IFES Latin America Programs
IFES programs or actions in Latin America
Tom Griffin, Attorney and Human Rights Activist, wrote a report for the National Lawyers' Guild, and took part in making a documentary about the coup in Haiti. In an interview, he stated:
- They went down [to Haiti] as part of a USAID package, with a multi-million dollar plan to, basically, fix the judicial system – that was what they operated under. It was really a plan to oust Aristide. The IFES workers I was able to isolate and talk to in confidence, completely take credit for ousting Aristide. They started with this theory that the judicial system was corrupt in Haiti, and that it had to be turned around and cleaned out. From that premise came that if the judicial system was corrupt, Aristide, who is controlling them is most corrupt, and he must go. So, there was no unity in the Haitian judicial bar or in the judiciary, and IFES went out and formulated groups that never existed or united pre-existing groups, gave them sensitization seminars, paid for people to attend, paid for entertainment and catering, and basically built group after group, and then they realized that in order to be successful they had to reach out from beyond the lawyers and judges. They reached out to student groups and business groups to get a bigger economic behind them. They also reached out to human rights groups – which they actually paid off to report human rights atrocities to make Aristide look bad. It just sort of snowballed. They bought journalists, and the IFES associations grew into the Group of 184 that became a solidified opposition against Aristide. What is probably most interesting is that Gerard Latortue, the prime minister, was an IFES member for a couple of years before of the ouster of Aristide last year. The myth that he had been plucked from pool-side on March 1st, the day after the coup, to become prime minister was pretty much debunked – he was in the planning for a couple of years. Bernard Gousse, the justice minister who is in charge of the prisons and the police, was in it for many years. He was a sensitization speaker coming to talk in the US on behalf of IFES.
—Tom Griffin, Interviewed on Flashpoints, February 21, 2005.
- What is so sick and so evil about what is happening in Haiti – if you want to do evil, you can do that very easily. … For a few dollars can buy a human rights organization down there. A few dollars can take an bar association and turn it against its elected president. That is what happened. (Griffin, ibid.)
In an extensive human rights report, Griffin adds:
- The administrators reported that USAID awarded IFES a series of contracts for millions of dollars, often as the sole bidder, and gave IFES substantial logistical assistance in Haiti. The administrators stated that they, and IFES, considered the programs to be an avenue to exposing, and then ending corruption in the Haitian government. They felt that President Aristide was corrupt, and that their job was to nurture civil society institutions that could provide a counterweight to the elected authorities.
The principal focus of IFES’ programs was the Haitian justice system. The justice program began in about 2001 with an initial budget of $3.5 million. Its purpose was, in the words of the administrators, “to advocate for the independence of judges from the executive branch via the formation of a range of coalitions from various societal institutions.” The IFES programs involved many people now prominent in Haitian politics. For example, Minister of Justice Bernard Gousse and his cabinet member Philippe Vixamar were IFES consultants for several years. Among other things, Gousse was a “sensitization” speaker, wrote key reports, spoke at conferences, and played a leading role in the IFES exchange program for lawyers and judges at Tulane University in Louisiana in April 2003, and at seminars in Minnesota and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. See Interview of Justice Cabinet Minister Vixamar, infra. Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and Interim President Boniface Alexandre both participated in IFES justice programs. Latortue, a former UN official and a resident of Boca Raton Florida before becoming Prime Minister, was part of the association that IFES formed to include the Haitian diaspora in the United States. According to the administrators, he led the Haitian Resources Development Foundation (HRDF), a Miami–based group that claims to “initiate and/or support projects and programs aimed at developing economic and cultural resources in Haiti.”
— Thomas M. Griffin, "Haiti Human Rights Investigation: November 11-21, 2004" Center for the Study of Human Rights, Univ. of Miami School of Law. (footnotes excluded) The report has an extensive discussion of IFES's activities, and it is worth reading from page 20 onwards.
An account of IFES participation in the elections in Guyana can be found here