[News] The Impediment to Democracy in Haiti
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
by MARK WEISBROT
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 Clintons 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 havent 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 Haitis 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, doesnt
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
Washingtons 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 Haitis 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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