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WHAT WE THINK
Aristide becomes the latest victim of the world super-cop
Regime change by another name

March 5, 2004 | Page 3

THEY LIED to go to war in Iraq--and now they're lying to cover up their coup in Haiti. But it's clear that Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Artistide was removed in a Washington-sponsored "regime change."

"We [the United States] are just as much a part of this coup d'etat as the rebels, as the looters or anyone else," Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) told reporters. George W. Bush insisted that the change was legal, claiming that "the Haitian constitution is working." But the presence of heavily armed U.S. Marines in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince--sent in only after Aristide's removal--confirmed the real nature of Washington's intervention in Haiti.

It's an imperialist power play--and just to drive the message home, France, the colonial master of Haiti until a revolution by Black slaves won independence 200 years ago, sent soldiers as well. Washington's--and Paris'--aim in Haiti is not only to remove Aristide, but to prevent the reemergence of the mass struggles in which he emerged as a leader in the 1980s.

At the same time, the U.S. intends to send a warning to governments throughout Latin America that have resisted Washington's agenda--in particular, Venezuela, where the U.S. backed a failed coup attempt in 2002.

Washington's role in overthrowing elected governments in the Americas is nothing new, of course. U.S. troops intervened to "restore order" in Haiti in 1915--and stayed for 19 years.

A CIA-backed military coup overthrew Aristide in 1991, just months after he was elected president for the first time. The reign of terror that followed--and the mass exodus of refugees trying to reach the U.S.--pressured then-President Bill Clinton to reinstall Aristide through a U.S. military intervention and occupation.

In return, Aristide bowed to U.S. demands for free-market "reforms," such as privatization of major industries, undermining his social base among Haiti's poor. But for the right-wing Republicans who took control of Congress in 1995, Aristide could never make enough concessions.

The U.S. has bankrolled the supposedly respectable "Democratic Convergence" opposition, which is supported by Haiti's tiny wealthy capitalist class and their middle-class hangers-on. But the butchers from Haiti's military regimes of the past were always lurking in the background.

"President George Bush's foreign policy team came into office intent on toppling Mr. Aristide, and their efforts were apparently consummated on [February 29]," Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, a former free-market crusader-turned-critic of Washington, wrote in the Financial Times. "The tragedy, or joke, is that Mr. Aristide had agreed to compromise, but the opposition simply came up with one excuse after another--it was never the right time to hold new elections, as proposed by Mr. Aristide, because of 'security' problems, they said.

"Whatever the pretext, the U.S. maintained its aid freeze, and Haiti's economy, cut off from bilateral and multilateral financing, went into a tailspin." Such comments were rare in the mainstream press, as reporters parroted the State Department line about the "violence" and "corruption" of Aristide's government--as if the people caught lying to justify the U.S. conquest for oil and empire in Iraq can be expected to tell the truth.

Most U.S. correspondents in Haiti instinctively sided with the bourgeoisie and its hirelings in the opposition, casting the CIA-connected killers as heroic "rebels" while dismissing Aristide supporters as "armed gangs." The reality is that just hours after Aristide's ouster, reports emerged of the "rebels" systematically murdering Aristide's supporters.

U.S. and French troops--authorized by a United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution--won't reign in these killers. On the contrary, the UN is providing a stamp of approval from the so-called "international community" for Washington's coup--just as it has with the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

And this time, France--the supposed peace-loving opponent of the Iraq war--is pursing its own imperialist agenda alongside Washington. The coup and intervention in Haiti exposes the real dynamic of international politics--a world in which a handful of imperialist powers ruthlessly impose their will on smaller and weaker nations.

Haiti--a symbol of resistance since the slaves defeated the best European armies two centuries ago--has endured repeated interventions by imperialism throughout its history. We need to speak out against this latest outrage in Haiti--and organize against it.

By building on the antiwar and anti-occupation movement that arose to oppose the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we can organize to demand the removal of U.S. troops and Aristide's return. We have to challenge U.S. imperialism at every turn--from Iraq to Haiti and around the world.

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