Mary Anastasia O’Grady has a new editorial in the Wall St. Journal (here) that continues to try and discredit Jean Bertrand Aristide, even after the recent sham of an election in Haiti in late April. The article comes from a shamelessly biased opinion, even if her intentions might be good in that almost everyone can agree that Haiti has suffered more than any country should and it deserves a clean start. However, pinning Haiti’s current state on the shoulders of Artiste is absurd.
Stephen Lendman has a much better handle on the current state of affairs in Haiti in his recent article in the Foreign Policy Journal from April 19th (here) just before the recent Haitian Senate Elections took place. Here is the situation that he sees –
“few people anywhere have suffered more for so long, yet endure and keep struggling for change. For brief periods under Jean-Bertrand Aristide, they got it until a US-led February 29, 2004 coup d’etat forced him into exile where he remains Haiti’s symbolic leader – for his supporters, still head of the Fanmi Lavalas (FL) party he founded in 1996 to reestablish links between local Lavalas branches and its parliamentary representatives.
From then to now, nothing has been the same. U.N. paramilitaries occupy the country. Washington effectively controls it. President Rene Preval got a choice – go along or pay the price. He submitted knowing what awaits him if he resists. Nonetheless, he’s disappointed bitterly.
Haitians suffered dearly as a result, deeply impoverished, at times starving, denied the most basic essentials, plagued by violence, a brutal occupier, police repression, an odious and onerous debt, and exploitative sweatshop conditions for those lucky enough to have a job in a country plagued by unemployment and deprivation.”
Now compare this with O’Grady’s commentary today, in which she boils all of this down to that fact that things “didn’t have to get this bad. They did because when Haitians had a shot at democracy in 1990, they instead got a despot named Jean Bertrand Aristide. During the time he ran the country as a strongman, Haiti had a contract with a U.S. telecom company called Fusion. Its board included Joseph P. Kennedy II, who was a friend of Aristide and invited the Haitian to his second wedding.”
So centuries of suffering comes down to Aristide allegedly giving a US company preferential treatment – even though far more deplorable companies were involved in the funding and arming of Guy Phillipe’s paramilitary forces that ousted Aristide in 2004. The backdrop to all of this is that O’Grady seems to sincerely believe that Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis is the person who will be able to rid Haiti of this stigmata, which I find hard to believe.
My issue is more that O’Grady’s analysis seems to be the latest in a long line that basically refused to see the support of Aristide and Lavalas as a legitimate expression of popular will. Michele Pierre Louis has nowhere near the popular support that Aristide would have, if he were allowed to return. And was only chosen for Prime Minister after two earlier candidates put forward by Preval were rejected by the Haitian Senate.
“Now as PM she emphasizes public security, which has improved since Aristide left; kidnappings dropped sharply last December. She proudly recounted to me her decision to remove a wealthy developer from the prime government land he had invaded to build slums. This makes her different. Enforcing the rule of law is not the usual practice of anyone in Haiti who wants to have a political career.
Another unpopular goal on the PM’s agenda is confronting drug-trade corruption in the judiciary and politics. Citing Haiti’s recent seizure of $1 million in cash, she says, “Imagine what you can do with that much money in Haiti.” The drug problem, she notes, undermines equality before the law, and Haiti needs U.S. help in fighting back.
Ms. Pierre-Louis may need help too. She doesn’t have a political base, Bill Clinton is showing renewed interest in Haiti (not good), and powerful local interests want her out. She might survive if those who truly care about Haiti realize that her defeat would be a grave loss for her country. Hopefully this includes the U.S., which has enormous influence in Haiti and also should want to see the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country get off its knees.”
All of this seems to justify US involvement in running Haitian affairs and uses anecdotal evidence at best to present an extremely narrow point of view. The US has been one of the main reasons for Haiti’s endemic poverty for the last 200 years and this description seems to be an attempt to sanitize the US’s actions under Bush, as a means for influencing the Obama administration. Hopefully, this latest effort to keep the people of Haiti under the influence of the US will fall far short.