Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Canada out of Haiti!

Originally printed in Get on the Bus, January 2006

Canada participates in overthrowing elected government: trains death squads to tame protests

On February 29th 2004, US, French, and Canadian troops invaded the caribbean country of Haiti. US marines swept into the capital, Port-au-Prince, and kidnapped the democratically-elected president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, while Canadian forces took over the country’s main airport. Aristide was then shipped out of the country into exile in the Central African Republic, one of the most isolated countries in the world.
The US claims this was a ‘voluntary’ exile. Aristide has called this a lie, saying he was ousted against his wishes.
Within weeks, the Haitian government was being headed by Gérard Latortue, a pro-US Haitian who had lived in Florida for the past 15 years. This was a coup d’etat – a sudden overthrow of a government by illegal means – orchestrated and carried out with Canada’s direct involvement.
To understand why this happened, a brief look into recent Haitian history will be useful. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a priest, first came to power in the 1990 elections at the head of the popular Lavalas movement, which drew its support primarily from Haiti’s poor. This was a new period for Haiti, which was coming out of decades of imperialist-sponsored dictatorships.
Aristide wasn’t, and isn’t, a revolutionary. He is basically a pro-Western figure who has attempted to make small changes within the overall imperialist framework – ‘poverty with dignity’ according to one of his slogans. This meant using some of Haiti’s meagre budget for things like public education
But even this was considered to be ‘too much’ by Haiti’s imperialist masters. In 1991, Aristide was ousted in a coup sponsored by the CIA and replaced by a military junta. In 1994, Aristide was again brought to power with the aid of the US.
It soon became clear why. Aristide agreed to ‘austerity measures’ imposed by the imperialist-dominated International Monetary Fund. One of the outcomes of these austerity measures, among many, was to flood Haiti with cheap agricultural products which in turn drove thousands of peasants off the land. This was on top of decades of agricultural sabotage directed at Haiti which effectively destroyed any attempt at self-reliance for the Haitian economy.
For example, in the 1970s, agricultural chemicals sent by the US poisoned the rivers and killed fish, cutting off an important food source for peasants. In the late 1990s, Haiti lost 25,000 acres of arable land because of poisoning with defective agricultural chemicals, once again sent by the US.
The result was a destroyed economy. Many Haitians, unable to afford the now-imported food with their now-worthless currency, began to starve. Today Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and the life expectancy, at 52 years, stands among the world’s lowest.
Aristide was re-elected in 2000. Although he had capitulated to most of the imperialist program, he was unwilling to submit completely. Because of this, countries like Canada began plotting against him. Canada cruelly cut off aid to Haiti in 2001 and began throwing funding and support behind anti-Aristide Non-Governmental-Organizations. In 2003 Canada sponsored ‘The Ottawa Initiative on Haiti’, the first of many meetings meant to ‘solve’ the Haiti ‘problem’.
The final result was the aforementioned coup d’etat in February 2004. (For a more comprehensive breakup of the lead-up to the coup see Yves Engler and Anthony Fenton’s book, Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority.)
Since then Haiti has been plunged into more chaos and violence which carries the stamp of ‘made in Canada’. Immediately after the coup foreign troops gave a free hand to anti-Aristide forces to rampage through Port-au-Prince’s slums, where they killed thousands of mostly poor Lavalas supporters.
Canada has sent 100 million dollars to Haiti’s new government, including millions in military aid, to prop up Haiti’s new armed forces and police. They have also sent the RCMP to train the new Haitian National Police. The HNP has become notorious for firing on unarmed protestors and carrying out massacres in Haiti’s slums. For instance, in October 2004 600 corpses were removed from the slums after an ‘anti-gang’ raid carried out by the HNP (‘gang’ right now is a codeword used by the Haitian government and Canadian media to describe Lavalas and Aristide supporters). It makes you wonder what kind of training the RCMP has been providing. Some sources indicate that Canada, together with France and the US, has been pressuring United Nations forces in Haiti to use even more violence against the slum dwellers.
The Canadian government has been taking these actions because it is in their interests to do so. The new puppet government of Haiti can now grant Canadian mining companies greater access to Haitian copper and gold. They can remove barriers for sweatshops – such as the one run by Gildan International, the Canadian clothing manufacturer which is expanding its stake in Haiti. And Haiti is now taking on a massive debt owed to Canada and other countries. This will increase the flow of profit and wealth out of Haiti to the rich countries.
Meanwhile the Haitian people are being murdered, impoverished, and driven into ever-deepening dependency. It all makes you ‘Proud to be a Canadian”, eh?


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