US Keep Your Bloody Hands off Haiti!
By the Editors
While we still have much to learn about the Feb. 28th coup in Haiti, we do know that Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the democratically elected president, was kidnapped by U.S. Marines, forced on a plane to the Central African Republic and kept incommunicado for most of the past week. We do know that any semblance of democracy in the Black nation, which rebelled against slavery and France 200 years ago, long before the U.S. Civil War, will not be tolerated by U.S. imperialism. We also learned in horror that President George W. Bush has warned Haitians who try to find asylum in the United States, that they will be intercepted and forcibly returned to Haiti and its armed thugs who have already embarked on street executions of Aristede supporters.
Unfortunately, the Haitians take seriously the words on the Statue of Liberty: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, and therefore try to protect their lives and their families by boarding an un-seaworthy vessel in their desperation to accept this beautiful invitation to the tempest-tossed yearning to be free.
With the enthusiastic backing of Haitis former colonial master, a leader elected with overwhelming popular support has been driven from office by a loose association of convicted human rights abusers, seditious former army officers and pro-American business leaders. The leaders of the world have joined together to crush a democracy in the name of democracy. (Peter Hallward, Londons The Guardian.)
We do know that Aristide himself, in the days before the coup, issued an urgent appeal for international forces from U.N. countries to protect his democratically elected government from the armed thugs marching toward Port-au-Prince.
But the foreign soldiers came to Haiti with instructions diametrically opposed to the defense of the elected government of Haiti. From his exile under the French-controlled Central African Republic, Aristide issued this protest:
In overthrowing me, they have uprooted the trunk of the tree of peace. During the night of the 28th of February, 2004, there was a coup detat. One could say that it was a geo-political kidnapping. I can clearly say that it was terrorism disguised as diplomacy. To conclude, this coup detat and this kidnapping are like two quarters and 50 cents side by side. This was the beginning of Jean-Bertrand Aristides first public statement to the Haitian people reportedly issued a few days after the coup on a smuggled cell phone and translated into English for Pacific News Service and KPFA radio by Haitian-American activists.
Historically, Haiti has played a special role in relation to the United States. Art history scholar LaNitra Walker writes about the interrelationship of the United States and Haiti in a recent piece:
Both countries began as colonies, generating enormous agricultural wealth based on slave labor. When the slaves of San Domingue rose up against Haitis elite in 1791, plantation owners in the American South took notice. They were afraid that they, too, would meet the same fate at the hands of their slaves. The establishment of the Republic of Haiti in 1804 served as a direct threat to slavery in America, proving that blacks were capable of staging successful rebellion. American plantation owners attempted to prevent their slaves from learning about the revolution in Haiti. The news spread quickly, though, confirming for many slaves that their days in bondage were numbered.
The United States did all it could to prevent the example of the liberation struggle for Black self-determination in the Western hemisphere from taking root in the U.S. by occupying Haiti for many years until 1934. But the end of that occupation did not lessen U.S. influence and control through puppet regimes and the U.S.-supported, ruthless repression and terror directed against the Haitian masses.
In The Guardians March 2 edition, Peter Hallward says: Jean-Bertrand Aristide was re-elected president of Haiti in November 2000 with more than 90 percent of the vote. He was elected by people who approved his courageous dissolution, in 1995, of the armed forces that had long terrorized Haiti and had overthrown his first administration. He was elected by people who supported his tentative efforts, made with virtually no resources or revenue, to invest in education and health. He was elected by people who shared his determination, in the face of crippling U.S. opposition, to improve the conditions of the most poorly-paid workers in the western hemisphere.
Hallward answers the bogus attacks on Aristide by the mainstream (read capitalist) media in the United States. But look a little harder at those elections. An exhaustive and convincing report by the International Coalition of Independent Observers concluded that fair and peaceful elections were held in 2000, and by the standard of the presidential elections held in the U.S. that same year they were positively exemplary.
Why then were they characterized as flawed by the Organization of American States (OAS)? It was because, after Aristides Lavalas party had won 16 out of 17 senate seats, the OAS contested the methodology used to calculate the voting percentages. Curiously, neither the U.S. nor the OAS judged this methodology problematic in the run-up to the elections.
In other words, according to Hallward, and many others, the Haitian elections were more democratic than the last U.S. Presidential elections in which Bush was selected by the U.S. Supreme Court after losing the popular vote to Gore. Furthermore, only multi-millionaires are allowed into the real electoral arenathe mass news mediaand that takes money and influence with the capitalist owners of the mass media monopolized by U.S. billionaires and their corporations.
Hallward continues: However, in the wake of the Lavalas victories, it was suddenly important enough to justify driving the country towards economic collapse. Bill Clinton invoked the OAS accusation to justify the crippling economic embargo against Haiti that persists to this day, and which effectively blocks the payment of about $500 million in international aid. And Bush continued the policy of blocking this same aid, a policy, which sent the Haitian economy (already the poorest in the hemisphere) into a downward spiral.
Here you have it. The U.S. (and not just Bush, but Clinton before him) didnt like who the Haitians elected so they institute an economic embargo to try to starve the government into total compliance. When the government tries to maintain some bit of the reforms promised to the masses, the U.S. press vilifies the election process and organizes a propaganda offensive against the government. When the thugs of the previous dictatorships begin to mobilize even a small armed force and march into cities and towards the capital, the U.S. organizes the coup and kidnaps the President. Then, to protect its companies operating in Haiti it sends in the troops to keep order.
Aristide dissolved the Army when he first was elected in 1995. But, in dissolving the repressive terrorists of the Haitian armed forces and failing to set up its own army made up of these poorly paid workersthe Haitian massesthe Haitian government was doomed to fall back into the hands of the representatives of the wealthy foreign companies who freely exploit Haitian labor and resources. Meanwhile, a small portion of what is stolen from Haiti and its suffering masses by U.S. imperialists is handed over as their reward for services performed to the the Ton Ton Macoutes, the FRAPH, and other terrorist organizations of the former Papa Doc and Papa Doc Jr. Duvalier dictatorships.
The main lesson in Haitis current tribulations is that the interests of the U.S. ruling class (and its government) are diametrically opposed to democracy in any form. Aristide was popularly elected, but he took his election as a mandate to try to enact some small measures benefiting the Haitian people. This was completely unacceptable to the ruling class of the U.S. and the elite of Haiti.
Hallward says further, Another, more important, reason for the vilification [of Aristide] is that Aristide never learned to pander unreservedly to foreign commercial interests. He reluctantly accepted a series of severe IMF structural adjustment plans, to the dismay of the working poor, but he refused to acquiesce in the indiscriminate privatization of state resources, and stuck to his guns over wages, education and health. The truth is that a broadly consistent Aristide was never quite prepared to abandon all his principles.
After Aristides ouster by agents of the weak Haitian bourgeoisie in 1991 eight months after he became the Caribbean nations first freely elected president, evidently believing he had no choice, he agreed to the severe austerity measures forced on Haiti by the IMF and by then-President Bush (the First). But the U.S. ruling class doesnt want or accept partial obeisance to U.S. imperialisms commands. They demand the full slave status, as their policy in Afghanistan and Iraq clearly indicates; as their efforts to eliminate the revolutionary government of Cuba shows; as their success in overthrowing Arbenz (Guatemala in 1954); Allende (in Chile in 1973); their Plan Colombia (today); and finally, as they are now attempting to exercise a virtual military dictatorship over the peoples of the entire world!
The struggle for self-determination by the super-exploited and oppressed masses everywhere is intimately connected to the struggle to remove the U.S. billionaire ruling class from power right here at home. In its place, we need to establish a genuine government of the exploited and oppressed masses of working people that truly represents their class interests and the interests of the entire human race!