coup, led by the world's richest and most powerful nations,
is taking place in Haiti.
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 in place.
In 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
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 their
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," he says.
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 year before.
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:
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
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."
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).
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