Bill Clinton Named New UN Envoy
to 'Stabilize' Haiti, a Country He Helped Destabilize
As president, Clinton forced neoliberal
policies on Haiti, delayed President Aristide's return after a
US-backed coup and held Haitian refugees at Gitmo without rights.
by Jeremy Scahill
RebelReports, May 19, 2009
Former US President Bill Clinton has been
named by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as his special
UN envoy to Haiti. Clinton will reportedly travel to the country
at least four times a year.
"[It's] an opportunity to bring in resources to address the
economic insecurity that plagues Haiti," says Brian Concannon,
a human rights lawyer who works extensively in Haiti. "But
if the nomination is to be more than a publicity stunt, the UN
needs to honestly shed a spotlight on the international community's
role in creating that instability, including unfair trade and
debt policies, and the undermining and overthrowing of Haiti's
Shining such a spotlight on those who
created the instability, as Concannon suggests, would mean examining
Clinton's own role as president of the US during one of Haiti's
most horrifyingly dark periods.
Reuters news agency quotes a diplomat as saying Clinton is "an
'excellent choice' to help unlock Haiti's potential as an investment
target," adding that his appointment "could attract
investment in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation and help
stabilize the country."
That last statement about "stabiliz[ing]" Haiti would
be humorous for its irony if the reality-and Clinton's history
in Haiti-wasn't so deadly serious. The fact is that, as US president,
Clinton's policies helped systematically destabilize Haiti.__Dan
Coughlin, who spent years as a journalist in Haiti in the 1990s
for Inter Press Service, said he was "incredulous" when
he heard the news. "Given the Clinton Administration's aggressive
pursuit of policies that profitted Haiti's tiny elite, the IMF
and big corporations at the expense of Haiti's farmers and urban
workers, the appointment does not bode well for the kind of fundamental
change so needed in a country that has given so much to humankind,"
In September 1991, the US backed the violent overthrow of the
government of Haiti's democratically-elected leftist priest President
Jean Bertrand Aristide after he was in power less than a year.
Aristide had defeated a US-backed candidate in the 1990 Haitian
presidential election. The military coup leaders and their paramilitary
gangs of CIA-backed murderous thugs, including the notorious FRAPH
paramilitary units, were known for hacking the limbs off of Aristide
supporters (and others) along with an unending slew of other horrifying
When Clinton came to power, he played
a vicious game with Haiti that allowed the coup regime to continue
rampaging Haiti and further destabilized the country. What's more,
in the 1992 election campaign, Bill Clinton campaigned on a pledge
to reverse what he called then-President George HW Bush's "cruel
policy" of holding Haitian refugees at Guantanamo with no
legal rights in US courts. Upon his election, however, Clinton
reversed his position and sided with the Bush administration in
denying the Haitians legal rights. the Haitians were held in atrocious
conditions and the new Democratic president was sued by the Center
for Constitutional Rights (sound familiar?).
While Clinton and his advisers publicly
expressed their dismay with the coup, they simultaneously refused
to support the swift reinstatement of the country's democratically
elected leader and would, in fact, not allow Aristide's return
until Washington received guarantees that: 1. Aristide would not
lay claim to the years of his presidency lost in forced exile
and; 2. US neoliberal economic plans were solidified as the law
of the land in Haiti.
"The Clinton administration was credited for working for
the return to power of Jean Bertrand Aristide after he was overthrown
in a military coup," says author William Blum. "But,
in fact, Clinton had stalled the return for as long as he could,
and had instead tried his best to return anti-Aristide conservatives
to a leading power role in a mixed government, because Aristide
was too leftist for Washington's tastes." Blum's book "Killing
Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II"
includes a chapter on the history of the US role in Haiti.
The fact that the coup against the democratically-elected
president of Haiti was allowed to continue unabated for three
full years seemed to be less offensive to Clinton than Aristide's
progressive vision for Haiti. As Blum observed in his book, "[Clinton]
was not actually repulsed by [coup leader Raoul] Cédras
and company, for they posed no ideological barrier to the United
States continuing the economic and strategic control of Haiti
it's maintained for most of the century. Unlike Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, a man who only a year earlier had declared: 'I still
think capitalism is a mortal sin.'"
Blum added: "Faced ultimately with
Aristide returning to power, Clinton demanded and received - and
then made sure to publicly announce - the Haitian president's
guarantee that he would not try to remain in office to make up
for the time lost in exile. Clinton of course called this 'democracy,'
although it represented a partial legitimization of the coup."
Indeed, Haiti experts say that Clinton could have restored Aristide
to power under an almost identical arrangement years earlier than
When Aristide finally returned to Haiti,
as Blum notes, "Jean-Bertrand Aristide's reception was a
joyous celebration filled with optimism. However, unbeknownst
to his adoring followers, while they were regaining Aristide,
they may have lost Aristidism."
As The Los Angeles Times reported at the
In a series of private meetings, Administration
officials admonished Aristide to put aside the rhetoric of class
warfare and seek instead to reconcile Haiti's rich and poor.
The Administration also urged Aristide to stick closely to free-market
economics and to abide by the Caribbean nation's constitution
- which gives substantial political power to the Parliament while
imposing tight limits on the presidency. Administration officials
have urged Aristide to reach out to some of his political opponents
in setting up his new government to set up a broad-based coalition
regime. the Administration has made it clear to Aristide that
if he fails to reach a consensus with Parliament, the United States
will not try to prop up his regime. Almost every aspect of Aristide's
plans for resuming power - from taxing the rich to disarming the
military - has been examined by the U.S. officials with whom the
Haitian president meets daily and by officials from the World
Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other aid organizations.
The finished package clearly reflects their priorities. Aristide
obviously has toned down the liberation theology and class-struggle
rhetoric that was his signature before he was exiled to Washington.
"While Bill Clinton oversaw the return
of President Aristide in 1994, he also put significant constraints
on what Aristide was able to do once back in power," says
Bill Fletcher, Jr, the Executive Editor of BlackCommentator.com
and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. "Clinton
advanced a neo-liberal agenda for Haiti thereby undermining the
efforts of an otherwise progressive populist administration (Aristide's).
There is no reason to believe that [as a UN envoy] ex-President
Clinton will introduce or support efforts to radically break Haiti
from under the thumb of the USA and the dire poverty which has
been a significant consequence of said domination."