Was the Bush Administration Out to Depose Aristide from the Time It Took Power?

Roundup: Media's Take

Paul Reybnolds, in the BBC News (March 3, 2004):

The role played by the United States in the departure of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide from Haiti shows that Uncle Sam still wants to keep things quiet in his backyard.

The precise circumstances of Mr Aristide's leaving may be debated. He says that he was in effect forced from office, having been warned that thousands would die, including himself maybe, if he did not agree to go.

He told CNN that it was a"real coup d'etat...a modern way to have a modern kidnapping."

US diplomats say that he agreed to go and that when they went to his house early on Sunday morning to escort him to the airport, he was already packed.

They say that he wrote a letter of resignation before getting on a State Department chartered aircraft.

It might have been a bit of both. Mr Aristide needs some cover for his actions in fleeing. Washington needs to lay the responsibility on him.

Certainly the Bush administration made little attempt to defend a man President Bill Clinton had championed when he ordered marines into Haiti 10 years ago. When, in this crisis, the opposition in Haiti refused to accept that Mr Aristide be part of a power-sharing arrangement, Washington pulled the plug.

The State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said of Mr Aristide after he departed:"We all know the political history of Haiti is such that during President Aristide's time, he created a lot of division within the society - the polarisation grew, the violence grew.

"There were many armed gangs that were directly associated with him and his rule... So, one way or the other, a lot of the violence did come out of the fact, the way he ran the country."

Critics say that something else was at work. The harshest critic in this instance is a leading world economist Jeffrey Sachs, now Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York. He argued in an article in the Financial Times that the United States had overthrown a democratic leader:

"The crisis in Haiti is another case of brazen US manipulation of a small, impoverished country with the truth unexplored by journalists. President George Bush's foreign policy team came into office intent on toppling Mr Aristide, long reviled by powerful US conservatives such as former senator Jesse Helms who obsessively saw him as another Fidel Castro in the Caribbean.

"Such critics fulminated when President Bill Clinton restored Mr Aristide to power in 1994, and they succeeded in getting US troops withdrawn soon afterwards, well before the country could be stabilised. In terms of help to rebuild Haiti, the US Marines left behind about eight miles of paved roads and essentially nothing else.

"In the meantime, the so-called"opposition", a coterie of rich Haitians linked to the preceding Duvalier regime and former (and perhaps current) CIA operatives, worked Washington to lobby against Mr Aristide."

That American attitudes can change so quickly can be partly explained by the uneasy relationship which the United States has always had with the Caribbean basin.

It really began with the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 when President Monroe warned the European powers, especially Spain, which had just lost its colonies, to stay out of the Western hemisphere. It has continued with invasions or interventions in Cuba, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama and Haiti itself. ...

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