Inside recent Haiti History
(Editor's note: for the past 2 decades Patrick has been a one-man foreign aide program for Central America and Haiti. He has taken bus loads of medical supplies and tools to these countries. He knows the territory from firsthand experience with the people.)
By Patrick Young
In 1994, President Clinton sent in the Marines to restore the elected president of Haiti. It was a simple act of decency that earned him no votes. It was about as popular as sending troops to Somalia, and was quickly forgotten by most Americans.
Last week, in a move of staggering hypocrisy, President Bush sent in the marines to help a gang of ex death squad leaders, drug dealers and cashiered military men retake control. It does sounds unbelievable, but even the generally sympathetic US press had to point out this glaring fact.
Guy Philippe, the so called "rebels" leader, is actually a mutinous former police chief who fled Haiti in 2000 after he and his cronies attempted to overthrow the legal government. He and now feuding partner Louis Chamblain, (a convicted murderer and death squad leader) the leaders of this phony "rebellion", have been on the payroll of drug traffickers for years. Interestingly enough, Philippe also trained with the US Secret Service in 1995, and in all likelihood was groomed for the role he is now playing by the CIA. Philippe, ever so respectful of the democrat process, promised to kill the elected president if he did not flee, and then murdered his way south to the capital, killing over 100 allies and supporters of the President.
When one wants to understand the saga of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, one must first think of a man of incredible courage, determination and fortitude. Especially courage.
He has lived under threat of death for two decades. He led the poor of Haiti, against incredible odds, to challenge not only the corrupt and brutal Duvalier regime, but the military men and criminal who did not flee, but instead remained to try and reinstall the same type of "non-government", one built on terror and crony capitalism.
President Aristide, in an act of supreme courage, disbanded the most feared force and despised force in Haitian history, the Haitian Army. He did it not only because they were an institution that has never played a role in defending Haiti, (against whom, anyway?) but because they served as an element of brutal repression and murder. The same went for the overwhelmingly corrupt police force.
Virtually all of these men were unwilling to surrender their weapons, nor their privileged status in Haitian society ,and Aristide had no effective means to disarm them. This group overthrew Aristide soon after his first election, and have tried several times since then; the crucial difference this time is that they had the support of Pres. Bush and Colin Powell.
Aristide is not loathed by the right wing of this nation because he is crooked, repressive, or a thief. Before he assumed the presidency, he was a Catholic priest who operated an orphanage in Port Au Prince, one of the world's worst slums. He is the heart and soul of the Haitian people's aspirations, and has given his entire life to the betterment of his country, against odds that few of us can even imagine. He has been one of the courageous leaders of modern times.
Countless personal friends and allies were murdered as he led the nation to expel the hated Dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. The Haitian elite tried numerous times to assassinate him, have pushed the military to overthrow him, and done everything they could to sabotage him at every turn. And all this is for one very simple reason: because President Aristide has made his life's mission, and his unswerving goal, to help the poor of Haiti. That means giving political power to the impoverished masses, to the few honest and extremely brave Haitian crusaders who won't stop fighting for something better, to the near starving workers making a dollar a day in international sweatshops.
Aristide is a very dangerous man if one wants to keep the Haitian people ignorant, exploited, and with a government composed of drug dealers, ghouls, free lance death squads, and the wealthy who benefit from this repression. And that includes the US, who has traditionally been the patron of Haiti's awful governments before Aristide. He will not allow these people back into power, nor should he.
The major work done by the Bush administration to destroy Aristide's presidency has been economic. After members of an opposition party complained about the parliamentary elections in 2000, (which were incredibly clean for such a poor nation), President Bush cut off all aid. It is useful to note that US aid always flowed when Haiti didn't even have elections, and when was ran by a single family of homicidal crooks with their own private death squad, the Ton Ton Macoutes.
As has been the course in every election since 1990, Aristide's party won overwhelmingly in balloting for the nation's parliament, with over 70% of the vote, and the old Haitian elite was once again left out in the cold. Earlier that year, Aristide easily won reelection, succeeding his friend and supporter Rene Preval, also of Aristide's Lavalas party. This should come as no surprise, as Aristide has very little legitimate political opposition in Haiti. Most of the people who have truly struggled and suffered tremendously to make Haiti better are Aristide supporters.
Using the complaints of this tiny but vocal minority in Haiti as the pretext, President Bush cut off all economic aid to the destitute and desperate island. Coincidentally, aid was cut to the fledgling police force, leaving the Haitian government with only 3,500 police men to keep the peace in a nation of 9 million. Most were issued only sidearms, and were spread so thin they could not possibly resist an organized group of soldiers with modern automatic weapons.
A country as utterly poor as Haiti lives and dies on these aid packages, and they have always been used historically by the US to either reward pliable cronies, or to punish those leaders who develop unpleasant streaks of independence and nationalism. The 500 million dollar loan package now sits, dangling as tool for the Haitian elite to use to blame Aristide for the country's woes.
Only the terrifically naive could believe that this package was withheld because the Bush administration or American interests in Haiti wanted so see more democracy. A simple look back for the last 50 years shows US aid and weapons flowing unabated to the incredibly corrupt and brutal regimes of President For Life "Papa Doc" Duvalier, and his son "Baby Doc", a family that ran the country as ther own private bank and playground.
And it should be noted and underlined that when Aristide's popular movement finally succeeded in making the dictator flee, it was up into the belly of a US C130 to fly him (along by the national treasury) to France, where he now lives a comfortable life on the French Riviera with his beautiful model wife, free from prosecution.
Evidence of US bias again Aristide and his popular movement abound in the last decade. The leader of one of Haiti's many death squads, former army commander Raoul Cedras, now lives comfortably in New York selling real estate. Responsible for hundreds of deaths, disappearances, torture etc., The Haitian government issued an extradition request for him to stand trial in Haiti. US immigration not only issued a weak claim that he "had somehow slipped through", but now also refuses to deport him. This man with so much blood on his hands now walks free among us.
And now, we are left once with Haiti undergoing yet another military coup, its 33rd. We will have a government that will never be accepted as legitimate because it cannot be ignored that it shot its way into power.
And if the Bush administration and past history have any say, Haiti will return to a non functioning government of the same old crooks and thugs, with some appropriate window dressing.
We can be sure of nothing now in Haiti but more chaos, because the rule of the gun has once again killed the democratic process. It is impossible to conclude that this is good for our nation, or that we cannot do better.
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