Now the Bush cabal has attempted a second shot at deposing a Caribbean regime. The neoconservatives even went so far as to claim that Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had resigned and left the country overnight -- identical to the pronouncements made when Chávez was temporarily ousted. Have they learned anything? Yes, this time they allegedly “kidnapped” and indeed did dispatch the out-of-US-favor leader to a relatively remote corner of Africa.
But what could they be thinking? Washington’s CIA goons had received a humiliating blow from democracy in Venezuela. The progressive backlash is still fresh from Bolivia. There is a resurgent Left throughout Latin America. And now former colonizer Spain has shirked itself of the Bush Manicheans. The neoconservatives have in essence failed to learn this lesson from the failed attempt at undemocratizing Venezuela. Bush has in fact given Haiti a chance to deliver a democracy-delivered knockout punch. The pieces are falling in place for democracy to rise up again and give Bush another shot to the head in Haiti.
At his first news conference in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui, the deposed Aristide defiantly declared to the assembled media. “I am the democratically elected president and I remain so.”
He advocated something that the Washington neoconservatives oppose. Said Aristide, “I plead for the restoration of democracy in Haiti.”
The neoconservatives and corporate oil interests were greatly perturbed by the failure of their coup d’êtat on 12 April 2002 in Venezuela. Yet they seem strangely emboldened by their high-stakes gambit in Haiti. Chávez warns again of ongoing US machinations to overthrow his democratically elected and restored government. Given the abundant evidence of US money being channeled to opponents of the Bolivarian revolution by the Orwellian-titled National Endowment for Democracy and suspicious US military movements during the April coup, Chávez’ alert has credibility.
US States Department official Richard Boucher’s Freudian slip in response to a query about money being directed to Chávez’ political foes was revealing: “ As far as the facts of the matter, we have spoken many times about our assistance in Haiti -- excuse me -- our assistance to democracy in Venezuela.”
The corporate media’s complicity in the coup engineering is palpable. Back in April 2002 the New York Times described Chávez as a “populist demagogue, the authoritarian man” and a “dictator.” Despite the exposed prevarications of the Bush regime’s officials, the corporate media continues to proffer administration statements and denials as gospel. Already the US falsehood that South Africa had rejected an asylum appeal by President Aristide has been denied by South Africa. Aristide is described as “bitter” by the Times although as journalist Al Giordano points out “The Times didn’t, in fact, talk to Aristide, or see him, or have any reporters find out if he is “bitter” or not. Someone high up enough to determine what headlines say just made it up: he decided to preempt and poison anything Aristide might say in a story where they had to report his accusations of coup and kidnap.”
There is a growing defiance of Empire led by Bush. Empire is vulnerable. Insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to resist US-led occupation. Bush’s Iraqi coalition is unraveling: member Spain is now unwilling and Honduras will not be extending its participation.
The Democratic Party contender for the presidency John Kerry saw a political opening and spoke cautiously against the Haitian coup. Kerry said, “I think it’s a terrible message to the region, democracies, and it’s shortsighted.”
Jamaica has defied the US administration and has welcomed Aristide back into the Caribbean. Haiti’s interim prime minister Gerard Latortue in a pique of exasperation suspended relations with Jamaica -- an ill thought-out measure in that it is likelier to adversely impact on Haiti. Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, Chairman of the Caribbean Community and Common Market, is calling for an international investigation into the circumstances surrounding Aristide’s unceremonious sendoff from Haiti.
Meanwhile Venezuela has extended an offer of asylum to Aristide.
The US has, however, drawn sometimes-recalcitrant nations France and nervous Canada back into an imperial alliance. Canada’s foreign minister Bob Graham is openly concerned about Aristide’s re-appearance in the hemisphere.
“We need a new climate of political co-operation, and therefore we certainly would urge the government of Jamaica . . . we certainly would urge Mr. Aristide -- who did resign -- to remain outside the Haitian political situation so we can get a new stability and a fresh start.”
The current Canadian government is wracked by scandals and in its deep integration approach to the US; Haiti could well deep six the ruling party’s reign.
There is cause for Graham's concern. Reports emerged early on from Haiti of protestors denouncing the “foreign occupation” of their country.
Aristide knows well how Chávez was restored to power; it was by the democratic expression of people power. In a radio broadcast Aristide recognized people power: “The Haitian people resist and must continue to finalize a peaceful resistance to face down this unacceptable occupation that follows this political kidnapping.”
Meanwhile nations that trumpet themselves as pillars of democracy are supporting a military overthrow of a president twice-elected by overwhelming popular mandate. Something is patently wrong here. Instead of barring Aristide from coming back, at the very least the US, France, and Canada should be encouraging a democratic solution to the standoff. The Haitian people have the democratic right to determine their own leaders. The US, France, and Canada are thwarting democracy.
Hypotheticals are playing out. If the propinquity of Aristide can spur a peaceful outpouring of people power, the Haitian people could possibly reclaim their democracy in a similar manner to the Venezuelans.
It would deliver a lesson-learned-too-late to Bush, Jacques Chirac in France, and Paul Martin in Canada: You cannot prevent and prepare for democracy at the same time.
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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