Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Saturday, March 06, 2004
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Democracy Subverted...Again

PINR has a report on Haiti:

As the rebels continued to demonstrate their supremacy, and the Democratic Platform continued to press for Aristide's removal, it became increasingly obvious that Aristide's hold on power was quickly coming to an end. It was at this time that the Bush administration had the opportunity to take the wind out of the sails of the rebel army. However, instead of supporting Aristide's democratic rule, the administration purposely allowed time for Aristide's opposition to continue to turn the odds in their favor...The reason for this is that Washington, as it did in 1994, seeks stability in Haiti since the country is close enough to U.S. shores that refugees can cause major problems to U.S. interests.
Aristide's economic policies were not in line with Washington's. Consistently speaking out against neoliberal economic reforms, Aristide had denounced global capitalism as "a machine devouring the planet." Criticizing international trade institutions, Aristide remarked, "The little finger, the men and women of the poorest 20 percent, are reduced to cogs in this machine, the bottom rung in global production, valued only as cheap labor, otherwise altogether disposable."

Marguerite Laurent, chair of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership, told the Power and Interest News Report that she believed Aristide's economic stance was a huge factor in Washington's decision to assist, however indirectly, in his removal from power: "Aristide refused to fully implement Washington's neoliberalism economic policies when he returned to Haiti in 1994...Democracy is dead in Haiti, flown out when the U.S. took away Haiti's peacekeeper."

I won't ignore Clinton's role in this, since he too wanted to avoid a refugee crisis and insisted on certain economic policies before returning Aristide to power in '94. That said, Bush has done the reverse in his typical anti-Clinton fashion: he allowed, if not directly helped, a democratically-elected leader to be ousted, all because he didn't want Jeb to be bothered by refugees, and Aristide had his own ideas about his country's economy.

The seeds of this debacle were sown not long after Clinton's successful intervention:

The 1994 Haiti intervention illustrates the problem of single power intervention even when authorized by the United Nations.

Seven weeks after the invasion, the Republicans took control of Congress and systematically dismantled aid to the impoverished, war-torn country.

The cuts meant there was no effort to rebuild roads, ports, airports, or infrastructure. When Aristide's opposition cried foul over eight contested seats in the 2000 election, the U.S. froze the final $500 million in aid.

The aid was never very substantial. Per capita, the U.S. was giving Haiti one fifth what it was spending in Bosnia, and one tenth what it was distributing in Kosovo. After 1996, U.S. aid to Haiti was the same as what it had given the dictatorship that deposed Aristide. Aid did flow, but not to Aristide. Instead, U.S. organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the opposition.

Here's an interesting exchange during State's daily press briefing back on February 17:

QUESTION: The Secretary said earlier that the U.S. and the rest of its partners are committed to working towards a solution that doesn't involve removing Aristide by force. As opposition to Aristide in the country continues to grow, is it the position of the U.S. that perhaps Aristide should step down to eliminate some of these --

MR. BOUCHER: That's not our position. We have said what President Aristide needs to do is to comply with the CARICOM proposals, is to implement fully the commitments that he's already made with regard to the CARICOM proposals, to take his constitutional responsibility and authority seriously in terms of being President for all Haitians and for ending any support for violent acts by groups that seek to divide Haiti.

So it appears that the fig leaf the administration is hiding behind involves some nebulous "obligations" under the so-called CARICOM plan. Scotty used that excuse again in a WH briefing on March 1:

QUESTION: Many persons are saying that the United States government promotes democracy all around the world, but when it came to Haiti, we just walked away.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, actually, we came to a democratic and constitutional resolution of the situation in Haiti. And now we are working to move forward to help the Haitian people realize a better future and a more free future. It was the actions of Mr. Aristide, in large part, that led to the current political crisis in Haiti. I just talked about some of the actions by Mr. Aristide. He failed to adhere to the democratic principles and his obligations called for under the CARICOM plan.

What's interesting is that according to Reuters:

CARICOM had sought to broker a deal under which Aristide would remain as head of state but allow a council of "wise men," most to be selected by the opposition, to name a new prime minister and cabinet.

Aristide agreed to the plan when it was presented to him in Port-au-Prince a week ago by U.S., Canadian, French and regional officials. But the political opposition refused, insisting that Aristide had first to step down.

What's more, CARICOM doesn't seem happy with the outcome:

The Caribbean Community, which has been at the forefront of efforts to find a solution to Haiti's long-running political crisis, on Sunday deplored the "removal" of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
"We are bound to question whether his resignation was truly voluntary, as it comes after the capture of sections of Haiti by armed insurgents and the failure of the international community to provide the requisite support, despite the appeals of CARICOM," [Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson] said in a statement.

"The removal of President Aristide in these circumstances sets a dangerous precedent for democratically elected governments anywhere and everywhere, as it promotes the removal of duly elected persons from office by the power of rebel forces." Patterson is the current chairman of CARICOM.

The plot sickens...


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