ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



On Haiti, Mr. Kerry said that if he were president, he would consider threatening

to deploy an international peacekeeping force to persuade

the insurgents to back away from their goal of toppling Mr. Aristide.



Books on the Caribbean

Hubert Cole. Christophe: King of Haiti. New York: The Viking Press, 1967.

C.L.R. James. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938)

Edourad Gissant. Caribbean Doscourse (2004)  /  Barbara Harlow. Resistance Literature (1987)

Josaphat B. Kubayanda. The Poet’s Africa: Africanness in the Poetry of Nicolas Guillen and Aime Cesaire (1990)


Paul Laraque and Jack Hirschman.  Open Gate An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry (2001)

David P. Geggus, ed. The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World.  University of South Carolina Press, 2001.

Jean-Bertand Aristide. Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization

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Kerry Maintains the Administration

Is Partly to Blame for the Unrest in Haiti

By David M. Halbfinger


HIGHLAND HILLS, Ohio, Feb. 24 — Senator John Kerry accused the Bush administration on Tuesday of helping foster the political instability in Haiti that has given rise to the armed rebellion threatening to overthrow the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

“I think the administration has missed a lot of opportunities, in fact has exacerbated the situation over the last few years with its cutoff of humanitarian assistance and its attitude towards the Aristide administration,” Mr. Kerry said. “So they sort of created the environment within which the insurgency could grow, take root. And now they’re trying to manage it, I think.”

He also questioned whether the administration had been playing “a duplicitous game”: publicly encouraging Mr. Aristide but declining to assert itself in his behalf with the insurgents.

“They hate Aristide,” Mr. Kerry said of administration officials at a morning meeting with editors and reporters of The New York Times, as he sought endorsements in New York’s Democratic presidential primary next week. He then flew to Ohio, another Super Tuesday state, to campaign near Youngstown and in this Cleveland suburb. . . .

He repeatedly attacked the administration’s competence, calling its foreign policy “almost stupid” and, in a reference to its domestic policies, declaring, “It’s staggering to me how completely inept these people are in almost every choice that we face before the country.” . . .

On Haiti, Mr. Kerry said that if he were president, he would consider threatening to deploy an international peacekeeping force to persuade the insurgents to back away from their goal of toppling Mr. Aristide.

His message to the rebels, Mr. Kerry said, would be: “You’re not going to take over. You’re not kicking him out. This democracy is going to be sustained. We’re willing to put in a new government, new prime minister, we’re willing to work with you, but you’re not going to succeed in your goal of exile” for Mr. Aristide.

“And unless that’s clear,” he added, “you can’t necessarily stop it in its tracks.” . . .

Sharpton Says He’ll Go to Haiti

Another Democratic presidential candidate, the Rev. Al Sharpton, said Tuesday that he planned to go to Haiti this week to try to help Mr. Aristide and rebel leaders negotiate a peace agreement.

Mr. Sharpton said that in telephone conversations, the rebel leaders, who on Tuesday turned down an American-backed plan, and Mr. Aristide “said they wanted to talk to me, and both said they’d welcome my coming.” He said that he would leave on Thursday or Friday but that he had not yet determined how he would travel to the country, where spreading violence has caused chaos and already closed at least one airport, at Cap Haitien.

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Why Aristide Should Stay

By Tracy Kidder

26 February 2004NORTHAMPTON, Mass. In Haiti, a paramilitary group has been making coordinated attacks on towns and cities, overwhelming understaffed, underequipped and ill-trained members of the national police force. The group has been burning police stations and setting free prisoners, both ordinary criminals and people convicted of involvement in massacres. It has been looting and rounding up supporters of the elected government and, apparently, killing anyone who tries to oppose it.

This group seems to be operating with the tacit approval of some of the politicians who oppose Haiti’s government. But many of these rebels, as news reports call them, have unsavory records. Some are former soldiers from the disbanded Haitian Army, which in 1991 deposed Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and ruled the country with cruelty and corruption for three years. Another was a ranking member of an organization that aided the army in terrorizing the country during that period. This rebel group seems to enjoy sanctuary within the Dominican Republic and free passage across the border between that country and Haiti.

For several years, the rebels have been making raids into Haiti, including a commando-style assault on the presidential palace in 2001 and, in 2003, an attack on a hydroelectric dam, during which they burned the control station, murdered two security guards and stole an ambulance. Clearly, they were just getting warmed up. Their leaders now boast that they will soon be in control of the entire country.

I first went to Haiti in 1994, for research on an article about some of the American soldiers sent to restore the country’s elected government. I have spent parts of the past several years there, working on a book about an American doctor and a public health system that he helped to create in an impoverished rural region. The Haiti that I experienced was very different from the Haiti that I had read about back in the United States, and this disconnection is even stronger for me today.

Recent news reports, for example, perhaps in laudable pursuit of evenhandedness, have taken pains to assert that President Aristide and his Lavalas Party have been using armed thugs of their own to enforce their will on the country. The articles imply that the current crisis in Haiti is an incipient war between two factions roughly equal in illegitimacy. But I have interviewed leaders of the opposition, and can say with certainty that theirs is an extremely disparate group, which includes members of the disbanded army and former officials of the repressive regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier — and also people who were persecuted by both these groups.

This is an opposition that has so far shown itself unable to agree on much of anything except its determination to get rid of Mr. Aristide. Most important, the various leaders of this opposition have enjoyed little in the way of electoral success, the true measure of legitimacy in any country that calls itself a democracy. Mr. Aristide, by contrast, has been elected president twice, by overwhelming margins, and his party won the vast majority of seats in Parliament in the last legislative elections, held in May 2000.

Press reports generally date the current crisis to those elections, which they describe as flawed. In fact, they were flawed, but less flawed than we have been led to believe. Eight candidates, seven of them from Lavalas, were awarded seats in the Senate, even though they had won only pluralities. Consequently, many foreign diplomats expressed concern, and some went so far as to call the election “fraudulent.”

But to a great extent, the proceedings were financed, managed and overseen by foreigners, and in the immediate aftermath many monitors declared a victory for Haiti’s nascent democracy. Sixty percent of the country’s eligible voters went to polling stations, many trudging for miles along mountain paths, then waiting for hours in the hot sun to vote. Moreover, those eight contested Senate seats didn’t affect the balance of power in Parliament. Even if it had lost them all, Mr. Aristide’s party would still have had a clear majority.

Citing the flaws in those elections, the United States and other foreign governments refused to monitor the presidential election that followed, later in 2000, which Mr. Aristide won handily. The opposition boycotted the affair and still claims that the election was illegitimate, but it does so against the weight of the evidence. This includes a Gallup poll commissioned by the United States government but never made public. (I obtained a copy last year.) It shows that as of 2002 Mr. Aristide remained far and away the most popular political figure in Haiti.

Again citing the flawed elections as its reason, the Bush administration also led a near total embargo on foreign aid to the Haitian government — even blocking loans from the Inter-American Development Bank for improvements in education, roads, health care and water supplies. Meanwhile, the administration has supported the political opposition. This is hardly a destructive act, unless, as Mr. Aristide’s supporters believe, the aim has been to make room for an opposition by weakening the elected government.

They have a point. Over the past several years, the United States and the Organization of American States have placed increasingly onerous demands on Mr. Aristide. Foreign diplomats insisted that the senators in the contested seats resign; all did so several months after Mr. Aristide’s re-election. Though Mr. Aristide called for new elections, the opposition demanded that he himself step down before it would cooperate. Last year, a State Department official in Haiti, speaking on condition of anonymity, told me that the United States wouldn’t tolerate that kind of intransigence but also said that no support for new elections would be forthcoming until President Aristide improved “security.” And yet by the time the diplomat said this, the administration had long since withdrawn support from Haiti’s fledgling police force, with predictable and now obvious results.

Mr. Aristide has been accused of many things. A few days ago, a news report described him as “uncompromising.” For more than a week now, American and other diplomats have been trying to broker a deal whereby the president would appoint a new prime minister acceptable to the opposition. Mr. Aristide has agreed. So far the opposition has refused, insisting again that the president resign.

 It was the United States that restored Mr. Aristide to power in 1994, but since his re-election our government has made rather brazen attempts to undermine his presidency. One could speculate endlessly on American motives, but the plain fact is that American policy in Haiti has not served American interests, not if those include the establishment of democracy in Haiti, or the prevention of the kind of chaos and bloodletting that has led in the past to boatloads of refugees heading for Florida.

One could also argue about the failings and sins of all the quarreling factions inside Haiti. But there are more important considerations. Haitians have endured centuries of horror: first slavery under the French, and then, since their revolution, nearly two centuries of corrupt, repressive misrule, aided and abetted by foreign powers, including the United States. All this has helped to make Haiti one of the world’s poorest countries, and its people, according to the World Bank, among the most malnourished on earth.

The majority of Haitians have been struggling for nearly two decades to establish a democratic political system. It is important to this effort that Haiti’s current elected president leave office constitutionally, not through what would be the country’s 33rd coup d’état. Progress toward this difficult goal may still be possible, if the warring politicians within the country and the various foreign nations that have involved themselves in Haiti’s affairs pull together now and put a stop to the growing incursions of terrorists. If this does not happen, there is little hope for Haiti. The result, I fear, will be a new civil war, one that will likely lead back to dictatorship and spill enough blood to cover all hands.

Tracy Kidder is the author, most recently, of “Mountains Beyond Mountains.”

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Aristide’s Foes: On the Same Side, but Denying Any Ties

By Lydia Polgreen



26 February 2004

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 25 — When opposition leaders formally announced Wednesday that they had rejected a peace plan the United States had hoped would end the uprising roiling the country, they took pains to emphasize that they have no links whatsoever to the armed groups sweeping through Haiti.

But it was clear that the success of the insurgents, who on Sunday took Cap Haitien with little resistance from supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, has buoyed their movement.

“This is all the more reason for Mr. Aristide to go,” said André Apaid, a leader of the Group of 184, a civil society organization, in an interview on Wednesday. “This is all the more reason to press harder for what we see is the only way out, and it is only more clear that we need to do this very, very quickly.”

As Haiti’s crisis lurches toward civil war, a tangled web of alliances, some of them accidental, has emerged. It has linked the interests of a political opposition movement that has embraced nonviolence to a group of insurgents that includes a former leader of death squads accused of killing thousands, a former police chief accused of plotting a coup and a ruthless gang once aligned with Mr. Aristide that has now turned against him. Given their varied origins, those arrayed against Mr. Aristide are hardly unified, though they all share an ardent wish to see him removed from power.

In Port-au-Prince, meanwhile, pro-Aristide forces were trying on Wednesday to shore up control, erecting burning barricades and blocking main traffic routes with concrete tank traps and shipping containers.

Tensions were running high, with armed police officers, some wearing ski masks, roaring through town in pickup trucks, while sinister bands of teenagers wielding rifles guarded makeshift roadblocks, searching cars and stealing whatever they wanted from passengers.

In Belle, an earthy, staunchly pro-Aristide neighborhood about five minutes walk from the Presidential Palace downtown, a group of youths sat and played cards, waving occasionally as groups of chimères, the president’s fearsome militiamen, sped by in trucks.

Groups of people chanted, “Five years, five years!” as the militiamen passed, a rallying call referring to the president’s insistence he serve out his five-year term of office, ending in February 2006.

“Let the rebels come, we are not afraid,” said Jean Toussaint, one of the youths. “They have guns, yes, but we do, too.”

“We’ll attack them with knives and machetes,” he said.”We’ll slit their throats — they’ll never make it to the palace.”

On one side of those lined up against Mr. Aristide and his supporters are political and civic opposition groups, which have led huge protests in the capital and elsewhere, and have been subjected to violence by the police and progovernment gangs. Born out of the disputed parliamentary elections in 2000 and galvanized by political violence aimed at protesters, the groups came together as the Democratic Platform.

On the other side are the armed insurgents, many with sinister pasts. The uprising began in Gonaïves with a revolt by former Aristide loyalists, known as the Cannibal Army, who turned against the president after their leader, Amiot Métayer, was killed in September. The group, which is now led by Mr. Métayer’s brother Butteur, believes Mr. Aristide ordered the killing.

They have been joined by members of the former Haitian Army, which was dissolved after the United States returned Mr. Aristide to power in 1994. The ranks of the insurgents include men like Louis-Jodel Chamblain, who is accused of killing thousands of people in the aftermath of the 1991 military coup that removed Mr. Aristide, and Remissainthe Ravix, a former army corporal notorious for his brutal methods.

The opposition groups with which the United States hoped to broker a peace deal, the Democratic Platform and several political parties, say they have no connection to the armed groups that have taken control of much of the country. In a statement released on Wednesday in response to the latest peace proposal, the Democratic Platform wrote that it “reaffirms that it has no ties whatsoever to armed groups and that its quest for a democratic solution is based on a strategy of nonviolence.”

Those leading the armed uprising in turn affirm that they have no formal links with the political opposition, but Guy Philippe, who is leading the rebel army, hinted that the groups do have an open line of communication.

“Officially, there is no contact,” Mr. Philippe said Tuesday in Cap Haitien, Haiti’s second-largest city. Asked if there were unofficial links, Mr. Philippe smiled but would not answer.

Mr. Aristide has repeatedly said that the two groups are working in concert, though he has provided no concrete evidence to back the allegation. The leaders of the armed group said they had not been involved in negotiations for a political settlement of the country’s crisis.

But whether or not there are links between the groups, the common goal of removing Mr. Aristide from power has led each to speak carefully about the plans and goals of the other. Asked about the armed insurgents, Mr. Apaid said he deplored the violence but did not expect the men to put down their weapons until Mr. Aristide left office.

“Otherwise they would be slaughtered,” Mr. Apaid said. Asked about the role they would seek in a future government if Mr. Aristide was ousted, Mr. Philippe and other rebel leaders have said they have no interest in imposing military rule and that they support a plan put forward by the Democratic Platform. That proposal calls on political parties, businesspeople, intellectuals and civil society groups to form a transition government of national unity. His men, Mr. Philippe said, would become the nucleus of a reconstituted Haitian army.

Such odd bedfellows are not uncommon in Haiti’s troubled history said Henry Carey, a professor at Georgia State University who is an expert on Haitian politics. But they seldom bring good fortune to the Haitian people.

“Haitians learned through history that the way to change their government is intimidation and protest, not through elections and democratic procedure,” Professor Carey said. Even if there are no formal links with militants, he said, “the opposition groups have been too eager to make alliances with anyone who wants to get rid of Aristide without carefully examining their democratic credentials. That means inevitably the most lethal elements are the ones who will grab power when the time comes.”

Why Aristide Should Stay Kerry maintains administration partly to blame Aristides foes: on same side but denying ties

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The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World 

Reviewed by Mimi Sheller

Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804

A Brief History with Documents

By Laurent Dubois and John D. Garrigus

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar’s astonishing rise to become the world’s principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar’s changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America’s economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan’s bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar’s dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power–and the enormous risks–of the dollar’s worldwide reign.  The Economy

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 17 January 2012




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Related files: I Weep For My Country: The Arrogance of Power   Deeper into the Mouth of Hell  Kerry on Unrest in Haiti