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Old 03-01-2004, 08:53 PM   #1
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Jeff Sachs: Don't Buy Washington's Spin on Haiti

Don't fall for Washington's spin on Haiti
By Jeffrey Sachs

Published: February 29 2004 20:15 | Last Updated: February 29 2004 20:15

The crisis in Haiti is another case of brazen US manipulation of a small, impoverished country. Much of the media portrayed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as an undemocratic leader who betrayed Haiti's democratic hopes and thereby lost the support of his erstwhile backers. He "stole" elections and intransigently refused to address opposition concerns. As a result he had to leave office, which he did on Sunday at the insistence of the US and France. Unfortunately, this is a very distorted view.


President George Bush's foreign policy team came into office intent on toppling Mr Aristide, and their efforts were apparently consummated on Sunday. Mr Aristide was long reviled by powerful US conservatives such as former senator Jesse Helms, who obsessively saw him as another Fidel Castro in the Caribbean. Such critics fulminated when President Bill Clinton restored Mr Aristide to power in 1994, and they succeeded in forcing the withdrawal of US troops from Haiti soon afterwards, well before the situation in the country could be stabilised. In terms of help to rebuild Haiti, the US Marines left behind about 8 miles of paved roads in Port-au-Prince and essentially little else.

In the meantime, the so-called "opposition," a coterie of rich Haitians linked to the preceding Duvalier regime, former (and perhaps current) CIA operatives and decommissioned officers of the brutal Duvalier army disbanded by Mr Aristide, worked Washington political circles to lobby against him.

In 2000, Haiti ran parliamentary and then presidential elections, unprecedented in their scope. The parliamentary elections went off adequately, although not perfectly. Mr Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas, clearly won the election, although candidates who won a plurality rather than a majority, and who should have faced a second-round election, also gained seats. Objective observers declared the elections broadly successful, albeit flawed.

Mr Aristide won the presidential election later that year. The US media now reports that those elections were "boycotted by the opposition," and hence not legitimate, but this is a cruel joke to those who know Haiti. In fact, Haiti's voters elected Mr Aristide in late 2000 with an overwhelming mandate and the opposition, such as it was, ducked the elections. Duvalier thugs hardly constituted a winning ticket and as a result, they did not even try. Nor did they have to.

Mr Aristide's foes in Haiti benefited from tight links with the incoming Bush team; and thereby followed one of the great recent scandals of US foreign policy. The Bush team told Mr Aristide it would freeze all aid unless he agreed with the opposition over new elections for the contested Senate seats, among other political demands. The wrangling led to the freezing of $500m in emergency humanitarian aid from the US, the World Bank and other multilateral organisations.

The tragedy, or joke, is that Mr Aristide had agreed to compromise, but the opposition simply came up with one excuse after another - it was never the right time to hold new elections, as proposed by Mr Aristide, because of "security" problems, they said. Whatever the pretext, the US maintained its aid freeze and Haiti's economy, cut off from bilateral and multilateral financing, went into a tailspin.

All this is now being replayed before our eyes. As Haiti slipped into deeper turmoil last month, Caribbean leaders called for a power-sharing compromise between Mr Aristide and the opposition. Once again, Mr Aristide agreed and the opposition balked, saying instead that the president had to leave. US Secretary of State Colin Powell reportedly pressed opposition leaders to accept a compromise but they refused again. But rather than defending Mr Aristide and dealing with opposition intransigence, the White House announced the president should step down.

The ease with which another Latin American democracy crumbled is stunning. What, though, has been the role of US intelligence agencies among the anti-Aristide rebels? How much money went from US-funded institutions and government agencies to help the opposition. And why did the White House abandon the Caribbean compromise proposal it had endorsed just days before? These questions have not been asked. Then again, we live in an age when entire wars can be launched on phony pretenses, with few questions asked in the aftermath.

What should happen now is unlikely to pass. The United Nations should help restore Mr Aristide to power for his remaining two years in office, making clear that Sunday's events were an illegal power grab. Second, the US should call on the opposition, which is largely a US construct, to stop all violence, immediately and unconditionally. Third, after years of literally starving the people of Haiti, the long-promised and long-frozen aid flows of $500m should start immediately. These steps would rescue a dying democracy and at least help avert a possible bloodbath.

The writer is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University
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Old 03-01-2004, 09:33 PM   #2
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Old 03-01-2004, 09:34 PM   #3
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What should also be mentioned is that former Sen. Jesse Helms was also a strong supporter of Jean-Claude Duvalier ("Baby Doc"), who was just as much a terrible dictator as his father was.

Apparently, though, the elite in Haiti don't pay taxes, even though they have well over half of all the wealth in Haiti, and Aristide's fate was probably sealed when he insisted that they pay. It's really quite too bad that making the wealthy pay taxes is considered "Marxist," and, as such, became an automatic enemy of U.S. neocons.

Haiti, though, is an absolute disaster. Their economic and environmental conditions are so horrendous that I find it doubtful that anyone or anything will ever fix this nation. While it is likely that the disbanded army instigated the coup d'état, the nation easily supported it, if only because they want change--for better or for worse.

But 99% of the once lush forests are gone, and they have rampant soil erosion, thus making even crop growth impossible. A strong hurricane could, thus, likely kill thousands, if not millions from strong mudslides.

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Old 03-02-2004, 01:23 AM   #4
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Since this the first opinion I've read concerning Haiti's coup all I have to say is "I never trust the U.S. government as long as it's controlled by lobbyist and the elitest oligarchy.

Jeffery Sachs should be heard and admired for his courage in the face of censorship! Kudos to him!

I'm interested to see if any major media outlets cover his side of the story...at a godly hour...during prime time....while most of us are awake...
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Old 03-02-2004, 07:43 AM   #5
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And as US governments have done this sort of thing before (the economic pressures are errily similiar to what the Nixon administration did to Argentina leading up to Pinochet's rise to power - fulmenting revolution by causing economic turmoil is a tried and true method) no one can "oh that's impossible!". The only difference this time is that public oppinion won't let them fly the "revolutionaries" down to their country in planes full of weapons with "Made in the USA" stamped on them, like they did in 1954.
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Old 03-02-2004, 10:52 AM   #6
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There's an article on the front page of the local paper about Aristide telling people that he was forced out. Trust me, our local paper is *not* liberal. I expect them to endorse Bush in November. So much for the Washington spin. This is disgusting.
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Old 03-02-2004, 05:27 PM   #7
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Major media is so inthe toilet. Good Morning America reported "Aristide telling people that he was forced out" President Bush denies it. When will AmeriKa freakin wake UP?
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Old 03-02-2004, 05:32 PM   #8
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Thank the heavens....Aristide is GONE from Hati!
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Old 03-02-2004, 05:42 PM   #9
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Could you explain exactly what was so objectionable about Aristide that you feel compelled to support his departure?
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Old 03-02-2004, 06:07 PM   #10
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I posted a similar article from the UK Gardian in the Haiti thread over in the War forum.
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Old 03-02-2004, 07:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by FizzingWhizzbees
Could you explain exactly what was so objectionable about Aristide that you feel compelled to support his departure?
He was rude to me when I had to guard him in 1993.Right about the time I was packing my bags to go to hati to help install him as President thanks to Bubba.
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Old 03-02-2004, 11:15 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dreadsox
He was rude to me when I had to guard him in 1993.Right about the time I was packing my bags to go to hati to help install him as President thanks to Bubba.
How interesting.

Say what you want about Aristide, though; he was a better alternative to dictator Gen. Raoul Cedras.

It's probably too early to figure out what's going to happen in Haiti from here, but it looks like that, for once, Haiti may proceed with democracy. That is certainly a change of pace for a nation that has waffled between autocracy and anarchy for most of its 200 years of independence.

If that is Aristide's legacy in Haiti, in spite of his faults and tumultuous fall from grace, then it was worth it.

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Old 03-03-2004, 12:13 AM   #13
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Yes, it was pretty freaking weird....

Him shacked up at the Ritz in Boston.....and getting to guard him....

and then getting the call saying pack your bags for Haiti....To help him move out of the Ritz.
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