Introduction by Raymond Joseph of Haiti Observateur:

“The times have truly changed, because this question is posed by an ex-supporter of Aristide, James R. Morrell, who directs the Haiti Democracy Project, a continuation of the Center for International Policy’s Haiti Project during the coup period. An adviser to the former priest during the Governors Island negotiations and an OAS observer during the contested elections of May 21, 2000, Mr. Morrell poses this question in a commentary and responds without ambiguity: ‘Aristide himself  ‘”

The Clinton administration and European Union cut off the Haitian government (while continuing programs through nongovernmental organizations) after Aristide had his representatives on the electoral commission throw out more than a million votes for non-Aristide senatorial candidates in the May 2000 elections (see OAS election report). When the electoral commissioner eventually refused to validate this procedure, he was threatened by both Aristide and then-President Préval and fled to the United States. The OAS electoral mission withdrew in protest. In December 2000 Aristide agreed with Clinton envoy Anthony Lake to speedy rectification of these elections, but to date nothing has been done.

In its first year and a half in office, the Bush administration has done no more than to maintain the Clinton sanctions. But mere sanctions, unsupported by more proactive measures, is a sterile policy. Without wishing to prejudge the current OAS mission, experience indicates that the administration will have to do much more in the way of nation-building if it wishes to contain the situation in Haiti. The administration is also extremely simplistic in the way in all its public pronouncements it lays the blame on Haitian politicians and history. After an invasion of twenty-two thousand American troops to restore a president, preceded by a punishing embargo, it is clear that the outcome is a composite of Haitian and American decisions. Restoring a president with troops and leaving parliament, judiciary, and elections to unprotected aid programs skewed the balance in a country that was already steeped in traditions of patronage and clientship.

In its April 18 resolution the Congressional Black Caucus calls for an end to the loan cutoff, citing the economic suffering of the Haitians. The caucus says nothing about the rights of the Haitians to have their votes counted. Prof. Robert Maguire was the first to draw the parallel between the civil-rights struggle in the United States and the right of all Haitians to have their votes counted. The caucus has not explained why Haitians deserve these rights less than Americans.

In the United States, some people’s votes didn’t count because of skin color; in Haiti, because of choosing the wrong candidates. In both cases the result was illegitimate government. In the United States it was widely recognized that it would take more than mere economic amelioration of the South to solve this problem. A racist power structure had to be confronted, and some Americans gave their lives in confronting it.

Rather, the Congressional Black Caucus appears to have taken Aristide’s personal cause as its own, thus exacerbating the divisions that are tearing Haiti apart. The main significance of resumption of loans to the government would not be in the economic realm but rather in the political; they would be a means for Aristide to trump the opposition.

Part of the explanation for the caucus’s partisanship may lie in judicious spending by the Aristide government. During 2001 former congressman Ronald Dellums received $210,000 from the Aristide government to promote its version of events. Lavish support has continued into 2002. Other PR firms and entities are also receiving hundreds of thousands from this poorest country in the hemisphere. Earlier this year Dellums led a Congressional Black Caucus delegation to Haiti.

James Morrell is the head of the Haiti Democracy Project. In 1964 he was a volunteer in a voting-rights campaign in Sunflower County, Mississippi led by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.