seconds, but John Kerry has he made any —
MAXINE WATERS: No, he simply said—at first he said he was against the democratically elect president, then ousted from office, but then I’m told he said some place that should he be re-elected, he would not support returning Aristide to Haiti. So, I have not heard anything more than that coming out of the mouth of John Kerry.
AMY GOODMAN: U.S. Congress member Maxine Waters, David Welsh of the San Francisco Labor Council, I want to thank you very much for being with us. We’ll continue to follow the story. You can see our special reporting on Haiti in the last months on our website at democracynow.org as Democracy Now! traveled with Congress member Maxine Waters and others to the Central African Republic when they picked up the Aristide and brought them back it this hemispheres.