The Iraq Of The West Indies

While Haiti awaits the appointment of a new Prime Minister and its people yearning for the return of Aristide, we found this brief historical bio on the political misfotunes in Haiti by WorldNews.com Correspondent Dallas Darling.

Mr Darling is active in the Central American Peace Movement and currently works with Pastors For Peace in delivering humanitarian aid to foreign countries. He was also worked in a Guatemala Refugee Camp, the barrios of Panama, and in Mexico. He has a Masters in Pastoral Theology and a Bachelor of Arts in History and Religion and gives readers his feelings on President Aristide running for President in Haiti and factual notes on the political instability in that country.

Long before mass demonstrations and food riots broke out in Haiti, I was already planning to write about the Iraq of the West Indies. In 1990, I can still recall returning to the U.S. from Central America after being exposed to Liberation Theology: A belief that God empowers the poor to work for a more equal distribution of land, food, economic resources, and political power.

I can also remember feeling elated at the news that Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Roman Catholic Priest who embraces Liberation Theology, was running for president in Haiti. Once elected, President Aristide initiated an ambitious and successful plan for Haiti’s poor. Opportunities for education, healthcare, employment, and housing were improved. Many of the slum dwellers welcomed these changes since for most of their lives, they had known only Haiti’s military elite and harsh international corporations.

During the 16th Century, European Powers sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean and mistakenly thought they had landed in the East Indies. Since Haiti‘s indigenous population was decimated by European imperialism, African slaves were forcibly imported. Toussaint L’Ouverture led a slave insurrection and Haiti won its independence in 1804. As the first Black Republic in the Western Hemisphere, and as a powerful economic producer of sugar and coffee, White slave owners and politicians in the U.S. were concerned and fearful of Haiti’s success.

In 1915, While President Woodrow Wilson was making the world safe for democracy, he feared for U.S. business interests in Haiti and ordered U.S. Marines to invade and occupy the Caribbean nation. Haiti was forced to sign a treaty legalizing U.S. occupation, while its constitution was destroyed. Elections were outlawed and thousands of Haitians were killed and executed. U.S. corporations could now take advantage of cheap labor, cheap markets, and cheap resources.

When U.S. Marines finally left Haiti in 1934, U.S. corporations stayed behind and backed a brutal and greatly feared dictatorship: The Duvalier Family. The Duvaliers, supported by paramilitary death squads known as the Tonton Macoutes, ruled Haiti with an iron fist and jailed or killed reformers and political opponents. Haiti fell from an important sugar and coffee producer to one of the poorest nations in the world. When Jean Claude Duvalier, last of the Duvalier dictators, was overthrown, Haiti experienced a new constitution along with elections, violence, and a series of military coups.

In 1990, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose church was earlier attacked and several of its members massacred by Duvalierists, was overwhelmingly elected President. However, in 1991 rebel troops seized President Aristide and he fled to Venezuela pleading for help.

While civil unrest increased against the military elite, the international community was outraged and suspended aid to Haiti. In 1994, President Bill Clinton committed 20,000 U.S. troops to Haiti and restored President Aristide. One year later the Lavalas Political Organization, endorsed by President Aristide-who had agreed to step down in 1996, won legislative elections and an associate of President Aristide, Rene Preval, became president.

In 2001, Aristide was again democratically elected president of Haiti for a third time. The Bush Administration, though, did not welcome President Aristide’s criticisms of U.S. corporations and policies in the Caribbean region. One of Aristides advisors once said, “U.S. policy is the most cynical thing you can ever find on earth…I don’t think the U.S. wants Aristide back, because he is not under their control. He is not their puppet.” (1) Leaked memos from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti later reinforced this claim.

In 2004, President George W. Bush supported a military coup in Haiti by kidnapping and forcing President Aristide to go into exile. As the U.S. backed Haitian military government took the reigns of power, cheap labor camps for U.S. corporations were established and thousands of Aristide supporters who demonstrated for his return were either imprisoned or hunted down and murdered. United Nations peace keeping forces (MINUSTAH) were eventually sent to Haiti to try and restore order.

However, photos and recorded films have shown that UN helicopter gunships have fired on innocent civilians, pro-Aristide demonstrators, and Lavalas supporters. In one instance, 22,000 bullets were fired at over a period of several hours. (2) Many of these protesters condemned UN Occupation forces accusing them of false arrests and imprisonments. The Red Cross was not allowed to help the wounded supporters of Aristide, whose houses were being broken into by tanks. The Lancet Journal of Medicine reported that between 2004-2006, 8,000 Haitians were killed and 35,000 sexually assaulted. (3) There have also been numerous reports of massacres.

As a result of President Bush’s regime change in Haiti, rocketing food prices, terrorizing gangs, U.S. backed corporations supported by a proxy UN force, and 80 percent of Haitians living on only $2 a day, it is no wonder that Haitians have rioted and are once again staging mass protests. As supporters of President Jean-Bertrand march through the streets of Haiti demanding his return and as they carry signs saying “We’re Hungry!”, it is clearly another example of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy debacle, just like in Iraq.

I also wonder when we, as U.S. citizens, will develop a hunger for truth and justice that begins to hold the Bush Administration accountable for the death and destruction it is causing not only in Iraq, but also the Iraq of the West Indies. As one Aristide supporter said, “Some can’t take the hunger anymore.” When will we stand with the poor and oppressed of the world and say that we can no longer take the corporate injustices, blatant arrogance, and warmongering of the Bush Administration?

(1) Dave, Chaitanya. Crimes Against Humanity, A Shocking History of U.S. Crimes Since 1776. Bloomington, Indiana: Author House, 2007. p. 209.

(2) Phillips, Peter and Andrew Roth. Censored 2008, The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006-07, New York, New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007. p. 77.

(3) Ibid., p. 76.

(You can also read more of his articles at www.beverlydarling.com.)

See previous articles – Haiti’s Prime Minister Jacques Alexis Fired

High Food Prices Causing Social Unrest Worldwide

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