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a94: Attempted coup - COHA press release (fwd)
For immediate release: Tuesday, December 18, 2001
Washington partially to blame for raid on Haitian Presidential Palace - Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA)
Yesterday's unsuccessful attack on the Presidential palace in Port-au-Prince underlines the fact that Haiti for many months has been hanging from a rope, and that its final asphyxiation could be near at hand.
Throughout this agonizing situation, Washington has not even visibly wrung its hands in grief over leaving the doomed nation to a tragic fate. Such an outcome could register a serious blow against U.S. national interests, however, as tens of thousands of Haitians will again risk their lives to seek refuge in the U.S., but more probably be interdicted and summarily returned to the island or drown on the high seas. Since the U.S. automatically repatriates all Haitians intercepted at sea (with the exception of a small percentage of these who may be genuine political refugees), while allowing 25,000 Cubans to enter the U.S. annually, Washington risks not only appearing heartless, but also racist.
A political deadlock and bitter street violence between the Lavalas Party and the opposition Convergence party, combined with abject poverty, are paralyzing Haitian society. The result is the first signs of what could become a major economically fueled
exodus, as indicated by an already sharp increase in migration this past year — over 7,000 Haitians were repatriated to the island after attempting to flee to nearby Caribbean islands or to try the far more perilous 500-mile voyage to the U.S. mainland.
Immediate international action is needed, on an emerging basis, to reverse the steady deteriorating
living conditions on the island.
Despite the grim reports in the press, however, there is no indication that Washington will provide the leadership for relief and development funds to be sped to the island. In fact, no aspect of U.S. foreign policy has been more sterile and without talent or direction than U.S. policy towards Haiti. If U.S.-Haiti policy has been predictably second rate – just as it was throughout the Clinton Administration – the Congressional Black Caucus, in contrast to its admirable pre-1994 effectiveness, can be censured for its current listless and ineffectual lobbying on Haiti’s behalf, essentially buying in to the current White House orientation which is bent on tarnishing Aristide.
According to the State Department, the Bush administration is freezing nearly 150 million in Inter-American Development Bank loans until the Haitian government improves on its drug interdiction practices (the State Department had nothing to say about drug
trafficking under the previous Haitian military junta) and the Aristide government and the Convergence Party agree on a formula to address voting irregularities in seven districts deriving from the May 21, 2000 senate elections. All told, $500 million is being withheld
by international donors on a number of grounds, with Washington permitting the Convergence party to exercise a de facto veto over U.S. policy towards the island.
Thus far, Lavalas has committed itself to solicit the resignation of the seven senators elected under questionable circumstances – which is the issue of the greatest controversy – as well as to the reduction by two years of the terms of all Senators elected on May 21, 2000, and early election for all sitting senators (by moving them to next year rather than the scheduled day of 2004), which are among other concessions offered by Aristide. But these have not been enough for the Convergence party or the international community. The opposition (many of whose members are former supporters of the U.S.-ousted military junta), which has benefited inordinately from tilted press coverage which repeatedly blames the Aristide government for the impasse, is demanding that the senators resign and that new elections be scheduled immediately, a position not
markedly different from the concessions, which Aristide, in fact, is ready to make.
Recent meetings in October between the two parties made no headway on the matter and a stalemate now plagues a nation growing increasingly intolerant of what seems like intransigence on both sides, but which is mainly attributable to the Convergence.
Demonstrably, with its direct connections to the U.S.-funded and militant anti-Aristide International Republican Institute and the Aristide-basher Senator Jesse Helms, Convergence essentially dictates how foreign countries view events in Haiti. Meanwhile
many Haitians who supported Aristide since his overthrow in 1991 and worked for his return to power in 1994, still await the fruits of democracy and are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of an economic revival, the ubiquitous political discord and the rise of violent crime.
Without trivializing the importance of democratic elections, Washington should consider on what grounds it normally denies essential humanitarian assistance to an impoverished nation. Specifically, it should ask itself whether other Third World recipients of direct
government aid and multilateral loans have, relatively speaking, as clean voting records as Haiti and whether or not those nations are penalized. One example of this double standard is U.S. policy towards Mexico, which during the PRI’s 70-year hold on power, received multilateral aid despite its endemic venality and its high volume of human rights violations. Nevertheless, Mexico was warmly engaged as a democratic partner by the Clinton administration during NAFTA negotiations.
Currently U.S. and Haitian NGO’s receive about $75 million worth of aid from USAID humanitarian relief for the island. The aid is channeled through civil society organizations and democracy building institutions; but inevitably it does not provide Port-au-Prince with
the means to rebuild its impoverished public health and education programs or get the country running again.
Haitians are well aware of Washington’s hold on the loans and are likening it to the U.S. embargo imposed on the Haitian people after their 1804 revolution made the island the first black republic in the world.
COHA Research Group