bloodless coup, led by the world's richest and most powerful
nations, is taking place in Haiti.
two years now, the world's wealthiest nations and the Bretton
Woods institutions they control have maintained a crushing
international financial embargo on eight million Haitians.
They have done this "to protest an electoral dispute
stemming from Haiti's May 2000 national elections." At
issue was the formula used to calculate the votes for seven
senate seats - out of some 7,500 filled nationwide at that
time. The seven senators have long since resigned, yet the
sweeping financial embargo their election triggered remains
the original dispute over the vote count, anti-government
figures inside Haiti with powerful connections abroad but
no political support at home saw a priceless opportunity.
If, instead of the screaming victims and ricocheting bullets
of the 1991 coup the international community would, this time,
simply block every penny of international capital to the Government
of Haiti, then that government could, effectively - and without
the negative headlines - be again overthrown. A government
with no access to capital soon becomes no government at all.
And so, for more than a year now, Haiti has been hog-tied
and thrust face into the dirt by a financial embargo initiated
and maintained by the wealthiest nations on earth.
may not be the bullet-ridden bodies along Haiti's streets
that we saw after the coup of 1991. But there are bodies.
They are the bodies of Haiti's nameless, faceless poor who,
no longer able to bend, break. They buckle under the weight
of an embargo that - incredibly - denies their elected government
already-approved loans for safe drinking water, literacy programs,
and health care that they need. They die out of earshot, out
of sight, and unremarked by "those who matter" beyond
Paul Farmer of Harvard Medical School established a health
clinic in Haiti's central plateau some 20 years ago and travels
there regularly. Day after day, he and his staff do battle
against the ravages of the embargo. He has been writing and
speaking extensively in an attempt to alert the outside world
to the impact of the world's powerful on Haiti. "They
are doing severe harm to millions of Haitian men, women, and
children.... If the American people could observe first hand
the ravages of this embargo, they would strongly condemn it,"
concerned by the human costs of the embargo, the 14 English-speaking
democracies of the Caribbean dispatched a high-level delegation
to Haiti in January of 2002. In their view, the widespread
human suffering it has wrought has gone unaddressed - and
unremarked - for far too long. These democracies, the oldest
and most stable in the hemisphere south of the United States,
have stepped forward to serve as a bridge between those imposing
the embargo and those suffering under it. They note that the
Government of Haiti has made significant concessions in an
attempt to end this crisis, key among them being the long
ago resignation of the seven senators whose election triggered
the embargo. At the same time Caricom (Caribbean Community)
is working in earnest with Haiti's unelected opposition figures
in an attempt to encourage them to work with their government
to end the stalemate.
to Julian Hunte, Minister of External Affairs in the Government
of St. Lucia and Head of Caricom's Special Haiti Mission,
for the entire international community, "the social,
economic, and political interests of eight million Haitians
must now become paramount." Indeed, Dame Eugenia Charles,
former Prime Minister of Dominica and rock solid partner of
Ronald Reagan in the 1983 US/Caricom invasion of Grenada,
lamented after participating in an official fact-finding mission
to Haiti in July 2001, "No-one is listening to the Haitian
people. No-one is asking what the Haitian people want!"
is trying to alert the Organization of American States and
indeed the entire international community to a number of stark
realities. In this special period in world relations, it is
morally untenable and politically unwise for the wealthiest
nations on earth to maintain a financial stranglehold on eight
million men, women, and children in Haiti. Haiti has no nuclear
weapons. It has attacked neither American property nor American
citizens. Indeed it is trying its very best, even with its
limited material resources, to be a responsible nation and
to support US priorities in the region. As an active participant
in the US led regional war on drugs, for example, even with
its inexperienced police and coast guard, Haiti was able to
double the size of its cocaine seizures last year over the
the Caribbean, there is a keen sense that the duly elected
Government of Haiti must now be allowed to govern. The financial
embargo robs the Haitian people of their government, and therefore
of their democracy. There is also, throughout the Caribbean,
respect for the right of Haiti's opposition figures to continue
criticizing their government while awaiting their turn at
the polls, for this is the essence of democracy.
democracies are urging that the loans successfully negotiated
by the Government of Haiti on behalf of the Haitian people
be released without delay. It is only when this is done, Caricom
feels, that the benefits of Haiti's hard-won democracy will,
at last, be made manifest to the very special people of that
very special land.
Robinson is founder and past president us of TransAfrica Forum.
He is a lecturer and author whose works include "The
Debt - What America Owes to Blacks" and "The Reckoning
- What Blacks Owe to Each Other." He is currently living
in the Caribbean (e-Mail [email protected])
where he is writing a book about the impact of the United
States on the region.
contributor Kevin Pina offers this
Afterword on Haitian developments:
Mr. Robinson wrote this piece, very little has changed with
regard to the crippling "unofficial" economic embargo
imposed upon Haiti's constitutional government. As Mr. Robinson
points out, the official reason behind withholding of loans
and assistance to Haiti's government has always been the method
for calculating the ballots of the May 2000 parliamentary
elections. This charge has been leveled and repeated again
and again by the pundits of the US foreign policy establishment
in Latin America and the Caribbean.
greatest irony is that President Bush himself had to be selected
by the Supreme Court of the US amidst charges of bad vote
tabulations and manipulation of the electorate. A member of
President Aristide's Lavalas party made this comment following
the US elections, "Regardless of the problems we had
with our elections it is pure hypocrisy for the US to lecture
us about democracy and methods for counting our ballots. It
is very ironic that the world's first black republic, which
arose from the world's only successful slave revolution, is
being lectured to by a government whose methods of determining
victory in a presidential election were originally designed
over 200 years ago by a small clique of white male slave owners.
Electoral College system, your method of calculating ballots,
guarantees against populism by allowing a candidate who receives
the most votes to actually lose an election while in Haiti
they insist we must adhere without variation to the principles
of one person, one vote.' This does not even begin to address
the contradiction of the number of military coups the US has
supported over the years against democratically elected governments
in this hemisphere in the name of democracy."
April 30, 2003, a historic meeting of the Organization of
American States (OAS) will take place that may well determine
the future of democracy in Haiti. The United States Representative
to the OAS, Peter De Shazo, has already begun blaming the
government of Haiti for not doing enough to improve the political
climate which many here see as "double speak" for
"regime change." The charge appears to be part of
the continuing campaign to deny Haiti much-needed funds and
undermine Haiti's democratic process. To learn more about
it contact the Haiti Action Committee at [email protected].
Pina is a documentary filmmaker and freelance journalist who
has been working and living in Haiti for the past three years.
He has been covering events in Haiti for the past decade and
produced a documentary film entitled "Haiti:
Harvest of Hope". Mr. Pina is also the Haiti Special
Correspondent for the Flashpoints radio program on the Pacifica
Network's flagship station KPFA in Berkeley CA (www.flashpoints.net).