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May 2004 • Vol 4, No. 5 •

Haiti on Our Minds

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

“The little community of Haiti, anchored in the Caribbean Sea, has had her mission in the world, and a mission which the world had such need to learn. She has taught the world the danger of slavery and the value of liberty. In this respect she has been the greatest of all our modern teachers.”

—Frederick Douglass (1893)

“The recent coup d’état in Haiti, where the Americans spirited the president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, out of power and out of his own country, is just the latest event in 200 years of U.S. complicity and support of repression in Haiti.”

During the hard-fought Haitian Revolution, which occurred roughly a decade after the U.S. Revolution, the government of George Washington, which talked about “liberty to all men,” entered the conflict, but not on the side of liberty. The Washington administration authorized the grant of $400,000—a vast sum in the 1800s—not to support the forces of freedom, but to the white planters. They sent money to the French for arms and food to support their resistance to the uprising. America’s secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, writer of the Constitution, did the actual paperwork. When it came to slavery or freedom, the Americans, slave owners themselves, chose slavery to support.

By January 1, 1804, Haitian independence would be declared. For the first time in world history, a slave army bested imperial armies, and freedom resulted.

How did the U.S. respond? Did they welcome Haiti to the brotherhood of free nations? The words of a U.S. congressman, said some 20 years after Haitian independence, stated U.S. policy towards the Black Republic: “Our policy with regards to Hayti (sic) is plain. We never can acknowledge her independence…. The peace and safety of a large part of our Union forbids us even to discuss [it].” So said South Carolina Senator Robert Hayne in 1824.

It wasn’t until 1862, when the Civil War was raging, that the U.S. recognized its nearest free neighbor. They couldn’t recognize it for almost 60 years because they didn’t want Blacks in the U.S. to see a free Black people, as diplomats, and leaders of government, functioning in the U.S. The official U.S. policy was white supremacy.

From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. occupied Haiti, fighting a bitter guerrilla war that left thousands dead. They murdered guerrilla leader Charlemagne Peralte in 1919 and then paraded his nearly naked, chained body to try to stifle the Cacos Rebellion.

They installed and supported the Duvalier regimes and, since the fall of that dictatorship, have actively and secretly supported Duvalierist elements in the army and the government.

Indeed, they trained many of the people who were the most repressive elements in the army and backed the FRAPH, which was an anti-democratic terrorist army in Haiti.

They have always opposed Pere Aristide, for his support of the Lavalas (Creole for “the Flood,” or the masses) movement.

Think of it this way; in the last century, how many times have you ever seen the U.S. support anything in Latin America? How many times have they trained, backed and armed the right-wing militaries? Even torturers, rapists and mass murderers?

Why would Haiti be any different?

The recent expulsion of Aristide opens the door to bring back Duvalierist elements to the fore to “discipline” the riotous, rebellious Haitian people, who’ve never forgotten their revolutionary origins. They want Haiti “stable” to perform as a docile labor force for the bourgeoisie, both in Haiti and the U.S.

The empire, based on dominance, control and fear, cannot countenance the Haitian example of people’s power, of, yes, the barest fraction of “democracy.” Thus, they use various means to achieve the same ends. Thus, the removal, at gunpoint, of Aristide “for the good of the Haitian people.”

Let the Haitian people decide their own government! It isn’t for the U.S. to decide for them.

It’s time to end this empire, for the good of the people of America, and for the good of the people of the world.

We must demand it, and then work for it, to end this reign of madness.

Mumia’s latest book, We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party, will be available soon from South End Press, Cambridge, Mass.

—Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, April 24, 2004





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