Haiti: Bushwhacked in the
by Randall Robinson, founder
of Trans Africa Forum
MITF Report, Summer 2004
Marin Interfaith Task Force
on the Americas
On Feb. 29 the legally elected government
of Haiti was driven from power by armed force. Its president,
after being taken against his will to the Central African Republic,
was given refuge in Jamaica. The Bush administration's response
has been to demand that the democratic countries of the Caribbean
(1) drop their call for an investigation into the ouster of President
Jean Bertrand Aristide, (2) push the Aristide family out of Jamaica
l and the region, and (3) abandon their policy of admitting only
; democratically elected governments into the councils of . Caricom
(a multilateral organization established by the English-speaking
Caribbean countries 31 years ago to promote . regional cooperation).
In addition, national security adviser
Condoleezza Rice has . warned Caricom leaders that if one U.S.
soldier is killed in Haiti, Caribbean governments will be held
responsible because the Aristide family was granted sanctuary
in the region. In short, the Bush administration is strong-arming
the Caribbean to confer on Haiti's new "government,"
headed by Gerard Latortue, a legitimacy it has not earned and
does not deserve. Indeed, 33 of the 39 members of the Congressional
Black Caucus stayed away from a recent Washington meeting arranged
by two congressmen for Latortue.
The United States' demand that Caricom
abandon its long-held insistence on democratic principles is psychic
poison to the region. When Eastern Europe was going through its
totalitarian nightmare, when coups and despotic rule were "normal"
in Central and South America, and when civil strife and dictatorship
wracked much of Africa and Asia, the Caribbean steadfastly upheld
its democratic traditions-and it continues to do so today. This
is because of the region's well-educated populace and the caliber
of its leaders; no military thugs in business suits here. From
Rhodes Scholar Prime Minister Percival J. Patterson of Jamaica
in the north, to professor-lawyer Prime Minister Ralph Gonslaves
in the south (St. Vincent-Grenadines), and from the physician
Prime Minister Denzil Douglas in tiny
St. Kitts-Nevis to the economist Prime
Minister Owen Arthur in Barbados, Caribbean heads of government
understand the lessons of history. They recognize the supremacy
of the ballot. And they know that only democratic values will
keep the Caribbean a zone of peace. Reinhold Niebuhr warned that
man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but that
man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. Yet
the United States has unleashed its venom on Caribbean governments
because they have proclaimed Caricom's democratic principles
to be inviolable.
Haiti was welcomed as a full member of
Caricom because its , people had established a democratic form
of government. After the recent shattering of that democracy,
Caribbean heads of government decided to maintain l support for
the people of Haiti l but allow democratic elections to determine
who will represent | Haiti in the councils of Caricom. "We
are the children of slaves," I one Caribbean national explained.
; "And so, we stay away from the I tyranny of the unelected....
If America thinks that an unelected government is fine for Haiti,
when will they say that an unelected government is best for my
The Bush administration, however, has
been implacable. Its officials were to have come to the Caribbean
in April and May to discuss, among other things, terrorism, but
the administration presented Caribbean governments with an ultimatum:
no recognition of Latortue, no meetings between the United States
and the Caribbean leaders. Caricom reminded U.S. officials that
Latortue was not elected by anyone. And so the meetings are off.
Why is the unelected Latortue more important to the Bush administration
than the Caribbean's 14 democratically elected governments? Americans
must speak out against their government's behavior abroad. And
they must recognize that the atrocities inflicted by U.S. soldiers
on Iraqi prisoners grow out of a hubris and contempt that far
too many U.S. officials display when dealing with much of the
rest of the world. If stable Caribbean democracies are being slapped
around by America because they uphold democratic values, who is
safe in this unipolar world? Certainly not the American people,
who are being made targets of global rage because of these tactics.
Randall Robinson (email@example.com), foreign
policy advocate and author of "Quitting America" and
other works, lives in St. Kitts. The article was first published
in the Washington Post.