Developments that Led to the 2004 Coup d’Etat
The government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide represented an important achievement for the Haitian people. It was a government that had come to power through the mass movement of the people to exercise control over the country. As such, this government represented the aspirations of the Haitian people to put an end to corruption, impunity and violence, and the theft of Haiti’s wealth by the country’s ruling elite and foreign monopolies that brutally exploited the people.
In 2004, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was in his second term as president. His first term from 1991-1996 had been interrupted by a coup in 1991. He was returned to power in 1994 following massive protests of haitians at home and abroad only after promising the Clinton administration that he would implement the neo-liberal economic program of the U.S.-backed presidential candidate he had defeated in 1990. Despite this concession, Aristide and the Haitian people’s aspiration for sovereign control over their affairs were still seen as a threat by the governments of the U.S., Canada and France; monopolies in those countries had long exploited the Haitian people as a source of cheap labour.
France, for its part as the former colonial power, had some particular interests it sought to protect through the coup. After the people of Saint Dominigue heroically fought for and won their independence and became the nation of Haiti in 1804, France used gunboat diplomacy to force the young nation to pay for the loss of its slave labour and property. In order to comply with this blackmail, Haiti had to take out massive loans from none other than France and the U.S., a crushing debt that has impoverished the country to the present day.
In 2003, however, Haiti became the first former colony in the world to demand reparations from a former colonial power, demanding debt restitution. As journalist Kim Ives, in a May 10, 2013 item for Haiti Liberté, explains, “Then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government conservatively calculated the value of the restitution due at some $21.7 billion. Although the French parliament had unanimously approved a law recognizing the slave trade as a crime against humanity in 2001, just two years later France responded to Haiti’s petition with fury. It angrily rejected the lawsuit and joined with Washington in brazenly fomenting a coup d’état against Aristide, who was ousted on Feb. 29, 2004.”
In the aftermath of the coup in Haiti, all manner of disinformation was spread about what had taken place, to justify the coup and cover up Canada’s nefarious role in its planning and execution. At that time and since the people of Canada and Quebec, including many of Haitian origin denounced the coup and held the Canadian government and the officials involved to account in the court of public opinion for their dirty role from which many were forced to run and hide and rely on their positions of power to shield from responsibility.