Haiti 2004: The Great Irony
In the Country's Bicentennial Year, another US-Backed Coup
By Numa St. Louis
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
February 28, 2004
Publisher’s Note: Events of recent days can leave no doubt: the administration in Washington has done everything possible to topple a democratically elected government on the Caribbean island of Haiti, including economic embargo and support for a few hundred, well-armed, paramilitary death squads who have taken some of the country’s major cities.
Their boss, Guy Phillippe, today told reporters that he is following Washington’s lead.
“I heard the United States asked our men to stop their advance to Port-au-Prince. It’s on the news on the Net,” said Phillippe, according to a report by the British Press Association. “If they ask us, it’s because they have a better option, option for peace, and we always give peace a chance here, so we’ll wait to see for one or two days,” he said. “We will keep on sending troops but we won’t attack Port-au-Prince until we understand what the US means.”
So there you have it. The leader of this anti-democracy band of violent thugs has spoken: He will do what Washington says.
Everything that happens next over the coming hours and days will be the direct result of signals sent by the government in Washington… just as all that has happened so far has been. It’s just that, today, the leader of the anti-democracy paramilitaries admitted it in public.
Meanwhile, we bring you the historic analysis of Numa St. Louis, Haitian American radio host in Philadelphia, special to The Narco News Bulletin…
The year 2004 marks the 200th anniversary of the only successful slave revolution that ever occurred. That slave revolution brought freedom, liberty and a slavery-free territory across the island of Hispaniola, while deeply undermining the concept of white supremacy. It also helped to inspire other liberation and independence movements across the Americas. Haiti granted asylum and provided a great deal of military assistance to Simón Bolívar in his battles to Free Latin America. Now efforts are being made and measures being taken to undermine and to create instability in a year that ought to be tremendous celebration for the human race. We are witnessing events that are in direct contradiction and spirit of the foundation of the republic. It takes a highly politically mature individual to adequately understand the current unfolding unrest.
When discussing Haiti, it is vital that it’s modern and past history be taken into context. The socialist revolution in Cuba of 1959, which brought Fidel Castro to power, had drastic implication in Haitian politics. The United States had long feared the spread of communism in the world. Now it was present and operating some ninety miles off its shores. The policy became not only to counter the revolution and to overthrow Mr. Castro but also to stop it from spreading in the region. The start was with Haiti, the closest country to Cuba, just 45 miles apart. While pursuing its ABC (Anything but Communism) policy, the US openly supported and financed the brutal regime of Duvalier.
Fully aware of having US backing, on the pretext of an anti communist platform, the US trained army killed and tortured anyone who spoke against the government: scholars, intellectuals, progressives, and others who stated the obvious about the vicious abuses and tyranny. The establishment was all-powerful and had spies everywhere.
In 1986, after the Duvaliers’ reign came to an end and the dictator left for exile, the Haitian people thought they were finally liberated. But that proved not to be the case, though they were no longer in power. Their cronies and the military were still very much in the midst. It was a society where three percent of the population controlled over ninety percent of the country’s wealth with virtually no middle class. And nothing had really changed; the structure had remained the same.
In 1990, the United Nations sponsored and monitored free elections. A liberation theologian priest by the name of Aristide swept the election. The vast majority was fed up with the authoritarian right and went with the populist left. It was a grassroots movement with seventy percent of the voters backing him, claiming to be from the people, by the people. Father Aristide’s emergence as president could be characterized as a political revolution, in the sense that it attempted to change the entire system and reverse the status quo. The military had been, for once, sidelined in politics. The priest turned politician spoke of redistribution of wealth, social equity, workers rights, eradication of poverty and against foreign domination, issues that had long plagued the Caribbean island for decades. In return, the left wing leader was condemned by the Vatican, revoked of the priesthood, and labeled a Marxist priest by Washington.
Nine months into his term the democratically elected president was overthrown in a coup d’etat carried out by the military but sponsored by the Haitian elite and the US government. Communities of Haitians throughout the world rejected the idea of military rule, and organized a massive campaign demanding the return of President Aristide. Human right activists, liberals in the American Congress, the international community, and others who were just genuinely concerned, echoed their pleas. That the US covertly operated behind the scenes to topple a government had become apparent and obvious to many. It had become simply unacceptable and the US was cornered into deploying troops to reinstate Aristide back in power in 1994. This was the first time in history such an act had occurred.
Coup d’etats in Latin America and the Caribbean were very prevalent from Nicaragua, to Chile, to Guatemala, and the list goes on. But never before had the toppled leader been returned to power by the very nation that engineered his ouster. In total Mr. Aristide spend three years in exile, thus only was the president for less than two years. In accordance to the Haitian constitution one is not allowed to run for consecutive terms. In 1996, the government organized elections and a new president had emerged. In 2000, Arisitide decided to run again, his popularity with the Haitian masses had remained strong and he won the presidency. The Haitian right coupled with the bourgeoisie class unable to defeat Aristide’s progressive party in elections, alleges the elections were flawed.
The mere fact that in Haiti there exists an opposition group is a tremendous step toward democracy and freedom of speech: nobody dared to openly say they were an opposition group during the Duvalier military reign. The dynamics and factors behind Haiti’s political turmoil is a classic case of class struggle. Those privileged few whom had tax write-offs, enjoyed governmental perks and benefits, are aggressively pushing for the President to resign. They are not challenging the government’s record or policies but rather the man heading the government. They are opposing only the individual by virtue of who he is and what he represents to the Haitian masses. They do not offer any clear vision or proposals for the development of Haiti. They simply view the president as a nuisance that jeopardizes elitists’ interests. And they are aligning themselves once again with former military officials responsible for many massacres that have the people’s blood on their hands, seeking to seize power.
A major question also arises: Is the US working behind closed doors with the opposition in a joint effort to unseat the socialist Aristide? Many observers profoundly believe that is indeed the case, apparently including some members of the American Congress. In a letter written to Secretary of State Colin Powell, dated February 11, 2004, from Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California, the representative suggested that the administration is directly or indirectly providing resources to the opposition forces. “It looks like a covert effort to overthrow a government. There is a violent coup d’etat in the making and it appears that the United States is aiding and abetting the attempt to violently topple the Aristide government.”
Numa St. Louis, a graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego with a degree in International Studies, is host the Haiti of Philadelphia radio program, and works as a paralegal in a Philadelphia law firm.
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