Acton Institute Powerblog

Recall Aristide to Haiti? No way.

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Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the ex-president of Haiti who has lived lavishly in exile as a guest of the South African government for the past six years, recently announced he was ready to go back and help Haiti rebuild from its catastrophic earthquake. Allowing the former despot Aristide — a long time proponent of liberation theology — back into the country would be the worst thing we could do to Haiti right now. The American government must resist any move by Aristide to return.

In 2004, I wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal in which I reminded readers of Aristide’s violent past:

In sermons later published in his book “In the Parish of the Poor,” [Aristide] called for forming “battalions” to perform “acts of deliverance” and for overthrowing the regime by “any means necessary” and pined for a Haitian version of the Sandinista Revolution. He did not hide his sincere devotion to Christian communism, which preferred its humanitarianism soaked in blood.

Ultimately, this former priest’s flawed understanding of the human person and economic realities added great suffering and injustice to a Haitian people who have endured so much:

Lacking a coherent view of economics or an understanding of how society functions and develops, Liberation Theology ends up with precisely what it decries most of all: centralized power exercised on behalf of the few at the expense of the many. The story has been repeated so many times in the past 100 years that one would think that even theology students would get the message that socialism is a very bad idea. But somehow, there are always those who think that the next attempt under the right person will at last bring Heaven to Earth. Thus was Mr. Aristide’s rule despotic not despite his professed adherence to the theology of liberation but precisely because of it.

The rapid response of private citizens, governments, and international humanitarian aid agencies to this great catastrophe has been heartening to see in the days following the Jan. 12 earthquake. Now the attention gradually shifts to long term recovery and development efforts. In today’s Journal, Mary O’Grady has a very good article on mistakes made in the past in Haiti under the Clinton administration. That focus is important because right now former President Bill Clinton, O’Grady writes, “has been unofficially designated by the multilateral aid community as the conduit through which anyone who wants to participate in the country’s reconstruction will have to go.”

So how will it be different this time around for Haiti? The country’s problems won’t be solved simply by pouring more money in — although that of course is part of what is needed. What is most important now is to rebuild Haiti’s institutions in a way that will foster the rule of law, open markets, and a desire to root out corruption. Even a thing as simple as building codes, something we take for granted here in the United States, are for the most part nonexistent in Haiti. How many lives would have been saved in the earthquake if building codes had been in place and enforceable?

Free the Haitian entrepreneurial spirit. Simply pouring more millions into a failed state will only enrich and empower a new generation of kleptocrats and despots. And the aid community knows this.

So do Haitian business people:

Clifford Rouzeau, co-owner of three restaurants in the Haitian capital, has been distributing free food to more than 1,000 people every day instead of reopening. He said he hoped the crisis would end Haiti’s long history of government theft. “I’m hoping. I’ve got my fingers crossed. The people here deserve better than they actually have,” he said.

“You have a government that steals everything and won’t give anything back to the country. You have a government that doesn’t feel it necessary to put police out in the street. Do something! Put canteens all over. Just do something.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom has this to say about corruption in Haiti:

Corruption is perceived as rampant. Haiti ranks 177th out of 179 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index for 2008. Customs officers often demand bribes to clear shipments. Smuggling is a major problem, and contraband accounts for a large percentage of the manufactured consumables market. International donors have pushed the government to take a few steps to enforce public accountability and transparency, but substantive institutional reforms are still needed.

Haiti got to this deplorable state in large part because of despots like Aristide. Let’s invite him to stay in South Africa. And with Hugo Chavez’s “21st Century Socialism” on the verge of collapse in Venezuela, I’m not sure how much more evidence the global aid and development community needs to understand what doesn’t work.

Read “When Theory Met Practice — Aristide’s “liberation theology” became Haiti’s problem” on the Opinion Journal Web site.

Rev. Robert Sirico Rev. Robert A. Sirico received his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic University of America, following undergraduate study at the University of Southern California and the University of London. During his studies and early ministry, he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today's social problems. As a result of these concerns, Fr. Sirico co-founded the Acton Institute with Kris Alan Mauren in 1990. As president of the Acton Institute, Fr. Sirico lectures at colleges, universities, and business organizations throughout the U.S. and abroad. His writings on religious, political, economic, and social matters are published in a variety of journals, including: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the London Financial Times, the Washington Times, the Detroit News, and National Review. Fr. Sirico is often called upon by members of the broadcast media for statements regarding economics, civil rights, and issues of religious concern, and has provided commentary for CNN, ABC, the BBC, NPR, and CBS' 60 Minutes, among others. In April of 1999, Fr. Sirico was awarded an honorary doctorate in Christian Ethics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and in May of 2001, Universidad Francisco Marroquin awarded him an honorary doctorate in Social Sciences. He is a member of the prestigious Mont Pèlerin Society, the American Academy of Religion, and the Philadelphia Society, and is on the Board of Advisors of the Civic Institute in Prague. Father Sirico also served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 1994 to 1998. He is also currently serving on the pastoral staff of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fr. Sirico's pastoral ministry has included a chaplaincy to AIDS patients at the National Institute of Health and the recent founding of a new community, St. Philip Neri House in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • Nicolas Rossier

    I am a religious person and in terms of my politics I can say that I am rather in the center. I do not recognize anything you say about Aristide and his legacy. I have been to Haiti a few times and made a film on the events that led to the coup in Haiti in 2004 ( I visited Aristide and his family in SA. I did not see the dictator you see in him. Actually being a dictator implies having the control of its country which Aristide clearly did not have in 2004. I read a tremendous amount of literature on both sides of the spectrum including the books of Dupuy, Fatton, Pierre, Wargny and many more and I did not reach the conclusions you reached in these lines. Strange how “reasonable people” can reach such different conclusions. I can tell you for sure that he is still the most popular man in Haiti among the poor (80% of Haitians). In a real democracy that is a fact that should count. The partisanship in the US about Haiti’s past and the solutions for its future is so high that I am afraid that we might not see the end of the tunnel soon.

    At least we all agree now that we should save the lives we can still save but beyond that I not sure what will really change in Haiti. Unless Haiti goes through a process of reconciliation in the like we saw in SA, its institutions will not grow more solid because they will not be seen as legitimate by the people. WIthout real legitimacy, no solid institutions. Without solid institutions, no political security. Without political security, no long term investment and economic recovery. So you can exile anybody you want but it won’t solve the problems of Haitians on the long term.

  • Nicolas Rossier

    I am a religious person and in terms of my politics I can say that I am rather in the center. I do not recognize anything you say about Aristide and his legacy. I have been to Haiti a few times and made a film on the events that led to the coup in Haiti in 2004 ( I visited Aristide and his family in SA. I did not see the dictator you see in him. Actually being a dictator implies having the control of its country which Aristide clearly did not have in 2004. I read a tremendous amount of literature on both sides of the spectrum including the books of Dupuy, Fatton, Pierre, Wargny and many more and I did not reach the conclusions you reached in this article. It is strange how “reasonable people” can reach such different conclusions. I can tell you for sure that he is still the most popular man in Haiti among the poor (80% of Haitians). In a real democracy this a fact that should count in my opinion. The bitter partisanship in the US about Haiti’s past and possible solutions for its future is such that we are not going to find the end of the tunnel soon.

    At least we all agree now that we should save the lives we can still save but beyond that I not sure that anything will really change in Haiti. Unless Haiti goes through a process of reconciliation in the like of what we saw in SA, its institutions will not grow more solid because they will not be seen as legitimate by the people. WIthout real legitimacy, no solid institutions. Without solid institutions, no political security. Without political security, no long term investment and economic recovery. So you can exile anybody you want but it won’t solve the problems of Haitians on the long term.


    Sir, after I read your comments about President Aristide, I sensed the hatred in you toward president Aristide and the 80% of the real Haitian people that believe in him. May GOD blessed HAITI and President Aristide.

  • Father Robert Sirico

    The Haitian political tradition of the Strong Man is the reason many supported Aristide (I doubt the percentages asserted in Mr. Rossier’s response) and would even like to see him return. But this tradition is basically a illusion and a dangerous one at that. If Mr. Aristide did not say what I cited from his book, if he is not a supporter of liberation theology or if he has renounced these convictions, my all means, please correct the record. But Mr. Rossier’s cinematic ode to Aristide is a elegant propaganda piece for for a dictator (one could produce a similar one for Chavez in Venezuela), in the same way that his other cinematography as a body constitutes an apologia not for centrist politics, as he implies here, but for the Left. What Haiti desperately needs, in addition to our support and prayers in this sad moment, is a free economy under a rule of law and a limited government – not another Strong Man whose only difference from the others who preceded him in devastating that beleaguered land is that Mr. Aristide wants to baptize Karl Marx this time.

  • Roger McKinney

    It’s possible that Aristide was popular with the poor. The poor usually do love a man that claims he will take from the rich and give to the poor. That’s how socialists (excuse me, centrists) win elections in the US.

  • John Couretas

    The Madrid-based think tank FRIDE has an extensive archive of research on the condition of civil society in Haiti (very bad) and the various efforts over the years by developed countries to provide help. Archive page is here.

    Excerpts (emphasis mine) from the March 2009 report “Haiti: The bitter grapes of corruption”:

    Foreign cooperation has contributed over 2.6 billion dollars to Haiti since 1984, with little to show for it. In 2006, the new Haitian government blamed the unwieldy bureaucracy of international institutions which entails the setting up of, often unnecessary, expert missions. On the other hand, donors point to the rampant corruption in Haiti that has prevented the vast numbers of underprivileged people from benefiting from the positive effects of development aid.

    According to the 2006 Transparency International6 report, when René Préval came to power for the second time, Haiti was only ahead of Burma and Iraq as the countries with the most widespread corruption. TI’s findings have revealed a strong correlation between corruption and poverty in countries with the lowest income per capita.

    [ … ]


    In 2007, René Préval released Aristide’s followers who had been involved in corruption, drug trafficking and/or extortion, a fact that was deplored by human rights associations. However, in 2008, the opportunity arose to prove that he was truly committed to fighting against corruption and this was the IDT/Téléco/Aristide case.

    On 15 July 2008, after years of investigation, New York journalist Lucy Komisar posted evidence on the website that Jean Bertrand Aristide had extorted millions of dollars from the State and the Haitian people by passing a fraudulent contract with the New Jersey-based telephone company IDT. The results of this investigation led to a fine of 1.3 million dollars for James Courter, president of IDT and one of the main fundraisers for the presidential campaign of the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain. Four days after Komisar’s revelations, James Courter handed in his resignation to McCain, while nevertheless remaining president of IDT.

    The contract made between IDT, Téléco and Aristide was drawn up in 2003. For each minute of long-distance calls made to Haiti through Téléco, IDT only paid 8.75 US cents while other providers such as ATT paid 23 cents. This rate was deemed to be unfair by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) leading to the fi ne against Courter, former Congress member for New Jersey. According to FCC, IDT had also systematically breached American communication laws. For each minute of a call to Haiti, three American cents was lodged by Téléco in a bank account in Aristide’s name using a front company called Mount and Salem Management located in the fiscal paradise Turks and Caicos Islands. “This off shore account was a personal account belonging to Jean-Bertrand Aristide”, emphasized Komisar, who claimed to have personally spoken to Aristide’s legal advisor, Adrian Corr. This lawyer, of the firm Miller, Simons and O’Sullivan, had opened the account in the former President’s name after signing the contract between ICT and Téléco in November 2003 15.

    Following the revelations in the IDT/Téléco/Aristide case, the Heritage Foundation for Haiti (LFHH), the Haitian branch of Transparency International, urged the Haitian judicial authorities to institute proceedings against Aristide, Courter, Téléco and IDT and thus prove their will to combat corruption and impunity. The Foundation warned Haitian justice against any laxity in this case of misappropriation, fraud and illegal discounts that deprived Haiti of revenue from telephone calls totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. “These funds which could have been used to improve the population’s living conditions, were diverted towards off shore accounts”, stated the Foundation in a press release.

    In addition, the Foundation urged the Parliament, particularly the special Anti-corruption Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee, to take this case of corruption to court in order to ensure that the judicial authorities fully assumed their responsibility in punishing this economic crime.

    It is evident that after the publication of these revelations, any responsible government would initiate legal proceedings against Aristide as well as IDT. However, nothing has been done, either by the Executive or the Legislature, and the announcement of a parliamentary investigation has come to nothing.

  • Neal Lang

    “I do not recognize anything you say about Aristide and his legacy. I have been to Haiti a few times and made a film on the events that led to the coup in Haiti in 2004 ( I visited Aristide and his family in SA. I did not see the dictator you see in him.”

    I suppose Jean-Bertrand Aristide suporters using Michelin necklaces were merely “swamp gas.” You are as gullible as Bill Clinton. The fact is that the dictator, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who control 85% of Hati’s cocaine traffic, turned Haiti in a narco-country, while controlled Haiti’s drug world, and his corrupt administration stole tens of millions of dollars from government coffers and in kick-backs from “Friends of Bill” owned companies as the price of doing business in one of the poorest countries in the World.

  • Neal Lang

    “Sir, after I read your comments about President Aristide, I sensed the hatred in you toward president Aristide and the 80% of the real Haitian people that believe in him. May GOD blessed HAITI and President Aristide.”

    If things were so great for the Hatian people under the dictator, Aristide, then why did so many of them risk their lives to come here?

  • Neal Lang

    “Recall Aristide to Haiti?”

    Why not, as long as he brings back the tens of millions of dollars he stole from the Hatian people with him. This would his biggest contribution to earthquake relief!

  • Neal Lang

    “The results of this investigation led to a fine of 1.3 million dollars for James Courter, president of IDT and one of the main fundraisers for the presidential campaign of the Republican candidate, Senator John McCain. Four days after Komisar’s revelations, James Courter handed in his resignation to McCain, while nevertheless remaining president of IDT.”

    Meaning what? That only GOP politicos were involved in Aristide’s telecom corruption? How about this:

    “One deal that raised suspicions but remained shrouded in secrecy was between a long distance provider to Haiti called Fusion Telecommunications International — whose board included former finance chair of the Democratic National Committee, Marvin Rosen, Joseph P. Kennedy II, and Clinton special envoy to Latin America, Thomas ‘Mack’ McLarty III — and a Teleco representative.

    “The New Jersey complaint puts another U.S. telecom company under scrutiny. Former IDT Corp. employee Michael Jewett has filed a statement against the company alleging that he was let go because he objected to a shady deal with Mr.

    As for a sainthood for the dictator – well:

    “John Kerry has now decided, retrospectively, that he would not have gone to war to remove Saddam Hussein. But he would have put U.S. troops in harm’s way to shield Haitian strongman Jean Bertrand Aristide from a revolt of his own
    people in February. “I would have been prepared to send troops immediately, period,” Mr. Kerry told the New York Times on March 4, 2004.

    “This assertion from the would-be commander in chief seems to have had some unfortunate repercussions. Emboldened by a prominent champion in the U.S., the deposed Aristide’s Lavalas Party thugs are committing mayhem again. While rescuers were pulling the bodies of over 1,500 drowned victims of Hurricane Jeanne out of a flooded Gonaives last week and trying to ward off disease, Aristide supporters launched a wave of violence in Port-au-Prince. U.S.
    Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday: ‘These are the old Aristide elements and some criminal elements who are trying to take advantage of the situation.’

    “The opportunistic brutality included the beheading of three Haitian policemen. Haitian journalists are referring to the assault as ‘Operation Baghdad.’ The chaos, local observers maintain, is meant to demonstrate that Bush policy in Haiti is a failure. Any guess who the urban guerrillas are rooting for in the U.S. elections?

    “Mr. Kerry’s has also ignored the suspected corruption under Mr. Aristide. An allegation filed in May in a New Jersey U.S. district court alleges that a deal with a large U.S. telecom company enabled Mr. Aristide to personally
    enrich himself at the expense of his destitute people. The complaint describes in rich detail the methods through which, according to the plaintiff, Mr. Kerry’s beloved “democratic” Aristide regime pillaged the country, a nation populated mostly by defenseless, vulnerable peasants.”

    Apparently, was an “Equal Opportunity” corrupter!

  • Nicolas Rossier

    The question is not wether if we in the US or France like Aristide or not. The question is wether Haitians have the right to elect who they want in office.
    We removed him twice from office or in the last coup helped to remove him.
    That is not why I am paying taxes here. I don’t want my government to decide
    who should be in office in other countries. This is not a leftist proposal. It is common sense for more and more people on both sides of the political spectrum.

    If the allegations are true about IDT then let’s make sure Aristide and the people involved can be investigated. Keeping him in SA will not help anybody in Haiti to get closure. These allegations have been first reported by Lucy Komisar and then by OGrady in the WSJ and recently reported in Forbes. They lead to nothing but partisan noise. The gvt in Haiti abandonned the charges 2 years ago.

    The first thing we like to say about poor countries is that their leader is corrupt and so they don’t deserve our help but poverty breeds corruption and so unless you invest massively in the state (in partnership with the private sector and with accountability) you will always have corruption in poor countries. There is corruption in the NYPD and there is corruption in DC. Much corruption as everybody knows it and involving much larger amounts than in Haiti.

    The Catholic Church has never liked liberation theology because it has elements of class struggle in it and it therefore challengest the institution itself that lives in a disgraceful opulence. In his first term Aristide had about 1 year in office and his second year not even 3 full years. He tried to be as pragmatic as he could hiring people like Stanley Theard (former duvalierist) to Marc Bazin the man who was the dear of the IMF and the World Bank to Lilas Desquiron, a famous writer and poet from a very old and reputable family. No matter what he did he was just not the man of Washington from the beginning on.

    Again exiling him is not a solution. If he committed any crime then he should be accountable for it in a court of law. The country will not really heal on the long run if we keep ghosts and semi martyrs in Cannes or Johannesburg.
    I advise anybody with a real will to learn about Haiti to read two (in my view) major books.

    One from Dr. Paul Farmer who knows Haiti better than anybody else. Farmer is not a politician but a prgamatic. He is physician who has saved countless lives in Haiti. The book is called “The Uses of Haiti”. His organization Partners in Health is saving lives right now in Haiti. He articles denouncing the coup in 2004 inspired me to make my film.

    The other book is from a less known Haitian academic named Hyppolite Pierre. “Haiti: Rising Flames from Burning Ashes” He has a whole passage about how to rebuild Haiti. He is very critical of Aristide and the mistakes of Lavalas but he is also very lucid on all the fences the Haitian elite and the international community put on Aristide’s path.

    Again believe me folks. The bitter partisanship I read in these lines will not help Haitians. It is creating a terrible cancer that will never heal. And we in America are responsible for it.

  • John Couretas

    Neal: Don’t put words in my mouth. That was not my meaning. Obviously — and this would be obvious to anyone who’s been paying any attention — corruption is widespread in Haiti and among its “patrons.”

  • Nicolas Rossier

    You don’t need to go so far to find a narco state. I live in Brooklyn and Miami is pretty bad as well. If we had not meddled too much in Haiti’s affairs by supporting Cedras and the likes of Chamblain and Philippe Haiti would be in a much better place now. Strange that the CIA’s history with Haiti rarely appears when one reads comments on Haiti. Also Bush was so concerned about Haiti’s drug business that he sent one full time DEA agent there and 2 finally in 2004.

  • Patrick

    Could somebody, please, tell me why in this time of needs a Haitian citizen should be kept out of its country? Aren’t we asking for the help and support of all the world? Why not President Aristide?

  • Thanks so much Rev for your concern for Haiti. Most people who assume you’re hateful have not done their homework. Aristide was a ruthless man. If you take the time and study, you’d see having him come into Haiti now and any time would be the biggest man made disaster that you could face. I’m an African American, and this is hard for me to say, but my heart goes out to America. I’m so hurt right now about the Clinton Administration, and Bill Clintons fight to put this man if you will, back into the chair as president. This is astounding and news to me.

  • Patrick

    Where are the proofs that President Aristide was a “ruthless man”? If you have them, share them and let’s use them to put him on trial. Isn’t this the basis of American justice? I guess you took ” the time and study”, now could you elaborate on how President Aristide return to Haiti would be, using your own words, “the biggest man made disaster that you could face”? Do you have any basic idea about the history of Haiti?

  • John Couretas

    Corruption is endemic in Haiti’s public institutions – TI survey

    Corruption is endemic in Haiti’s public institutions, according to the first major report on corruption in the country, published this week by Transparency International’s national chapter-in-formation in Haiti, La Fondation héritage pour Haïti (LFHH). The new survey, The State of Corruption in Haiti (2003), provides an overview of corruption in the country and presents the results of two polls conducted by LFHH in November and December 2003.

    The survey was carried out by the polling agency Francis Gratia, Consultant & Associés with 315 heads of household in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area (including the six municipalities of Port-au-Prince, Delmas, Carrefour, Pétion-Ville, Cité Soleil, and Tabarre); in four surrounding semi-rural communities (Gressier, Kenscoff, Crois-des-Bouquets and Arcahaie); and among 40 private businesses. The survey was developed with the technical assistance of the Transparency International Secretariat and was modeled on “integrity surveys” already carried out by TI chapters in Madagascar, Morocco and Senegal. The survey questionnaires were developed in French and in Creole.

    The objective of the survey was to diagnose the nature of the problem of corruption in Haiti and to define strategies adapted to the country’s legislative, administrative, political and cultural context. The survey will serve to:

    * Collect data (baseline indicators) that will serve to fine-tune anti-corruption strategies and to measure the impact of initiatives;
    * Describe the nature, the extent and the frequency of corrupt practices in the country and acquire accurate and objective facts;
    * Ascertain the motivations, causes and manifestations of corruption, amongst both corrupt and corruptor, as well as the levels of society’s tolerance towards corruption.

    This diagnostic study corroborates the deplorable score of 1.5 and the rank of 131 out of 133 countries attributed to Haiti in the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2003. Haiti was ranked – with Bangladesh and Nigeria – amongst the three most corrupt countries out of the 133 surveyed.

    ” The State of Corruption in Haiti (2003) should prove to be a powerful tool for LFHH. It should draw the attention of the new government of Haiti which is demonstrating a readiness to clean up the State institutions,” says the President of LFHH, Marilyn B. Allien. She continues: “It also sends a message to the private sector and civil society, and all those who wish to join us in the fight against corruption — a scourge that corrodes all attempts to establish a rule of law, a sustainable democracy, and to improve the quality of life of Haiti’s people.”

    Dec. 16, 1990 — Aristide wins landslide democratic election.

    Feb. 7, 1991 — Inaugurated after people quash coup attempt. Fires army generals, shrinks state bureaucracy, backs limited privatization of state enterprises, oversees start of modest economic recovery, new international aid projects. Rhetoric frightens military, some members of elite.

    Sept. 30, 1991 — Army overthrows Aristide government, forcing him into exile in United States.

    Sept. 19, 1994 — U.S. troops intervene to restore Aristide to power.

    Feb. 6, 1995 — Aristide disbands army, replaces it with civilian police force.

    Dec. 23, 1995 — Aristide protege Rene Preval elected president. Term limit prohibits Aristide from running.

    May 21, 2000 — Aristide’s party sweeps legislative elections. Observers say voting flawed. International community freezes millions in foreign aid until results revised.

    Nov. 26, 2000 — Aristide wins second presidential term. Voting boycotted by major opposition parties.

    Dec. 17, 2001 — Gunmen raid National Palace in what government calls coup attempt. Opponents say government staged attack to distract attention from its shortcomings.

    Oct. 29, 2002 — More than 200 illegal Haitian migrants rush onto Miami highway, bringing attention to people desperate to escape Haiti’s violence and poverty.

    September 2003 — Protests against Aristide across country. Dozens killed, injured in clashes between police and government opponents.

    Feb. 5, 2004 — Rebels seize Gonaives, Haiti’s fourth-largest city, starting popular uprising against Aristide government.

    Feb. 21, 2004 — International delegation visits to press for a truce. Aristide agrees to share power; political opponents insist he step down. Diplomats leave without agreement.

    Feb. 22, 2004 — Rebels seize Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second-largest city, vow to press on to the capital, Port-au-Prince.

    Feb. 29, 2004 — Aristide flees the country, pressured by U.S. and French governments to resign.

  • Patrick

    Who removed Aristide?
    Paul Farmer reports from Haiti
    On the night of 28 February, the Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was forced from power. He claimed he’d been kidnapped and didn’t know where he was being taken until, at the end of a 20-hour flight, he was told that he and his wife would be landing ‘in a French military base in the middle of Africa’. He found himself in the Central African Republic.

    An understanding of the current crisis requires a sense of Haiti’s history. In the 18th century it became France’s most valuable colonial possession, and one of the most brutally efficient slave colonies there has ever been. Santo Domingo, as it was then called, was the leading port of call for slave ships: on the eve of the French Revolution, it was supplying two-thirds of all of Europe’s tropical produce. A third of new arrivals died within a few years.

    Haitians are still living with the legacy of the slave trade and of the revolt that finally removed the French. The revolt began in 1791, and more than a decade of war followed; France’s largest expeditionary force, led by General Leclerc, Napoleon’s brother-in-law, was sent to put down the rebellion. As the French operation flagged, the slave general, Toussaint l’Ouverture, was invited to a parley. He was kidnapped and taken away to a prison in the Jura. In Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution,[*] Laurent Dubois tells Toussaint’s story in a manner that reminds us of its similarities to the current situation:

    ‘Toussaint must not be free,’ Leclerc wrote to the colonial minister in Paris at the time, ‘and should be imprisoned in the interior of the Republic. May he never see Saint-Domingue again.’ ‘You cannot hold Toussaint far enough from the ocean or put him in a prison that is too strong,’ Leclerc reiterated a month later. He seemed to fear that the deported man might suddenly reappear. His very presence in the colony, he warned, would once again set it alight.

    Toussaint died of exposure and tuberculosis in 1803. Every Haitian schoolchild knows his last words by heart: ‘In overthrowing me, you have cut down in San Domingo only the trunk of the tree of black liberty. It will spring up again by the roots for they are numerous and deep.’

  • Patrick

    US-HAITI: The Loan that Wasn’t – Part 1
    By William Fisher

    A man lies in his hospital bed in Jacmel, Haiti, one of thousands who have sought medical assistance after the violent Jan. 12 earthquake.

    Credit:UN Photo/Marco Dormino

    NEW YORK, Feb 12, 2010 (IPS) – On the one-month anniversary of the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12, Haitians continue to perish from a variety of causes, including death by red tape: they fall between the cracks of a still poorly-coordinated aid effort.

    The physicians working in Haiti call these “the stupid deaths” – by which they mean avoidable.

    Yet amidst the chaos and suffering that inevitably accompanies natural disasters, there are people who are beginning to plan for Haiti’s future. And, for many, their optimism is rooted in the miserable performance of international assistance in the past. Against that background, they say, they have nowhere to go but up.

    It is an unusual combination of optimism and realism that is driving development experts to try to shed the blemished history of international aid to Haiti, rid the issue of a generation of devastating politicisation, and think way outside the conventional development paradigm.

    The fate of one particularly important project is emblematic of factors that have consistently and severely reduced the effectiveness – even the existence – of viable development projects.

    Eric Michael Johnson of the Department of History at the University of British Columbia in Canada told IPS, “The U.S. role towards Haiti can best be understood as a kind of abusive paternalism, at times condescending and at others domineering depending on how fully Haitian governments obey the patriarch’s dictates.”

    To illustrate his point, Johnson told IPS what happened after the first coup d’etat and reinstatement of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in late 1994 to a term that ended in 1996. This was followed by five years of René Préval (who is president today).

    In 2000, Aristide once again won overwhelmingly in the Haitian elections. Aristide’s second election did not please the new U.S. president, George W. Bush.

    Johnson then recounts how the Bush administration conspired to cut off funds already appropriated for a vital infrastructure and public health project.

    An award of 146 million dollars from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had already been approved, but at U.S. insistence was not being disbursed. Some 54 million dollars of this loan was intended for desperately needed water and sanitation projects.

    “This decision likely resulted in the needless deaths of an untold number of poor Haitians,” Johnson said.

    In 2006, the Robert F. Kennedy Center filed a Freedom of Information Act Request to force the U.S. to release documents related to this decision.

    According to the documents, “there was clear evidence that the United States blocked the loans because they objected to the election of Aristide,” Johnson said.

    The IDB approved these loans between 1996 and 1998, and Haiti paid around 10 million dollars in interest even before the loans were dispersed. By 2001, there was no reason for the IDB to continue blocking these loans. But block them they did.

    The loans were not disbursed and, on Nov. 8, 2001, the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to President Bush stating that “it is wrong to impose an inflexible policy which conditions U.S. relations and aid, be it loans or grants, entirely on a country’s political process” and insisting that “it is imperative that the U.S. remove its blockade of essentially all aid to Haiti, particularly the loans currently held up at the Inter-American Development Bank.”

    The U.S. – the largest contributor to the IDB – continued to put roadblocks in the way of disbursement of these loans, even while Haiti was paying interest on the loans it hadn’t received. In 2002, Haiti stopped payment.

    A study published in the journal Health and Human Rights stated: “Public statements by U.S. government officials soon explicitly linked non-disbursement with political concerns.”

    In early 2002, the journal concluded that the IDB did not intend to disburse the loans, and the Haitian government suspended interest payments. Haiti’s loan arrears rendered the loan ineligible for disbursement – meaning, Johnson said, “the U.S. government’s plan to slow disbursement succeeded in blocking the loans indefinitely.”

    The bottom line, Johnson says, is that these loans were denied to Haiti “because the Bush administration objected to Haiti’s internal politics, a decision that violated the IDB’s charter.”

    He adds, “The development loans were being used as a weapon to oppose the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Even after the loans were finally approved in 2003 – primarily because of Congressional pressure – the water projects were only moving into their implementation stage by mid-2007.”

    The lack of clean water has seriously impacted health, he said, noting that at least 84.4 percent of households had experienced at least one case of infectious illness.

    This is a situation “that could have been different,” he said. He believes the U.S. “shares significant responsibility for this and owes the people of Haiti for the decisions of past administrations.”

    Writing in The Huffington Post, Johnson notes that “Haiti has a historically unhealthy dependence on foreign commerce and finance, from the colonial days of the sugar trade to the current assistance provided by developed countries.”

    “Now the same politicians and financial elites that helped create this mess are proposing an even larger program following the same mode,” he said.

    But he is quick to point out that “the Haitian people are not children and they can effectively manage their own affairs if given the chance to do so.”

    Johnson’s point of view is echoed by USAID itself, which says, “It will be important that Haitians themselves assume responsibility for and full ownership of their future. Government, civil society and the business sector should lead the setting of the national development agenda.”

    An encouraging variety of Haitian and international development professionals is now working to craft ideas for rebuilding projects that are necessary, practical and fundable.

    Most development professionals say that, unlike projects in the past, these initiatives should not be U.S. creations alone, superimposed on Haitian needs, or programmes that favour the elites only. Participants are hopeful they will bear the fruit of sustained cooperation between ordinary Haitians and the international community.

    *The next installment of this three-part series describes some of the specific development initiatives undertaken by the U.S. and international institutions and donors.

  • Hey Patrick, I finally had the chance to stop by and read your comment. Actually I was googling my name, as I do that quite often, and there you were. I wrote a blog about Aristide and President Clintons connection on my blog. You can stop by anytime you want to. If you want to be blind, then be blind if you want knowledge, seek it out. I’ve done all the work for you, but I’m not going to crowd this mans site with my stories and information that is public information. You don’t trust me? Fine, google his name, and google his connections and you can see for yourself. The only thing you have to do is type His name and Clintons name, and there you go. Do you cross reference as I do with all stories that I publish.

    Ericka Courtney
    Thank you

  • Thanks John Couretas, I appreciate seeing you do your homework. Sometimes people can’t just take your word for it. This is a horrible story about the Haitian people. My hearts cries for them. Their sorrows have been too many for any people to endure, and to have someone like Aristide reigning over them again after the horror he caused those people, it is unthinkable that the decision to place him in power would even be an option. I’m disgusted.

  • Patrick

    Ericka Courtney,
    I read over and over the message you sent to me about President Aristide, and I have abosolutely no idea what you are trying to say. All I can understand,you are on a crusade against the Clintons and Aristide.
    By the way the poor Haitians, my compatriots, are not asking for the return of President Aristide to power. They just want him home and be part of the rebuilding of their country, his homeland. The Haitian Constitution prohibits the exile of Haitian citizens. Once again if there are charges against the former Haitian President, bring him home to justice.I’m sure if the Western powers had information about President Aristide involvement in any kind of illegal business, he will be in jail some place in Florida since 2004. I am use to anti Aristide proganda and other leaders like him. You are not bringing anything new to the discussion. That’s just point blank logic!

  • Marc

    Miss Erika Courtney,
    As a Haitian-American I appalled and perplexed about what you are saying…I applaud you as an outsider who’s just beggining to know about the history of Haiti…I do not know of your political ideology and i do not even want to know…you just can not bring one sided views when talking on matters regarding Haiti…and this what you bring when I read your post…you are dead wrong!!!

    I think the gentle man’s name is Patrick who has responded to your post on Aristide…Patrick is right when mention to you that You are on a crusade against the Clintons and Aristide and this old news and propaganda you are spitting out…We (Haitians) are used to it and deep down we know what we want….We have voted twice for Aristide and twice the power of darkness has dragged Haiti back to the 18th century…My dear sister you have much to learn!!!