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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

You forgot Haiti.

Be honest. You did, didn't you?

Well, Naomi Klein reminds us in this week's issue of The Nation: Aristide in Exile.

It was only ten years ago that President Clinton celebrated Aristide's return to power as "the triumph of freedom over fear." So what changed? Corruption? Violence? Fraud? Aristide is certainly no saint. But even if the worst of the allegations are true, they pale next to the rap sheets of the convicted killers, drug smugglers and arms traders who ousted Aristide and continue to enjoy free rein, with full support from the Bush Administration and the UN. Turning Haiti over to this underworld gang out of concern for Aristide's lack of "good governance" is like escaping an annoying date by accepting a lift home from Charles Manson.

A few weeks ago I visited Aristide in Pretoria, South Africa, where he lives in forced exile. I asked him what was really behind his dramatic falling-out with Washington. He offered an explanation rarely heard in discussions of Haitian politics--actually, he offered three: "privatization, privatization and privatization."

The dispute dates back to a series of meetings in early 1994, a pivotal moment in Haiti's history that Aristide has rarely discussed. Haitians were living under the barbaric rule of Raoul Cédras, who overthrew Aristide in a 1991 US-backed coup. Aristide was in Washington and despite popular calls for his return, there was no way he could face down the junta without military back-up. Increasingly embarrassed by Cédras's abuses, the Clinton Administration offered Aristide a deal: US troops would take him back to Haiti--but only after he agreed to a sweeping economic program with the stated goal to "substantially transform the nature of the Haitian state."

< snip >

Aristide's relationship with Washington has been deteriorating ever since: While more than $500 million in promised loans and aid were cut off, starving his government, USAID poured millions into the coffers of opposition groups, culminating ultimately in the February 2004 armed coup.

And the war continues. On June 23 Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, called on UN troops to take a more "proactive role" in going after armed pro-Aristide gangs. In practice, this has meant a wave of Falluja-like collective punishment inflicted on neighborhoods known for supporting Aristide. On July 6, for instance, 300 UN troops stormed Cité Soleil, blocking off exits and firing from armored vehicles. The UN admits that five were killed, but residents put the number of dead at no fewer than twenty. Reuters correspondent Joseph Guyler Delva says he "saw seven bodies in one house alone, including two babies and one older woman in her 60s." Ali Besnaci, head of Médecins Sans Frontières in Haiti, confirmed that on the day of the siege twenty-seven people came to the MSF clinic with gunshot wounds, three-quarters of them women and children.

Yet despite these attacks, Haitians are still on the streets--rejecting the planned sham elections, opposing privatization and holding up photographs of their president. And just as Washington's experts could not fathom the possibility that Aristide would reject their advice a decade ago, today they cannot accept that his poor supporters could be acting of their own accord--surely Aristide must be controlling them through some mysterious voodoo arts. ...

Please go to the article at the Nation website and read the rest.

Now, let's review. The U.S. backs a coup in 1991 to overthrow Aristide. The U.S. helps Aristide return to power after he agrees to an economic program of privatizing state industries. Aristide agrees to the privatization but only with profit-sharing to the lower classes, approved by Parliament. When such approval didn't occur quickly enough, the U.S. pulls economc aid to the Haitian government and starts funding opposition groups, culminating in a coup in February 2004 to remove Aristide from power once again.

So....the U.S. is doing what in Haiti? "Spreading democracy"?

For those of you who haven't noticed, the "democracy" - also referred to as "freedom" - that the folks behind this stuff are trying to spread, is not "free and fair elections", "free press", "first amendment rights" freedom. No. When these people say "freedom", they are referring merely to the freedom for one person or group of people to grab as much as they can, for as long as they can, with no obligation to support the society that makes it possible for them to grab so much for themselves. It's called unregulated capitalism. And that is what the people in our government who funded Aristide's overthrow(s) want - to force the false "democracy" of economic privatization on every country they can, so that their global corporate patrons can make even more money and pay even higher patronage.

Two totally different definitions of "freedom". Let's not get them confused.

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