In the beginning there was Jean-Bertrand Aristide - “Titide”, as he was known locally - preacher of the slums and shantytowns, and voice of the disenfranchised. When the brutal Duvalier dictatorship ended in 1986, Titide was the great hope of a desperate people. Yet, when his third term as president ended on February 29th 2004, the consensus was that he no longer cared about anything but power and money. This assertion was accompanied by a list of the little curé’s misdemeanours: he was thought to be an accomplice to (if not directly responsible for) every crime - drugs trafficking, political assassinations and the dead dogs in the street. Could this be the man who received the 1996 Unesco prize for human rights education? Or is he being unfairly demonised, as popular leaders are, when they have the nerve to upset the established disorder in the US’s backyard?
A recently declassified Defense Intelligence Agency report confirmed what human rights groups have been saying about Colombian President Alvaro Uribe: he has his roots firmly planted in Colombia’s narcotrafficking dynasties. The report lists 104 of Colombia’s most prominent cocaine traffickers. President Uribe’s name is 82nd on the list. In his own defense, Uribe claims that to become a senator from the state of Antioquia, he had to rub elbows with and shake the hands of suspected drug lords, but that doesn’t make him one, too. Well, yes, he certainly shook hands with narcotraffickers; Antioquia is run on drug money, and it would have been difficult for anyone to enter politics, much less become governor and win a seat in the Colombian Congress, without the backing of drug money and the willingness to push policies that protect and serve wealthy drug lords.
Over three years ago, the International Republican Institute’s senior program officer for Haiti, Stanley Lucas, suggested on Haitian radio three strategies for removing Haiti’s elected president. First, Lucas proposed forcing Aristide to accept early elections and be voted out; second, he could be charged with corruption and arrested; finally, he could be removed in the same way as Congolese President Laurent Kabila, the month before. “You did see what happened to Kabila?” Lucas asked his audience. Kabila had been assassinated. Throughout the last six years, the federally funded IRI - stated mission, to “promote the practice of democracy” abroad ? spent $3 million training Aristide’s political opponents, uniting them into a single bloc and, according to a former USA ambassador there, encouraging them to reject internationally sanctioned power-sharing agreements in order to heighten Haiti’s political crisis.
Alex Contreras Baspineiro
The upcoming referendum in Bolivia has accomplished what various neoliberal governments, including military dictatorships, even the United States? own policy, could not: dividing the popular movement and challenging its leaders. A great question mark now hangs over this country?s future. A binding referendum ? described by some in the labor movement as “no more than a consolidation of the privileges awarded to multinational corporations” - will be held on July 18th to decide the fate of the country?s fossil fuels. Judging by the mood in the country, the issue looks set to be a major landmark in the country?s unstable recent history.
The Bush administration’s policy on Cuba recently took a new turn. From now on, Cuban-Americans will be able to visit the island only once every three years, not annually, and the amount of money they can take with them will be cut by more than two-thirds. Other Americans will continue to be banned from going to Cuba at all. Those defying the ban risk up to ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Military aircraft will be deployed in the skies near Cuba to push American TV and radio propaganda broadcasts through Cuban jamming. This stuff is obviously not going to shake Fidel Castro’s hold on power, so why did Bush do it? The “Miami Herald” published the complete answer in late May: “The new Cuba rules are a cold, poll-driven calculation that has less to do with democracy-building in Havana than with vote-counting in Miami.”
The US-led international “stabilization” force that descended on Haiti after Washington engineered a coup against the Caribbean-island country?s elected president has begun moving aggressively into urban areas loyal to deposed president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The force?s stated aim is to restore order by disarming both pro-and anti-Aristide groups. But its targeting of the slums of Port-au-Prince underscores that the principal goal of the stabilization force is to quell popular opposition to Haiti?s new US-installed regime. The force?s intrusion into the poorer neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince stands in sharp contrast to the hands off approach toward the rebel army that the Bush administration and Haiti?s self-styled democratic opposition used to topple Aristide.
The first democratic government of Haiti appears to be in its death throes. To add vicious insult to continuing injury, the American mainstream media continue to present Haitian affairs as the sorry result of the dismal leadership of one man, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, despite the best efforts of the United States. The headlines that grace the mass media would be laughably absurd if the reality they obscured were not so dreadful. One doesn’t have to wander far from the Associated Press wires to find abundant information about the USA’s enthusiastic long-term “intervention” in Haiti. The so-called “democratic convergence” that has dogged Aristide’s elected government is, in fact, a tiny group of malcontents who are working with elements of the Bush administration to turn Haiti into one vast sweatshop zone.
Former military and death-squad leaders are attempting an armed overthrow of the elected president of Haiti, with the connivance of an elite-controlled political opposition, and under the complacent eyes of Western governments. This is the bitter truth revealed by last weekend?s events in the impoverished Caribbean island-nation. Yesterday, the country?s second largest city, reportedly fell to a rebel army led by former officers of the disbanded Haitian army and leaders of FRAPH, a death squad responsible for innumerable atrocities during the three-year military dictatorship that deposed Aristide in 1991. The poorest country in the Western hemisphere, Haiti is on the verge of civil war and a possible humanitarian catastrophe.
William Hardiker for the World Crisis Web
The Australian government, under John Howard, at the behest of the Bush Administration, has announced that it is determined to renew ties with the 10,000 strong elite Indonesian special forces unit, known as Kopassus. The unit that has a proven track record in terrorism - from the torture and murder of political opponents, to systematic violence against the entire population in East Timor, West Papua and Aceh. Kopassus has a long and comprehensive record of human rights abuses, all overlooked, and thus condoned by the American and Australian governments and military. The renewal of ties with Kopassus, broken off after invasion of East Timor, is, like so much else, flimsily justified as part of the “war on terrorism” alone.
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