Like a police thriller, the victim "wasn't unknown" to the Washington butchers. Murderers tend to go back to the scene of their crimes. Haiti has long suffered from Uncle Sam's interventions. Born through slaves' revolts against their French masters, Haiti was the first black republic in the world -1804 - and for that has paid a high price.
Despised by all other countries of the world, it suffered from economic sanctions by the USA, the UK and France, the main colonist countries of the time and monopolists of international trade. Haiti was "forgiven" only in exchange for huge "compensation" payments to France. Slaves learned the high price of Liberty. Thus, the Republic was born carrying the burdens of the legacy of slavery, wrecked by war, and damaged in its possibilities of independent development by the debt it contracted to pay France.
This condemned Haiti to little improvement from its previous state: once known as the Pearl of the Antilles, it kept providing coffee, sugar and tobacco to the Western world, after the new elite, mercenaries of the old masters, learned to provide the conditions for the reproduction of this extraordinarily cheap labour.
During a political crisis (1915), the USA decided to intervene to keep its control and its business safe. To keep high profit rates, they introduced forced labour. Rebellions occurred, and the US fled Haiti in 1934, leaving behind a deadly legacy and securing its rule over the Caribbean. Always keeping an eye on the region, they were aware of the atrocities of Dominican dictator Trujillo, who executed 15,000 Haitians (1937), and of the Haitian dictator Francois Duvalier, known as "Papa Doc", whose dictatorship (1957-1971) cost the lives of 60,000 Haitians.
The USA not only was tolerant of them, but was supportive. These dictators ensured the maintenance of the US's profits, sweat-shops, plantations and of their political influence. They were part of the US led anti-communist crusade that in the 1980s alone cost 280,000 people's lives in Latin America and the Caribbean. They supported the Duvaliers dictatorship for 30 years, until "Baby Doc", F. Duvalier's son (1971-1986), had to flee the country amid riots, after looting the State's coffers. He was never taken to international courts, where he might say too much about his former employers in the White House.
In 1990 Haiti had its first democratic elections. The winner, a leftist priest, Aristide, talked about education for the people and of prioritising health over external debt. The USA thought this was too radical. Bush Sr. financed a coup seven months after the elections, leading to a new dictatorship and more bloodshed. Aristide was exiled to the USA, where he was indoctrinated in the catechism of neoliberalism. After he learned his lesson (Priorities: World Bank & IMF before the poor), he was returned to power in 1994 . He was not going to alter Haiti's order: 80% under the poverty line, and 60% unemployed.
With this record, could we seriously believe in a Humanitarian Intervention of the USA? We get even more suspicious, knowing that the February rebellion that ousted Aristide (not much of a white dove himself anymore, but never supported by
the Republicans in Washington), was financed, armed and trained by the CIA in the Dominican Republic. Behind the coup are Haiti's elite, the US, and former Duvalierists responsi-ble for human rights' violations. Their first measure was union-busting, deepening the already-too-deep neoliberal policies, and re-forming the army, loyal to USA, disbanded by Aristide to prevent new coups.
What lies behind the coup? Certainly, US Republicans were not fond of Aristide's populism; also, they disliked his demands that France pay back the "compensation" made a century ago. They distrusted Aristide, because despite all sorts of concessions made to the IMF, he wasn't neoliberal enough when it came to privatisations. But most of all, the Bush administration needed to secure complete control over the region before the elections, as Haiti gives a stable base from where to intervene in Cuba, Venezuela, Panama,
Once again, the Haitian people are victims of multinationals and imperialist states' "superior" interests. But their unity has de-livered them from their masters in the past, and great courage is appearing in the grassroots' daily resistance against the occupation forces and the new government. Haiti's fate lies in the ability of their own people to build a new society in which there is space for everyone, except for those who've exploited and oppressed them for ages.
This edition is No81 published in May 2004