The United States, aided and abetted by Canada, has just sponsored a coup in Haiti. That's what the supporters of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide say. "Coup" is also the word that Jamaica's government uses to describe the weekend events in Port-au-Prince.It's not weird in the slightest. Both the Soviet Union and the United States were perfectly willing to set aside elections, or support non-elected vs. elected groups, as long as the supported group was closer to their side. After the fall of the Soviet Union, of course, things were supposed to have changed: the U.S. only engaged in anti-democratic practices because of the Cold War against an implacable foe of democracy was supposed to have made it necessary, but that foe is long gone, right?
Certainly, it's hard to argue against this analysis. Aristide was a democratically elected president — one of only two in Haiti's 100-year history. According to Larry Birns of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Aristide's Lavalas party would almost certainly have won free parliamentary elections if the opposition had allowed the elections to take place.
This, incidentally, is one of the weirder elements of the Haiti story. Aristide wanted legislative elections. It was the opposition that blocked him.
Well, maybe the "foe" isn't the same one we thought it was. Meet the face of evil:
It's also hard to understand why Washington found Aristide so loathsome. True, he spoke for, and was supported by, the poor, a characteristic that U.S. regimes always find disturbing.This makes sense, and seems to be the concern that is animating American opposition to Hugo Chavez, as well, as this particular charade shows that it's obviously not Chavez' contempt for democracy that is the problem. (Aristide has his problems with democracy too- witness the 2000 elections- but armed insurrection goes just a little farther than that.)
Indeed, a populist leader may easily become a demagogue, particularly if the civil rights the middle classes hold so dear — the right of property, the right to criticize government — interfere with the economic rights the poor demand, such as the right to eat.
I guess the real question is, then, whether or not Guy Phillipe got a wink from a U.S. official before starting the violence.