Haiti

2004 05 25
Haiti


Now that the corruption in Haiti has been dealt with, let the funds flow!
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2004 03 06
[Haiti]


This piece in the New York Review of Books was pretty influential in shaping my view of the country [Haiti] before the current mess got to the front pages recently. It was very hard on Aristide, and fairly bleak about the prospects for the country under his leadership.

I’m still mulling things over – and I have to say, I haven’t heard many great things about Aristide, even from his defenders – but I’m inclined these days to think that the recent intervention there was a terrible idea. Pogge has a great post on the subject, from a Canadian perspective.

As I say, I’m still mulling things over. But I’m leaning towards Pogge’s view of events.


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2004 02 29
A retraction, of sorts


I haven’t written on Haiti much, because I simply haven’t known what to say about it. But I did say this a little while ago:

Aristide has simply no legitimacy and has – against the odds – run Haiti into even worse shape than Venezuela is in the minds of the most ardent anti-Chavez crowd. The 2000 elections in Haiti were a sham, and to say that Aristide isn’t a populist anymore would be putting it mildly.

If the US government wants to signal that it is no friend of Aristide it has my full blessing.

The main target there was actually a reporter who compared U.S. interference in Venezuela with some mild statements declining support for Aristide. And I don’t back off of that.

But it was irresponsible of me to be so cavalier about the U.S.’s attitude to Haiti without thinking through exactly who was supposed to replace Aristide if he took the hint and left. And now, it seems, he’s done exactly that. Aristide, I am convinced, was an absolute disaster for Haiti. But if the armed thugs who just helped to force him from power are any indication, some of the alternatives may be even worse.

Since I expressed approval for the U.S.’s refusal to support Aristide, the admin’s position seems to have flip-flopped a few times. The front page of today’s Times seems to suggest that the final push was the President’s call, made after a meeting with all his advisors. I wonder what they said at the meeting. In particular, I wonder if they bothered to think through what would happen once Aristide left, and whether – having gotten involved to this extent – they would be willing to fill the power vacuum they just helped to create.

I really hope someone has a plan. I know I didn’t when I shot my mouth off in that earlier post.


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2004 02 12
[The Times on Haiti]


This story in the Times on Haiti is offensively bad. The first paragraph gets things off to a rocky start:

As the Haitian crisis deepens, with violence flaring and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide locked in an impasse with his opponents, the Bush administration has placed itself in the unusual position of saying it may accept the ouster of a democratic government.

Alas, it’s not unusual at all. This is the writer’s way of expressing disapproval (and it speaks volumes that it is) for the policy. After I read this, I had a sinking feeling about where the story was going to end up. And yes, the sinking feeling was right. The author was setting us up for a Venezuela comparison.

The stance recalls the administration’s initial response to the April 2002 coup attempt against another elected, populist leader in the hemisphere, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. American officials touched off an outcry by appearing to blame Mr. Chávez for the uprising and consulting with his would-be successors.

Oh jeez. I suppose a foolish but ambitious reporter might get it into his head that if the admin took it on the nose for monkey business on Venezuela, why not be the first to hit it again for failing to support democracy in Haiti? Except, of course, that the two cases are very different. I don’t have a very high opinion of Chavez: The guy seemed to genuinely enjoy hanging out with Saddam Hussein and Castro, and his former prediliction for coups isn’t exactly endearing. Still, my understanding is that he was elected in a real election, and that the coup attempt against him was an extremely rotten business. The U.S. richly deserved taking it on the nose for supporting it after the fact, and deserved rather more than that if – as may have been the case – it supported it before the fact.

Haiti by contrast is just absolutely fucked. Aristide has simply no legitimacy and has – against the odds – run Haiti into even worse shape than Venezuela is in the minds of the most ardent anti-Chavez crowd. The 2000 elections in Haiti were a sham, and to say that Aristide isn’t a populist anymore would be putting it mildly.

If the US government wants to signal that it is no friend of Aristide it has my full blessing.


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