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6587: As US isolates Aristide Haiti's wealthy pin hopes on Bush (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

WSWS : News & Analysis : Caribbean
 As US isolates Aristide  Haiti's wealthy pin hopes on Bush
 By Jacques Richard and Bill Vann___  9 January 2001  WORLD SOCIALIST

The US Supreme Court ruling that delivered the White House to George W.
Bush and the Republican Party was greeted with wild elation in at least
one corner of the globe. In Port-au-Prince, residents of the wealthy
hillside neighborhoods overlooking the impoverished Haitian capital took
to the streets shouting their enthusiasm when the decision was
announced. The high court's action came just weeks after Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, the former populist priest and Haitian president, swept back
into power with
 no serious opposition. In legislative elections held six months
earlier,Aristide's Family Lavalas party won all but one of 29 seats in
the Haitian  Senate and 80 percent of the seats in the lower house.
While Haiti's right-wing opposition alleged fraud in the first contest
and  boycotted the November 26 presidential vote, both elections
merely             demonstrated that the political alliance of former
supporters of the  Duvalier dictatorship, ex-military putchists and
erstwhile political allies of Aristide enjoy no support outside of the
country's small privileged elite.According to the official results,
Aristide, who will take office February  7, captured 92 percent of the
 The parliamentary election last May was recognized as generally fair by
international observers. No one presented credible evidence that voting
irregularities changed the outcome?as was the case in the US
presidential contest. Yet, after the scale of the Family Lavalas
landslide became clear, the right-wing opposition raised the cry of
?fraud,? a charge that was quickly echoed by the Clinton administration,
not to  mention the US Republican Party. Because of the failure of the
Haitian government, headed by Aristide ally President Rene Preval, to
re-run various contested Senate races, the US,   the Organization of
American States and the European Community  boycotted the presidential
election, failing to send observers.More significantly, the US and
Europe froze virtually all forms of  economic aid to the destitute
Caribbean country, supposedly in retaliation   for the alleged electoral
 In a letter to Aristide written last month, President Bill Clinton
upbraided the Haitian president-elect. ?The president cited the need for
tangible  steps in Haiti to build an inclusive society around the goals
of justice and the rules of law,? said a US embassy spokesman in
Port-au-Prince. Paraphrasing Clinton, he added, ?The United States
together with the  international community has made it known to the
Haitian authorities that    their failure to address well-documented
election irregularities puts into question their commitment to
democracy.? Media reports of the US president's denunciations have not
bothered to   note the hypocrisy of this sermon from a government whose
judiciary has  just decided the US presidential election by prohibiting
authorities in  Florida from addressing ?well-documented election
  The feigned US concern with Haitian ?democracy? is in any case a
rather  recent phenomenon, given that the US served as the principal
sponsor for the dictatorship headed by Francois ?Papa Doc? and then Jean
Claude  ?Baby Doc? Duvalier. The corrupt dynasty ruled the country for
30 years  with no contested elections using the unbridled terror of its
dreaded secret police, the tonton macoutes, to enforce its will.
  A Roman Catholic priest who emerged as a critic of the Duvalier
dictatorship, espousing liberation theology and at one point calling
himself   a ?socialist,? Aristide won Haiti's first democratic election
in 1990. Seven months later, he was overthrown by Haiti's military and
driven into exile.Only in 1994 was he briefly restored to power through
a US military occupation of the country.
 Washington's real aim today, just as it was when it occupied the
country, is to forge some kind of power-sharing agreement between
Aristide and  the old Duvalierist political elite in order to preserve
stability and  suppress the class struggle. The US and the International
Monetary Fund are insisting that the incoming Aristide government carry
through stringent   structural adjustment programs aimed at dismantling
what little remains of          a public sector and maximizing the
profitability of Haiti's free trade zones.  This means assuring an
uninterrupted supply of cheap labor and a  guarantee of no strikes
enforced by ?professionalized? security forces. US special envoy Anthony
Lake, meanwhile, was dispatched to the  Haitian capital to spell out
Washington's demands. While parroting the Clinton administration's
supposed concerns about  ?democracy,? United Nations Secretary General
Kofi Annan was somewhat more blunt in spelling out the real fears of the
US and    European government officials and bankers. In a report to the
 Assembly last month urging the shutdown of a UN civilian advisory
mission in Haiti, Annan predicted political convulsions in the
Caribbean   nation.
  ?Haiti's political and electoral crisis has deepened, polarizing its
political  class and civil society, jeopardizing its international
relations, sapping an  already declining economy and adding to the
hardship of the  impoverished majority,? Annan wrote in the report. ?In
the absence of  any solution to the crisis, popular discontent seems
likely to mount in           response to rising prices and increased
poverty, and may lead to further turmoil.?
The ?turmoil? that Annan fears is a popular revolt against the
intolerable  conditions of life facing the vast majority of Haiti's
population?the workers, peasants and poor. Two out of every three
Haitians are unemployed, while the country's per capita income stands at
just $250. According to a report released recently by the UN World Food
Program, 4.7 million of Haiti's 7.7 million people are suffering from
?acute malnutrition.? Conditions for the masses continue to
deteriorate,  with the value of the national currency, the gourde,
falling from 15 to the  dollar in 1996 to 24 to the dollar today.
  These conditions are the outcome of US domination and exploitation
for   most of the twentieth century, since the Marines first occupied
the  country in 1914, establishing a local military that formed the
backbone of   the murderous dictatorships that followed. Given the
desperate conditions of the masses and the vast gulf between rich and
poor, the
 pleas for ?democracy? and ?reconciliation? are farcical. What
Washington really demands is a regime that will unconditionally defend
US interests in the country against any threat of revolt from below.
Just as in the period in which he sought US support during his exile in
the  1990s, Aristide has attempted to accommodate himself to pressure
from   Washington. Responding to Clinton's denunciations, he has vowed
to  include members of the right-wing opposition in his government and
to  subordinate his economic policies more directly to the dictates of
the  international financial institutions. He also wrote Clinton that he
will create   ?a credible new provisional council ... in consultation
with opposition   figures,? and to hold new elections in Senate races
where the opposition  claimed irregularities. Finally, the incoming
Haitian president agreed to   allow US Coast Guard vessels to patrol
Haitian waters.  There is every indication that the second Aristide
government will attempt  to toe Washington's line even more obediently
than the first. While biding his time behind the walls of a mansion
during the Preval presidency, the      ex-priest has cemented his ties
with various corrupt elements within the  Haitian elite, while his
connections with the masses of poor have grown  ever more distant.
Dwindling popular enthusiasm for Aristide was  reflected in the low
turnout in the recent election. While the government  claimed 60 percent
went to the polls, observers from the Caribbean  Community (CARICOM) put
it at less than 20 percent.
 Aristide's promises will do nothing to appease either the Haitian
opposition or the Republican politicians who are about to take the
helm   in Washington. Both have denounced him as a ?Marxist? and view
his supporters as a ?mob? bent on mayhem.
  Sen. Jesse Helms, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee described Aristide's election as a ?sham,? joining
with Rep. Porter J. Goss (R.-Fla.), who chairs the House Intelligence
Committee, in a statement affirming that ?narco-traffickers, criminals
and   other anti-democratic elements who surround Jean-Bertrand
Aristide  should feel the full weight of US law enforcement.?
 The statement demanded the cutting off of ?all direct support for the
Haitian government, as provided under current US law,? and a
?comprehensive bottom-up review of US policy toward Haiti.? The
Republican leadership sharply opposed the 1994 intervention to
restore Aristide to the Haitian presidency. Under the Reagan
administration, Washington maintained its support for ?Baby Doc?
Duvalier until 1986 when a US Air Force jet was dispatched to
Port-au-Prince to whisk the besieged dictator to a luxurious exile on
 French Riviera. George Bush (senior) attempted to cobble together a
new regime based on the Duvalierist military.
 In Haiti, the opposition has no incentive to embrace the pleas by
Clinton  and Aristide for reconciliation. Given the desperate economic
situation in  the country, control of state power (and the associated
ability to collect  protection money from narcotics traffickers) has
become one of the few  sources of enrichment for the so-called political
class and therefore the object of violent internecine struggle. The
right-wing Haitian politicians    have pinned their hopes on a swing
toward a rabidly anti-Aristide policy   by the incoming US
administration.  Last week, opposition leaders of the so-called
Democratic Convergence  held a meeting of 800 supporters in
Port-au-Prince to announce plans to  set up a ?national unity
  ?We want to get a consensus to propose an alternative and provisional
government to Mr. Aristide because we don't recognize his legitimacy,?
said Gerard Pierre-Charles, a leader of the coalition. He added that
the  group is waiting to hear what George W. Bush will say about
Aristide's   presidency after the Republican is inaugurated in
 Thus the Haitian right wing, incapable of registering any significant
support at the polls, awaits the inauguration in Washington,
anticipating  that Bush, who will take office despite losing the US
election, will declare Aristide's victory ?illegitimate.? Never has the
content of US demands for  ?democracy? abroad been more clearly exposed.

 The logical outcome of the combined policy of the Haitian opposition
and  the Republicans in Washington is either a military coup or another
US  invasion aimed at installing a new dictatorship.