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Did the Bush Administration Allow a Network of Right-Wing Republicans to Foment a Violent Coup in Haiti?

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We speak with Max Blumenthal contibutor to Salon.com and author of a new investigative piece that examines the role of the United States in destabilizing the democratically-elected government of Jean Bertrand-Aristide through the International Republican Institute, a federally-funded, nonprofit political group backed by powerful Republicans close to the Bush administration. [includes rush transcript]

Haiti’s unelected Prime Minister Gerard Latortue is in Washington today to attend a two-day conference at the World Bank headquarters to urge international donors to help the new U.S.-backed Haitian government. The World Bank has estimated about $1.3 billion is needed to help rebuild the country which is the poorest in the Americas.

The allocation of funds will be guided by the Interim Cooperation Framework, an assessment of Haiti”s financial needs completed earlier this month by the European Commission, the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations and the World Bank.

Critics warn that the program’s failure to involve Haitians in the planning could end up sending nearly all the funds into the pockets of foreigners and Haitian elite, with little reaching the people in need. A protest is being organized outside the meeting today.

U.S. Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor said the United States would contribute $232 million and the Inter-American Development Bank $400 million. But what many people don’t know is that U.S. federal funds have been flowing into Haiti for the past six years. A federally-funded group called the International Republican Institute, or IRI, has funneled some $3 million into Haiti to destabilize the democratically-elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide.

The IRI, a nonprofit political group backed by powerful Republicans close to the Bush administration, initiated the destabilization of Aristide’s government by imposing harsh sanctions, training Aristide’s political opponents and encouraging them to reject internationally-sanctioned power-sharing agreements. Haiti’s political crisis eventually escalated into violence until Aristide was overthrown in February of this year in what he calls a modern-day kidnapping in the service of a coup backed by the United States.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Max Blumenthal, a contributor to salon.com, author of the new piece, “The Other Regime Change: Did The Bush Administration Allow a Network of Right Wing Republicans to Foment a Violent Coup in Haiti?” Welcome to DemocracyNow!, Max Blumenthal.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: It’s good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Good to have you with us. Why don’t you start out in the same way that you began your piece, “The Other Regime Change.” Talk about Stanley Lucas, who he is, and what kind of support those that were involved in toppling the democratically elected president Aristide, came to power?

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, to tell you about Stanley Lucas, and he is the program officer for the International Republican Institute, or I.R.I.'s Haiti program. I.R.I. is active in 50 countries worldwide on a mission to “promote democracy”. In many of their programs, through their means, what they have demonstrated is something quite different. They have demonstrated — I.R.I has demonstrated a penchant for backing opponents in regimes deemed hostile to the U.S. and specifically to conservative interests, and I.R.I.'s program in Haiti has been probably its most bellicose thanks to Stanley Lucas. In Haiti there’s two sectors of Haitian society that are the traditional obstructionists to progressive change. Number one, that’s the industrial sector of the mulatto elite who run the sweatshops and lead the civil society wing of Aristide’s opposition. And two, there’s the military, which guarantees the conditions by which the elite can operate their sweatshops. Aristide disbanded the military in 1995, so, you know, the military hates him. Stanley Lucas is a bridge between these two sectors. He was schooled in Haiti’s finest schools with members of the mulatto elite. At the same time, he comes from a wealthy land owning family close to the Duvalier regime, which ruled Haiti with an iron fist for decades. His family is close to the military. Two of Stanley Lucas’s cousins massacred — organized a massacre of 250 peasants, in 1987, who were protesting for land reform after the Duvalier regime crumbled. The massacre — it was a terrible massacre documented by Amnesty International and described to me by someone who witnessed it firsthand. You would think that someone from this background wouldn’t be able to get a position at a group like the International Republican Institute that promotes democracy. However, Stanley Lucas is a valuable asset to them. He is a judo master who allegedly trained the military in counter insurgency tactics after the Duvalier regime collapsed. He was hired in 1992, but I don’t know why he was hired. When I asked I.R.I.'s communications director why he was hired, he refused to tell me why, or what his duties consisted of between 1992 and 1998. A lot of people I spoke to suspect that Stanley Lucas is a CIA asset, including former ambassador — former U.S. Ambassador in the region. So, when Stanley Lucas was hired in 1992, the country was controlled by a military junta called FRAPP, which had ousted Aristide in 1990 — in the first coup in that country. Frappe was busy massacring thousands of Aristide supporters. One off the recorded sources, who lived with Lucas, working with Lucas, in Haiti, told me he saw documents indicating that while Lucas was working for I.R.I., he was being paid by Michelle Francois, who was a notorious FRAPP leader. Stanley Lucas is an impeccable dresser, a smooth operater and a lady's man with a broad smile and childlike demeanor that will put his enemies at ease. You have behind that facade an evil man who has been given way too much power. In my piece, I compared him to Achmed Chalabi, because Stanley Lucas is a card-carrying Republican who managed to ingratiate himself with powerful Republicans in Washington. He lobbied for the opposition to Aristide and managed to tie quite a bit of funding to them and introduced a number of Aristide’s most virulent opponents to powerful Republicans in Washington. When I.R.I.'s campaign to destabilize Haiti began in earnest in 1998 with a $2 million grant in mostly taxpayer money from the U.S. Agency for International Development, Lucas hosted some of Aristide's most virulent opponents in political training sessions. What he did was he merged all of these disparate groups into one big party called the Democratic Convergence. Now, the Democratic Convergence is not a traditional political party, it’s more like the political wing of a coup, because the strategy that it took was to forego the democratic process entirely. Boycott elections and initiate what seemed like an endless sequence of provocative protests. Between 2000 and 2002, the Democratic Convergence rejected over 20 internationally sanctioned power sharing agreements which heightened the tension and provoked more violence. At the time, the U.S. Ambassador, who was named Brian Dean Curran, a Clinton appointee, who was a highly respected career diplomat, uncovered evidence that Stanley Lucas was the one encouraging the Democratic Convergence to reject the compromises and to stay out of the democratic process. When he presented this evidence to the U.S. Agency for International Development, and he asked them to block Stanley Lucas from the program, Bush’s Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere, Roger Noriega, apparently stepped in, and within four months — Lucas was barred for four months, but after four months, he was back. So, when he — when Lucas returned to the program, he retaliated against Ambassador Curran. What he did was he spread salacious rumors in Port-au-Prince in — and in Washington about Curran’s personal life. If I repeated these rumors, it would make Dick Cheney look like Ward Cleaver. It’s unheard of for someone like Lucas to actually sabotage a U.S. Ambassador. Lucas threatened two embassy officials and told them they would be fired once the real — “Real” U.S. policy was implemented. In 2003, Curran was forced to resign in disgust because of Lucas’s activities and the fact that Bush administration seemed to give Lucas their tacit approval. A number of embassy officials I spoke to were removed from Haiti by Roger Noriega for opposing what Stanley Lucas was doing in part. So this whole sad episode that led up to the coup was allowed to occur because of Bush’s policy of studied neglect in South America.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Max Blumenthal who has written a piece in salon.com called “The Other Regime Change.” We’ll be back with him in a minute as we talk about Haiti and move on in our look back at conventions past. Today we’ll be focusing on the conventions of 1964, and 1968. Stay with us.

AMY GOODMAN: This is DemocracyNow!, the War and Peace report. I’m Amy Goodman. The unelected Prime Minister of Haiti, Latortue is in Washington. There are protests outside the meeting that is being called of international donors to support Haiti right now. We are joined on the phone by Max Blumenthal, an investigative reporter with salon.com, who has done a piece called “The Other Regime Change.” “The Other Regime Change” looks at what has happened in Haiti. Did the Bush administration allow a network of Right Wing Republicans to foment a violent coup in Haiti? We are talking about Stanley Lucas, who heads up the International Republican Institute. What about U.S. Congress members? You talk about senator Dodd asking questions about who is the liaison with the I.R.I. in Haiti.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Yeah. There were a number of confrontations between senator Dodd, who happens to have one of the — you know, one of great researchers in Congress working for him, who probably knows some things about Stanley Lucas that I’d like to know. Dodd has had a number of heated confrontations with Roger Noriega, Bush’s Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, during Noriega’s confirmation. Dodd asked Noriega, you know, do you know Stanley Lucas. Are you in contact with him? Noriega sort of ducked the question. It was a good question because we saw — you know, we saw the perils of the collaboration between Roger Noriega and Stanley Lucas about a year after Noriega’s confirmation. To give background on Roger Noriega, he is a former staffer to Jesse Helms, who initiated some of the most draconian sanctions against Haiti, in an effort to sabotage Aristide and by extension, the Clinton administration, who returned Aristide to power by force in 1994. You know, after the coup, there were a number of questions that Dodd had for Noriega about — about whether —- you know, Stanley Lucas was barred from the I.R.I.'s program like he was supposed to be, and Roger Noriega didn't have a good answer. Another question that Dodd asked Roger Noriega was whether Stanley Lucas had worked with Guy Philippe. Guy Philippe is the face on the violent wing of the coup. You know, at the time the destabilization program was -—

AMY GOODMAN: Max, we have 30 seconds.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Now, Guy Philippe is the U.S. trained former police chief who led the coup into Port-au-Prince. I.R.I. issued a press release stating they have never dealt with Guy Philippe. I reached Guy Philippe in an interview by cell phone. He told me that he and Stanley Lucas were long-time friends. An embassy official told me on condition of anonymity that he witnessed Lucas conferring with Guy Philippe in Ecuador in 2001, which is where Philippe lived at the time and was trained by U.S. Forces. So I think this raises serious questions about whether the International Republican Institute actually collided with the violent insurgents who attacked the presidential palace and drove Aristide out by force.

AMY GOODMAN: Max Blumenthal, I want to thank you for being with us. His piece is at salon.com, “The Other Regime Change.”

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