For my first blog I want to focus on what is the most reprehensible foreign policy decision by the United States in the past seven years. I submit that it is not the war in Iraq, but the overthrow of the democratically elected President of Haiti.  This post is not meant in any way to diminish the colossal disaster that is the invasion of Iraq.  However, the removal of a democratically elected leader of a country is a violation of the most basic notions of sovereignty and morality.

The overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide did not begin with an incursion by irregular forces from the Dominican Republic.  Instead, it began with a systematic effort to undermine the Presidency of Aristide.  This is not to say that President Aristide did not deserve some legitimate criticism for some of his policies, but he was elected by the Haitian masses. 

In February 2000, Haiti held legislative and local elections in which Aristide’s Lavalas party won positions at all levels of power.  The OAS stated that the election was "flawed" due to the process by which the votes were counted.  The constitutionally mandated electoral board in Haiti, the CEP, chose to count the votes of the top vote getters and not the votes of all candidates who may have ran for a particular position in determining whether a run-off should be held.  In the end opposition groups challenged eight Legislative seats where run-offs were not held.  Seven of those seats were held by Lavalas party members. 

In November 2000, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected to his second term as President. Aristide’s former Prime Minister, Rene Preval, was President when the February elections took place.  Nevertheless, criticism for the "flawed" election focused upon Aristide even though after his election as President, Aristide convinced the seven Legislators to resign their seats.  The U.S. government would claim the elections were "fraudulent."

Shortly after the election, the U.S. Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) used the United States’ influence in the IDB to block the disbursement of four humanitarian loans.  The Bush administration then used the International Republican Institute (IRI) to undermine efforts to calm the growing political crisis and even held trainings for opposition parties in the neighboring Dominican Republic. 

Perhaps the most troubling accusations against the United States is that it actually armed and directed the group of insurgents that crossed from the Dominican Republic into Haiti with sophisticated weaponary.  The insurgent group never made it to the capital of Port au Prince, in fact the closest they ever came to Port au Prince was their initial crossing point into Haiti.  While the well armed group was terrorizing innocent civilians in rural Haiti, the Bush administration was telling President Aristide that it would do nothing to protect him.  On February 29, 2004, President Aristide and his wife boarded a United States plane, surrounded by armed U.S. Special Forces units and officials from the U.S. Embassy. Without knowing where they were going, the President and his wife arrived in the Central African Republic. President Aristide says that he never wanted to leave and that he was "kidnapped" by the United States.  Evidence also shows that Aristide never submitted a resignation letter as alleged.  In fact those who saw the original letter say that it was edited from its original form when given to the media.

The overthrow of a democratically elected President by another nation is a bold accusation and not one to be made lightly.  There is not enough space in this blog to present all the evidence that points to United States’ complicity or even outright involvement in the removal of President Aristide.  However, when viewed historically the removal of Aristide in 2004 is just another continuation of the U.S. policy towards Haiti predicated on suppressing the mass popular movement that began in 1804 when the black slaves overthrew the French slave owners.

This blog is intended only to bring to the attention to readers this event that has been wholly ignored by the media and U.S. law makers for far too long. For those interested in reading more on this issue I would suggest:

Randall Robinson, An Unbroken Agony (2007)

and the upcoming book: Peter Hallward, Damming the Flood, Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment, (London, Verso, 2007)

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