J U N E 2 0 0 4 F E A T U R E A R T I C L E
by Maya del Mar
Aristide made record contributions to Haiti's welfare
Although for the three years of the Bush Administration, Haiti has been under an international embargo, they have built many schools, clinics, and public spaces where people can gather, with grass and lights. In fact, more schools were built since 1994 than had previously been built since independence. A broad literacy program was launched, and health care was improved.
(The "rebels," however, have been destroying everything built by Aristides government, including schools. U.S. Marines are now bivouacked in the Aristides pride and joy, Medical Foundation headquarters, called the Medical School of Peace. This was where Cubans trained Haitians in the medical sciences.)
Aristide was particularly concerned about children, and also "restovics"the lowest people on the totem pole. These children are indentured servants, mostly young girls, and often mistreated. He created an afternoon school program for them, and would himself participate in dramas on the stage with them, according to Laura Flynn, who worked for two years with the Aristides creating radio stations run by and for children. Aristide outlawed child labor, and created a special bureau in the police to enforce the ban. He created nurseries and day care for kids. On TV he gave children and restovics respect and dignity, and this affected the whole population so that they felt more pride in themselves.
Children ranked highest in Aristides priorities. But he also gave special attention to seniors. Many 60-to-70-year-old people have learned to read, and are thrilled with a dream come true. He created schools for the young and schools for the old. He taught people how to help and teach one another.
And he and Mildred helped women. A Haitian woman interviewed on the street said, "Aristide put women in parliament and in business. He helped women, he gave them hope. He gave them money to establish security, especially through education, like going to nursing school. He helped women in prison. Both Aristide and Mildred helped women in many ways. We are talking about equality. When we have equality for women, the world will be a better place."
According to his friend, Randall Robinson, "Aristide is the most principled man I know. He is eminently decent, one of the few authentic Christians."
According to Stan Goff, Aristides sin is that he represents popular sovereignty. There has been a huge racial strategy, says Goff, since the Nixon Administration. The strategy has been to portray Haiti as diseased, ignorant, and ungovernable. We can see that happening in the media now.
The current coup began at Aristides Inauguration in 2001 or, according to some, when Aristide returned in 1994.
In 2000 there was another presidential election. The people turned out to vote, wading through threats and bombs to do so. Aristide received 92% of the vote. This election was monitored, and also considered by all to be fair. There were technical irregularities in the Senatorial elections, and the eight questionable Senators immediately resigned. This was made much of by those wanting to discredit Haitian democracy.
Stan Goff, who was there, said that again U.S. guns were stockpiled at the border of the Dominican Republic, which is completely subservient to the U.S.
Despite U.S. and French harassment, Haiti has created a viable country. In fact, until this coup it was considered by many an example of good government, according to John Maxwell, a columnist in Jamaica.
Haiti is now a bloodbath, filled with terrorists. All of the prisoners were immediately let out of jails by the current leaders, and supplied with guns. Despite this, courageous Lavalas supporters demonstrated after the kidnapping of Aristide, greatly surprising the U.S. Marines. The killersfor that is what they arenow in charge in Haiti are sending search-and-destroy missions over the countryside, using helicopters and a plane. They are tracking down and killing Lavalas leaders and activists. Often they burn their homes.
Why does the U.S. hate Aristide?
Some of the reasons are:
1. Hes extraordinarily popular with the people. He inspires and empowers people.
2. He encourages real democracy.
3. He helps the people, especially the underdog, in ways that have never been seen in the U.S. Bad example.
4. Hes against the institutions that run the country and oppress the people, like the Church, the elite, and the military.
5. Racial discrimination is alive and well in the U.S. The huge campaign against Aristide which began after his election in 1990 was driven by Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, famous for his racism. Roger Noriega, then Jesses assistant, is orchestrating this current deposing of Aristide. (Roger Noriega, now Asst. Sec. of State, is also in charge of destabilizing Venezuela.)
6. He applied taxes to the elite. (They demonstrated in Washington DC against this unfair practice.)
7. He is asking for return of some of the indemnification money from France.
8. He re-establlished relations with Cuba in 1996. Cubans have since trained 550 Haitian doctors, and treated 5 million Haitians.
9. Aristide is a Socialist.
Aristide returned to the Caribbean on March 15.
When asked if the U.S. allowed her to retrieve Aristide from Africa, Congresswoman Waters replied, "They had to. I called their bluff. After all, they claimed they had not kidnapped him."
Its difficult for any country to keep Aristide, because the U.S. applies enormous pressure to a nation when it doesnt like what its doing. However, President Patterson of Jamaica has had the courage to stand up to the U.S., and to give Aristide a temporary retreat.
After the kidnapping, President Patterson made a very strong statement to the U.S.:
"We (CARICOM, the Caribbean nations) gave you the option of peace. Aristide signed a coalition agreement, and you still came in. If you can do this to Haiti, you can do it to others. We will not cooperate."
CARICOM does not recognize the puppet government of Gerard Latortou, who came from Florida to act as Haitis prime minister. Nor, the last I heard, does the Organization of American States (OAS), or the UN.
Amnesty International expressed deep concern about confirmed criminals and former leaders of military and paramilitary organizations now operating freely, including in positions of power.
The editors of NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) say in their March-April 2004 issue of their report, in an article entitled "Breaking Haiti",
"As in other Latin American countries, the U.S. governments enthusiastic support of Haitis dictatorships during the cold war created repressive security and military apparatuses. They have again reared their ugly head, and continue to undermine democratic institutions and human rights."
This is the government of the American people destroying a neighboring democracy. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions, and to answer them. What are the implications of this policy? What do we do about it? What is happening to our own democracy? Do we concur with our nations policy of rule by force? Are regime change and pre-emptive strikes proper tools of foreign policy?
Read this month's special Update on Haiti. And, if you missed them, catch up on Parts I and II of this three-part series.