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A history of US-sponsored violence in Haiti/How USAID undermines democracy in Haiti
A history of US-sponsored violence in Haiti
2011-11-16, Issue 558
Pambazuka - A history of US-sponsored violence in Haiti
The United States has a long history of sowing violence in Haiti. Nearly 100 years ago, the Marines invaded Haiti and occupied the country for 19 years, over the course of which they killed thousands of Haitians who attempted to resist the repression. The pretext for the invasion was instability. But for the tens of thousands of Haitians who were dispossessed of their land by American businesses or who were put into forced labor, the true source of instability originated with their neighbour to the north. In order to protect its investments in Haiti and to ensure the country’s future ‘stability’, the United States created and trained a new Haitian army that would become infamous for its brutal repression of the population.
Three decades after the US left Haiti, it still continued in its support of a violent regime there. The dictator François Duvalier and his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, commanded a personal death squad, called the Tonton Macoutes, that murdered several thousand people and terrorised the population. Duvalier and their supporters were intent on protecting the interests of Haiti’s wealthy elite at all costs, and during their rule the gap between rich and poor widened. They were enabled by the United States, which sent the dictators tens of millions of dollars before their nearly 30-year rule ended.
Arising out of all the suffering caused by the regime — in true form to Haiti’s revolutionary roots — was a mass movement that sought to overturn the corruption and cruelty of the dictatorship. Having successfully driven the younger Duvalier out of power in 1986, this movement nevertheless weathered four more years of political, economic and social crises — crises inflicted by those who would have liked to see the continuation of dictatorship. But the call for equality prevailed: Haiti had its first democratic elections in 1990, and more than two-thirds of the people voted for a courageous priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, to be their president.
During the first six months of Aristide’s term in office, major positive changes were already seen in Haiti. The crime rate dropped, the number of people fleeing Haiti as refugees dropped; the government launched a nationwide literacy campaign; Aristide expelled corrupt government officials, and he was arranging to more than double the minimum wage from $1 to $2.40 per day.
The president did his best to promote unity in the new Haiti. In good faith, he extended a hand to the Haitian army, but its top officers were still loyal Duvalierists. Less than eight months after President Aristide was inaugurated, the army — under the leadership of General Raoul Cedras — took over the National Palace. On September 30, 1991, these opponents of the mass democratic movement that brought Aristide into office staged a violent coup. They set up an occupation government, which the Haitian army vigorously protected. It is estimated that the army and death squads killed at least 5,000 people over the course of the next three years. Leaders of the coup, including Cedras, had been trained at the US rmya School of the Americas (SOA). In 1993, another SOA graduate, Emmanuel Constant, formed a new death squad; he later revealed that he was on the CIA’s payroll. The US-sponsored imprisonment, torturing and killing of people loyal to Haiti’s democratic movement continued nearly right up to the very end of the coup in 1994.
Upon Aristide’s return to his country in October of that year, the grassroots movement pressed forward in the face of continued pressure from the US to conform the Haitian economy to its will. In 1995, he raised the minimum wage from $1 to $2.40 per day. That same year, in a hugely popular move, Aristide abolished the military and transformed its headquarters into the newly created Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
Today, on the twentieth anniversary of the first coup, the US is funding another military occupation of Haiti. This one began over seven years ago, when a small group of armed assassins — some of whom had been trained in the US — entered Haiti through the Dominican Republic and initiated a spree of looting and killing. It was 2004, three years into Aristide’s second administration. To assist the paramilitary in its goal of overthrowing the government, the US kidnapped the president and his wife at gunpoint and sent in the marines. Falsely reporting the situation, newspapers like the New York Times said that Aristide voluntarily ‘resigned’. France and Canada also sent troops, and the United Nations quickly followed suit by sending a multinational military force, ostensibly to restore order.
Ever since, the UN has had a presence in Haiti of more than 9,000 troops and police; but they have been anything but peacekeepers. The long list of human rights abuses they have committed against the Haitian people — primarily the poor and supporters of Aristide — include rape, imprisonment without trial, and murder. Typically, the pretext for this occupation is ‘instability’ in Haiti, as is reflected in the name of the military force: the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (which also goes by the French acronym, MINUSTAH). The reality, however, is that the UN presence acts to legitimise a war on the people of Haiti that would like to see democracy. It costs over $700 million per year to fund MINUSTAH, and the US is the largest contributor to the organisation’s global bill by a large margin.
The US finances the occupation of Haiti in other ways, as well. Last November, the Obama administration spent more than $9 million to hold deeply fraudulent elections in which the most popular political party, called Lavalas, was banned from participating. In protest, more than three-quarters of the electorate did not vote in the fixed runoff election held in February. It is well known in Haiti that the newly ‘selected’ president, Michel Martelly, was a proponent of the 2004 coup, that he is in favor of the United Nations and that he plans to regroup a new military. And certainly, Bill and Hillary Clinton — who have been encouraging and promoting Martelly — must be aware that he faithfully supported the Duvaliers.
Haitian and world history should make it clear that whenever the US invests so much money and such might, it is certain that there is something very valuable to gain — or to be lost. Since 2004 — in a repeat of the very first US occupation — wealthy foreigners have set up shop in Haiti and privatised key national resources. Last September, Martelly selected Bill Clinton — who is the UN special envoy for Haiti — to head his new advisory board on investment. One has to wonder what advice Clinton would provide, given that throughout the 1980s and 1990s, he helped Congress to debilitate the Haitian economy by flooding its markets with cheap US food, thus driving down production in Haiti.
Last month, during his Global Initiative forum, Clinton commended Martelly’s plan to open Haiti for business and for making it a ‘user-friendly place’. Clinton spoke of the potential to make fortunes in Haiti. For his wife’s part, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mediated a deal last year in which a South Korean clothing company would open sweat shops in Haiti. More recently, she expressed the United States’ full commitment to supporting Martelly. Apparently, the United States will wholly support the fraudulently elected president of an occupied country in which a documented war criminal, Jean-Claude Duvalier, goes about with impunity.
Currently in power in Haiti is an illegal, repressive government that owes its existence, in large part, to the United States. There is widespread concern that Martelly will make good on his announcement to reestablish the Haitian army, which Aristide disbanded during his first presidency, and which, as we mentioned before, had also been one of America’s pernicious creations. It is likely that foreign donors would have to fund the $95 million plan, which calls for creating a military of 3,500 soldiers who would eventually replace the UN. It also calls for a National Intelligence Service (SIN is the French acronym), that will deal with people and organizations accused of terrorism. To many in Haiti, it is clear that Martelly wants to revive the Duvalier death squads, who attacked anyone the dictators accused of Communism.
There should be little doubt about the use to which Martelly intends to put an army. As someone who has admitted supporting the last two coups, as a Duvalierist and a vocal opponent of the most popular leader in the country (Aristide), Martelly does not represent the aspirations of the majority but of a wealthy elite. As the Duvaliers before him, it can be surmised that he would use the army as an instrument of terror against the poor to consolidate his power.
The American government and its highest officials, including Obama and the Clintons — people who at some time or another claimed to represent the interests of American citizens — are doing shameful work in Haiti. With one hand, they make gestures toward those suffering from insufficient access to the very basic necessities of life; with the other, they are allotting hundreds of millions of dollars to bullets, guns, tanks, soldiers, prisons, and to undemocratic movements and governments.
Yet against all this, there is great hope in Haiti. The Aristide Foundation recently reopened its medical school with a tiny fraction of the money that has been spent on the occupation of Haiti. In 2004, the US/UN military force halted construction, dissolved the school and occupied it for three years before giving back control to the foundation. The reopening of the school is a sign that the people in Haiti will continue to stand up, though it may seem that they have been crushed down far as possible. This is not the kind of hope that comes from celebrity concerts or from Coca-Cola refreshments. It is the kind which springs from the memory that with collective struggle and a vision, change for the better can occur. At its source is the certainty that justice and truth are on one’s side.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
How USAID undermines democracy in Haiti
2011-11-16, Issue 558
Pambazuka - How USAID undermines democracy in Haiti
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is an arm of the US State Department. Founded in 1961, USAID serves as a ‘velvet glove’ for US foreign policy. The political bias of its operations in Haiti goes back decades. Here are ten things to know about USAID in Haiti:
1. USAID paid millions to Haiti’s ruthless dictator, Francois ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, aimed at shoring up US influence in the region after the Cuban revolution. Thirty to fifty thousand people were killed under Duvalier’s regime while aid funds were siphoned into the private coffers of the Duvalier family. Under Duvalier, assembly production for American corporations became the blueprint for Haiti’s economic dependence on the US. The formula, essentially unchanged to this day, backs Haiti’s ruling elite while turning Haiti into a low-wage export-focused economy that creates profitable business opportunities for foreign investors. Haitians call it ‘the death plan’.
2. USAID backed Duvalier's son, Jean-Claude ‘baby doc’, when he took over in 1971, with plans to promote Haiti as the ‘Taiwan of the Caribbean’. American taxpayers provided millions to build an infrastructure to lure US manufacturers to open assembly plants, taking advantage of Haiti’s high unemployment, political repression, and wages of 14 cents an hour. The consequences were profits for US business and the Haitian super rich. By the time of Duvalier’s fall, Haiti was the world’s ninth largest assembler of goods for US consumption, and the largest producer of baseballs.
3. USAID sabotaged Haiti's domestic food production. USAID has a major impact on Haiti’s economy, both directly and as an agent for big financial institutions like the IMF. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than Haiti’s food system. As recently as 30 years ago, Haiti produced most of its own food. Then, in the early 1980s, USAID undertook a plan to redirect Haiti’s domestic food production towards export crops. The idea, tied to Ronald Reagan’s Caribbean Basin Initiative, was to integrate Haiti into the world market via agro-industry and export manufacturing.
With full awareness of its dire impact on Haitian peasants, USAID experts set about to shift 30 per cent of Haiti’s cultivated land from food produced for local consumption to export crops. As Haiti's rural economy unravelled, impoverished peasants fled to the capital city.
Competition from cheap imports and the absence of policies to promote production led to a rapid decline in Haiti’s food production. By 2008, local food production amounted to 42 per cent of Haiti’s food consumption, compared to 80 per cent in 1986. At the same time the value of US agricultural exports to Haiti began to increase - from $44 million (1986) to $95 million (1989). Recently, USAID was helping agriculture officials boost Haiti's production of mangoes - for export to the United States.
4. USAID enforced trade liberalization policies that undercut Haiti's rice industry while promoting American rice. In 1986, USAID conditioned aid to the ruling military junta on lowering rice tariffs, while advising the government to remove the little assistance it gave to Haitian farmers. Haiti slashed its rice tariff from 35 per cent to 3.5 per cent (1986) and to 1.5 per cent (1995). Not only were Haitian farmers hurt, but American producers and grain sellers profited. Cheap, heavily subsidised ‘Miami’ US rice flooded Haitian markets, and Haitian rice production began to drop. Until the early 1980s, Haiti produced the majority of its own rice, but Haiti is now the fourth largest importer of American rice.
One beneficiary was the Rice Corporation of Haiti (RCH), owned by Erly Industries - a massive US agribusiness and the largest marketer of American rice. In 1992, RCH secured a nine-year contract to import rice from Haiti’s illegal coup government - a military junta responsible for the deaths of thousands of Haitians. RCH was managed at the time by the former director of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (1982-1988), with powerful friends in Washington like Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC).
Erly Industries gained another foothold in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake when USAID awarded an Erly subsidiary, Chemonics, the contract to implement the 2009 USAID ‘winner’ program. Chemonics is an international consulting firm that relies on USAID for 90 per cent of its business. Winner is another example of USAID’s reckless assault on Haitian agriculture. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Winner championed the introduction of Monsanto hybrid seeds at cheap prices to Haitian farmers, despite the recommendation of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture to halt all seed donations as both unnecessary and harmful. Winner undermines Haitian seed distribution networks, and will leave Haitian farmers dependent on Monsanto seeds when the program expires in 2015.
5. USAID ‘food aid’ is good for us agribusiness, not for Haitian farmers. Haiti’s domestic rice production was undermined even more by the vast amounts of ‘free’ American rice that USAID dumps on Haiti every year in the form of ‘food aid’. A recent report, ‘Sak Vid Pa Kanpe: The Impact of US Food Aid on Human Rights in Haiti’, explains how food aid is given to the poor as direct food assistance or sold by NGOs to support their overhead and operating costs, (a process known as ‘monetisation’). The report examines how US food aid benefits the American companies who provide and transport it, but has a negative impact on local Haitian economies which would benefit instead from agricultural assistance or cash to boost local production. In its most recent budget request, USAID proposed spending $1.2 billion globally on helping poor farmers grow more food, while asking Congress for $4.2 billion for food aid, almost all of which will be spent on purchases from American farmers.
6. USAID destroyed the Haitian creole pig. The 1982 swine flu outbreak in the Dominican Republic provided the justification for USAID to condemn Haiti’s 1.3 million pig population, promising to replace them with ‘better’ pigs. Over a period of 13 months, enforced by Duvalier militia, the Creole pig was wiped out. A Haitian woman recalls the era: ‘When the armed forces of Jean-Claude Duvalier's regime set about exterminating Haiti's Creole pigs, they would come to Haiti's rural villages, seize all of the pigs, pile them up, one on top of the other, in large pits and set fire to them, burning them alive.’ In monetary terms Haitian peasants lost $600 million dollars. Haiti’s former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide analyzed the outcome in his book, ‘Eyes of the Heart’, explaining the small, black, Creole pig was at the heart of the peasant economy and constituted the primary savings bank of the peasant population. Pigs were sold to pay for emergencies, special occasions and to pay school fees and buy books for the children. What followed was a 30 per cent drop in enrollment in rural schools, a dramatic decline in protein consumption in rural Haiti, and a negative impact on the soil and agricultural productivity. When ‘better pigs’ arrived from Iowa two years later, they could not survive Haiti’s rural life, requiring clean drinking water (unavailable to 80 per cent of the Haitian people), imported feed (costing $90 a year when the per capita income was about $130), and special roofed pigpens.
7. USAID has consistently opposed minimum wage increases in Haiti. In 1991, USAID used US tax dollars to oppose a minimum wage increase from $.33 to $.50 per hour proposed by the Aristide government, claiming it was bad for business. The agency also countered a plan for temporary price controls on basic food so people could afford to eat. According to secret State Department cables, after the 2010 earthquake, the US Embassy in Haiti worked closely with factory owners contracted by Levi's, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom to block a small minimum wage increase for Haitian assembly zone workers, the lowest paid in the hemisphere. The factory owners, with backing of USAID and the US Embassy, refused to pay 62 cents an hour, or $5 per eight-hour day, a measure unanimously passed by the Haitian parliament in June 2009.
8. USAID promoted and funded the 2004 overthrow of the democratically-elected Aristide. While millions of American dollars have propped up Haiti’s dictators, aid shifted abruptly away from the democratically elected government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Under the guise of ‘democracy promotion,’ USAID and USAID-funded organisations like the National Endowment for Democracy and the International Republican Institute, funnelled millions to organise political opposition to Aristide and build conservative alternatives aligned with US interests. After the 2004 coup, USAID funded the integration of former death squad forces into the Haitian National Police to quell resistance among Haitians to the illegitimate coup government. USAID paid millions to fund the fraudulent November 2010 and March 2011 elections that excluded Haiti’s largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, the party of President Aristide.
9. USAID extends its far-reaching influence in Haiti by funding NGOs (non-governmental organisations) which receive 70 per cent of their budgets from the agency. Over 10,000 NGOs operate in Haiti with authorisation to bypass the elected government and serve as a permanent form of ‘soft’ invasion. As far back as 1995, Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott reassured members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that, ‘even after our (military) exit in February 1996 we will remain in charge by means of the USAID and the private sector.’
10. USAID boasts that 84 cents of every dollar of its funding in Haiti returns to the US in the form of salaries, supplies, consulting fees, and services. As the lead US agency for Haiti reconstruction, just 2.5 per cent of USAID’s $200 million in post-earthquake relief and reconstruction contracts had gone to Haitian firms by April 2010. USAID paid at least $160 million of its total Haiti-related expenditures to the Defense Department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, two US search and rescue teams and, in at least two instances, itself. US Ambassador Merten reported to Washington that the post-quake ‘gold rush’ was on, according to a secret cable that described disaster capitalists flocking to Haiti for contracts to rebuild the country.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
Last edited by ?errthang; 11-17-2011 at 12:50 PM.
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