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Haiti in a Civil War; the US thinking about who to support

 
 
fbaezer
 
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 01:51 pm
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 3,097 • Replies: 19
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 02:41 pm
Shades of Papa Doc and Baby Doc, fbaezer. How do you see the U.S.? Do you think we will become involved? I remember reading Graham Green's The Comedians--spooky stuff.
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 08:26 pm
I don't have enough information.
The key is that Aristide was democratically elected in a country with little democratic history.
He didn't deliver any of his promises, became unpopular, and instead of a democratic revolt -like the one who took Aristide to power- we have an armed uprising, chaos, and rebels fighting the government to control several important cities.

The US had a terrible role in supporting the Duvaliers.
Clinton somehow made amends by promoting democracy against "our s.o.b.s".

I tend to agree with NY representative Rangel: try to build bridges between the factions, instead of backing one or the other.

Bush's position tells a lot about him: the poor country is a mess and has no strategic importance... let them massacre each other.
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Feb, 2004 09:24 pm
Haiti as two structural problems (among many) that make the country almost impossible to govern. First is a mass of peasantry who are dirt poor (poorest in the western hemisphere), and regard all government as a pack of thieves. Second is a small very wealthy elite who traditionally have run the government and, at least in part, are a pack of thieves. The peasantry, who for the most part hold to the "theory of limited good", spend a lot of effort attempting to protect themselves from the elite. The elite spend a good deal of effort thinking up new ways to exploit them. There is a very interesting ethnography on this issue "When Hands are Many: Community Organization and Social Change in Rural Haiti" by Jennie M Smith, Cornell University Press, 2001. I have a sister who was part of an NGO team examining primary eduction in rural Haiti and she observed that rural Haitian expected help to come from agencies out side the country as they assumed none would come from within it. It is not surprising to me that Aristide is failing. Haiti, more then any nation I can think of, needs a bottom to top revolution in the way people think.
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Feb, 2004 05:39 am
Tragedy and triumph! I took a quick look at the history of Haiti and wondered how the people have survived as long as they have.

Acquiunk, how in the world does any nation go about changing the way people think? It must begin with helping the peasantry satisfy their primary drives, I believe.

When I read the Serpent and the Rainbow, I was more interested in the practice of Voodoo and zombi stuff than political overtones. I need to re read that book now that I have some insight.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Feb, 2004 07:36 pm
bookmark
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Feb, 2004 09:01 pm
I don't believe the administration cares what happens to the Haitians so long as they stay away from the USA.
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 01:20 pm
Better late than never.
The US is now moving to broker an agreement among warring factions in Haiti. Oddly enough the US yielded to the pressure of France and Canada, who were worried about the ostrich isolationist policy.

It seems clear to me, at this point, that even if Aristide hasn't been a good president, his opponents are not interested at all in democracy. Some of the feared "Tonton Macoutes", the killers at the service of the Duvalier dinasty, have appeared among the followers of Chamblain. So it isn't a "revolution", but a Coup d'Etat disguised as a rebellion.

Aristide has offered "co-government" and new parlamentary elections, but refuses to resign. The rebels want all the power.

International political brokerage is needed.
And perhaps an international military force to control the situation will be needed too.

(edited for grammar)
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 Feb, 2004 01:23 pm
fbaezer, Thanks for the update. I noticed that all Americans are fleeing the country.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 07:11 pm
fbaezer wrote:
It seems clear to me, at this point, that even if Aristide hasn't been a good president, his opponents are not interested at all in democracy. Some of the feared "Tonton Macoutes", the killers at the service of the Duvalier dinasty, have appeared among the followers of Chamblain. So it isn't a "revolution", but a Coup d'Etat disguised as a rebellion.


Could it be two separate things? Like, there's a civic-minded democratic protest movement in the capital, supported by the political opposition, and then there's the dangerous, maverick armed rebellion up in the north, which is pulling ominous figures from the past in?
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 07:40 pm
I must admit I dont know much about it, so that notion is strongly influenced by one International Herald Tribune report I read, that seemed like a pretty good primer on it, the other day ... where is it ... here:

Quote:
The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

Sinister figures could intensify Haiti rebellion
Lydia Polgreen NYT
Monday, February 16, 2004

GONAIVES, Haiti When Roselene Guillaume saw her husband's bullet-riddled body, she did not need to be told what to do. She packed up the few rags of clothing that her three sets of twins, ages 2 to 6, could carry and sent them with her aunt north on foot to a village 30 kilometers, or 20 miles, away.

She wanted them out of this city, the center of a violent uprising aimed at overthrowing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that threatens to plunge the country into chaos.

But Guillaume, 20, her belly swollen with her seventh child, refused to go with them. She would not leave the body of her husband, Chaolin, who was killed, she said, by pro-Aristide militants as he tried to make his way home here during the uprising.

"I have to bury my husband here, in his home, where Aristide killed him," Guillaume said, her eyes vacant as she stared into a street carpeted with ash and broken glass. "But we are very afraid."

Political strife has gripped the country since a disputed parliamentary election in 2000, and huge opposition marches over the past several months have intensified calls for Aristide to leave office. Early this month, the crisis boiled over into violence as armed rebel groups attacked police stations in as many as a dozen cities across the country. More than 40 people have died.

In Gonaïves (pronounced goh-nah-EEV), an opposition force wrested control from the police on Feb. 5. Fear and chaos have become a way of life in this town, a critical crossroads in Haiti's revolutionary heartland between the country's two largest cities, Port-au-Prince, the capital, and Cap-Haïtien.

In recent days, the leader of the uprising here has indicated that he has the support of sinister figures from this country's violent past.

It is unclear whether this support will actually materialize. But that possibility, coupled with the government's weak and disorganized security arrangements, could take the conflict to another level, experts say. Until now, it has been limited to uprisings by small armed groups in the cities.

The rebel group in Gonaïves calls itself the Artibonite Resistance Front, a more palatable name than the Cannibal Army, as it was formerly known. At this point, it appears not to have massed enough militants to take on the police and pro-Aristide militants in other major cities. Yet with only a small police force and militant gangs that sometimes serve as an auxiliary government force, Aristide does not appear to have enough manpower to take Gonaïves by force, though government officials have said a plan to do just that is in the works. As a result, Gonaïves is likely to simmer in its current misery for some time.

The man who has placed himself in charge of this city in an effort to force Aristide from office is Butteur Métayer. His brother, Amiot, once led a pro-government gang, but they switched sides last fall after Amiot Métayer was killed, and they accused the government of the killing.

On Feb. 5, the group repelled the police here, and Butteur Métayer declared from behind his customary dark glasses that the city had been liberated.

"We have freed Gonaïves," Métayer said at an impromptu news conference in a ramshackle schoolhouse at the edge of the seaside slum that is his base.

"We have a plan to take St. Marc," he continued, the smell of rum heavy on his breath, referring to the port city 30 kilometers south of here that rebel groups and government forces started battling over more than a week ago. "Then we will march to the capital. And there is only one goal when we get to the capital: the palace."

Métayer refused to say how many men he commands, but he contended that reinforcements had arrived from the Dominican Republic, led by two men feared for their sinister roles in the army and the police force in the past.

One, Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former soldier who led death squads in the late 1980s and was accused of committing atrocities after a 1991 military coup, is gathering a force of men, Métayer said. The other, Guy Philippe, a former police chief whom the government accused of trying to overthrow it 2002, is also on the ground near Gonaïves, he said.

"This is beginning to shape up to what I call an unholy alliance," said Robert Maguire, an expert on Haitian politics at Trinity College in Washington who is on cordial terms with Aristide. "You now have the real possibility of civil war, and you have a government that is facing depleted capacity to resist this because of the weakness of the police force."

With a demoralized police force of fewer than 5,000 men, Aristide has struggled to hold onto power and has relied heavily on armed gangs loyal to him to retain control of the country in places where the police have been unable or unwilling to do so. The weakness of the police and the violence of the street gangs have diplomats here concerned that all order could break down very quickly.

"The police could melt away, and he could unleash the Chimères," said a senior Western diplomat in Port-au-Prince, using the Haitian name for pro-government gang members. "The government is more and more dependent on gangs. It is a very fragile situation."

The armed uprising more than a week ago in this important seaside city choked off a crucial north-south highway that links Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien and has transformed Gonaïves into a bubbling cauldron of misery. Thousands of the city's 200,000 residents have fled.

With the road blocked by machine-gun wielding rebels, the price of rice, the staple food here, has doubled.

Children fish gasoline from the underground tank below a bombed-out Esso station with tin cans attached to wires, selling it for as much as $20 a gallon, about $5.30 a liter. Burned car chassis and all manner of trash - baby carriages, tires and bed frames - block roads in the city.

The hospital's bullet-riddled gates are open, but its wooden doors are shut tight. The Cuban doctors who normally staff it are afraid to show up for work, hospital workers said. International aid agencies said they could not safely bring supplies to the city.

But it is a measure of the misery of life in Haiti even under the best circumstances that people here say things were not much better when the government was in control.

"Even before now we had no food, no money," said Dieuline Ménard, 17, a student who has not been to school in months because of the chaos gripping the city. "If Aristide stays or goes, we still will not eat." International aid agencies warn that they were struggling to get food to more than a quarter-million people who rely on them in the country's arid north. There, in the areas around Cap-Haïtien, farmers struggle to coax crops from rocky bits of land between barren mountains.

Further instability could force the number of people needing food to as many as 800,000, according to Guy Gavreau, country representative for the World Food Program, which plans to send a barge loaded with rice to Cap-Haïtien to feed schoolchildren and pregnant mothers in the countryside.

"These people are entirely dependent on food aid," Gavreau said. "They are extremely vulnerable."

Opposition civic groups in Port-au-Prince have tried to distance themselves from the violent uprisings, particularly the one in Gonaïves. But the government has been equally forceful in asserting that the groups are connected.

In a news conference last week, Prime Minister Yvon Neptune said the rebel group in Gonaïves was "a group of terrorists linked to the opposition," and that the city's population "has been taken hostage by an armed group."

Jean-Claude Bajeux, a former member of Aristede's cabinet and a longtime human rights advocate in Port-au-Prince who now supports the opposition, said the uprising in Gonaïves consisted largely of former Aristide supporters who said they received their weapons from Aristide with instructions to control and intimidate opposition civic groups there.

"Power that has fallen into delinquency wants to have its own law," Bajeux said. "It is for that reason that Aristide lies and kills."

Indeed, the current crisis is in many ways one of Aristide's own making, a senior Western diplomat in Port-au-Prince said.

By arming the rebel groups and by appointing political cronies to the country's police force, rather than professional managers, the diplomat said, Aristide weakened the only legitimate defense he had.

In Gonaïves on Saturday, Métayer, the leader of the local uprising, said much the same. "We are fighting Aristide with the weapons he gave us," Métayer said. "He gave us guns to stop the opposition, but now we oppose him."

The New York Times
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 Feb, 2004 07:42 pm
The only way I can see to change the thinking in Haiti is for the people to have access to real jobs. Nobody with jobs to offer is remotely interested in this land, that I am aware of.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Feb, 2004 12:13 am
Here is a somewhat provocative take on the matter - and the and the role of the US generally!


http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20020301facomment7967-p0/sebastian-mallaby/the-reluctant-imperialist-terrorism-failed-states-and-the-case-for-american-empire.html



Here is the introduction:

The Reluctant Imperialist: Terrorism, Failed States, and the Case for American Empire
Sebastian Mallaby
From Foreign Affairs, March/April 2002


Summary: Failed states are increasingly trapped in a cycle of poverty and violence. The solution is for the United States and its allies to learn to love imperialism -- again.

Sebastian Mallaby is an editorial writer and columnist for The Washington Post.

Lawrence Summers, the dominant professor-politician of the Clinton years, used to say that the United States is history's only nonimperialist superpower. But is this claim anything to boast about today? The war on terrorism has focused attention on the chaotic states that provide profit and sanctuary to nihilist outlaws, from Sudan and Afghanistan to Sierra Leone and Somalia. When such power vacuums threatened great powers in the past, they had a ready solution: imperialism. But since World War II, that option has been ruled out. After more than two millennia of empire, orderly societies now refuse to impose their own institutions on disorderly ones.

This anti-imperialist restraint is becoming harder to sustain, however, as the disorder in poor countries grows more threatening. Civil wars have grown nastier and longer. In a study of 52 conflicts since 1960, a recent World Bank study found that wars started after 1980 lasted three times longer than those beginning in the preceding two decades. Because wars last longer, the number of countries embroiled in them is growing. And the trend toward violent disorder may prove self-sustaining, for war breeds the conditions that make fresh conflict likely. Once a nation descends into violence, its people focus on immediate survival rather than on the longer term. Saving, investment, and wealth creation taper off; government officials seek spoils for their cronies rather than designing policies that might build long-term prosperity. A cycle of poverty, instability, and violence emerges.

There is another reason why state failures may multiply. Violence and social disorder are linked to rapid population growth, and this demographic pressure shows no sign of abating. In the next

20 years, the world's population is projected to grow from around six billion to eight billion, with nearly all of the increase concentrated in poor countries. Some of the sharpest demographic stresses will be concentrated in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Palestinian territories -- all Islamic societies with powerful currents of anti-Western extremism. Only sub-Saharan Africa faces a demographic challenge even sharper than that of the Muslim world. There, an excruciating combination of high birth rates and widespread aids infection threatens social disintegration and governmental collapse -- which in turn offer opportunities for terrorists to find sanctuary.

Terrorism is only one of the threats that dysfunctional states pose. Much of the world's illegal drug supply comes from such countries, whether opium from Afghanistan or cocaine from Colombia. Other kinds of criminal business flourish under the cover of conflict as well. Sierra Leone's black-market diamonds have benefited a rogues' gallery of thugs, including President Charles Taylor of Liberia and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Failed states also challenge orderly ones by boosting immigration pressures. And those pressures create a lucrative traffic in illegal workers, filling the war chests of criminals.

None of these threats would conjure up an imperialist revival if the West had other ways of responding. But experience has shown that nonimperialist options -- notably, foreign aid and various nation-building efforts -- are not altogether reliable.
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Feb, 2004 01:08 pm
It is MHO that the collapse of the imperial world system at the beginning of the 20th century has proved to be an anomaly and that what we are seeing is a revival of that system particularly the core of the British empire with a shift in the locus of power from London to Washington. How this will ultimately work its self out, whether that framework will be absorbed within some larger system, if it is allowed to continue, I do not know. There is a second, non centralized model of world organization that was developed in the middle of the 20th century based on institutions such as the UN and agreements of mutual cooperation which the US initially favored but now seems to be abandoning. Of the two the second is preferable as imperial systems inherently distort economic, political and social development in favor of the core at that expense of the periphery. But increasing instability and violence may be driving events in that direction.
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2004 02:09 pm
Father Aristide is no saint. It just seems that the probable winners of the uprising are worse.

Haiti is a country where church and army still hold the power.

As for imperialism as a solution, my take is that it isn't. It is, instead, at the root of Haiti's history (Haiti negociated freedom with France, for 150 million francs of the time; the equivalent of the Franch budget: a debt burden it carried all along the XIX Century).
A multilateral approach -like the one acquiunk suggested-, with the US having, of course, an important role, seems more in hand.

Another thought: Haiti is one of the countries where wealth is more unequally distributed. It's tragedy reminds us that social unequallity is not only an ethical problem, but a the main barrier against economic growth, peace and the prevailance of law and institutions.
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Feb, 2004 02:17 pm
The U.S. just sent in the Marines to secure the U.S. Embassy.
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2004 06:24 pm
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2004 06:43 pm
fbaezer, The world has come a long way from:

I left my hat in Haiti,
In some forgotten flat in Haiti.

Not making music from a poor nation,
Just wondering why?
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2004 06:47 pm
Now Aristide says that he was forced out by the US.

As an aside, isn't it interesting that the US and France are working together in this mess?

And BTW, Haitian dance music is really good.
Sometimes, music is the only thing left.
As another song went: "you can't take away the music".
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Mon 1 Mar, 2004 07:31 pm
No, fbaezer, music remains. Some good, some bad.

Pied Pipers. If only I could spell the words to the song that I learned in Spanish 101. Phonetically:

Aye chopenakius, aye yi...

Can you help? Something about the beautiful ladies ...........................

U.S. denies kidnapping Aristade.
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