[Marxism] Canada parrots U.S. line on Haiti

Raymond Chase r_chase at sympatico.ca
Fri Mar 5 09:37:29 MST 2004

From: <shniad at sfu.ca>
To: <shniad at sfu.ca>
Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2004 6:54 PM
Subject: Canada parrots U.S. line on Haiti

Toronto Star March 2, 2004    A17

Canada parrots U.S. line on Haiti

By Thomas Walkom

The United States, aided and abetted by Canada, has just sponsored a coup in
Haiti. That's what the supporters of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide
say. "Coup" is also the word that Jamaica's government uses to describe the
weekend events in Port-au-Prince.

Certainly, it's hard to argue against this analysis. Aristide was a
democratically elected president - one of only two in Haiti's 100-year
history. According to Larry Birns of the Washington-based Council on
Hemispheric Affairs, Aristide's Lavalas party would almost certainly have
won free parliamentary elections if the opposition had allowed the elections
to take place.

This, incidentally, is one of the weirder elements of the Haiti story.
Aristide wanted legislative elections. It was the opposition that blocked

When so-called rebels - made up mainly of soldiers and death squad members
associated with past dictatorships - seized towns and began to execute
police officers last month, the U.S., Canada and France refused Aristide's
pleas for help.

They said they would intervene only if the unelected opposition agreed -
which, of course, it didn't.

In itself, that's a perfectly legitimate position. Why should Canada or the
U.S. send soldiers to help out in other people's countries?

But what became clear this weekend was that the big countries were not
averse to military intervention at all. They just wanted to ensure that when
they did intervene, they would do so on the side of the unelected

Thus, only when news broke late Saturday night that Aristide was going, or
being sent, into exile, did Canada, the U.S. and France announce they were
sending troops to restore order.

One can be pretty sure that the order they restore will not be favourable to
supporters of the deposed president.

Coups are not always terrible. In 1986, the U.S. tacitly supported a
so-called people power coup against Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. A
couple of years later, Washington backed what was in effect an internal
military coup against South Korean dictator Chun Doo-hwan.

In both cases the coup plotters were not as virtuous as they claimed. But in
both cases what emerged was at least somewhat more democratic than what had
gone before.

Will Haiti be more democratic as a result of this coup? Given the nature of
the opposition, a rag-tag band of disgruntled professionals, wealthy
capitalists, unrepentant Tontons Macoute and other death squad veterans, it
is hard to be optimistic.

It's also hard to understand why Washington found Aristide so loathsome.
True, he spoke for, and was supported by, the poor, a characteristic that
U.S. regimes always find disturbing.

Indeed, a populist leader may easily become a demagogue, particularly if the
civil rights the middle classes hold so dear - the right of property, the
right to criticize government - interfere with the economic rights the poor
demand, such as the right to eat.

But it seems that Aristide learned his lesson in 1991 after the U.S. Central
Intelligence Agency sponsored its first coup against him.

By 1994, when a different U.S. administration restored Aristide to power, he
had become a willing convert to the revealed truths of our times - free
trade, globalization, the rights of capital.

Under pressure from Washington, he slashed tariffs, cut food subsidies and
set up low-wage manufacturing zones.

The tariff cuts allowed cheap, U.S. government-subsidized rice to flood
Haiti, throwing thousands of local farmers out of work.

By 2000, Haiti had become America's fourth-largest rice market. By 2002,
with per capita income falling, Haiti's already pitiful economy was even
smaller than it had been before the globalization reforms.

Those reforms were supposed to be the price for $500 million in aid from the
usual international agencies. But in 2000, Washington effectively shut down
this aid arguing that legislative elections held that year had been unfair.
At the time, the Organization of American States expressed "concern" but
refused to declare the vote illegitimate.

Meanwhile, Canada hardly covered itself in glory. In 1994, with much
fanfare, Ottawa sent both troops and RCMP officers to help Aristide reclaim
his presidency. The Mounties were supposed to train a new Haitian police
force and, by some accounts, were gradually succeeding.

But three years later, citing costs, Canada pulled most of its officers out.
The results showed this year when rebels overran towns defended only by
poorly trained officers.

Now, with Aristide out of the way, Canada is going back into Haiti.

Exactly why, is unclear. Or maybe, given Canada's new policy of cleaving
even closer to the U.S. on matters foreign, it's all too clear.

Prime Minister Paul Martin says he is sending forces to restore
constitutional order and rule of law. Yet Ottawa did little to support
Haiti's constitutional order and rule of law when it first came under threat
last month.

Foreign Minister Bill Graham says the government wants to get Haiti "on the
way to democracy." He doesn't say how supporting the overthrow of Haiti's
flawed, but democratically elected president will help to accomplish that.

Thomas Walkom's column appears on Tuesday. twalkom at thestar.ca.


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