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Who is playing politics?

When it comes to Haiti, the U.S. media are picking up where the CIA left off. Before Jean-Bertrand Aristide was restored to power in 1994. the CIA was worried that he was too leftwing and tried to discredit him by circulating all sorts of vicious rumors about his supposed mental instability.

Now The New York Times, The Washington Post, A.P., and U.S. News & World Report are getting into the act themselves. In mid-June they all ran articles depicting Aristide as a conniving demagogue who advocates foolish policies.

Here's the lead of the A.P. story, which ran in the Post, and in newspapers around the country: "He's back, and he's rallying his militants by blaming U.S. imperialism for the woes of Haiti's poor." The piece went on to note that he's "frustrating U.S. aid plans."

All the articles made those aid plans out to be benign and sensible. In fact, they jeopardize Haiti's sovereignty and the well-being of Haiti's majority. The United States, along with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, is insisting that the Haitian government sell off its state enterprises to multinationals, lay off thousands of Haitian workers, and lift subsidies on such basic items as food. Aristide has good reason to oppose such measures.

But his reasoning was almost impossible to figure out from reading the mainstream media. Instead, the articles portrayed Aristide's stance as nonsensical and injurious to the people of Haiti. U.S. News & World Report wrote: "Aristide's blocking of reform assures that none of the additional aid money will flow to Haiti -- a country that already depends on foreign aid for 70 percent of its budget."

By the way, U.S. News & World Report titled its piece Playing Politics with Foreign Aid. But it didn't acknowledge that the United States was playing politics. Instead, it suggested that only Aristide was engaging in such games.

For the mainstream U.S. media, it's impossible to conceive of a rational alternative to the free-market model. But Aristide and his supporters have created one. It's outlined in the May issue of Multinational Monitor, a Ralph Nader magazine in Washington.

In that issue is an interview with Camille Chalmers, who was Aristide's chief of staff. "The U.S. vision is to create a `democracy' without the participation of the people, since they do not know how to govern themselves," he says. "Today, there is a growing breach between the dynamics of the popular movement and the new institutions the international community attempts to install."

Chief among these new institutions is the private sector. But, Chalmers says, "This private sector is not one that invests in the country. It is one that engages in pillage and speculation. They buy coffee in Haiti, sell it somewhere, and put the money in a foreign bank. They do not invest in the productive capacities of the country. Their economic activities cannot lead to development."

He says Haiti needs to "redefine the mission of the state" so as to eliminate economic apartheid, support peasant agriculture, and boost industrial wages.

And he says it is possible to do all that by forswearing the foreign aid that holds Haiti hostage.

This is a coherent, alternative view of economic development. But it doesn't get a fair hearing in Washington -- or in The Washington Post.
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Title Annotation:coverage of Haiti in US media
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Aug 1, 1997
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