Saturday, October 6, 2007

What's Next for Haiti? by Michelle Karshan

What's Next for Haiti?
Haiti Policy Analysts Weigh in Putting the Pieces Together

by Michelle Karshan, published by the Haiti Action Committee

December 16, 2002 - Twelve years ago today, on December 16, 1990, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected President by an overwhelming majority and inaugurated on February 7, 1991. Seven months later he was ousted in a violent coup d'etat carried out by the military and its sponsors. After three years of resistance by the Haitian people, in which 5,000 died, thousands were tortured and raped, and tens of thousands took to the high seas, the U.S. restored Aristide to Haiti through a military intervention, under international pressure.

Although his supporters wanted his term extended because of the three years that Aristide was forced to spend in exile, President Aristide finished his five-year term on February 7, 1996 and for the first time in Haiti's history a democratically elected President handed power over to the next democratically elected President. President Rene Preval served his entire five-year term without interruption, setting another precedent, and on February 7, 2001, after a landslide election, Aristide was once again inaugurated to the Presidency.

Tom F. Driver, a theology professor at New York's Union Theological Seminary, sums up the last couple of years in Haiti, "Since early in the year 2000, when it became apparent that Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Lavalas Family Party would win elections by large majorities, those opposed to popular government in Haiti have been determined to use every means necessary to thwart it. When they could not prevent Aristide's return to the Presidency, they set about to make it impossible for him to govern effectively. When they could not achieve their ends at the polls, they tried to invalidate the elections. When compromise was offered, they rejected it out of hand. Because persuasion will not avail them, they have threatened violence. Their efforts are encouraged, if not engineered, by elements in the United States Government, which has cut off all loans in aid to the Government of Haiti. The administration in Haiti is by no means perfect, but that is not the issue. The issue is legitimacy, all of which lies on the side of the Government and none on the side of the concerted opposition that has been nothing but obstructionist since the year 2000."

In remarks made by Kerry Kennedy Cuomo at the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award ceremony a few weeks ago, she revealed that, "Six months ago, a high ranking Bush administration official commented to a member of our board, 'Only when the economic sanctions lead to Florida being flooded with boat people will this administration's policy change.' That statement has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. A few weeks ago, over 200 Haitians in a rickety, leaking boat washed up on Key Biscayne Boulevard."