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Crisis In Haiti
U.S. Rep M. Waters: Aristide Says 'I Was Kidnapped'
Another blow to democracy in homeland, local Haitians lament "Aristide was kidnapped!" they screamed, draped in Haitian flags. "Election yes, coup no," said the placards they raised in defiance.
Haiti's Aristide says he was abducted
Aristide: 'White American Military' Kidnapped Me
Aristide: 'U.S. Forced Me to Leave Haiti'
Aristide accuses U.S. of forcing his ouster
Haiti: return to savagery
by Raffique Shah
Few people bother to probe beneath the facade of what is both a popular uprising against a permanent state of poverty and at the same time yet another grab for power by some of the most despicable excuses-for-human-beings that have haunted the Caribbean. From all appearances, Aristide has failed his people, more so as he was all but revered by them, seen as a saviour-in-cassock at a time when the country was just emerging from almost a century of barbaric rule. In fact, his three terms in office have yielded little more comfort to poverty-stricken masses there than they enjoyed under the string of dictators who preceded him.
There were valid reasons for his failure to deliver. But one cannot assuage the pangs of hunger, the sub-human conditions the mass of Haitians are forced to survive under, on promises. Indeed, Aristide compounded his sins of omission by all but stealing an election in 2000, according to international observers who witnessed the poll. And to top off his failures, having disbanded the organised gang of thugs that was deemed Haiti's army, he resorted to creating his own brand of thugs who acted as his "enforcers", mercenaries little different to the uniformed ones that were banished in 1994.
But in examining Aristide's failure to rid Haiti of poverty and repression, one cannot help but examine the main reasons behind this descent into Hell. I shall try to trace this in reverse chronology. Bear in mind that following his massive victory in Haiti's first democratic elections in 1991, he was deposed by the remnants of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier's brutal army within seven months. He fled to the USA as General Raoul Cedras assumed control of the country and re-imposed the savagery that characterised the dictatorships of the past. It took four years of international sanctions and the threat of a US invasion for Cedras and his fellow-butchers to succumb. Aristide was reinstated with the help of a US-led coalition that included Caricom forces (among them members of the T&T Regiment).
His return to power came with a high price tag, though, that would eventually lead to him resorting to human rights abuses, and ultimately to this sorry pass. Because the US insisted that he institute strict IMF measures that were bound to wreak economic havoc the way they have elsewhere in the world. In 1994 Haiti still had some form of agriculture in quality coffee, cocoa and sugar cane (for export), as well as corn, rice and sorghum for domestic consumption. Forced into globalisation by his "sponsors", Aristide lowered import tariffs, opening the way for subsidised US-produced rice and killing the local industry. The US was so intent on exploiting this basket-case market, it withheld some US$30 million in aid because the Haitian authorities dared to impose fines on American rice dealers who were found evading customs duties.
With such draconian measures adopted by the world's richest nation against the poorest, what could one expect to happen to Haiti? Hungry bellies neither know nor care about the IMF. Poor people want only deliverance from their misery, and if they can no longer produce the few crops that brought them relief from hunger, they do not see as far as Washington or Paris. They see Aristide. He becomes the problem. And he realises he is trapped in a vice from which he cannot escape, so he resorts to repression. Even so, we must be fair to him. He knew that the alternative to his kind of democracy lay with men far more dangerous to the country than he.
And just who are these "rebels"? Start with Louis Chamblain, a former sergeant who was accused of atrocities during the years of military rule. He fled to the neighbouring Dominican Republic when Aristide was reinstated in 1994. His sidekick Emmanuel "Toto" Constant, a CIA operative who belonged to a group known as FRAPH. Its members tortured and murdered opponents of the 1991-94 military regime. Add to this vile brew Guy Phillippe, a hand-picked officer who was trained by US Special Forces: he was specially trained in methods of torture and murder and among his victims was the then Justice Minister, Guy Malary. Also, remember this name: Andre Apaid. He is one so-called leader of the "democratic front" who happens to be a US citizen and the owner of sweatshops in Haiti.
The masses in Haiti who have genuine reasons for opposing Aristide are caught in this web among deadly spiders of an era we all thought had died with "Papa" and "Baby" Doc. Caricom leaders probably understand this vicious undercurrent that lies beneath the surface of the "popular" uprising, hence their bid to get an agreement for him to remain in power and give in to some demands of the opposition. The US and France are saying Aristide must resign pronto. They will shed no tears if he is tortured and killed. Because they know the end result will be a country in chaos, but one that does not have the capability to harm them-except for illegal immigrants attempting to reach America. For them, it's another case of "Black people biting the dust". Or maybe eating dirt and dying of Aids like flies. No bother.
But for those who understand the significance of what Haiti came to mean in the 18th century, when Toussaint and Dessalines and Christophe defeated Napoleon's best forces, we cry for that country, for its people. She paid a high price for that bold battle for independence in 1791. The US and France refused to recognise her until she agreed to pay reparations (to former slave owners!) of 150 million francs. Today, they are still extracting revenge and blood from a barren land that has been sucked dry by a despotic ruling class and its natural allies in Washington and Paris.
Embattled Aristide leaves Haiti
¤ Haiti 2004: Another US-Backed Coup
¤ Aristide Bows to Pressure, Leaves Haiti
¤ Bush Increases Push for Haitian to Leave Office
¤ While U.S. Tries to Mask it's Role - Haitians resist
¤ The Haiti Boomerang
¤ Bush accused of supporting Haitian rebels
¤ U.S. can end the killing it started in Haiti
¤ US is Arming Anti-Aristide Paramilitaries
¤ ESC: Act on Haiti now!
¤ Haiti's Descent into Gang Warfare
¤ Haiti still enslaved for all its rebellion
¤ Beloved Haiti: A (Counter) Revolutionary Bicentennial
¤ US Double Game in Hait
¤ Haiti-A Call For Global Action
¤ Media vs. Reality in Haiti
Crisis In Haiti
In the past week paramilitary groups in Haiti have continued to burn buildings and attack police stations, while the "opposition" continues to refuse negotiations and call for President Jean-Bertrand's Aristide's resignation, with the support of the US and Canadia n governments.
Meanwhile, the corporate media (and some "alternative media") have continues to ignore numerous aspects of the situation: US financial support of the opposition, previous US involvement in the region (including support of military dictators, the freezing of over $500 million in international aid and loans, and efforts to prevent the raising of the minimum wage). Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and has been used as a source of cheap labour by companies like Disney, Wal-Mart and KMart. Workers are paid as little as 11 cents per hour.
US and Canadian diplomats have placed the blame on Aristide, who has publically declared himself to be willing to negotiate with the opposition. The opposition consists of a collection of political parties supported by US funds, the Haitian media and the Haitian economic elite, whose popular support is estimated at between 8 and 12%.
Haiti has a long history of resistance:
The year 2004 marks 200 years of Haitian independence. In 1791, 400,000 Africans enslaved in Haiti rose up against French colonial rule. Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared Haiti a free nation in 1804, culminating the world's only successful revolution of enslaved people. From the beginning, Haiti found itself isolated and besieged. The United States led a worldwide boycott against Haiti and refused to recognize the new nation until 1864, fearing that its freedom would pose a danger to the U.S. system of slavery. In 1825, the Haitian people were forced to assume a debt to France of 90 million gold francs (equivalent to $21.7 billion today) as "reparations" to their former "owners", in return for diplomatic recognition and trade. To make the first payment, Haiti closed all its public schools in what has been called the hemisphere's first case of structural adjustment.