[News] Why Aristide Should be Allowed to Return to Haiti

Anti-Imperialist News 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


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.

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