Saturday, January 28, 2006

Putting Haiti on the frontburner

Set your VCRs/PVRs to Newsworld tomorrow night at 8pm. CBC will play the world premiere of "Haiti: Democracy Undone":
After four postponements, voters in Haiti are once again scheduled to go to the polls. The February 7 vote follows a coup almost two years ago.
In early 2004, when the government of Haiti faced a serious threat from armed rebels who had crossed the border from the Dominican Republic, the US government made it clear they supported the elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. "The policy of this Administration is not regime change,” Colin Powell, then US Secretary of State, said in testimony before a Congressional committee. A fews weeks later Aristide was overthrown.
Haiti: Democracy Undone presents new evidence that in fact the US played a role in the coup that overthrew Aristide; that it had one foreign policy on Haiti but secretly carried out a very different policy.
The story of the Feb 2004 ouster of Aristide is finally making main-stream news. As I wrote last year (here & here), I feel tremendously 'in the dark' about what's really going on down there. My only regular updates on the situation have been from Democracy Now and Amy Goodman's interviews with Aristide and the imprisoned Father Gerard Jean-Juste. Just this past week, Amy Goodman sat down with Canadian journalist Anthony Fenton to discuss the role of the American, Canadian & French governments in removing Aristide (and trying to re-engineer Haiti under the guise of 'peacekeeping').

And now: The New York Times has an enormous feature article on Haiti, "Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos":
The Bush administration has said that while Mr. Aristide was deeply flawed, its policy was always to work with him as Haiti's democratically elected leader.
But the administration's actions in Haiti did not always match its words. Interviews and a review of government documents show that a democracy-building group close to the White House, and financed by American taxpayers, undercut the official United States policy and the ambassador assigned to carry it out.
As a result, the United States spoke with two sometimes contradictory voices in a country where its words carry enormous weight. That mixed message, the former American ambassador said, made efforts to foster political peace "immeasurably more difficult." Without a political agreement, a weak government was destabilized further, leaving it vulnerable to the rebels.
Mr. Curran accused the democracy-building group, the International Republican Institute, of trying to undermine the reconciliation process after disputed 2000 Senate elections threw Haiti into a violent political crisis. The group's leader in Haiti, Stanley Lucas, an avowed Aristide opponent from the Haitian elite, counseled the opposition to stand firm, and not work with Mr. Aristide, as a way to cripple his government and drive him from power, said Mr. Curran, whose account is supported in crucial parts by other diplomats and opposition figures. Many of these people spoke publicly about the events for the first time.
Please read the whole sorry thing. And then watch "Haiti: Democracy Undone" Sunday night.


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