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 ChÃ¡vez of Venezuela. American officials touched off an outcry by appearing to blame Mr. ChÃ¡vez 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.