As I recently told Fran-Ramblings, the heartbreak of Haiti has me wondering about the Aristide coups. I vividly recall how outraged Congressional Rep Maxene Waters was when the last one happened in 2004. She was sure it was GWBush who masterminded waking Aristide up in the middle of the night, telling him there was a coup going on & he must be flown out of Haiti immediately. They took him & his family to Africa. His replacement was apparently much more palatable to GWBush.
I've never really read much more about why that whole deal went down. I remember Maxene Waters saying how honorable Aristide was and how he was trying to help the people of Haiti. So, hmmm, now I can't help but wonder if Aristide had remained in power, would he have been able to improve Haiti enough so that recovery from this earthquake would not have been so disastrous?
And yes, when I see GWB's plastered face plastered on TV with Bill Clinton, acting all concerned about Haiti, I get more than little suspicious. Is he just doing more "legacy lying" to cover up what happened with Aristide?
Haiti was once a wealthy nation, the wealthiest in the hemisphere ... "worth more," wrote Voltaire in the 18th century, "than that rocky, cold colony known as New England."
How did it become the helpless country we see today after a major earthquake?
Perhaps some snips of recent Haitian history will reveal some clues ... and whenever recent history is mentioned, one must remember the Bush Family, both Papa and Baby.
Former Haitian President Aristide was removed from power twice, once per each US President named Bush.
Prior to Aristide's presidency, the Duvaliers and the United States government and business community worked together to make Haiti as it was when the earthquake struck last week. American planners ( including the International Republican Institute ) instructed this small, poor country to abandon its self-sustaining agricultural past and develop an export-oriented manufacturing sector utilizing cheap labor to do things like sew the leather around baseballs. What followed was forest and agricultural mismanagement and expanding poverty and slums.
In this 1/20/10 article, Democracy Now! goes beyond the overwhelming earthquake grief and tragedy to discuss some of the Haitian history of Aristide, the Duvaliers, the revolutions, the coups, the privatization of publicly-held industries which were then sold, mostly to weathly US investors. Grasping a bit of Haiti's history helps one to understand why DN! says, "in fact, this earthquake was preceded by a political and economic earthquake with an epicenter 2,000 miles north of here, in Washington, DC, over the past 24-years."
(a paraphrased taste):
After the Duvaliers were driven out, Haiti endured the standard Latin American facade election scenario of putting supposedly democratic leaders in power, leaders the US approved of, but they were purchased elections. Haiti was the first country in Latin America to foil US-engineered facade elections by electing a poor parish priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to the presidency. At the time of his inauguration on February 7, 1991, he declared the second independence of Haiti, because he wanted Haiti to be free of the imperial domination of the US and France. The 1991 coup occured eight months later while Geo HW Bush was US president....
... an event which reeks of US-backed military intervention and CIA support of juntas and death squads, similar to Panama and Nicaragua deals that also involved Geo HW Bush (if I do say so myself -- and I do).
The second Aristide removal occured on Feb 29th 2004 when US special forces soldiers flew into Haiti on an unmarked jet, surrounded the palace with laser sighted rifles and machine guns, snatched him & his family out of his home, and few them to Africa. Aristide was banned from returning to this hemisphere by the reigning superpower (ahem, that would be US).
Below are other links and snips for anyone else interested in exploring this dubious chapter of Haitian history and its connection back to the US and two presidents named Bush.
For an in-depth analysis of America's fingerprints on events surrounding the second Aristide removal in 2004 while GWBush was US President, read this 2006 NYT article:
After two centuries of foreign occupiers, dictators, generals, a self-appointed president for life and the overthrow of more than 30 governments, Haitians finally had the chance in 1990 to elect the leader they wanted. The people chose Mr. Aristide, a priest who had been expelled from his Roman Catholic order for his fiery orations of liberation theology.
"He was espousing change in Haiti, fundamental populist change," said Robert Maguire, a Haiti scholar ... "Right away, he was viewed as a threat by very powerful forces ..."
President Aristide promised not only to give voice to the poor in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but also to raise the minimum wage and force businesses to pay taxes. He rallied supporters with heated attacks on the United States, a tacit supporter of past dictatorships and a major influence in Haitian affairs since the Marines occupied the country from 1915 to 1934.
Greg Palast, who calls Haiti, "The Right Testicle of Hell" in this article, is also wondering how ...
How did Haiti end up so economically weakened ... with infrastructure from hospitals to water systems busted or non-existent (there are two fire stations in the entire nation!) ... infrastructure so frail that the nation was simply waiting for "nature" to finish it off?
Don't blame Mother Nature for all this death and destruction! That dishonor goes to Papa Doc and Baby Doc, the Duvalier dictatorship, which looted the nation for 28 years. Papa and his Baby put an estimated 80% of world aid into their own pockets -- with the complicity of the US government happy to have the Duvaliers and their voodoo militia, the Tonton Macoutes death squads, as allies in the Cold War.
What Papa and Baby didn't run off with, the IMF finished off through its "austerity" plans. An austerity plan is a form of voodoo orchestrated by economists zombified by an irrational belief that cutting government services will somehow help a nation prosper.
In 1991, five years after the murderous Baby Doc fled, Haitians elected a priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who resisted the IMF's austerity. Within months, the military, to the applause of Papa George HW Bush, deposed him.
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. The farce was George W. Bush. In 2004, after the priest Aristide was re-elected President, he was kidnapped and removed again, to the applause of Baby Bush.
Finally, for a Haitian Blogger's POV, read the Zen Haitian ...
(paraphrasing her comments):
removing Aristide did not help the majority of Haitians, but it did help corporations and other big money to continue to exploit Haiti's labor, resources and further weakened Haiti's sovereignty. All this while the majority of Haitians were still living in indescribably desperate, grinding poverty and degradation. Food riots, no clean water, most areas having no electricity, no infrastructure, political kidnappings, massacres, assassinations, political detentions, a brutal UN occupation, controversial elections--that all happened after Aristide was removed.The fact that Aristide was elected with about 90% of the vote, whereas Bush Jr had two highly controversial elections, did not stop Bush people from labeling Aristide a power hungry dictator.
So what do you think? It seems to me that America's fingerprints are all over the aftermath of this devastating earthquake. Are we (yet again) looking at another Bush (Papa and Baby) engineered tragedy? Jeez, is there anything these guys touch that doesn't turn into a nightmare?
ps, a weeping Aristide wants to return to Haiti now even if only to give moral support. "As far as we are concerned, we are ready to leave today, tomorrow, at any time to join the people of Haiti, share in their suffering, help rebuild the country, moving from misery to poverty with dignity", said Aristide in Johannesburg, his wife Mildred next to him, eyes downcast, twisting a handkerchief. Why shouldn't this man, a former priest who is still wildly popular with the Haitian poor, be allowed to return and give comfort to his own country? He may have been a flawed leader (even his fans will concede that the man had a problem accounting for money), but the flip side is the incredible CIA disinformation campaign about him being some kind of satanic voodoo killer, a campaign that resulted in many people today not knowing what to believe or what really happened under his presidency. Why can't Haitians be allowed to decide whether to let him back into their country?