Bush Government Policy in Haiti
During the winter of 2003, even as war loomed in Iraq and terrorist suspects were thought to be concealed behind every nook and corner, one would have imagined that the last thing on the minds of American diplomats would be the little impoverished country of Haiti, which is actually a mere third of an island and does not even have an army (Kidder pp). However, the United States has a foreign policy everywhere, and as a general rule, the weaker and poorer the nation, the more powerful the policy (Kidder pp).
Tracy Kidder writes in the October 27, 2003 issue of The Nation that most Americans who visit Haiti, come away with new definitions of poverty due to the absences of most basic things such as water (Kidder pp). In fact, a recent survey of the potable water supplies in 147 nations, ranks Haiti as 147th, only some 40% of Haiti’s 8 million people have access to clean water (Kidder pp). Kidder claims that after a rain in the capital of Port-au-Prince, one will see working men take up manhole covers and lean in to dip buckets into the city’s drainage channels (Kidder pp). They use the water to wash cars for pay and when the weather is hot, they will pour the water over their heads, which is very dangerous because any contact with sewer water invites skin diseases and if only a small amount is swallowed can cause bacillary dysentery (Kidder pp).
And all over Haiti there are boys and girls carrying water balanced in plastic buckets on their heads as they “trek long distances up and down the hillsides of Port-au-Prince or climb steep footpaths in the countryside” (Kidder pp). Kidder points out that most of these children are orphans, known as restavek, who work as indentured servants for poor families, and notes that contaminated water is one of the causes of Haiti’s extremely high rate of maternal mortality, which is the reason there are so many orphans available to carry water (Kidder pp). According to one development report, “Sanitation service systems are almost nonexistence,” and many Haitians drink from rivers or polluted wells or stagnant reservoirs, adding citron, key lime juice, believing that this will make the water safe (Kidder pp). This leads to epidemic levels of diseases such as typhoid, and a great deal of acute and chronic diarrhea, a disease that flourishes among children five years and younger, and particularly the children who are malnourished (Kidder pp).
Hunger is rampant, and according to a 2002 report from the World Bank, “Haitians today are estimated to be the fourth most undernourished people on earth, after Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia” (Kidder pp). Although cures for most of the ailments are simple, the vast majority do not have access to even rudimentary healthcare, and most have to travel for an hour or longer over roads that resemble dry riverbeds to reach health centers that not only charge fees that they cannot afford, but the centers lack the most basic provisions (Kidder pp).
No one can dispute the fact that Haiti is in dreadful shape, thus it seems curious that over the past few years foreign aid has actually declined (Kidder pp).
Although it still receives assistance from the U.S., the European Union, Canada, Japan, and various United Nations organizations, the total amount has been reduced by about two-thirds since 1995 (Kidder pp). The U.S. has cut its aid by more than half since 1999, while the World Bank has “shut down” its lending to Haiti and has even closed its Haiti office, leaving behind only an administrator and driver (Kidder pp). The Inter-American Development Bank is one of the major players in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one of Haiti’s most important lenders, and in the late 1990’s it made comprehensive plans for a passel of new low-interest loans, about $148 million, to address some of Haiti’s most pressing needs, such as road, public health system, and education (Kidder pp). Yet in the spring of 2001, when the loans were set to be disbursed, the U.S. representative on the IDB board of executive directors wrote the bank’s president requesting that the process be halted (Kidder pp). Not only was this unusual, but no member-nation is supposed to be able to halt disbursement of loans that are already approved, nevertheless, Haiti lost these loans as well as access to loans it could have received from the IDB over the next several years, worth another $470 million (Kidder pp).
Tracy Kidder interviewed a State Department senior official who said that it was not only the U.S. that wanted to block the IDB loans, it was “a concerted effort” of the Organization of American States. The official said that the legal justification originated at an OAS meeting called the Quebec City Summit, which produced the Declaration of Quebec City, dated April 22, 2001, yet the letter from IDB’s U.S. executive director requesting a halt to disbursement of the funds was dated April 6, 2001 (Kidder pp). Thus, says Kidder, “it would seem that the effort became concerted after it was made” (Kidder pp). The state official claimed that the reason for blocking the loans was “to bring pressure to bear on the Aristide government, to address what the OAS itself and other members of the international community saw as serious flaws in the 2000 electoral process,” referring to the May 2000 elections in which Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Lavalas political party won large majorities in both houses of the Haitian Parliament (Kidder pp).
In 1994 President Clinton sent 20,000 American troops to Haiti to restore Aristide to the presidency, a move that was hailed as good for Haiti, yet seven weeks after the invasion, the Republicans took control of Congress and systematically dismantled aid to the impoverished, war-torn country (Hallinan pp).
After 1996, U.S. aid to Haiti was the same as what it had given the dictatorship that deposed Aristide, and although aid did flow, it flowed to U.S. organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy which funneled money to the opposition (Hallinan pp).
In the March 02, 2004 issue of Foreign Policy in Focus, Conn Hallinan suggested that the French who colonized it and the Americans who occupied it and exploited it bear some responsibility for the fact that Haiti is such a basket case. Hallinan claims that since colonialism has “smashed up the world, deliberately squelched economic progress by the colonized, drew arbitrary lines on maps, and sowed the dragon’s teeth of ethnic division and uneven development,” that nations cannot simply shake their heads over “failed states,” and walk away (Hallinan pp).
The United States may not have actually kidnapped Aristide and forced him to leave at gun-point, but nevertheless, the U.S. authorities did nothing to prevent the violent overthrow of Aristide in late February 2004 and save democracy in Haiti (Rice pp). Some representatives on Capital Hill believed that this sends a “dangerous and irresponsible” message that “this administration will not stand up for a democratically elected head of state they do not like” (Rice pp).
Haiti was the world’s first black independent state, and many believe the Bush administration is responsible for the 2004 coup, the country’s 32nd since it was founded 200 years ago, and that it gave “yet more evidence of the real meaning of the ‘Bush doctrine’ of regime change” (Rice pp). According to Jim Rice, in the April 01, 2004 issue of Sojourners, “it’s not about WMDs or human rights or legitimate governance. For the duly elected president of Haiti, it came down to: You’re on our side or you’re gone” (Rice pp). Rice notes that human rights are routinely ignored and elite corruption is rampant from Saudi Arabia to Singapore, “but as long the countries’ leaders are compliant to U.S. interests, nothing else matters” (Rice pp).
During a press conference on March 8, 2004, while being guarded by soldiers from the Central African Republic, Aristide said, “I didn’t leave Haiti because I wanted to leave Haiti. They forced me to leave… It was a kidnapping, which they call coup d’etat. It wasn’t a resignation. It was a kidnapping and under the cover of coup d’etat” (Waters pp). Aristide maintained that he was till the legitimate president of Haiti, and that his government had been replaced by a U.S. sponsored government of occupation (Waters pp). He also accused France of colluding with the United States to remove him from office, claiming the two countries had organized a “political kidnapping” (Waters pp).
Maxine Waters writes in the March 17, 2004 issue of the Los Angeles Sentinel, that the Bush Administration was involved with replacing Aristide in Haiti and that it supported the swearing in of new president, Boniface Alexandre, in violation of Haiti’s Constitution” (Waters pp). Waters claims that the Bush Administration is putting people in place who they believe will be responsive to the United States government and the elite class in Haiti (Waters pp).
Waters demands to know why the administration refused to commit the U.S. military to stabilize the violent uprising by the ‘opposition’ thugs, many of whom were former members of the Duvalier-era military or members of the death squad known as the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, who were responsible for a multitude of human rights violations during the three years following the coup d’etat in 1991 (Water pp). Moreover, Waters and others want to know why the Bush Administration refused to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the crisis, and forced Aristide, “who had agreed to a peace plan worked out by the international community, to resign and leave his country” (Waters pp). Prior to Aristide’s departure, Bush’s only concern was to make sure that all Haitian refugees were turned back at sea before they could reach the U.S. (Waters pp).
Hallinan, Conn M. “Haiti: dangerous muddle.” Foreign Policy in Focus. March 08
2004. Retrieved October 29, 2005 from HighBeam Research Library Web site.
Kidder, Tracy. “The trials of Haiti: why has the U.S. government abandoned a country it once sought to liberate?” The Nation. October 27, 2003. Retrieved October 29, 2005 from HighBeam Research Library Web site.
Rice, Jim. “Regime change in Haiti: the Bush doctrine strikes again.” Sojourners.
April 01, 2004. Retrieved October 29, 2005 from HighBeam Research Library Web site.
Waters, Maxine. “Bush Administration’s Shoot First, Ask-Questions-Later Policy
Brings Chaos to Haiti.” Los Angeles Sentinel. March 17, 2004. Retrieved October 29, 2005 from HighBeam Research Library Web site.
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