Category Archives: Haiti

Haitians march on Canadian Embassy

People everywhere around the world love and respect Canadians, or so we’re told. So how do you explain what’s going on in Haiti?

On Sunday protesters in Port-au-Prince marched on the Canadian Embassy. “Madame Boukman — Justice 4 Haiti” posted a video to Twitter showing police in front of Canada’s diplomatic representation in Haiti. Madame Boukman quoted two men waving a Russian flag saying, “Long live Russia. Canada go home.” (In an indirect criticism of US/Canadian backing for dictator Jovenel Moïse, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister recently said they were concerned about “political instability” and “ready to help Haitians restore political stability, maintain internal security and train personnel.”)

Madame Boukman’s post elicited anger from some offended Canadians. But anyone who follows Haitian politics knows protesters regularly target Ottawa. On October 27, 2019, Molotov cocktails were thrown at the embassy in Port-au-Prince. A tire was also set alight in front of Canada’s diplomatic representation in Haiti. Voice of America reported that protesters “attempted to burn down the Canadian Embassy.”

A few days earlier rocks were thrown at Canada’s diplomatic outpost. An October 2019 Radio Canada story began with the image of a Haitian holding a sign saying: “Fuck USA. Merde la France. Fuck Canada.” Three years earlier a demonstrator at the front of a protest carried a large wooden cross — as if crucified — bearing the US, French and Canadian flags. The caption on a Reuters video from a protest in 2014 noted, “thousands of Haitians take to the streets of Port-au-Prince to protest the government of President Michel Martelly, as well as the government of Canada for supporting Martelly.”

Protesters regularly speechify against Canadian imperialism. The 2019 documentary Haiti Betrayed includes a man yelling in front of the embassy in Port-au-Prince: “We don’t have anything against Canada! Why are you against us?” In a 2013 Journal of Haitian Studies article Jennifer Greenburg describes a “student from the Artibonite” interjecting in an “animated conversation” at a vocational school where she taught. The young man takes a water bottle and places it on the ground. “‘This is Haiti,’ he says, and grabbing another student’s backpack, ‘is the US, Canada — the powerful countries.’ He lifts the backpack just above the water bottle and ‘every time we come up,’ lifting the water bottle from the ground near my feet, ‘they keep us down,’ crushing the water bottle to the ground with the bulky knapsack.”

After Uruguay announced it was withdrawing its 950 troops from the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti in 2013, senator Moise Jean-Charles took aim at the countries he considered most responsible for undermining Haitian sovereignty. The country’s most trusted opposition figure according to a 2019 poll, Jean-Charles said, “Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay are not the real occupiers of Haiti. The real forces behind Haiti’s military occupation — the powers which are putting everybody else up to it — are the U.S., France, and Canada, which colluded in the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’etat against President [Jean-Bertrand] Aristide. It was then they began trampling Haitian sovereignty.” Jean-Charles added, “we are asking the Americans, French, and Canadians to come and collect their errand boy because he cannot lead the country anymore.”

Days after I poured fake blood on foreign affairs minister Pierre Pettigrew’s hands and yelled “Pettigrew lies, Haitians die” during a June 2005 press conference on Haiti, Aristide was asked about the incident. In an interview from South Africa, he told journalist Naomi Klein the Canadian government had Haitian “blood on its hands.” He stated, “the coup, or the kidnapping, was led by the United States, France and Canada. These three countries were on the front lines by sending their soldiers to Haiti before February 29, by having their soldiers either at the airport or at my residence or around the palace or in the capital to make sure that they succeeded in kidnapping me, leading [to] the coup.”

For their part, left-wing weekly newspapers Haiti Progrès and Haiti Liberté described Canada as an “occupying force”, “coup supporter” or “imperialist” over one hundred times. In one instance, the front page of Haiti Liberté showed a picture of President René Préval next to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and two Canadian soldiers. Part of the caption below read, “Préval under the surveillance of the occupying forces.”

Haitian anger towards Canada is wholly understandable. During this century Canada has helped destabilize an elected government, plan a coup and invade to topple a president. It has also trained and financed a highly repressive police force, justifying their politically motivated arrests and killings. Ottawa has also backed the exclusion of Haiti’s most popular political party from participating in elections and helped fix an election. After a terrible earthquake Canada dispatched troops to control the country and later propped up a repressive, corrupt and illegitimate president facing massive protests.

The truth is Canada has repeatedly sided with oppressors of ordinary Haitians. They have many good reasons to hate our government.

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Criticism of Canadian policy in Haiti growing

Protesters seek to burn Canadian embassy in Haiti

A growing number of voices are criticizing Canadian policy in Haiti and a petition to be read in Parliament on Monday will shine a light on the historical roots of the issue.

In recent weeks many groups and individuals have criticized Canadian support for a dictator who is actively opposed by the overwhelming majority of Haitians. Three current MPs and three former MPs, as well as Stephen Lewis, Roger Waters, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein and 500 others, signed a letter last month criticizing Canada’s “support for a repressive, corrupt Haitian president devoid of constitutional legitimacy.” As Jovenel Moïse extended his mandate beyond the February 7 deadline that should have ended his presidential term La Coalition Haïtienne au Canada contre la dictature en Haïti was established in Montréal. The coalition of Haitian community groups’ criticism of Moïse’sunlawful appointment of an electoral council and constitutional referendum is backed by many Canadian organizations. The Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Union of Public Employees, all of Québec’s major labour unions and its main NGO coalition, as well as numerous other groups, recently signed a statement calling on Ottawa to “stop supporting” Moïse who has criminalized protest blockades as “terrorism” and established a new intelligence agency empowered to infiltrate and arrest anyone engaged in “subversive” acts.

In a statement last week headlined “Canada must stop supporting Haiti’s unconstitutional government” Public Service Alliance of Canada national president Chris Aylward aggressively opposed Ottawa’s policy. “Tragically, Canada has been working against democracy in Haiti for two decades, all too often choosing to support right-wing politicians who have little concern for Haiti’s poor majority”, noted Aylward in a statement citing Canada’s role in “helping overthrow a democratically-elected Haitian government” in 2004.

On Sunday Solidarité Québec-Haïti is organizing a demonstration in front of foreign affairs minister Mark Garneau’s office in Montréal and on Monday a petition the group sponsored will be read in the House of Commons by Bloc Québecois MP Mario Beaulieu. The petition highlights Moïse’s dependence on the “Core Group”, which includes the representatives of the US, France, Germany, Brazil, Organization of American States (OAS), UN, Spain and Canada. The petition links the creation of the “Core Group” to the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti”.

On January 31, 2003 the Canadian government convened top US, French and OAS officials to discuss Haiti’s future. No Haitian representatives were invited to the two-day meeting where they discussed the removal of the elected president, re-creating the dreaded military and putting the country under UN trusteeship. Thirteen months later US Marines forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of the country in the middle of the night with Canadian special forces “securing” the airport from which Aristide said he was “kidnapped”. UN forces have been in Haiti for most of the past 17 years and the Haitian military has been re-created.

In what was likely a government-organized trial balloon, prominent journalist Michel Vastel brought the meeting to public attention in the March 15, 2003 issue of Québec’s L’actualité magazine. Despite a major outlet reporting on the meeting at the time, the media barely mentioned or investigated the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” after the coup. Until last year.

In a 45-minute report tied to the 10th anniversary of the horrible 2010 earthquake Radio-Canada’s flagship news program “Enquête” looked back on the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti. They interviewed Denis Paradis, the minister responsible for organizing the meeting, who admitted no Haitian representatives were invited to discuss their own country’s future at the get together.

Spurred by Enquête’s investigation, the parliamentary petition calls on the federal government to “publish all documents relating to the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti’” and to “hold a hearing of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to learn everything there is to know about the ‘Ottawa Initiative on Haiti,’ including its link to the “Core Group.”

A look back at the Ottawa Initiative on Haiti will help make sense of Canada’s role in Haiti. To do the right thing we must understand this country’s contribution to the repression facing Haiti’s impoverished majority today.

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Garneau and Blinken meet to subvert Haitian democracy

After Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau and new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held their first bilateral meeting Global Affairs’ release mentioned China, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and… Haiti. The first four nations are all in the crosshairs of Washington and Ottawa. But Haiti’s de facto president is in the opposite position. Jovenel Moïse would fall quickly if the US and Canada withdrew their support.

What does it mean that a supposedly ‘unimportant’, impoverished, nation is the only non-enemy government mentioned by those in charge of US and Canadian diplomacy? Is it a recognition that their Haitian puppet might fall or is it a backhanded compliment to the anti-dictatorship movement? Or maybe it reflects the US and Canada’s commitment to credible elections?

On Sunday thousands marched against the dictatorship in Port-au-Prince. A week earlier 100,000 marched in the capital and thousands more protested in a half-dozen other cities. On February 14 nearly 100,000 also marched in Port-au-Prince.

Since Jovenel Moïse extended his mandate extra-constitutionally on February 7 there has been a wave of criticism against US and Canadian policy in Haiti. The country’s heterogenous opposition have vociferously condemned the foreign powers. In the US there have been a number of rallies and online actions. A number of Democratic party senators and congresspeople have also called on the Biden administration to stop propping up Moïse. In Canada three current MPs and three former MPs, as well as Noam Chomsky, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein and 500 others, signed a letter criticizing Ottawa’s “support for a repressive, corrupt Haitian president devoid of constitutional legitimacy.” A coalition of 30 Haitian Canadian groups, as well as the Canadian Labour Congress and Council of Global Unions, have also expressed opposition to Canadian and US policy in Haiti.

Blinken and Garneau are undoubtedly feeling some pressure. At the same time, however, the situation on the ground is fluid and if they want Moïse to remain it is imperative to express their diplomatic backing.

The post Blinken/Garneau meeting release noted that the two discussed a desire “to ensure the upcoming electoral process in Haiti is credible, inclusive and transparent.” But Haiti’s opposition has already rejected elections under Moïse, which few will consider “credible”. In the summer Moïse pushed out the entire electoral council and appointed a new one in contravention of the constitution.

The Canada-US position ensures the opposite of their stated aim. By supporting Moïse as he extends his mandate, rewrites the constitution, criminalizes protests, sets up a new intelligence agency, instigates a gang alliance to terrorize the slums, etc. they are guaranteeing that forthcoming elections won’t be credible. But concern for credibility has not been a defining feature of Ottawa and Washington’s response to Haitian elections over the past 20 years.

After Fanmi Lavalas won more than 70% of 7,000 mayoral, senatorial, etc. positions in 2000 the US and Canada undermined what OAS observers initially called “a great success”, probably Haiti’s most credible ever election. Realizing there was little chance Fanmi Lavalas would be defeated at the ballot box in the foreseeable future, they suddenly claimed the previously employed method to determine whether a runoff was to be held in a handful of Senate seats made the election “deeply flawed”. A few years later they overthrew all the elected officials.

After a two-year coup government repressed pro-democracy forces, the US and Canada financed elections that blocked the most popular political party from participating. On simple procedural grounds the election was also dubious. During the election in 2000 there were more than 10,000 registration centres and some 11,000 polling stations across the country. In 2006 the coup government reduced that number to 500 registration centres and a little more than 800 polling stations, even though they had some $50 million to run the election (mostly from the US, Canada and France). In the poorest neighborhoods, where opposition to the coup was strongest, registration centres were few and far between.

At the last minute former president René Préval entered the race. The coup government sought to block Préval from winning in the first round and the head of the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections, chief electoral officer of Elections Canada Jean-Pierre Kingsley, ardently supported the effort. After an explosion of protest following the discovery of thousands of ballots burned in a dump, the US, French and Canadian ambassadors — who initially insisted the electoral council continue counting votes to force a second round — reluctantly agreed to negotiate with their counterparts from Brazil and Chile, as well as the UN and others to grant Préval a first-round victory. But they used the negotiation to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Préval’s mandate, even though he likely won 60% of the vote.

Not viewing Préval as sufficiently compliant, the US and Canada pushed for presidential elections months after the devastating 2010 earthquake and amidst a deadly cholera outbreak. Following the first round of voting, Canadian and US officials forced the candidate whom Haiti’s electoral council had in second place, Jude Celestin, out of the runoff. According to the official results, Mirlande Manigat received 31% of the vote, Celestin 22% and Michel Martelly 21%. With no statistical rationale they removed votes from Celestin, who was allied with Préval, until Martelly was in second place.

Through Martelly’s term he failed to hold legislative elections and ruled by decree. That didn’t stop the US and Canada from supporting the corrupt and thuggish former Ton Ton Macoute. After repeatedly postponing elections Martelly held a poll marred by fraud in 2015. A subsequent audit found that 92% of polling place tally sheets had significant irregularities and 900,000 of the 1.5 million votes cast for president were from accredited poll observers who could vote at any voting station. Despite mass protests against Martelly’s handpicked successor Moïse first round lead, the US and Canada pushed to move forward with the second round of the election as if the first round of voting was legitimate. Riots ultimately forced the cancellation of the second round. In a subsequent redo Moïse ‘won’ an election with few participating.

While the US and Canada claim to support democracy and fair elections in Haiti, history proves otherwise. In reality neither government seems to care about the wishes of ordinary Haitians.

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Racial capitalism and the betrayal of Haiti

The richest Haitians

Domination by multinational corporations and “light skinned” local capitalists — that’s the story of Haiti as illustrated by one recent event.

The day after his already paper-thin constitutional legitimacy completely eroded Jovenel Moïse gave significant amounts of Haitian land to a light skinned oligarch working with Coca-Cola.

According to most Haitian constitutional authorities and institutions, Moïse’s presidential mandate ended Sunday, February 7, 2021. But the next day the official Le Moniteur published a presidential decree gifting 8,600 hectares of the country’s agricultural land reserve to produce stevia. Alongside land in the Artibonite and Plateau Central, Moise put up US$18 million for a new Free Agro-Industrial Export Zone run by the Apaid family. It’s outrageous, notes Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’occupation d’Haïti, that the state would offer land to a firm producing for Coca Cola rather than invest in local food production in a country where hunger is widespread.

Whether or not the officially named “Zone Franche Agro Industrielle d’Exportation de Savane Diane” moves forward, the decree is a stark example of “racial capitalism” in Haiti and why Washington and Ottawa are keeping Moïse in place. Unlike most Haitians, the Apaid family are not descendants of enslaved Africans. Born in the US, Andre Apaid Jr. is a sweat shop owner of Lebanese background.

Apaid led the Group of 184 “civil society” opposition to Jean Bertrand Aristide’s government. He reportedly financed the paramilitary forces led by Guy Philippe whose attacks created the pretext for US, French and Canadian forces to oust Aristide in 2004. (Days after Philippe told a local radio station in 2007 that Apaid funded his forces the US Drug Enforcement Agency raided Philippe’s home in the south coast city of Les Cayes.)

At the time of the coup Apaid also financed and armed a gang in the impoverished community of Cité-Soleil led by Thomas “Labanye” Robinson “to kill Lavalas supporters”. US lawyer Thomas Griffin interviewed Cité Soleil leaders and police officers who said Apaid “bought” Labanyè with US$30,000. He also reportedly enabled Labanyè’s wife to travel to the US and “keeps police from arresting the gang leader.” Various professionals and businesspeople told Griffin that Apaid was “the real government in Haiti.”

During the 1991-1994 coup against Aristide Apaid Jr.’s father, André Apaid Sr., was “one of the chief lobbyists in the U.S.” for the military junta. Previously Apaid Sr. was “close to dictator ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier.”

During the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier Apaid Sr. founded Alpha Sewing. With Haiti’s population cowed and economic prospects in the countryside dire, ‘Baby Doc’ developed a relatively thriving low-wage assembly sector in the 1970s. Alpha Sewing eventually became the biggest sweat-shop operator in Haiti. The firm was, of course, hostile to any effort to increase the minimum wage.

One of the richest men in Haiti, Apaid Jr. is a leader among the community of Middle Eastern descent who dominate the economy. Gilbert Bigio, Sherif Kedar Abdallah, Reginald Boulos, Dimitri Craan and Reynold Deeb Saïeh are some of the businesspeople of Middle Eastern ancestry who generally work with North American and Dominican sweatshop, mining and other capitalists with even paler complexions. Apaid, for instance, was the prime Haitian subcontractor for Montreal based T-shirt maker Gildan Activewear, which has a major presence in Haiti. In April 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited an Apaid factory to tout its partnership with Gildan as an important model for Haitian economic development (Apaid was invited to a Canadian government conference on Haiti in Montréal attended by PM Paul Martin a few years earlier).

Washington has been important to the descendants of Middle Easterners who dominate Haiti’s economy. Partly to supplant European influence, Washington facilitated Arab migration to Haiti in the late 1800s. At the start of the twentieth century 60 percent of imported goods sold to the Haitian peasantry came from US manufacturers who supplied Syrian middlemen. When violence targeted the Syrian community US authorities advocated on their behalf.

One element driving the US-Arab migrant relationship in Haiti was that until the US rewrote Haiti’s Constitution in 1918 foreigners were restricted from owning land. This prompted some European businessmen, particularly Germans, to marry into prominent mixed-race families to be able to own property. But US capitalists were at a disadvantage compared to their European counterparts. US race politics deemed someone Black if they had ‘one drop’ of African blood. So even marrying an educated, upper class, mixed-race Haitian woman was considered unacceptable by most White US capitalists. US interests bypassed this dynamic working with migrants from the Middle East. And this legacy of racism still explains much of what happens in Haiti today.

Jovenel Moïse needs to go. So does the “racial capitalist” system of light-skinned local oligarchs working with foreign powers that supports Moïse.

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. The film is available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

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Canadian backed police support dictatorship in Haiti

Canada is supporting a dictatorship in Haiti. And our government is not just offering some vague assistance, but rather is paying for the central instrument of that dictatorship’s repression. Ottawa is backing a violent police force that keeps Jovenel Moïse’s regime in power.

Last week a public letter was released criticizing Canada’s “support for a repressive, corrupt Haitian president devoid of constitutional legitimacy.” It was signed by three current MPs and three former MPs, as well as Noam Chomsky, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein, Roger Waters, El Jones and 500 others.

The letter notes that Canada “continues to fund and train a police force that has violently repressed anti-Moïse protests. The Canadian ambassador in Haiti has repeatedly attended police functions all the while refusing to criticize their repression of protesters. On January 18 ambassador Stuart Savage met the controversial new head of police Leon Charles to discuss ‘strengthening the capacity of the police.’”

In November Moïse appointed Charles head of the police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 US, France and Canada-sponsored coup against elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and thousands of other elected officials. At that time the US Naval Academy-trained Charles publicly referred to a “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector. A 2004 University of Miami human rights report found that Charles “routinely [gave] orders to stop political demonstrations” while an early 2006 Council on Hemispheric Affairs report noted that “he oversaw the gunning down of unarmed pro-Aristide Lavalas demonstrators by his own men, even … planting weapons on the innocent victims’ corpses.” Thousands were killed in political violence after the overthrow of Aristide.

Even before the 2004 coup Charles was close to the country’s oligarchs. He reportedly participated in a July 2003 meeting organized by leading sweatshop owner and opposition figure, André Apaid, where he tried to bribe “several Lavalas street leaders in Cité Soleil” to join the opposition. In “Loyal to Washington, New Police Chief Léon Charles Specializes in Counter-Insurgency Intelligence Gathering and Repression” Haiti Liberté editor Kim Ives writes, “under Léon Charles in 2004 and 2005, the Haitian police became a virtual private army of Haiti’s bourgeoisie, which provided officers with weapons and money.”

Charles oversaw the reincorporation of hundreds of human rights abusing former soldiers into the police force. At the time US officials privately reported, according to cables released by WikiLeaks, “Charles was unwilling or unable to discipline or arrest officers that everybody knows are corrupt and colluding with the kidnappers.”

Amidst significant criticism of his appointment, ambassador Savage met Charles. Even if one questions whether the meeting with Charles was designed to bolster a police force that’s maintaining a dictatorship, why exactly is Canada’s ambassador in Haiti meeting the head of the police? Does Guatemala’s ambassador in Ottawa meet the head of the RCMP?

Unfortunately the answer to why a Canadian ambassador would meet with the head of Haiti’s police is obvious.

Much to the delight of Haiti’s über class-conscious elite, Ottawa took the lead in strengthening the repressive arm of the Haitian state after the 2004 coup. Since then Canada has pushed to increase the size of the Haitian National Police (HNP) from 5,000 to over 15,000.

But the population has identified police as a leading threat to their safety. Haitian prisons are full of poor individuals in pre-trial limbo. In 2017 Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’occupation d’Haïti explained that the UN-US-Canada effort to “develop and professionalize the existing National Police… will actually translate into more repression of the Haitian people … The power to maintain order…is really the power to defend the status quo, the power to keep intact the dominant order…One cannot pretend to ‘reinforce’ the rule of law when the state, by its nature and orientation, exists only to defend without compromise the interests of the dominant class and of a certain political class.”

Canadian officials have previously suggested that strengthening the HNP was good for business. After meeting Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe in 2014 Canada’s International Development Minister, Christian Paradis, linked strengthening the HNP to “attracting private investment”. Paradis said, “we discussed the priority needs of the country as well as the increased size of the Haitian National Police (PNH), in order to create a climate to attract private investment.”

Through its diplomatic and policing support for Jovenel Moïse, notes the public letter, Canada is “propping up a repressive and corrupt dictatorship in Haiti.” More than that, it is supporting a police force (with the emphasis on force) that is imposing an extremely inequitable economic order.

Is this how Canadians want their “aid” dollars used?

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. The film is available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

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Haitian official stashes wealth in Montréal

Senator Rony Célestin & new $4,25 million Montreal mansion

Recent media reports of a Haitian official stashing wealth in Montréal property ignore a key element of the story: Canada’s contribution to enabling Haitian corruption.

As a neo-Duvalierist regime becomes ever more dictatorial it’s also worth revisiting Canada’s history in facilitating fraud and money laundering in the hemisphere’s most impoverished nation.

Recently La Presse reported that the wife of a governing party senator, who works at the Haitian consulate in Montréal purchased a mansion in Laval. The story reported, “as the political crisis bogs down in Haiti, the wife of a senator belonging to the party of the contested president, Jovenel Moïse, has just bought a sumptuous $ 4.25 million villa in Laval, attracting a flood of criticism from Montreal to Port-au-Prince. The new property was paid off in full in one fell swoop, without a mortgage, and without their other house being sold, according to the Land Registry.” Two follow-up Journal de Montréal stories found that Senator Rony Célestin and his spouse, Marie-Louisa Célestin, spent $2 million more recently on property and businesses in the Montréal area.

La Presse’s Vincent Larouche should be praised for covering a story that had been circulating in Montréal’s Haitian community for days. But, a lot of important context is missing from the story, as Larouche must know. (15 years ago, Larouche wrote a nice review of my co-authored book on Canada’s role in the 2004 coup when he was with left-wing L’autre Journal). Senator Célestin was implicated in the 2019 killing of journalist Néhémie Joseph and threats targeting the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Unit. More broadly, Célestin’s political party was founded by corrupt and violent Duvalierist Michel Martelly.

But the broader Canadian angle is the most important omission. On Facebook, activist Jean “Jafrikayiti” Saint-Vil explained: “The PHTK regime headed by Michel Martelly and his self-described ‘bandi legal’ (legal bandits), came to power thanks to fraudulent elections organized, financed and controlled by the foreign occupation force established in Haiti since the coup d’état of February 2004. The planning meeting for the coup d’etat and putting Haiti under trusteeship was organized by Canadian Minister for La Francophonie Denis Paradis. The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti [January 31-February 1, 2003] succeeded in overthrowing the legitimate President as well as 7,000 elected officials from the region’s most impoverished country. The elected officials were replaced by bandits such as ‘Senator’ Rony Célestin of whom this article speaks.”

In a follow-up post Saint-Vil offers an alternative way of understanding Canada’s relationship to political corruption in Haiti. He asks, “Can you imagine [Hells Angels leader] Maurice ‘Mom’ Boucher and [serial killer] Carla Homolka installed as Senators in Canada by fraudulent elections led by a coalition of Haitian, Jamaican, Ethiopian diplomats in Ottawa?”

Few Canadians would be happy with such an outcome. But it’s a troublingly apt description of US, Canadian and French policy in Haiti.

This is not the first time Canada has been implicated in Duvalierist corruption. Before fleeing to the French Riviera, Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier emptied government bank accounts. The Royal Bank of Canada and other Canadian financial institutions assisted the young dictator’s theft. A US auditing firm hired to investigate and track down public funds concluded that Duvalier’s financial advisors “had set up an intricately concealed flow of money through a bevy of banks and accounts, most of them Canadian.”

The Royal Bank of Canada branch in Haiti assisted Duvalier. So did a Toronto branch of the bank. In Money on the Run: Canada and How the World’s Dirty Profits Are Laundered, Mario Possamai details Duvalier’s turn to Canadian institutions when Swiss banks froze Baby Doc’s accounts. At a Royal Bank branch in Toronto his attorneys converted $41.8 million in Canadian treasury bills, a highly secretive and respected form of money. Once converted, the Duvaliers’ assets could no longer be scrutinized.

In Canada: A New Tax Haven: How the Country That Shaped Caribbean Tax Havens Is Becoming One Itself Alain Deneault summarizes: “The dictator’s money was moved from Canada to Jersey [tax haven] where it was received by the Royal Trust Bank, a subsidiary of Canada’s Royal Trust Company. The deposit was made to an account that was part of a larger account held by the Manufacturers Hanover Bank of Canada, a financial institution with its headquarters in Toronto a few steps away from the Royal Bank of Canada where the whole operation had been set in motion. The operation became more complex with securities being split from their ownership records and further movements between the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank in Jersey, the Royal Bank of Canada in London, the Banque Nationale de Paris, and sundry Swiss institutions.”

Despite guidelines requiring banks to determine customers’ identity, RBC admitted it simply trusted Duvalier’s lawyers. Bank officials later claimed they would have refused the transaction had they known who the beneficiaries were.

This explanation is hard to believe. The only foreign bank in the country for a number of years, the Royal Bank financed projects by the Duvalier regime. Amidst the uprising against Jean-Claude Duvalier, Royal’s senior account manager in Port au Prince, Yves Bourjolly, joined a long list of prominent businessmen who signed a statement expressing “confidence in the desire of the government for peace, dialogue and democratization … at a time when order and security appear to be threatened.”

Over the years Canada has empowered many other corrupt and violent politicians in Haiti. In response to the Célestin story, intrepid tweeter “Madame Boukman — Justice 4 Haiti” noted, “Justin ‘Blackface’ Trudeau, like those before him, knowingly supports drug traffickers, money-launderers and assassins in Haiti. That is the only way Canadian mining vultures can loot Haiti’s massive gold reserves.”

This about sums it up.

 

On February 28 the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is hosting a discussion of Haiti Betrayed, a powerful indictment of Canada’s role in the 2004 coup and subsequent policy in the country. In the week leading up to the event the film will be available to watch for free for those who register in advance.

 

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Will any MPs criticize Ottawa’s support for dictatorship in Haiti?

The Liberals’ commitment to a neo-Duvalierist dictatorship in Haiti is being tested. Hopefully Black History Month offers opposition parties an opportunity to finally echo growing grassroots criticism of Canadian policy in the hemisphere’s poorest country.

Since Monday a squatter has been occupying the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. On Sunday evening Supreme Court Justice Joseph Mecene Jean-Louis was appointed provisional interim President of Haiti by the opposition parties that say Jovenel Moïse’s mandate is over as the constitution states. But, Moïse has refused to leave, claiming another year on his mandate. He responded by arresting one Supreme Court judge and (unconstitutionally) dismissing three judges as well as sending police to occupy the Supreme Court building.

Moïse has been preparing for this moment for some time. In November he passed a decree criminalizing protests as “terrorism” and another establishing a new intelligence agency while in the summer he instigated a gang alliance to instill fear in the slums. Three months ago Moïse appointed Leon Charles head of the police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 US, France and Canada sponsored coup. At that time Charles publicly referred to a “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector. Thousands were killed in political violence after the overthrow of elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Once again Ottawa appears to be backing Charles and a new war on civilians. A few weeks ago (Jan. 18) Canadian ambassador Stuart Savage met Charles to discuss “reinvigorating the police”. A few weeks earlier Savage met Moïse in another sign of the Liberals’ extensive support for the president.

Moïse has also built up the dreaded military revived by his patron, former president Michel Martelly. On Monday the military released a statement backing Moïse in the constitutional dispute and then proceeded to shoot two journalists at a protest, gravely injuring one.

There’s been push back in Canada to Justin Trudeau’s backing of Moïse’s authoritarianism. On Sunday 40 socially distanced demonstrators attended Solidarité Québec-Haïti’s “Rara” musical rally in Montréal against Canadian policy in Haiti and hundreds participated in its nighttime webinar titled “Non au retour du duvaliérisme soutenu par le Canada en Haïti!” Over the past week more than 300 individuals have emailed new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau (and all MPs) to call on Ottawa to “Stop Supporting the Return of Duvalierism in Haiti!”

On the weekend Le Regroupement des Haïtiens de Montréal contre l’Occupation d’Haïti released a statement declaring “No Canadian government support for the dictatorship in Haiti”. Additionally, the Concertation Pour Haïti, which includes Quebec’s major labour unions and a number of government-funded NGOs, demanded Canada “cease all support” for Moïse’s government, “which is increasingly criticized and denounced for its involvement in massacres and violence aimed at establishing a climate of terror, at destroying the opposition and at preventing the emergence of a real alternative.” The Concertation statement added that Ottawa should “cease all forms of support for the illegitimate electoral process and for the constitutional reform project that the authorities want to put in place, a process that does not respect the standards of independence required to establish the legitimacy of a government. The presidency, having failed to organize legislative elections provided for by the Constitution, now governs by decree, holding all the powers on its own.”

In the US Senior Senator Patrick Leahy and seven congresspeople called on the Biden administration to back a transition government. The congresspeople’s statement last week noted, “we feel it is essential that the United States unambiguously reject any attempt by President Moïse to retain power.”

In December the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward, sent a strongly worded letter to the PM critical of Canadian support for Moïse while earlier David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig, George Elliot Clark and 150 others signed an open letter “calling on the Canadian government to stop backing a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president.” These statements followed on from multiple disruptions by Solidarité Québec-Haïti of ministers, including an occupation of Trudeau’s election office, over the government’s support for Moïse.

But, where are the opposition parties whose job it is to question and oppose government policy? With the exception of Bloc Québécois MP Mario Beaulieu – who sponsored a parliamentary petition critical of “the ‘Core Group’ that allegedly brought to power the governments of Martelly and Moïse, who have been accused of corruption and repression” – the silence has been deafening. I couldn’t find any statement from the NDP or Greens. Nor am I aware of left-wing MPs Paul Manly, Leah Gazan, Alexandre Boulerice, Niki Ashton or Matthew Green releasing anything. A number of these MPs have found time to criticize Chinese repression – where Ottawa has little influence – but have stayed silent when Canadian-trained, financed and diplomatically supported police kill Haitian protesters.

Two centuries ago the Haitian Revolution delivered a massive blow to slavery, colonialism and white supremacy. Is it too much to ask that during Black History Month these left-wing MPs (or their staffers) watch Haiti Betrayed or read some of the many articles critical of Canadian policy in Haiti and tweet their opposition to Canada’s role in reviving Duvalierism?

 

Please email new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau to call on Ottawa to stop supporting president Jovenel Moïse who is reviving the spectre of the brutal Duvalier dictatorship.

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Canada backs revival of Duvalierism in Haiti

 

 

Jean-Claude Duvalier’s son Nicolas with President Jovenel Moïse

The ghosts of dictators “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier still haunt Haiti. Canada seems willing to support a return of their methods in the Caribbean nation.

Sunday will be bittersweet for many Haitians. February 7 is usually a day to commemorate the defeat of the Duvalier dictatorship, but this year the date portends the revival of Duvalierism.

After a multi month popular revolt the three decade-long Duvalier dictatorship fell on February 7, 1986. “President for life” Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier, who took over from his father at 19, was chased out of the country after 15 years.

Thirty-five years to the day Baby Doc fell a Duvalierist president who should be leaving office is extending his term against the wishes of most Haitians and constitutional experts. In his time in office Jovenel Moïse has restored many aspects of the brutal regime. He suppressed popular protests and instigated a gang alliance to instill fear in the slums. He has ruled by decree and criminalized protests as “terrorism”. Shortly after parliament was disbanded because Moïse failed to hold elections, the president selected individuals to rewrite the constitution in flagrant violation of the law. In November Moïse unilaterally decreed the creation of a new National Intelligence Agency with anonymous, legally untouchable, officers who, notes Kim Ives, “have the power not just to spy and infiltrate but to arrest anybody engaged in ‘subversive’ acts (Article 29) or threatening ‘state security’ i.e. the power of President Jovenel Moïse.” The agency may become analogous to Duvalier’s feared Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (Ton Ton Macoutes).

Moïse is the hand-picked successor of Michel Martelly. A supporter of the 1991 and 2004 coups against elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Martelly was a member of the Ton Ton Macoutes. As president, Martelly surrounded himself with former Duvalierists and death squad leaders who’d been arrested for rape, murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking. When Jean-Claude Duvalier returned to Haiti after 25 years, Martelly told the New York Times no one wanted him prosecuted except for “certain institutions and governments” abroad.

In fact Martelly was put in put in place by Washington and Ottawa not long after the deadly 2010 earthquake. In the 2010 election Ottawa intervened to bring far-right president Martelly to power (with about 16 per cent of the votes, since the election was largely boycotted). Canada put up $6 million for elections that excluded Fanmi Lavalas from participating. After the first round, Canadian representatives on an Organization of American States mission helped force the candidate the electoral council had in second place, Jude Celestin, out of the runoff.

Ottawa backed Martelly diplomatically and financially throughout his presidency, including when he sought to ensure arelatively obscure businessman replaced him. Since then, Canada has provided almost unquestioned support for Moïse. Canada has ploughed tens of millions of dollars into the Haitian police and prison system in recent years. They promoted a police force that violently repressed anti-Moïse protests.

It may be hard to imagine that Ottawa would promote the revival of such a notorious dictatorship. But it shouldn’t. Ottawa enabled a young Jean-Claude to take over after François Duvalier died. Canada was among the leading financial contributors to Haiti throughout Baby Doc’s 15-year rule. The aid supported the dictatorship. In “Canadian Development Assistance to Haiti: An Independent Study”, a 1984 report by the semi-official North South Institute, Edward Philip English writes: “It would be naive to pretend that this aid does not contribute to the support of the existing regime, at least in the short-run. It helps to legitimize the regime in the eyes of Haitians by demonstrating international approval and it generates projects and jobs, which the regime is careful to associate with itself as much as possible.”

English adds, “CIDA has placed Canadian advisors as ‘experts’ in several Haitian ministries.” In Spy Wars David Stafford and Jack Granatstein describe one of the individuals leading the CIDA program: “[Hugh] Hambleton lived in true grandeur in the capital, Port-au-Prince, working closely with officials of the notoriously corrupt and brutal government of its dictator, ‘Baby Doc’ Jean-Claude Duvalier.” Canadian officials even influenced who Baby Doc appointed finance minister. Three days before Baby Doc fled, Québec Premier Robert Bourassa refused to comment on whether Prime Minister Brian Mulroney should seek the dictator for life’s exclusion from an upcoming summit of the Francophonie.

Ottawa was even more openly supportive of maintaining ‘Duvalierism without Duvalier’ after the young dictator fell. In the four years after Duvalier fled Canada provided significant assistance to a series of military lead regimes. In November 1986 External Minister Monique Landry visited Haiti to meet government head General Henri Namphy. Canada announced $80 million in assistance over five years and Landry also invited Namphy to the Summit of la Francophonie in Quebec City the next year. As the violent, anti-democratic, nature of the military regime became undeniable Ottawa resisted shifting gears. In the face of significant criticism from the Haitian community and Québec left, Ottawa largely maintained its various forms of support to the military regimes.

Thirty-five years later not much has changed. After forcing Jean-Claude out Haitians struggling for a more just and democratic society face a similar predicament. They not only have to contend with the power of their own ruling elite but are also up against Canada and the US.

Canadians of conscience should support those mobilizing in Haiti today against creeping Duvalierism. It is the least we can do to make up for the shameful role this country has played in that impoverished nation.

 

Please email new Foreign Minister Marc Garneau to call on Ottawa to stop supporting president Jovenel Moïse who is reviving the spectre of the brutal Duvalier dictatorship.

 

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Canada supports Unconstitutional Haitian Leader as it seeks to overthrow Venezuela’s President

Trudeau & Jovenel Moïse

Add this to the “you can’t make this stuff up” file: Canada’s foreign minister recently met his Haitian counterpart, who is part of a de facto administration illegally rewriting the constitution, to discuss Venezuela’s supposed democracy deficiency. Apparently, Ottawa wants a Haitian regime extending its term and criminalizing protest to maintain its support for Juan Guaidó as “constitutional” president of Venezuela.

Last week foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke with his Haitian counterpart Claude Joseph. According to Champagne’s tweet about the conversation, they discussed COVID-19, Haiti’s elections and Venezuela. Presumably, Champagne relayed Ottawa’s position concerning Venezuela’s recent National Assembly elections, which delivered a final blow to opposition politician Guaidó’s farcical presidential claims. In August Joseph met his US and Canadian patrons in Washington on the sidelines of an anti-Venezuela Lima Group meeting. In response Haïti Liberté’s Kim Ives noted, “what could be more ironic and ludicrous than Haiti’s President Jovenel Moïse accusing Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro of being ‘illegitimate and dictatorial’ while demanding that he immediately ‘hold free, fair, and transparent general elections’? But that is exactly the position of the Lima Group, a collection of 15 Latin American states and Canada, which Haiti joined in January 2020.”

Joseph is the representative of a prime minister appointed extra-constitutionally. His boss was picked by Moïse after parliament, which needs to endorse a prime minister, expired because the president failed to organize elections. Moïse is ruling by decree and pushing to extend his term by a year to February 7, 2022, against the wishes of most Haitians and constitutional experts.

Canada is essentially supporting Moïse’s bid to extend his mandate. Ottawa is also supporting an election process that most political actors in Haiti reject. In the summer Haiti’s entire nine person electoral council resigned in response to Moïse’s pressure and few believe a fair election is possible under his direction.

Canada is backing the elections and an illegal constitutional rewrite. After the call with Champagne, Joseph tweeted, “I had a fruitful conversation today with my Canadian counterpart François-Philippe Champagne. We discussed, among other things, Canada’s support for constitutional reform and the holding of elections in 2021.”

Moïse is seeking to rewrite the constitution. Soon after parliament was disbanded, he picked individuals to rewrite the constitution in flagrant violation of the law. Moïse appointed former Supreme Court justice Boniface Alexandre to head the constitutional rewrite. Alexandre was made figurehead “President” after the US, France and Canada overthrew elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. In another throwback to a period that saw thousands killed in political violence, Moïse recently made Léon Charles head of police. The former military man oversaw the police in the 17 months after the 2004 coup with Charles publicly referring to the “war” the police waged against the pro-democracy sector.

In another regressive throwback, Moïse unilaterally decreed the creation of a new National Intelligence Agency at the end of November. Kim Ives explains, “this secret agency’s completely anonymous officers (Article 43) will have false identities (Article 44), carry guns (Article 51), be legally untouchable (Article 49), and have the power not just to spy and infiltrate but to arrest anybody engaged in ‘subversive’ acts (Article 29) or threatening ‘state security’ i.e. the power of President Jovenel Moïse.” The new agency appears analogous to the Duvalier dictatorship’s Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale (Ton Ton Macoutes) or the Service d’Intelligence National the CIA created after Baby Doc fled in 1986. Supposed to fight the cocaine trade, SIN members were involved in hundreds of murders in subsequent years.

Even most of Moïse’s foreign patrons have nominally distanced themselves from the new intelligence agency, which reach beyond the constitutional powers of the president. The Core Group, a US and Canada led alliance of foreign ambassadors that heavily influences Haitian affairs, released a statement critical of Moïse’s intelligence agency decree. (But, I could not find a mention of the Core Group statement on either the Canadian ambassador or Canada in Haiti Twitter accounts.)

Alongside the intelligence agency announcement, Moïse decreed new legislation “for strengthening public security”. It includes massive fines and 50-year jail sentences for individuals convicted of “terrorism” related charges, which include the common protest tactic of blockading roads.

As it seeks to overthrow Nicolás Maduro for purported human rights violations and democratic deficiencies, the Trudeau government has endorsed Moïse’s repressive measures. After a meeting with the president, Canada’s ambassador Stuart Savage tweeted on December 10: “Important discussion with Jovenel Moïse on this International Human Rights Day on the subject of democratic renewal, rule of law and food security.” Savage failed to criticize Moïse’s bid to extend his term, rewrite the constitution, establish an intelligence agency or label road blockades “terrorism”.

Even before these recent unconstitutional measures, partnering with Moïse to demand Maduro follow Canada’s interpretation of the Venezuelan constitution was laughable. Moïse is the hand-picked successor of Michel Martellywho the US, Canada and Organization of American States inserted into the presidency after the horrific 2010 earthquake. A relatively obscure businessman who had never held public office, Moïse benefited from two million dollars in public funds (ironically stolen from Venezuelan assistance) funneled his way by the Martelly administration. According to official figures, Moïse received 595,000 votes — just 9.6 percent of registered voters in the 2016 election. (For his part, Maduro received the support of 27% of registered voters in the May 2018 presidential election.)

Moïse faced an unprecedented popular uprising against his presidency between July 2018 and late 2019. The country’s urban areas were paralyzed by a handful of general strikes, including one that largely shuttered Port-au-Prince for a month. The only reason the unpopular president is still in office is because of diplomatic, financial and policing support from Ottawa and Washington.

Shining a light on Canadian policy towards Haiti makes clear that its bid to replace Maduro as President of Venezuela is not about democracy. Ottawa is completely comfortable with an undemocratic government in Haiti.

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Time to refocus from Hong Kong to Haiti

For those who support a truly just foreign policy comparing Canadian politicians’ reactions to protests in Hong Kong and the slightly more populous Haiti is instructive. It reveals the extent to which this country’s politicians are forced to align with the US Empire.

Despite hundreds of thousands of Canadians having close ties with both Haiti and Hong Kong, only protests in the latter seem to be of concern to politicians.

Recently NDP MP Niki Ashton and Green MP Paul Manly were attacked ferociously in Parliament and the dominant media for participating in a webinar titled “Free Meng Wanzhou”. During the hullabaloo about an event focused on Canada’s arrest of the Huawei CFO, Manly — who courageously participated in the webinar, even if his framing of the issue left much to be desired — and Ashton — who sent a statement to be read at the event but responded strongly to the backlash in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press — felt the need to mention Hong Kong. Both the NDP (“Canada must do more to help the people of Hong Kong”) and Greens (“Echoes of Tiananmen Square: Greens condemn China’s latest assault on democracy in Hong Kong”) have released multiple statements critical of Beijing’s policy in Hong Kong since protests erupted there nearly two years ago. So have the Liberals, Bloc Québecois and Conservatives.

In March 2019 protests began against an extradition accord between Hong Kong and mainland China. Hong Kongers largely opposed the legislation, which was eventually withdrawn. Many remain hostile to Beijing, which later introduced an anti-sedition law to staunch dissent. Some protests turned violent. One bystander was killed by protesters. A journalist lost an eye after being shot by the police. Hundreds more were hurt and thousands arrested.

During more or less the same period Haiti was the site of far more intense protests and state repression. In July 2018 an uprising began against a reduction in subsidies for fuel (mostly for cooking), which morphed into a broad call for a corrupt and illegitimate president Jovenel Moïse to go. The uprising included a half dozen general strikes, including one that shuttered Port-au-Prince for a month. An October 2019 poll found that 81% of Haitians wanted the Canadian-backed president to leave.

Dozens, probably over 100, were killed by police and government agents. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other western establishment human rights organizations have all documented dozens of police killings in Haiti. More recently, Moïse has ruled by decree, sought to extend his term and to rewrite the constitution. Yet, I couldn’t find a single statement by the NDP or Greens, let alone the Liberals or Conservatives, expressing support for the pro-democracy movement in Haiti.

Even an equal number of statements from a Canadian political party would be less than adequate. Not only were the protests and repression far more significant in Haiti, the impact of a Canadian politician’s intervention is far more meaningful. Unlike in Hong Kong, the police responsible for the repression in Haiti were trained, financed and backed by Canada. The Trudeau government even gave $12.5 million to the Haitian police under its Feminist International Assistance Policy! More broadly, the unpopular president received decisive diplomatic and financial support from Ottawa and Washington. In fact, a shift in Canada/US policy towards Moïse would have led to his ouster. On the other hand, a harder Canada/US policy towards Hong Kong would have led to well … not much.

The imperial and class dynamics of Haiti are fairly straightforward. For a century Washington has consistently subjugated the country in which a small number of, largely light-skinned, families dominate economic affairs. During the past 20 years Canada has staunchly supported US efforts to undermine Haitian democracy and sovereignty.

Hong Kong’s politics are substantially more complicated. Even if one believes that most in Hong Kong are leery of Beijing’s growing influence — as I do — the end of British rule and reintegration of Hong Kong into China represents a break from a regrettable colonial legacy. Even if you take an entirely unfavorable view towards Beijing’s role there, progressive Canadians shouldn’t focus more on criticizing Chinese policy in Hong Kong than Canadian policy in Haiti.

Echoing an open letter signed by David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Linda McQuaig and 150 others and the demands of those who occupied Justin Trudeau’s office last year, the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Chris Aylward, recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau critical of Canadian support for Moïse. It notes, “Canada must reassess its financial and political support to the Jovenel Moïse government, including police training, until independent investigations are conducted into government corruption in the Petrocaribe scandal and ongoing state collusion with criminal gangs.” The NDP, Greens and others should echo the call.

To prove they are more concerned with genuinely promoting human rights – rather than aligning with the rulers of ‘our’ empire – I humbly suggest that progressive Canadians hold off on criticizing Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong until they have produced an equal number of statements critical of Canada’s role in Haiti.

 

 

To learn more about Canada’s role in Haiti tune into this webinar Sunday on “Canada’s Imperialist Adventures in Haiti

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