Haiti, Raped by the US Since 2004, and Still Bleeding January 13, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Caribbean, Haiti, Imperialism, Racism.
Tags: aristide, glen ford, haiti, haiti government, haiti homeless, haiti independence, haiti politics, haiti relief, haiti sovereignty, haity earthquake, roger hollander, U.S. imperialism
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The horrific squandering of Haitian lives and earthquake relief and aid dollars by the occupying powers over the past two years are direct consequences of previous imperial crimes. “Since 2004, Haiti has been methodically stripped of its sovereignty, made into a protectorate of the United Nations,” which is merely a front for the United States. “The earthquake of January 2010 was a natural phenomenon that happened to take place while a rape was in progress.”
“In the American media,” writes Ford, “Haiti is most often spoken of as a tragedy – when it is actually the scene of horrific crimes, mainly perpetrated by the United States over the span of two centuries.” (Photo: BAR)
In the American media, Haiti is most often spoken of as a tragedy – when it is actually the scene of horrific crimes, mainly perpetrated by the United States over the span of two centuries. For the past two years, since the earthquake that shook the life out of hundreds of thousands of already deeply wounded people, the United States has flexed every superpower muscle to prolong Haiti’s agony.
Half a million people are still homeless, two years after the quake, despite the billions in relief and recovery aid pledged by international donors. Sixty percent of the rubble has yet to be removed from the capital and its suburbs, and 6,000 people have died from a cholera epidemic brought into the country by United Nations troops. The UN has still not seen fit to apologize for being the vector of disease, because the UN is not accountable to the people of Haiti – only to the United States. The Americans used a huge chunk of their so-called aid money to reimburse themselves for the cost of their military occupation of the country. Dead, dying, sick, starving, homeless Haitians are made to pay for their own imprisonment in their native land, while Washington gloats that it is Haiti’s last, best hope, and that the catastrophic earthquake might have been a good thing, a chance for a “new beginning” under Washington’s firm guidance.
Millions were spent to choreograph crooked elections that brought to office a government with no power, even less money, and not a shred of dignity – a puppet regime held in absolute disrespect by its American puppeteers.
Meanwhile, Haiti’s most popular political party remains, for all official purposes, an outlaw, effectively banned from civic participation. The Haitian people are not allowed to speak. And this is the heart of the crime, from which all the grand and petty assaults on the Haitian nation, flow. This week’s anniversary of the killer earthquake is full of morbid statistics on physical destruction, death and disease, but the appalling numbers cannot separate these two years of horror from the crimes that came before: the isolation and armed extortion of Haiti by United States and Europe following her 1804 victory against French slavery, leaving the Black republic with a debt that was not paid off until the 1940s; the 26 separate invasions of Haiti by the United States from 1849 to 1915, followed by a nearly 20-year occupation that lasted until 1934; and the U.S. overthrow of Haiti’s popularly elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, in 2004, the 200th anniversary of Haiti’s independence. Since 2004, Haiti has been methodically stripped of its sovereignty, made into a protectorate of the United Nations, which is merely a front for the real rulers, the United States and its junior partners, France and Canada.
The earthquake of January 2010 was a natural phenomenon that happened to take place while a rape was in progress. The rapists in Washington take their greatest pleasure in Haiti’s degradation. Haiti needs nothing from the United States, except to be left alone, as a free nation in the world, to make friends as it chooses. It is not natural disaster that holds her back, but naked U.S. aggression – because all people have the capacity to rise, unless they are held down by overwhelming force.
Private Contractors “Like Vultures Coming to Grab the Loot” February 20, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Haiti.
Tags: aid, anthony fenton, aristide, haiti, haiti aid, haiti earthquake, haiti relief, haliburton, mercenaries, naomi klein, private contractors, privatisation, privatization, rene preval, roger hollander
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Friday 19 February 2010
Vancouver – Critics are concerned that private military contractors are positioning themselves at the centre of an emerging “shock doctrine” for earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
Next month, a prominent umbrella organisation for private military and logistic corporations, the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), is co-organising a “Haiti summit” which aims to bring together “leading officials” for “private consultations with attending contractors and investors” in Miami, Florida.
Dubbed the “mercenary trade association” by journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater: the Rise of the World’ Most Powerful Mercenary Army”, the IPOA wasted no time setting up a “Haiti Earthquake Support” page on its website following the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean country.
IPOA’s director Doug Brooks says, “The first contacts we got were journalists looking for security when they went in.” The website of IPOA member company, Hart Security, says they are currently in Haiti “supporting clients from the fields of media, consultancy and medical in their disaster recovery efforts.” Several other IPOA members have either bid on or received contracts for work in Haiti.
Likewise, the private military contractor, Raidon Tactics, has at least 30 former U.S. Special Operations soldiers on the ground, where they have been guarding aid convoys and providing security for “news agencies,” according to a Raidon employee who told IPS his company received over 1,000 phone calls in response to an ad posting “for open positions for Static Security Positions and Mobile Security Positions” in Haiti.
Just over a week following the earthquake, the IPOA teamed up with Global Investment Summits (GIS), a UK-based private company that specialises in bringing private contractors and government officials from “emerging post-conflict countries” together, to host an “Afghanistan Reconstruction Summit”, in Istanbul, Turkey. It was there, says IPOA’s director Doug Brooks, that the idea for the Haiti summit was hatched “over beers”.
GIS’s CEO, Kevin Lumb, told IPS that the key feature of the Haiti summit will be “what we call roundtables, [where] we put the ministers and their procurement people, and arrange appointments with contractors.” Lumb added that his company “specialise[s] in putting governments together [with private contractors].”
IPOA was “so pleased” with the Afghanistan summit, says Lumb, they asked GIS to do “all the organising, all the selling” for the Haiti summit. Lumb pointed out that all of the profits from the event will be donated to the Clinton-Bush Haiti relief fund.
While acknowledging that there will be a “a commercial angle” to the event and that “major companies, major players in the world” have committed to attend, Lumb declined to name most of the participants.
One of the companies Lumb did mention is DACC Associates, a private contractor that specialises in management and security consulting with contracts providing “advice and counsel” to governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
DACC President Douglas Melvin, a former Special Forces commander, State Department official and director of Security and Administrative Services for President George W. Bush, acknowledged that “from a revenue perspective, yes there’s wonderful opportunities at these events.”
Melvin added that he believes most attendees will be “coming together for the right reasons,” a genuine concern for Haiti, are “not coming to exploit” the dire situation there, and does not expect his company to profit off of their potential contracts there.
Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”, is concerned that the thesis of her best-selling book will once again be tested in Haiti. She told IPS in an e-mail, “Haiti doesn’t need cookie cutter one-size fits all reconstruction, designed by the same gang that made same such a hash of Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans – and indeed the same people responsible for the decimation of Haiti’s own economy in the name of ‘aid.’”
Unhappy with critics’ characterisation of the IPOA, Brooks said, “If Scahill and Klein have the resources, the capabilities, the equipment, to go in and do it themselves then more power to them.”
University of California at Los Angeles professor Nandini Gunewardena, co-editor of “Capitalizing on Catastrophe: Neoliberal Strategies in Disaster Reconstruction,” told IPS that “privatisation is not the way to go for disaster assistance.”
“Traditionally, corporations have positioned themselves in a way that they benefit at the expense of the people. We cannot afford for that to happen in Haiti,” she said, adding that “any kind of intermediate or long-term assistance strategy has to be framed within that framework of human security.”
This, according to the U.N-.based Commission on Human Security, means “creating political, social, environmental, economic, military and cultural systems that together give people the building blocks of survival, livelihood and dignity.”
Denouncing the “standard recipe of neoliberal policies,” Gunewardena said, “If private corporations are going to contribute to Haiti’s restoration, they have to be held accountable, not to their own standards, but to those of the people.”
Reached by telephone, Haiti’s former Minister of Defence under the first presidency of Jean Bertand Aristide, Patrick Elie, agreed. He’s worried about the potential privatisation of his country’s rebuilding, “because these private companies [aren't] liable, you can’t take them to the United Nations, you can’t take them to The Hague, and they operate in kind of legal limbo. And they are the more dangerous for it.”
Elie, who accepted a position as advisor to President Rene Preval following the earthquake, added “These guys are like vultures coming to grab the loot over this disaster, and probably money that might have been injected into the Haitian economy is going to be just grabbed by these companies and I’m sure that they are not only these mercenary companies but also the other companies like Halliburton or these other ones that always [come] on the heels of the troops.”
In its 2008 report, “Private Security Contractors at War: Ending the Culture of Impunity,” the NGO Human Rights First decried the “failure of the U.S. government to effectively control their actions, and in particular the inability or unwillingness of the Department of Justice (DoJ) to hold them criminally responsible for their illegal actions.”
The IPOA’s Brooks told IPS that members of the Haitian diaspora and Haiti’s embassy have been invited and are “going to be a big part” of the summit.
While stressing that it’s impossible to know the exact details of an event that is planned outside of public scrutiny, Elie countered that if high-level Haitian officials were to participate, “It’s either out of ignorance or complicity.”
Worried that Haiti is already seeing armed contractors in addition to the presence of more than 20,000 U.S., Canadian, and U.N. soldiers, Elie says he has seen private contractors accompanying NGOs, “walking about carrying assault rifles.”
If the U.S. military pulls out and hands over the armed presence to private contractors, “It opens the door to all kinds of abuses. Let’s face it, the Haitian state is too weak to really deal efficiently with this kind of threat if it materialises,” he said.
The history of post-disaster political economy has shown that such a threat is all too likely, says Elie. “We’ve seen it happen so many times before that whenever there is a disaster, there are a bunch of vultures trying to profit from it, whether it’s a man-made disaster like Iraq, or a nature-made disaster like Haiti.”
Why Washington Cares About Countries Like Haiti and Honduras February 3, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Haiti, Honduras.
Tags: roger hollander, Latin America, Brazil, Lula, Allende, Chile, cia, foreign policy, nixon, haiti, aristide, monroe doctrine, obama administration, Honduras, honduras coup, honduras dictatorship, brazil politics
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US interference in the politics of Haiti and Honduras is only the latest example of its long-term manipulations in Latin America
by Mark Weisbrot
In 2004, the US involvement in the coup was much more open. Washington led a cut-off of almost all international aid for four years, making the government’s collapse inevitable. As the New York Times reported, while the US state department was telling Aristide that he had to reach an agreement with the political opposition (funded with millions of US taxpayers’ dollars), the International Republican Institute was telling the opposition not to settle.
In Honduras last summer and autumn, the US government did everything it could to prevent the rest of the hemisphere from mounting an effective political opposition to the coup government in Honduras. For example, they blocked the Organisation of American States from taking the position that it would not recognise elections that took place under the dictatorship. At the same time, the Obama administration publicly pretended that it was against the coup.
This was only partly successful, from a public relations point of view. Most of the US public thinks that the Obama administration was against the Honduran coup, although by November of last year there were numerous press reports and even editorial criticisms that Obama had caved to Republican pressure and not done enough. But this was a misreading of what actually happened: the Republican pressure in support of the Honduran coup changed the administration’s public relations strategy, but not its political strategy. Those who followed events closely from the beginning could see that the political strategy was to blunt and delay any efforts to restore the elected president, while pretending that a return to democracy was actually the goal.
Among those who understood this were the governments of Latin America, including such heavyweights as Brazil. This is important because it shows that the State Department was willing to pay a significant political cost in order to help the right in Honduras. It convinced the vast majority of Latin American governments that it was no different from the Bush administration in its goals for the hemisphere, which is not a pleasant outcome from a diplomatic point of view.
Why do they care so much about who runs these poor countries? As any good chess player knows, pawns matter. The loss of a couple of pawns at the beginning of the game can often make a difference between a win or a loss. They are looking at these countries mostly in straight power terms. Governments that are in agreement with maximising US power in the world, they like. Those who have other goals – not necessarily antagonistic to the United States – they don’t like.
Not surprisingly, the Obama administration’s closest allies in the hemisphere are rightwing governments such as those of Colombia or Panama, even though Obama himself is not a rightwing politician. This highlights the continuity of the politics of control. The victory of the right in Chile, the first time that it has won an election in half a century, was a significant victory for the US government. If Lula de Silva’s Workers’ party were to lose the presidential election in Brazil this autumn, that would be another win for the state department. While US officials under both Bush and Obama have maintained a friendly posture toward Brazil, it is obvious that they deeply resent the changes in Brazilian foreign policy that have allied it with other social democratic governments in the hemisphere, and its independent foreign policy stances with regard to the Middle East, Iran, and elsewhere.
The US actually intervened in Brazilian politics as recently as 2005, organising a conference to promote a legal change that would make it more difficult for legislators to switch parties. This would have strengthened the opposition to Lula’s Workers’ party (PT) government, since the PT has party discipline but many opposition politicians do not. This intervention by the US government was only discovered last year through a Freedom of Information Act request filed in Washington. There are many other interventions taking place throughout the hemisphere that we do not know about. The United States has been heavily involved in Chilean politics since the 1960s, long before they organised the overthrow of Chilean democracy in 1973.
In October 1970, President Richard Nixon was cursing in the Oval Office about the Social Democratic president of Chile, Salvador Allende. “That son of a bitch!” said Richard Nixon on 15 October. “That son of a bitch Allende – we’re going to smash him.” A few weeks later he explained why:
The main concern in Chile is that [Allende] can consolidate himself, and the picture projected to the world will be his success … If we let the potential leaders in South America think they can move like Chile and have it both ways, we will be in trouble.
That is another reason that pawns matter, and Nixon’s nightmare did in fact come true a quarter-century later, as one country after another elected independent left governments that Washington did not want. The United States ended up “losing” most of the region. But they are trying to get it back, one country at a time. The smaller, poorer countries that are closer to the United States are the most at risk. Honduras and Haiti will have democratic elections some day, but only when Washington’s influence over their politics is further reduced.
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC.
The Minimum Wage and the Coup in Honduras August 8, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Haiti, Honduras, Labor, Latin America.
Tags: aristide, economic imperialism, haiti, haiti coup, haiti labor, haiti minimum wage, haiti poverty, haiti workers, hondras minimum wage, Honduras, honduras coup, honduras elite, honduras labor, honduras poverty, honduras workers, Latin America, manual zelaya, minimum wage, obama administration, preval, robert naiman, roger hollander, U.S. imperialism, workers rights
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What is the minimum wage which a worker shall be paid for a day’s labor?
Supporters of the coup have tried to trick Americans into believing that President Zelaya was ousted by the Honduran military because he broke the law. But this is nonsense. A Honduran bishop told Catholic News Service,
“Some say Manuel Zelaya threatened democracy by proposing a constitutional assembly. But the poor of Honduras know that Zelaya raised the minimum salary. That’s what they understand. They know he defended the poor by sharing money with mayors and small towns. That’s why they are out in the streets closing highways and protesting (to demand Zelaya’s return)”
This is why the greedy, self-absorbed Honduran elite turned against President Zelaya: because he was pursuing policies in the interests of the majority. The Washington Post noted in mid-July,
To many poor Hondurans, deposed president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya was a trailblazing ally who scrapped school tuitions, raised the minimum wage and took on big business.
In a statement condemning support for the coup by U.S. business groups, the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation expressed its concern that under the coup regime, there are
worsening working conditions, and in particular at efforts to claw back a wage increase ordered by President Zelaya six months ago in order to reflect the increased cost of food and other essentials. In reality the increased wage barely covered 90% of basic food needs and less than a third of a living wage covering basic needs such as food, rent, transport, education, and medical care.
It’s not just in Honduras that raising the minimum wage provoked a coup. In reporting about efforts by Haitian lawmakers this week to raise the minimum wage in Haiti, AP noted:
Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in 2004, in part after business owners angered by his approval of an increased minimum wage organized opposition against him.
This May, the Haitian Parliament approved a proposal to triple the minimum wage to about $5 a day. But President Preval rejected this, saying
the increase should omit workers at factories producing garments for export. Preval said those workers should receive an increase to about $3.
What’s the argument in Haiti against raising the minimum wage?
The debate has fueled unrest across the impoverished Caribbean nation, with some critics arguing that an increase would hurt plans to fight widespread unemployment by creating jobs in factories that produce clothing for export to the United States.
There are the magic words I search for in these articles, often buried at the bottom: “United States.”
So, the argument is being made that Haiti can’t afford to raise the minimum wage for workers in the export sector to $5 a day, because if they did Americans would buy clothes and shoes produced in some other countries.
Let me underline this, dear reader. You, as an American consumer, you are being invoked in Haiti as the reason that the minimum wage cannot be raised to $5 a day.
Of course this is nonsense. The overwhelming majority of Americans, along with the overwhelming majority of Haitians and Hondurans, would be absolutely delighted if Haitian and Honduran workers producing clothes for the U.S. market would be paid more. Labor costs are a small fraction of the prices that consumers face. Wages are so low because that yields even more profits for those who already have more money than they can ever spend; the low wage floor is being determined by government policy in Washington, Haiti, Honduras, and elsewhere, not by the desires of consumers. No magic formula of economics determines the minimum wage that can be sustained in Haiti and Honduras. At the margin – whether the minimum wage shall be $3 a day or $5 a day in the export sector in Haiti – it is determined politically.
If you say that the leverage of the U.S. consumer market should be used to support higher wages for poor workers in poor countries, rather than the opposite, you’re likely to be told that this is not allowed. This leverage has been allocated to something else. The power of the U.S. market can only be used for things like forcing developing countries to enforce the patents, trademarks, and copyrights of U.S. pharmaceutical companies, software companies, and Hollywood.
Indeed, if you say that we should be supporting efforts to raise the minimum wage in Honduras and Haiti, you’ll likely to be accused of “trying to impose American values.” But this is a baldfaced lie, the twisted-mirror image of the truth. The majority of Hondurans and the majority of Haitians want the wages of workers producing for export to the United States to be raised. Far from imposing “American values,” in Honduras and Haiti, we’re imposing Wall Street values, every day, through U.S. government policy, against the wishes and interests of the majority of the population, there and here.
And by its failure to help effectively Latin American efforts restore President Zelaya, the Obama Administration is helping to drive down the minimum wage in Honduras, Haiti, and throughout the world. And the reason that the Obama Administration is, de facto, taking the side of the corrupt and greedy ruling elite in Honduras, is that, as usual, U.S. foreign policy is being determined by Corporate America, not Main Street America, because the power and efforts of Main Street America to affect U.S. foreign policy in Honduras – the U.S. labor movement and its friends, basically – is too weak, compared to the infrastructure and efforts of Corporate America’s actions to shape U.S. policy.
Count this too as a casualty of the failure of Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. If the Employee Free Choice Act were law, and more American workers were organized into unions, Main Street would have more power in Washington, and Corporate America wouldn’t be calling the shots on U.S. policy towards Honduras.
So, the next time some lying moron invokes “economics” to “explain” to you that the wages of impoverished third world workers who produce for the U.S. market cannot be raised, remember the coup in Honduras, and how Washington sat on its hands while a democratically elected government was punished by greedy elites with a military coup for trying to raise the minimum wage.
Tags: Amnesty International, aristide, bill quigley, father jean-juste, foreign policy, gerard jean-juste, haiti, haiti corruption, haiti democracy, haiti government, haiti human rights, haiti justice, haiti poverty, haiti revolution, haitian priest, liberation theology, revolutionary preaching, revolutionary priest, roger hollander
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by Bill Quigley
Though Haitian priest Father Gerard Jean-Juste died May 27, 2009, at age 62, in Miami from a stroke and breathing problems, he remains present to millions. Justice-loving people world-wide mourn his death and celebrate his life. Pere Jean-Juste worked uncompromisingly for justice for Haitians and the poor, both in Haiti and in the U.S.
Pere Jean-Juste was a Jesus-like revolutionary. In jail and out, he preached liberation of the poor, release of prisoners, human rights for all, and a fair distribution of wealth. A big muscular man with a booming voice and a frequent deep laugh, he wore a brightly colored plastic rosary around his neck and carried another in his pocket. Jailed for nearly a year in Haiti by the U.S. supported coup government which was trying to silence him, Amnesty International called him a Prisoner of Conscience.
Jean-Juste was a scourge to the unelected coup governments of Haiti, who served at the pleasure, and usually the direction, of the U.S. government. He constantly challenged both the powers of Haiti and the U.S. to stop killing and starving and imprisoning the poor. In the U.S. he fought against government actions which deported black Haitians while welcoming Cubans and Nicaraguans and others. In Haiti he called for democracy and respect and human rights for the poor.
Pere Jean-Juste was sometimes called the most dangerous man in Haiti. That was because he was not afraid to die. His computer screen saver was a big blue picture of Mary, the mother of Jesus. “Every day I am ready to meet her.” He once told me, when death threats came again. “I will not stop working for justice because of their threats. I am looking forward to heaven.”
Jean-Juste was a literally a holy terror to the unelected powers of Haiti and the elected but unaccountable powers of the U.S. Every single day, in jail or out, he said Mass, read the psalms and jubilantly prayed the rosary. In Port au Prince he slept on the floor of his church, St. Claire, which provided meals to thousands of starving children and adults every week. In prison, he organized local nuns to bring him hundreds of plastic rosaries which he gave to fellow prisoners and then lead them in daily prayer.
When Pere Jean-Juste began to speak, to preach really, about justice for the poor and the wrongfully imprisoned, restless crowds drew silent. Listening to him preach was like feeling the air change before a thunderstorm sweeps in. He slowly raised his arms. He spread his powerful hands to punctuate his intensifying words. Minutes passed as the Bible and the Declaration of Human Rights and today’s news were interspersed. Justice for the poor. Freedom for those in prison. Comfort for those who mourn. The thunder was rolling now. Crowds were cheering now. Human rights for everyone. Justice for Haiti. Justice for Haiti. Justice for Haiti.
To the rich, Jean-Juste preached that the man with two coats should give one to the woman with none. But, unlike most preachers, he did not stop there. Because there were many people with no coats, Pere Jean-Juste said, no one could justly claim ownership of a second coat. In fact, those who held onto second coats were actually thieves who stole from those who had no coats. In Haiti and the U.S., where there is such a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots, there was much stealing by the rich from the poor. This was revolutionary preaching.
During the day, people streamed to his church to ask for help. Mothers walked miles from Cite de Soleil to his parish to beg him to help them bury their children. Widows sought help. Families with sons in prison asked for a private word. Small packets of money and food were quietly given away. Visitors from rural Haiti, people seeking jobs, many looking for food, police officers who warned of new threats, political organizers with ideas how to challenge the unelected government, reporters and people seeking special prayers – all came all the time.
Every single night when he was home at his church in Port au Prince Pere Jean-Juste led a half hour public rosary for anyone who showed up. Most of the crowd was children and older women who came in part because the church was the only place in the neighborhood which had electricity. He walked the length of the church booming out the first part of the Hail Mary while children held his hand or trailed him calling out their part of the rosary. The children and the women came night after night to pray in Kreyol with Mon Pere.
Pere Jean-Juste lived the preferential option for the poor of liberation theology. Because he was always in trouble with the management of the church, who he also freely criticized, he was usually not allowed regular church parish work. In Florida, he lay down in his clerical blacks on the road in front of busses stopping them from taking Haitians to be deported from the U.S. For years he lived on the run in Haiti, moving from house to house. When he was arrested on trumped up charges, he refused to allow people with money to bribe his way out of jail, he would stay with the poor and share their treatment.
He dedicated his entire adult life to the revolutionary proposition that every single person is entitled to a life of human dignity. No matter the color of skin. No matter what country they were from. No matter how poor or rich. No matter woman or man.
His last time in court in Haiti, when the judge questioned him about a bogus weapons charge against him, Pere Jean-Juste dug into his pocket, pulled out his plastic prayer beads, thrust them high in the air and bellowed, to the delight of the hundreds in attendance, “My rosary is my only weapon!” The crowd roared and all charges were dropped.
Gerard Jean-Juste lived with and fought for and with widows and orphans and those in jail and those being deported and the hungry and the mourning and the sick and the persecuted. Our world is better for his time among us.
Mon Pere, our brother, your spirit, like those of all who struggle for justice for others, lives on. Presente!
By Bill Quigley. Bill represented Pere Jean-Juste many times in Haiti along with the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Port au Prince and the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. Bill is on leave from Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans serving as Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He can be contacted at email@example.com
Haiti’s Great White Hope? May 25, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Caribbean, Foreign Policy, Haiti.
Tags: aristide, Ban Ki-moon, Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, condoleezza, duvalier, haiti, haiti freedom, haiti history, haiti massacres, haiti poverty, haiti revolution, haitian army, jean bertrand aristide, john maxwell, kofi annan, patrick manning, randall robinson, raoul cedras, roger hollander, slave revolt, slave trade, U.S. imperialism
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Jamaican Observer, May 24, 2009
History is littered with treachery. In the noisome Slough of Dishonour are mired thousands of reputations, most of those who betrayed their own countries, like Pierre Laval, Vidkun Quisling, Jonas Savimbi and Augusto Pinochet.
The deepest pits, though, the most purulent sinks, are reserved for those who have ranged abroad to betray and sabotage strangers, to inflict unnecessary suffering on people who have never given them cause for complaint. People like Leopold of Belgium, Neville Chamberlain, Hitler, Ariel Sharon and George W Bush spring readily to mind. On Monday, former President Clinton announced that he would accept an invitation from the UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon of South Korea, to become the SG’s personal envoy in Haiti. It is an appointment that will end in disaster. I mention Ban Ki Moon’s nationality because I believe that the disaster that already exists in Haiti is the result of a culture clash which is entirely incomprehensible to most people outside the Western hemisphere and not easily understood by most people outside the international crime scene that has been created in Haiti.
Ground Zero for Modern Civilisation
It is my contention that the modern world was born in Haiti. When you understand that the modern rotary printing press is a direct descendant of mills made to grind sugar you may begin to get the drift of my argument. Since I am not a historian my arguments will not be subtle and nuanced. I am simply presenting a few crude facts which, however you interpret them, will lead inexorably, I believe, to the conclusion that modern ideas of liberty and freedom, modern capitalism and globalisation of production and exchange, would have spent much longer in gestation had it not been for the black slaves of Haiti who abolished slavery and the slave trade. In the process they defeated the armies of the leading world powers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, destroyed the French empire in the western hemisphere, doubled the size and power of the United States and incidentally promoted the European sugar beet industry and revolutionised European farming.
The problem with all this, as I have repeatedly pointed out, is that had the Haitians been ethnically European, their achievements would now suffuse the world narrative; conversely, had Spartacus been black, he would long ago have faded into the mists of barbarian myth. The Haitians and all the other blacks of the Western hemisphere were uprooted from their native grounds, their civilisations laid waste, and they themselves transported to unknown lands in which they were forced to create unexampled riches and luxury for their rapists and despoilers.
For reasons lost to history, the blacks in Haiti and Jamaica were, for most of their captivity, the most unwilling subjects and continued to fight for their freedom for more than three centuries. The Enlightenment and its prophets and philosophers popularised the ideas of freedom and liberty, the rights of man. Nowhere was freedom taken more seriously than by the Haitians, who, described as Frenchmen, fought valiantly for American freedom in that nation’s Revolutionary War of Independence. When Revolution convulsed France in turn, the Haitians threw their support to those they thought were fighting for freedom. When that proved a false trail, the Haitians continued to fight, defeating the French, British and Spanish armies sent to re-enslave them.
Although the Americans and the French said they believed in freedom, they formed an unholy combination to restrict Haiti’s liberty. The fact of Haitian freedom frightened the Americans and other world powers. Haiti promised freedom to any captive who set foot on her soil and armed, provisioned and supplied trained soldiers to Simon Bolivar for the liberation of South America. Nearly 200 years before the United Nations (and France and the USA), Haiti proclaimed Universal Human Rights, threatening the slave societies in America and the Caribbean. Haiti’s freedom was compromised by French and American financial blackmail, and as I’ve said before, what the Atlantic powers could not achieve by force of arms they achieved by compound interest. Haiti was the first heavily indebted poor country, and the United States, Canada, France and the multilateral financial organisations, the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank and the IMF have worked hard to keep her in that bondage.
|In this March 10, 2009 file photo, former US President Bill Clinton greets United Nations workers in Port-au-Prince. The United Nations recently named Clinton as its special envoy to Haiti, with a mission to help the impoverished nation achieve some measure of stability after devastating floods and other crises. (Photo: AP)|
Eventually, 93 years ago, the Americans invaded Haiti, destroyed the constitution, the government and their social system. American Jim Crow segregation and injustice destroyed the Haitian middle class, enhanced and exacerbated class distinctions and antagonisms and left Haiti a ravaged, dysfunctional mess, ruled by a corrupt American-trained military in the interest of a small, corrupt gang of mainly expatriate or white capitalists, ready to support any and every murderous dictator who protected their interests.
Finally, 20 years ago, the Haitians rose up and overthrew the Duvaliers and the apprentice dictators who followed. In their first free election the Haitians elected a black parish priest of small stature, the man whose words and spirit had embodied their struggle. But the real rulers of Haiti, the corrupt, bloodthirsty capitalists with their American passports and their bulletproof SUVs, had no intention of letting Haitians exercise the universal human rights their leaders had proclaimed two centuries before.
When Jean Bertrand Aristide was deposed after a few months in office, it was with the help of the CIA, USAID, and other American entities. Then ensued one of the most disgraceful episodes in the long, unsavoury history of diplomacy. Bill Clinton – elected president promising to treat the Haitian refugees as human beings – elected instead to observe the same barbarous policies as George Bush I, and when the refugees became a flood, Clinton’s answer was more illegality. He parked two massive floating slave barracoons in Kingston Harbour where refugees picked up in Jamaican waters were, with the craven connivance of the Patterson government, denied asylum, captured and processed and 22 per cent of them selected for the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp while the rest were returned to their murderers in Haiti.
Eventually, largely due to pressure from black pressure groups in the US and crucially, a fast to the death begun by Randall Robinson, Clinton agreed to restore Aristide while General Colin Powell talked grandly of the soldier’s honour he shared with Haiti’s then murderer-in-chief, a scamp called Raoul Cedras. President Clinton made several pledges to Aristide and to Haiti, but history does not seem to record that any were kept. Had even a few been kept, Haiti may have been able to guarantee public security and to install some desperately needed infrastructure. Instead Haitians are still scooping water to drink from potholes in the street and stave off hunger with ‘fritters’ made from earth and cooking fat.
The Haitian Army, the most corrupt and evil public institution in the western hemisphere, was abolished by Aristide, to the displeasure of the North American powers. Now that the Americans have deposed Aristide for the second time, security is in the hands of a motley mercenary army, a UN peacekeeping force. Security in Haiti is so good that three years ago, the then head of this force, a Brazilian general, was found shot to death after a friendly chat with Haitian elites. The rapes, massacres, disappearances and kidnappings continue unabated and the only popular political force, the Fanmi Lavalas, has been effectively neutered. President Clinton “will aim to attract private and government investment and aid for the poor Caribbean island nation”, according to Clinton’s office and a senior UN official. “A UN official said that Clinton would act as a ‘cheerleader’ for the economically distressed country, cajoling government and business leaders into pouring fresh money into a place that is largely dependent on foreign assistance.”
It all sounds so nice and cozy, a poor, black ‘hapless’ nation under the tutelage of the rich and civilised of the earth. I am prepared to bet that neither Haitian democracy nor Bill Clinton’s reputation will survive this appointment. Democracy is impossible without popular participation and decision making. In Haiti, democracy is impossible without Lavalas and Aristide. If Haiti itself is to survive, the UN General Assembly needs to seize this baton from the spectacularly unqualified and ignorant Security Council and its very nice and affable secretary general, even less attuned to Haitian reality than the last SG, Kofi Annan and his accomplices, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, PJ Patterson and Patrick Manning.
Copyright -2009 John Maxwell firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: aristide, Ban Ki-moon, Bill Clinton, clinton administratin, Guantanamo, haiti, haiti coup, haiti history, jeremy scahill, raoul cedras, roger hollander, special envoy, U.S. imperialism
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As president, Clinton forced neoliberal policies on Haiti, delayed President Aristide’s return after a US-backed coup and held Haitian refugees at Gitmo without rights.
Shining such a spotlight on those who created the instability, as Concannon suggests, would mean examining Clinton’s own role as president of the US during one of Haiti’s most horrifyingly dark periods.
Reuters news agency quotes a diplomat as saying Clinton is “an ‘excellent choice’ to help unlock Haiti’s potential as an investment target,” adding that his appointment “could attract investment in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation and help stabilize the country.”
That last statement about “stabiliz[ing]” Haiti would be humorous for its irony if the reality—and Clinton’s history in Haiti—wasn’t so deadly serious. The fact is that, as US president, Clinton’s policies helped systematically destabilize Haiti.
Dan Coughlin, who spent years as a journalist in Haiti in the 1990s for Inter Press Service, said he was “incredulous” when he heard the news. “Given the Clinton Administration’s aggressive pursuit of policies that profitted Haiti’s tiny elite, the IMF and big corporations at the expense of Haiti’s farmers and urban workers, the appointment does not bode well for the kind of fundamental change so needed in a country that has given so much to humankind,” Coughlin says.
In September 1991, the US backed the violent overthrow of the government of Haiti’s democratically-elected leftist priest President Jean Bertrand Aristide after he was in power less than a year. Aristide had defeated a US-backed candidate in the 1990 Haitian presidential election. The military coup leaders and their paramilitary gangs of CIA-backed murderous thugs, including the notorious FRAPH paramilitary units, were known for hacking the limbs off of Aristide supporters (and others) along with an unending slew of other horrifying crimes.
When Clinton came to power, he played a vicious game with Haiti that allowed the coup regime to continue rampaging Haiti and further destabilized the country. What’s more, in the 1992 election campaign, Bill Clinton campaigned on a pledge to reverse what he called then-President George HW Bush’s “cruel policy” of holding Haitian refugees at Guantanamo with no legal rights in US courts. Upon his election, however, Clinton reversed his position and sided with the Bush administration in denying the Haitians legal rights. the Haitians were held in atrocious conditions and the new Democratic president was sued by the Center for Constitutional Rights (sound familiar?).
While Clinton and his advisers publicly expressed their dismay with the coup, they simultaneously refused to support the swift reinstatement of the country’s democratically elected leader and would, in fact, not allow Aristide’s return until Washington received guarantees that: 1. Aristide would not lay claim to the years of his presidency lost in forced exile and; 2. US neoliberal economic plans were solidified as the law of the land in Haiti.
“The Clinton administration was credited for working for the return to power of Jean Bertrand Aristide after he was overthrown in a military coup,” says author William Blum. “But, in fact, Clinton had stalled the return for as long as he could, and had instead tried his best to return anti-Aristide conservatives to a leading power role in a mixed government, because Aristide was too leftist for Washington’s tastes.” Blum’s book “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II” includes a chapter on the history of the US role in Haiti.
The fact that the coup against the democratically-elected president of Haiti was allowed to continue unabated for three full years seemed to be less offensive to Clinton than Aristide’s progressive vision for Haiti. As Blum observed in his book, “[Clinton] was not actually repulsed by [coup leader Raoul] Cédras and company, for they posed no ideological barrier to the United States continuing the economic and strategic control of Haiti it’s maintained for most of the century. Unlike Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a man who only a year earlier had declared: ‘I still think capitalism is a mortal sin.’”
Blum added: “Faced ultimately with Aristide returning to power, Clinton demanded and received — and then made sure to publicly announce — the Haitian president’s guarantee that he would not try to remain in office to make up for the time lost in exile. Clinton of course called this ‘democracy,’ although it represented a partial legitimization of the coup.” Indeed, Haiti experts say that Clinton could have restored Aristide to power under an almost identical arrangement years earlier than he did.
When Aristide finally returned to Haiti, as Blum notes, “Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s reception was a joyous celebration filled with optimism. However, unbeknownst to his adoring followers, while they were regaining Aristide, they may have lost Aristidism.”
As The Los Angeles Times reported at the time:
In a series of private meetings, Administration officials admonished Aristide to put aside the rhetoric of class warfare … and seek instead to reconcile Haiti’s rich and poor. The Administration also urged Aristide to stick closely to free-market economics and to abide by the Caribbean nation’s constitution — which gives substantial political power to the Parliament while imposing tight limits on the presidency. … Administration officials have urged Aristide to reach out to some of his political opponents in setting up his new government … to set up a broad-based coalition regime. … the Administration has made it clear to Aristide that if he fails to reach a consensus with Parliament, the United States will not try to prop up his regime. Almost every aspect of Aristide’s plans for resuming power — from taxing the rich to disarming the military — has been examined by the U.S. officials with whom the Haitian president meets daily and by officials from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other aid organizations. The finished package clearly reflects their priorities. … Aristide obviously has toned down the liberation theology and class-struggle rhetoric that was his signature before he was exiled to Washington.
“While Bill Clinton oversaw the return of President Aristide in 1994, he also put significant constraints on what Aristide was able to do once back in power,” says Bill Fletcher, Jr, the Executive Editor of BlackCommentator.com and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. “Clinton advanced a neo-liberal agenda for Haiti thereby undermining the efforts of an otherwise progressive populist administration (Aristide’s). There is no reason to believe that [as a UN envoy] ex-President Clinton will introduce or support efforts to radically break Haiti from under the thumb of the USA and the dire poverty which has been a significant consequence of said domination.”
El Salvador Votes Away Its Bad Past March 20, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in El Salvador, Latin America.
Tags: arena, aristide, central america, d'aubuison, daniel ortega, death squads, El Salvador, el salvador government, el salvador history, el salvador politics, el salvador poverty, Evo Morales, fmln, haiti, Hugo Chavez, Latin America, latin america history, latin america politics, mark weisbrot, mauricio funes, obama administration, oscar romero, roger hollander, ronald reagan, salvadoran military, zelaya
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Published on Friday, March 20, 2009 by The Guardian/UK
Last Sunday’s election in El Salvador, in which the leftist FMLN (Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation) won the presidency, didn’t get a lot of attention in the international press. It’s a relatively small country (7 million people on land the size of Massachusetts) and fairly poor (per capita income about half the regional average). And left governments have become the norm in Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela have all elected left governments over the last decade. South America is now more independent of the United States than Europe is.
But the FMLN’s victory in El Salvador has a special significance for this hemisphere.
Central America and the Caribbean have long been the United States’ “back yard” more than anywhere else. The people of the region have paid a terrible price – in blood, poverty and underdevelopment – for their geographical and political proximity to the United States. The list of US interventions in the area would take up the rest of this column, stretching from the 19th century (Cuba, in 1898) to the 21st, with the overthrow of Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (for the second time) in 2004.
Those of us who can remember the 1980s can see President Ronald Reagan on television warning that “El Salvador is nearer to Texas than Texas is to Massachusetts” as he sent guns and money to the Salvadoran military and its affiliated death squads. Their tens of thousands of targets – for torture, terror and murder – were overwhelmingly civilians, including Catholic priests, nuns and the heroic archbishop Oscar Romero. It seems ridiculous now that Reagan could have convinced the US Congress that the people who won Sunday’s election were not only a threat to our national security, but one that justified horrific atrocities. But he did. At the same time millions of Americans – including many church-based activists – joined a movement to stop US support for the terror, as well as what the United Nations later called genocide in Guatemala, along with the US-backed insurgency in Nicaragua (which was also a war against civilians).
Now we have come full circle. In 2007, Guatemalans elected a social democratic president for the first time since 1954, when the CIA intervened to overthrow the government. Last September, President Zelaya of Honduras – which served as a base for US military and paramilitary operations in the 1980s – joined with Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez when they expelled their US ambassadors. Zelaya defended their actions and postponed the accreditation of the US ambassador to Honduras, saying that “the world powers must treat us fairly and with respect”. In 2006 Nicaraguans elected Daniel Ortega of the Sandinistas, the same president that Washington had spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to topple in the 1980s.
El Salvador’s election was not only another step toward regional independence but a triumph of hope against fear, much as in the US presidential election of 2008. The ruling ARENA party, which was founded by right-wing death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson, made fear their brand: fear of another civil war, fear of bad relations with the United States, fear of a “communist dictatorship”. Almost comically, they tried to make the election into a referendum on Hugo Chávez. (Venezuela kept its distance from the election, with no endorsements or statements other than its desire to have good relations with whomever won.)
ARENA was joined by Republican members of Congress from the United States, who tried to promote the idea that Salvadorans – about a quarter of whom live in the US – would face extraordinary problems with immigration and remittances if the FMLN won. Although these threats were completely without merit, the right’s control over the media made them real for many Salvadorans. In the 2004 election the Bush administration joined this effort to intimidate Salvadoran voters, and it helped the right win.
The right’s control over the media, its abuse of government in the elections and its vast funding advantage (there are no restrictions on foreign funding) led José Antonio de Gabriel, the deputy chief of the European Union’s observer mission, to comment on “the absence of a level playing field”. It’s amazing that the FMLN was still able to win, and testimony to the high level of discipline, organisation and self-sacrifice that comes from having a leadership that has survived war and hell on earth.
This time around, the Obama administration, after receiving thousands of phone calls – thanks to the solidarity movement that stems from the 1980s – issued a statement of neutrality on the Friday before the election. The administration appears divided on El Salvador as with the rest of Latin America’s left: at least one of Obama’s highest-level advisors on Latin America favoured the right-wing ruling party. But the statement of neutrality was a clear break from the Bush administration.
El Salvador’s new president, Mauricio Funes – a popular former TV journalist – will face many challenges, especially on the economic front. The country exports 10% of its GDP to the United States, and receives another 18% in remittances from Salvadorans living there. Along with sizeable private investment flows, this makes El Salvador very vulnerable to the deep US recession. El Salvador has also adopted the US dollar as its national currency. This means that it cannot use exchange rate policy and is severely limited in monetary policy to counteract the recession. On top of this, it has recently signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund that commits the government to not pursuing a fiscal stimulus for this year. And the FMLN will not have a majority in the Congress.
But the majority of Salvadorans, who are poor or near-poor, decided that the left would be more likely than the right to look out for them in hard times. That’s a reasonable conclusion, and one that is shared by most of the hemisphere.