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The price of Haitian lies
Posted By Jane Chastain On 12/14/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled
Our president lies to protect himself from past mistakes and misdeeds. Some argue that he lies merely about personal matters. Therefore, his lies are of little or no importance. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, President Clinton likes to brag about how he has “restored democracy to Haiti.” By clinging to that lie, he not only is presiding over the dawn of a new dictatorship in Haiti, he has opened up a new avenue for drug trafficking into the United States and has given communism an opportunity to gain another foothold just miles from our shore.
Since we invaded this tiny country in 1994, in order to force Jean Bertrand Aristide back on his people, conditions there have gone from bad to worse. This was predictable. Although this former Catholic priest was elected democratically in 1990, he did not rule that way. In the Fall of 1991, the military moved in and demanded Aristide stand trial on numerous violations of Haitian law. When Aristide fled to our shores, President Bush decided to send a message to the militaries of our Caribbean and Latin American neighbors that coups do not pay, so he set up a blockade which destroyed Haiti’s economic base. Also, he gave Aristide access to Haiti’s money that was in our banks for the foreign service. Later, Mr. Clinton compounded the problem by giving Aristide access to all of Haiti’s money that was held here in this country.
In 1992, in his first news conference as president-elect, Mr. Clinton announced that our policy toward Haiti would change, but he didn’t say what that policy would be. Shortly after his inauguration in January of 1993, Haitians began hopping on anything that would float and heading for our shores. Clinton was faced with a major refugee problem.
Aristide seized the moment and began using Haiti’s money to hire Clinton’s political allies to lobby for his reinstatement. Michael Barnes, who ran Clinton’s Maryland campaign, was hired as his Washington lawyer. Barnes’ firm, Hogan and Hartson, at one time was billing Aristide $55,000 a month. One of the firm’s former partners, Sandy Berger, served as Clinton’s Haitian policy advisor. Aristide also hired McKlinney & McDowell, the pricey PR firm used by the African National Congress, the NAACP and the National Organization for Women to shape the news.
Before Aristide was ousted he encouraged his mobs to brutally murder his enemies by a process known as necklacing, where a tire filled with gasoline is put over the victim’s head and then set afire. Many Haitians believe that death by fire is the worst kind of death because it kills not only the body, but the soul. The night the military took charge, one of his mobs necklaced Sylvio Claude, A Baptist minister who was head of the Haitian Christian Democratic Party.
Four years after Aristide’s return, not much has changed. The Haiti Observateur reported in its November 18-25 edition that Joseph Lambert, the spokesman for President Renee Preval (the puppet Aristide picked to succeed him) said that in the new year his boss intends to dismiss Parliament. The Observateur also reported that Preval then will try to put together an electoral council with pro-Aristide delegates chosen in the 1997 fraudulent elections. This would pave the way for Aristide’s formal return to power. Today Aristide’s enemies are sometimes shot, but often stoned or hacked to death, and their bodies unceremoniously burned, because even old tires are harder to come by. The poorest country in our Hemisphere has slipped another 14 rungs down the poverty ladder and the plight of the Haitian people was worsened by flooding from Hurricane George.
Since Haiti has been without a functioning government for some 18 months now, the U.N. has cut off all funds. Unemployment is around 90%. Jobs come primarily from three sources: what is left of the government; from Aristide, who holes up in a pink palace compound he built for himself and his private defense force; and from a small group of hotels, restaurants and pubs which cater to U.N. personnel who wait and watch their backs. On November 25, the U.N. extended the mandate of 144 civilian advisors, supported by 140 armed Argentine police who protect them, until Nov. 30, 1999.
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