The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Aristide kicked out, armed conflict and misery remain

Mar 15, 2004

Early on the morning of February 29, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the president of Haiti, was taken out of the country on a U.S. military plane. When the plane took off, Aristide didn't know where he was going. He was finally deposited in the Central African Republic. When Aristide was allowed to speak to the press, he said he had been kidnaped by the U.S. military. The U.S. government vigorously denied it, but it had called for him to step down and when U.S. soldiers approached him, they said they could no longer insure his safety. It looks like a kidnaping in all but the name.

In any case, U.S. Marines are now in Haiti. A major reason the Bush Administration gave for going in to Haiti was that it doesn't want a repeat of what happened in 1991, when 40,000 Haitian refugees came to the U.S., mainly to Florida. With such "humanitarian" aims, the latest military adventure was started!

But the Bush Administration had other reasons for sending in 1,200 U.S. troops to Haiti. They had been willing to live with Aristide, who was useful with his popularity among the poor, as long as that could be used to control the population and get it to submit to the plunder by U.S. and Haitian businessmen. The rebellion that started last December in the north of Haiti by former military men and some of Aristide's own thugs, showed that Aristide had lost his support. There was no mass uprising to defend him, and many of the poorest people turned against him, welcoming those who had oppressed them a decade ago. Aristide was no longer useful to U.S. imperialism, since he could no longer maintain order.

Aristide had first taken power by winning an election in December 1990 with 67% of the vote, and the backing of a big popular movement. He quickly spoke of the "reconciliation of the people and the army," but it was that very army that overthrew him in September 1991, and carried out a bloody repression on the population. The bloodbath in the poor areas didn't bother U.S. imperialism, but the coup leaders enlarged the rackets and the drug trade; in the process they pillaged the economy. This annoyed the Haitian bourgeoisie and the U.S. investors, who wanted social calm so they could continue to exploit Haitian workers for $1.50 a day. The Clinton administration decided it was better to put Aristide, who still had some credit with the poor masses, back in power. The U.S. invaded in 1994, with 20,000 Marines, reinstalling Aristide in the presidential palace. But Aristide's language had now changed – speaking of a marriage between the bourgeoisie and the people as a way to alleviate poverty. He did absolutely nothing to better the poor, but he and his top officials enriched themselves, while they enforced misery and famine. Aristide dissolved the army that had overthrown him, letting them leave with their guns, but with no new jobs or pay. Instead, he defended himself with the police and newly formed armed gangs. Rather than tax the rich to pay their wages, Aristide let his thugs support themselves by terrorizing and plundering the poor population through all kinds of extortion and rackets.

When the armed opposition to Aristide came into the cities, it freed from prison the old leaders of the military coup locked up by Aristide. Most of the rebel chiefs are known for the many assassinations they carried out when they were in power under the military dictatorship. Their first actions demonstrate their readiness to use violence against the poor areas.

At the same time, the armed thugs of Aristide have not gone away. They too continue to terrorize the poor areas and engage in conflicts with the rebel groups. On March 7, Aristide's thugs opened fire on a demonstration called by an opposition group, killing six and wounding 30.

The Bush Administration's invasion of 1,200 soldiers, along with 500 French troops, is tiny compared to the 20,000 that Clinton sent in. The Bush Administration doesn't want to have the TV talking about dead Marines, and it doesn't want a major involvement on top of Afghanistan and Iraq, especially before the elections. This small number of troops isn't going to put an end to Aristide's armed bands nor the pillaging of the population by the armed gangs which make up the rebel groups. The U.S. troops certainly won't impose democracy, contrary to what Bush says. They're there to protect the embassies, some of the main public buildings, the banks, the foreign factories in the industrial zone, and the homes of the rich.

Meanwhile, economic activity is practically stopped. There is no work and no income for the thousands of workers employed there. Poor people have trouble even getting any food. They hide on their floors to avoid the pillage and attacks by Aristide's thugs, and increasingly they suffer violence at the hands of the armed rebels.

The poor people in Haiti have paid dearly to learn that they can't trust in saviors like Aristide to free them, but only in themselves. Haiti recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of the uprising of the Haitian people against French domination and slavery, the first successful slave rebellion. The overthrow of the current oppressors of Haiti will certainly not be so long in coming.