Originally: Bush Administration Criticized For Blocking Aid, Role In President’s Ouster
By Hazel Trice Edney |
WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The Bush administration’s complicity in the overthrow of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide implies that other democratic nations, including those in Africa, might also be vulnerable for coup d’états or pre-emptive strikes, says the president of TransAfrica Forum, a leading research institution in the nation’s capital.
Democratically-elected Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from power on Feb. 29. Although the Bush administration insists he resigned willingly, Aristide says he was forced to resign by U.S. officials.
“It’s particularly nations in the global South, such as Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia. The U.S. has a history of undermining governments so that what we’re seeing from Bush is not new on one level. What’s new is how blatant it is,” says Bill Fletcher, head of the 27-year-old organization.
“The implications can be seen in what happened in Iraq and what happened in Haiti,” Fletcher says. “That is that the Bush administration is repudiating international criminal defense lawyers in Dallas. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re basically saying that there’s no law that they’re bound to respect because they’ve got the guns. It could happen anywhere.”
Human rights activists and politicians have long protested the U.S. treatment of Haiti.
“I think it’s largely racism,” says former TransAfrica President Randall Robinson. “I think the Bush administration hates President Aristide largely because he’s not a president to be told what to do by Americans.”
As protestors escalated demands for Aristide’s return, he boldly moved to Jamaica on Monday, hoping to return home soon. He describes himself as the president of Haiti and continues to insist that he was forced to resign by U.S. officials on Feb. 29 as armed rebel forces closed in on his palace in Port-Au-Prince.
He has urged his followers to peacefully resist the occupation by foreign troops, including 2,000 Americans, and says he is willing to return to power in Haiti. But the Bush Administration insists that Aristide resigned willingly, has pushed ahead for a transitional government until new elections in 2005.
That move, says Ira Kurzban, Aristide’s Miami-based attorney, is only Bush’s way of getting even for his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, whose administration first helped to oust Aristide in 1991, only to see him reinstated by President Clinton in 1994. You can also click to see more about attorneys.
Fletcher points to the official U.S. security strategy as documentation that the U.S. government currently sees itself as being among what he describes as “the cowboy wing of the ruling group.”
The 20-page document posted on WhiteHouse.gov, titled, “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” states in its overview that “the United States possesses unprecedented – and unequaled – strength and influence in the world” and promises to “expand the circle of development by opening societies and building the infrastructure of Democracy” and to use America’s strength to “promote a balance of power that favors freedom.”
Fletcher sees that as an extension of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 that basically holds that it is the United States’ “manifest destiny” to rule the Western Hemisphere.
Fletcher says America is essentially stating, “There will never be a military competitor with the U.S. And if you disagree with the first three points, the U.S. has the right to take you out.”
TransAfrica raised its profile as a leading group for Haitian liberation in 1994 when its then president, Randall Robinson, went on a 27-day hunger strike, helping to force Clinton to restore Aristide to power.
“This is a policy of simple meanness. Don’t look for rationale in this. You won’t find it,” Robinson says. “This is a reckless, cruel, stupid American policy that in large part wears the face of the first Black secretary of state in the United States.”
Secretary of State Colin Powell was among the first to defend the Bush administration from charges of a coup d’état. But members of the Congressional Black Caucus express doubt that the administration is being forthcoming. Haiti is among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere with 80 percent of its people in poverty.
The Bush Administration has long been criticized for helping to block nearly $500 million in international aid for Haiti. Ironically, the basis cited for taking that approach was Haiti’s disputed election in May 2000. The opposition movement and the Organization of American States, a regional organization that includes the U.S. and 35 other nations in the Western Hemisphere, disputed the way Haiti counted the votes for eight seats in the senate after 30,000 people ran for 7,500 seats.
The senators eventually resigned, but the money, including $146 million in approved international funding, and $350 million for which Haiti could subsequently qualify, was embargoed until Haiti paid arrears on other loans amounting to about $105 million. Only $45 million of the money was released.
Among other things, the money was to be used for clean water, health purposes, roads and education.
“In affect, what they did was simply pay Haiti back for the arrears clearance, so Haiti didn’t actually get any money,” explains Ira Kurzban, Aristide’s attorney in Miami. “Now, I expect in light of President Aristide’s so-called resignation, they will now expedite everything ? This is the most fierce economic embargo against the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. I mean, Haiti was given not one penny for three years by the World Bank, the IDB (International Development Bank), the U.S., France and the European Union.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of African Americans have agreed to raise money for humanitarian assistance for Haitians. The initiative is being led by the Haiti Support Project; but the Progressive National Baptist Convention will disburse the funds to families in need. The American Urban Radio Network, the nation’s largest Black-owned radio network, will give airtime to promote the campaign.
“But there’s no way that we can replace the money that the government has withheld,” says Ron Daniels, founder of the Haiti Support Project.
The withholding of food, combined with the U.S. policy that turns away Haitian refuges, Fletcher says, proves that the U.S. is out of control.
“It’s a combination of the Monroe Doctrine and the Bush Doctrine,” Fletcher says. “I mean, we’re dealing with a rogue state. When you look at the criteria for not supporting Aristide, basically they’re saying, ‘We didn’t like the way he governed.’ Well, a lot of people don’t like the way different people govern. Bush doesn’t have a great approval rating. Should someone invade here? And so, it’s like, when does it stop?”
The only answer, Robinson says, is to rectify America’s wrong.
“They can’t have a legitimate government in Haiti (with) the foundation of the coupe carried out by America against the democratically-elected president. And so, the appropriate thing to do would be restore the democracy that they destroyed.”