Friday, July 15, 2005

Haiti: all tears & frustration but no (US) remorse

As we all know, the US has a history of intervention in other governments under the auspicies of spreading freedom & democracy that lead to neither. One need look no further than our great ally against Iran, Saddam Hussein, as an example of the tyrannical dictatorships we foster. Closer to home we have Haiti, yet another exercise of US intervention that failed miserably.

There was little time in the previous century in which the US has not intervened in the government of Haiti, ostensibly to foster democracy but more likely as an effort to exploit their coffee & sugar cane resources with US occupation frm 1915 to 1934 and then, in 1957 with the US supported installation of Papa Doc Duvalier, to stem the tide of communism. Duvalier's 19 year old son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier took over the country upon Papa Doc's death in 1971. Baby Doc's regime was marked by the continuation of his father's US supported rule via corruption, exploitation and intimidation until the Haitian people rallied in response to a visit by Pope John Paul in 1983; three years later, the Reagan administration finally called for Baby Doc to step down. Anarchy, chaos & violence marked the years until free elections were held in 1990 and Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president, with 67% of the vote (despite an alleged US campaign againts him as a "marxist Maniac") based on a promise of reform and the goal of “poverty with dignity.”

The U.S., the bulk of the Haitian ruling class, and the army reacted in horror. One U.S. official snarled: "Aristide- slum priest, grass roots activist, exponent of liberation theology-represents everything that the CIA, DOD, and FBI think they have been trying to protect this country against for 50 years." A U.S. delegation, headed by Jimmy Carter, attempted to convince Aristide to allow Bazin to become president even though he had beaten him in a landslide.' A section of Duvalierists attempted a preemptive coup to prevent Aristide's inauguration, but a wave of mass protests foiled it.
During the first Bush era, the US continued its campaign against Aristide and support of the coup that ousted him from power. The Clinton adminsitration maintained the status-quo until it became apparent that the destabilization was counter-productive and invaded to restore Aristide to power (with conditions, of course).

Enter the shrub, who started pursuing policies to ouster Aristide in 2001. The conditions of the impoverished country at that time were abysmal at best
Life expectancy was 52 years. Children were chronically hungry.

Of every 1,000 children born, more than 100 died before their fifth birthday. An AIDS epidemic, the worst in the Caribbean, was running unchecked. The health system had collapsed. Fearing unrest, tourists and foreign investors were staying away, so there were no jobs to be had.
To make matters worse, IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and Organization of American States suspended aid, under vague "instructions" from the US due to an extremely ironic claim of "irregularities in the 2000 legislative elections" and insistance that Aristide make peace with the political opposition before the US would release any aid. Ultimately, despite the popular support Aristide had from Haitian citizens, BushCo forced yet another coup with the aid of Canada and claims they will rebuild the country. A year later, Haiti is a festering mess that's getting worse by the day [emphasis added]
By the accounts of diplomats and political observers, human rights activists and business people, this remains a country poised for implosion, with almost all its institutions ravaged from the inside out by corruption. Ruthless mobs have risen in their place, led by drug traffickers, former military officers, corrupt police officers and street thugs. They have set off a devastating wave of murders, carjackings, armed robberies and rapes


In all, human rights groups report, more than 700 people, including seven peacekeepers, have been killed in the last eight months. The Haitian National Police - an estimated 3,000 officers assigned to cover a population approximately equal to that of New York City, over a geographical area 35 times the size - have said they do not have the kinds of weapons and training they need. The United Nations peacekeeping force has more than 6,000 soldiers, but they have been criticized here and in Washington for failing to dismantle and disarm the gangs.

The United States ambassador to Haiti, James B. Foley, said in an interview that the Brazilian-led United Nations peacekeepers seemed crippled by understandable concerns about casualties among their own as well as among the people they have been sent to protect.

Mr. Foley said Haiti - where most people live on $1 a day, more than 40 percent of children are malnourished, and childbirth is the second leading cause of death among women - faced myriad challenges as it struggled for stability. But, he said, unless the government took control of the streets, it would make no real progress on any other front.
The US has a history of putting a puppet regime into place that we live to regret. It's time Haiti was free from the self interests of US businesses, allowed to freely elect a goverment without US intervention and finally given a chance to become a self-sustaining country of its own.

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