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Bon voyage, Aristide.

And good luck! Haiti's exiled president will need it when he finally returns home on October 30 from the United States. Under the terms of the accord signed at Governors Island, New York, by Haiti's popularly elected president and the military leaders who overthrew him, Aristide stands less of a chance of returning to power than he does of ending up dead before the year is out.

The U.S. Government's role in Haiti's struggle for democracy has been confusing at best. Most recently, the Clinton Administration supported a U.N. Security Council resolution to deploy 1,200 soldiers to Haiti in October "to help with the restoration of democracy." But earlier this year, the Administration offered similar protection to Haitian military leaders if they would step down, "as if it were the military who needed to be guarded from the Haitian people," James Ridgeway wrote in the Village Voice.

Who is the United States protecting from whom in Haiti? And what are U.S. interests there?

At Governors Island, American diplomats presented Aristide with an ultimatum, insisting that he sign a peace accord that leaves the military intact and establishes a "coalition" government comprised of Aristide's cabinet and members of the military junta. (In the meantime, the military has remained in charge of maintaining the "peace." Not surprisingly, repression, massacres, and the persecution and murder of Aristide's supporters have escalated dramatically.) This arrangement was hailed by President Clinton as an historic moment for the Haitian people, for the hemisphere, and for the principle of democratic rule."

Platitudes about democracy and freedom don't stack up against the actual history of U.S. policies in Haiti. Economically, the United States has always placed itself squarely on the side of Haiti's anti-democratic elite. According to a recent report by the National Labor Committee, a group that monitors worker and human rights in Central America, the U.S. Agency for International Development "organized, managed, and financed elite business opposition to the economic and social policies of Aristide," and spent U.S. tax dollars to oppose Aristide's efforts at raising the minimum wage from thirty-three cents to fifty cents an hour.

Even during the embargo on Haiti's military regime, the Bush Administration, while publicly supporting sanctions, allowed U.S. companies to continue to exploit Haiti's cheap labor pool, while unions and peasant organizers suffered beatings, arrests, and murder at the hands of the Haitian military. U.S. callousness toward ordinary Haitians culminated in the Clinton Administration's policy of forcibly returning boatloads of fleeing refugees to the island.

At the moment, the United States appears poised to flush Aristide and his inconvenient democratic ideals. If he and his supporters are overpowered by the Haitian military, official Washington will no doubt express solemn regret and then go back to its old policy of pursuing U.S. corporate interests with the help of another repressive Third World regime.

If the Clinton Administration were serious about promoting democracy in Haiti, it could shift economic aid away from private corporate interests and the Haitian military, and instead begin to support genuine economic development and official reform.

But while Aristide's election was widely regarded as a miracle in Haiti, it will take an even greater miracle to stop the forces of U.S. foreign and economic policy. It may take divine intervention just to keep Arisitide alive.
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Title Annotation:Haitian Pres. Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Previous Article:If the coup fits.
Next Article:Getting the lead out.

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