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The truth about Haiti's Coup

By Sean Douglas, Newsday TT
March 07, 2004

The ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from Haiti was orchestrated by external powers, and Cuba and Venezuela could be next. So concluded several renown panellists on Thursday at a discussion on "The US, Cuba, Haiti and Hemispheric Relations" as part of a conference on "Size, Power and Development in the Emerging World Order" at the Institute of International Relations (IIR), University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine. The trio of speakers had some startling observations on the crisis in Haiti. Introducing the panellists was St Lucia former Prime Minister Prof Vaughn Lewis. Had US President Bush's fear of Haitian refugees in a US election year, he asked, made Haiti into a US issue? "Is it the case that as soon as President Bush sighted the first full boat of Haitian refugees coming towards the coast of Florida in this an election year, that the Haiti situation became not a Haitian issue, not a Caricom issue, not even a hemispheric issue, but an issue of American domestic politics?"

Vaughn noted that after the clash between the US and France over the US invasion of Iraq, the two countries were now apparently bossom buddies in their intervention in Haiti. France was relieved, said Lewis, that Aristide was no longer in a position to press his claim for billions of Francs in reparations to Haiti from its former colonial master. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof Sahadeo Basdeo, who now works at Okanagan College, Canada, gave intimate insights into Haiti based on his six visits there for the OAS and Caricom. He strongly remarked on Aristide's claim that he was kidnapped by the Americans. Basdeo declared: "My instinctive intuition, my notion of politics, my 'feel', tells me that we must take him seriously." He said the unfolding of events over the last year in Iraq should have taught the world a great deal. "My sixth sense tells me that what has taken place in Haiti may well be a trial run for what is to occur in Cuba once Fidel sleeps."

He urged us residents of the "American Mediterranean" to judge news reports, given the historical experience of America since 1898. He recalled a visit to Panama duing the ouster of President Manuel Noriega. A US television report, Basdeo said, had shown three men in bloodied shirts after an alleged beating by Noriega. But persons of integrity had informed him that in fact the men's shirts were not reddened by blood but by a dye in a propaganda effort to build sympathy. "We were told that what CNN showed was not really correct." Democracy, he said, cannot be an instant phenomenon in Haiti, because of its history, in contrast to US and French criticism of Aristide. Why did the US advocate democracy, yet not for Haiti in the current situation? Although he hadn't been too impressed by Aristide when he had met him, Basdeo said he was nevertheless the duly elected president and so all must play by the rules of democracy.

Haiti's problems, said Basdeo, were rooted in its history which included 16 years of US-occupation and some 22 dictatorships over 200 years. "It has no economic infrastructure, to support six or seven million people. Haiti has been historically isolated from the Americas and international community. The linkages of the British Caribbean to Haiti are nothing to be proud of." Basdeo urged Caricom countries to speak out to prick consciences. "We in the Caribbean have a role to play by way of moral representation. We have an important contribution to contemporary international relations." He was not optimistic about Haiti, seeing it ending up as unmanageable like Iraq. He blamed the Haitian crisis on the politics of the US Republican Party elite. "The only solution in the short term is the removal of Bush and his goons from office." Representing the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affaris was Prof Carlos Alzurgaray Treto of Cuba's Advanced Institute for International Relations. He questioned how rebels had been able to ouster Aristide. "How come they had these four-wheelers? Why were they so well armed? Who has been pushing them? I don't think there are many possibilities." He said that USA and France have in the past both supported regimes less democratic than Aristide's. Alzurgaray hit the lack of US media coverage of Haiti since the ouster.

"It's like Haiti never happened. After Aristide left it went out of CNN. It's like a clampdown on news after the USA, France and Canada intervened in Haiti." He warned of an attempt to destabilise Venezuela. "Last April a coup against President Hugo Chavez was obviously supported by the USA." But the US, he warned, should not try anything in Cuba. "Don't worry - we are ready for any kind of situation." More criticism of the USA and France came from Prof Neville Duncan, director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, UWI, Mona, Jamaica. Remarking on Caricom calls for a probe into Aristide's ouster, Duncan said no investigation was needed to determine that US agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had got him out. "We are in a sad situation. It doesn't look good." He said the ouster by rebel forces was the alternative to the US's tactic of "shock and awe" used to mass-bomb Iraq. "It will probably be used in Venezuela and Cuba," he predicted. The ouster of Aristide was not a random event, Duncan said. "The US had prepared for what happened in Haiti two weeks before by bringing in new troops and weaponry into Guatanamo Bay (US Military base in Cuba)."

The rebels had entered Haiti from the Dominican Republic driving bullet-proof, all-terrain, four-wheel drive SUVs. Far from the border with the Dominican Republic (DR) being secure, he said, the US would have been in a bilateral agreement with the DR to let the rebels through. "The country is now given over to a set of thugs." Duncan accused France of holding resentment against Haiti especially in its Bicentennial year of its revolt for independence. In 1804, he recalled, Napoleon's finest troops had been sent to Haiti to quickly restore order, but had been defeated by a slave army. With Aristide's ouster, Duncan said, Caricom was now in the most difficult situation imagineable as to whether to go into Haiti. Caricom should, he suggested, bring in hundreds of Haitians to UWI to train to run to administer their beleagured country.

Reproduced from: Newsday TT

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