[News] The Impediment to Democracy in Haiti

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 14 20:33:18 EDT 2012

March 14, 2012

Washington Continues to Trample on Haitians Democratic Rights

The Impediment to Democracy in Haiti


When the “international community” blames Haiti 
for its political troubles, the underlying 
concept is usually that Haitians are not ready 
for democracy.  But it is Washington that is not ready for democracy in Haiti.

Haitians have been ready for democracy for many 
decades. They were ready when they got massacred 
at polling stations, trying to vote in 1987 after 
the fall of the murderous Duvalier dictatorship. 
They were ready again in 1990, when they voted by 
a two-thirds majority for the leftist Catholic 
priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, only to see him 
overthrown seven months later in a military 
coup.  The coup was later found to be organized 
by people paid by the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

Haitians were ready again in 2000 when they 
elected Aristide a second time with 90 percent of 
the vote. But Washington would not accept the 
results of that election either, so it organized 
a cut-off of international aid to the government 
and poured millions into the opposition.  As Paul 
Farmer (Bill Clinton’s Deputy Special Envoy of 
the UN to Haiti) testified to the U.S. Congress in 2010:

“Choking off assistance for development and for 
the provision of basic services also choked off 
oxygen to the government, which was the intention 
all along: to dislodge the Aristide administration.”

In 2004 Aristide was whisked away in one of those 
planes that the U.S. government has used for 
“extraordinary rendition,” and taken 
involuntarily to the Central African Republic.

Eight years later, the U.S. government is still 
not ready for democracy in Haiti.  On March 3rd 
the Miami Herald reported that “Former Haiti 
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is once again in 
the cross hairs of the U.S. government, this time 
for allegedly pocketing millions of dollars in 
bribes from Miami businesses . . .”

Everything about these latest allegations smells 
foul, like the outhouses that haven’t been 
cleaned for months in some of the camps where 
hundreds of thousands of Haitians displaced by the earthquake still languish.

First, the source:  Patrick Joseph was the head 
of Haiti’s national telecommunications company 
(Teleco) until he was fired by then President 
Aristide for corruption in 2003. Fast forward 
nine years:  last month Joseph negotiates a 
guilty plea with U.S. federal prosecutors for 
accepting $2.3 million in bribes from U.S. 
companies.  Facing a long prison sentence, he 
tells them that about half the money was for 
President Aristide.  How convenient. That should 
knock a few years off his prison time.

Then there is the timing of the new charges.  The 
first indictment in this case, in 2009, doesn’t 
mention Aristide or anyone who could be him.  The 
same is true for the second indictment, in July 
2011, which added Patrick Joseph.  But the 
January 2012 indictment mentions an unidentified 
“Official B” of the Haitian government;  and now 
we are told that  “Official B,” according to one 
of the defense attorneys in the case, is 
Aristide.  How does he know?  Obviously the U.S. 
Justice Department, which has no comment on the 
matter, told him that, so he could tell the press.

Why now?  Aristide has been very quiet and has 
stayed out of politics since his return to Haiti 
a year ago. He has focused on the University of 
the Aristide Foundation; closed since the 2004 
coup, the medical school was able to reopen this 
past fall. But he still has the biggest base of 
any political figure in the country, the only 
really popular, democratically elected leader 
that Haiti has ever had.  His party, Fanmi 
Lavalas, is still the most popular political 
party, and although it was wracked by political 
divisions while Aristide was in exile, it has 
reportedly become more unified since he has 
returned.  Demonstrations on the eight-year 
anniversary of the 2004 coup – two weeks ago – drew thousands into the streets.

“The display of popular support for Aristide is 
very worrisome to the U.S., so indicting Titid 
[Aristide] before a potential comeback makes 
perfect sense,” Robert Fatton, a Haiti expert at 
the University of Virginia, told the Miami Herald.

It makes even more sense if you look at what the 
U.S. government – in collaboration with UN 
officials and other allies ­ has been doing to 
Aristide since they organized the 2004 coup 
against him.  A classified U.S. document, 
unearthed by Wikileaks, reports on a meeting 
between the then top-ranking State Department 
official for the hemisphere (Thomas Shannon), and 
the head of the UN military mission in Haiti 
(Edumnd Mulet), in 2006. It describes their 
efforts to keep Aristide in exile in South 
Africa. Mulet also “urged U.S. legal action 
against Aristide to prevent the former president 
from gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti.”

This latest episode is part of the “legal action” 
referred to in the document.  So, too, were 
Washington’s attempts to go after Aristide with 
trumped-up charges of involvement in drug 
trafficking in 2004. These were also reliant on a 
convicted felon, a drug dealer facing a long 
prison sentence.  That case went nowhere, for the 
same reasons that this one will go nowhere: no evidence.

In a last-ditch, illegal effort to prevent 
Aristide from returning to his home country last 
year, President Obama called South African 
President Jacob Zuma to persuade him to keep 
Aristide there.  He also lobbied UN Secretary 
General Ban Ki-Moon, but to no avail.

The U.S. government has spent millions and 
possibly tens of millions of dollars trying to 
railroad Haiti’s former president.  On behalf of 
U.S. taxpayers, we could use a Congressional 
inquiry into this abuse of our tax dollars. It 
also erodes what we have left of an independent 
judiciary to have federal courts in Florida used 
as an instrument of foreign policy skullduggery.

In Haiti, these attempts to deny people 
democratic rights tend to lead to 
instability.  Imagine trying to tell Brazilians 
that former president Lula da Silva could not 
participate in politics in Brazil, and 
threatening to prosecute him in U.S. courts.  Or 
doing the same to Evo Morales in Bolivia, or 
Rafael Correa, in Ecuador.  It would never be tolerated.

Yet because Haitians are poor and black, 
Washington thinks it can get away trampling on 
their democratic rights.  But too many Haitians 
have fought and died for these rights, and they 
will not give them up so easily.

Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of 
the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He 
is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

This article originally appeared in The Guardian.

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