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Coup d'etat in Haiti
Monday, March 01, 2004
The deed is done.
Haiti has been raped.
The act was sanctioned by the United States, Canada and France.
For despite the fig leaf of constitutionality with which these Western powers, and supposed bastions of democracy, have sought toshroud the act, what happened in Haiti yesterday was nothing short of a coup d'etat.
Indeed, having pressured President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into resigning and going into exile, these powers have firmly placed their imprimatur on a politics that rewards violence and a process that abjures principle in favour of narrow ideological positions and personality preferences.
It is a lesson that Caribbean countries, and particularly Caricom states - which may feel a certain coziness about their democracy - ought to take seriously. For i
f they thought otherwise, democratically-elected leaders are easily expendable if they, at a particular time, do not fit the profile in favour with those who are strong and powerful.
It is an issue that Caricom leaders must seriously contemplate when they discuss the Haiti issue in Kingston tomorrow. These islands are all vulnerable.
The truth be told, Mr Aristide was never the flavour of the Parisian set, the inside-the-beltway crowd of Washington or the new Canadians.
And hardly was Mr Aristide ever going to be the favourite of the types in Haiti who fomented yesterday's coup d'etat, who engineered his previous overthrow in 1991, and who have been the fulcrum of real power in pre-Aristide dictatorships, even if they did not directly hold the reins of Government.
For all his faults and flaws, Mr Aristide represented something very fundamental in Haiti. A possibility. The possibility of the assertion of Haiti's majority. Its under-class.
Stripped to its core, this, funda
mentally, has been what the demonstrations and unrest in Haiti these past several months, have been about. Indeed, no one who has followed the debate, as articulated by the official Opposition, has heard the enunciation of a cogent and coherent position, except the demand for Mr Aristide's resignation.
That demand was superimposed on allegations of corruption and irregularities in the elections of 2000, which were boycotted by the Opposition. The truth, though, is that no one has credibly questioned that Mr Aristide's victory represented the will of the Haitian electorate. And if election irregularities were a substantial part of the reason for Mr Aristide's removal, then the United States would perhaps wish to examine the conduct of its own poll at around the same time that Mr Aristide was facing Haitian voters.
Which, really, is the crux of the matter. Mr Aristide was the legitimately-elected president of Haiti.
But Messrs Powell, de Villepin and Graham, having reneged on their endor
sement of a Caribbean Community initiative, under which Mr Aristide undertook to share power with his opponents, deemed that the Haitian president was expendable. The niceties of democracy were thrown out the window, and the matters of principle so vigorously defended by President Chirac and Foreign Minister de Villepin over Iraq were quickly shunted aside. And new Canadians went with the flow.
Having seen the back of Mr Aristide, trampled on the considered position of their friends in the Caribbean, and welcoming a putsch in Haiti, the troika is ready to sanction a UN-backed peace-keeping mission to Haiti to restore order and DEMOCRACY!
There are several lessons here for Caricom, not least of which is the imperative of the region getting its economic act together so that its voice can be heard beyond its appeals for economic aid. Also, last July, Mr Owen Arthur placed on the agenda the proposal for a Caricom security system. This demands attention.