[News] Why Aristide Should be Allowed to Return to Haiti
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 20 14:45:07 EST 2011
January 20, 2011
The Degeneration of US Foreign Policy
Why Aristide Should be Allowed to Return to Haiti
By MARK WEISBROT
Haiti's infamous dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier,
returned to his country this week, while the
country's first elected President, Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, is kept out. These two facts really say
everything about Washington's policy toward Haiti
and our government's respect for democracy in that country and in the region.
Asked about the return of Duvalier, who had
thousands tortured and murdered under his
dictatorship, State Department spokesman P.J.
Crowley said, "this is a matter for the
Government of Haiti and the people of Haiti."
But when asked about Aristide returning, he said,
"Haiti does not need, at this point, any more burdens."
Wikileaks cables released in the last week show
that Washington put pressure on Brazil, which is
heading up the United Nations forces that are
occupying Haiti, not only to keep Aristide out of
the country but to keep him from having any political influence from exile.
Who is this dangerous man that Washington fears
so much? Here is how the Washington Post
editorial board described Aristide's first term, back in 1996:
"Elected overwhelmingly, ousted by a coup and
reseated by American troops, the populist
ex-priest abolished the repressive army,
virtually ended human rights violations, mostly
kept his promise to promote reconciliation, ran
ragged but fair elections and, though he had the
popular support to ignore it, honored his pledge
to step down at the end of his term. A formidable record."
That was before the Post editorial board became
neo-conservative, and most importantly before
Washington launched its campaign to oust Aristide
a second time. Together with its international
allies, especially Canada and France, they cut
off almost all foreign aid to the country after
2000. At the same time they poured in tens of
millions of dollars to build up an opposition
movement. With control over most of the media,
and the help of armed thugs, convicted murderers,
and former death squad leaders, the broken and
impoverished government was toppled in February of 2004.
The main difference between the 2004 coup and the
1991 coup that overthrew Aristide was that in
1991, President George H. W. Bush did not
recognize the coup government, even though the
people that installed it were paid by the CIA.
They had to at least pretend they were not
involved. But in 2004, under the second President
Bush, they didn't even bother to hide it. This
represents a degeneration of U.S. foreign policy.
I recently had a conversation with a long-time
U.S. Congressman in which I pointed out
Washington overthrew Aristide the second time, in
2004, because he had abolished the Haitian army. "That's right," he said.
Washington is a cynical place. The most important
human rights organizations in this town did not
do very much when thousands of Haitians were
killed after the 2004 coup, and officials of the
constitutional government were thrown in jail.
And it does not seem to be an issue to them, or
to the main "pro-democracy" organizations, here
that Haiti's prominent former president is kept
out of the country in violation of Haiti's
constitution and international law. Nor that his
party, still the most popular in the country, is
banned from participating in elections. The major
media generally follows their lead.
Now we have elections in Haiti where the
Organization of American States, at the behest of
Washington, is trying to choose for Haiti who
will compete in the second round of its
presidential election. That is Washington's idea of democracy.
But Aristide is still alive, in forced exile in
South Africa. He remains the most popular
political leader in Haiti, and seven years is not
enough to erase his memory from Haitian
consciousness. Sooner or later, he will be back.
Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of
the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He
is co-author, with Dean Baker, of
Security: the Phony Crisis.
This column was originally published by Bellingham Herald.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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