ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
But the Americans, scattering democracy like manure across the Middle East, had to
be seen to be doing something useful in this hemisphere. Elections were all important.
Mr Roger Noriega said so, . . . Dr Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State said so.
John Maxwell Rene Preval
Book by John Maxwell
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A Basket to Carry Water
By John Maxwell
In a well ordered world, Gerard LaTortue should now be sitting quietly in jail in the Hague, preparing to defend himself against charges of treason, terrorism, murder, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution and, possibly, genocide.
Instead, on Wednesday this week, he was sitting, immaculately tailored, as always, in a conference room at United Nations headquarters, as the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS vainly attempted to give a decent burial to US government policies in Haiti.
It was a farce.
Officiating at the obsequies was the Guyanese-born Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, chosen, one imagines, because his clean hands distinguished him from a motley gang of bloodstained bureaucrats who have for two years connived at one of the most blatant and infamous rapes of human rights in modern history.
The occasion was a meeting of the so-called Haitian Core Group of the UNnations which over the past two years have been involved in the murderous suppression of Haitian democracy and the denial of the Rights of Man to the first people ever to have implemented those Rights.
Mr Ramdin said the exercise was “closing a difficult chapter which emanated in part from the dispute surrounding the year 2000 legislative elections”.
What Ramdin was unable to say was that that dispute was an artificial and unnecessary quarrel, fomented by a small, selfish cabal of rich Haitians, fostered and amplified by a witless and gutless American press encouraged by a cynical and amoral US Administration. Like a bunch of juvenile delinquents, the elite sulked and screamed until they got their way.
On the day following the memorial service, the President of the United States performed what must have been, even for him, the supreme test of hypocrisy, telephoning Rene Preval, the President of Haiti, to convey his congratulations, good wishes and hopes for cooperation in the war on drugs and pledging “a continuing interest in the democratic and economic success of Haiti.”
For a man whose previous encounters with democracy have left that institution bruised and unstable, Mr Bush had a nerve. Two years ago his soldiers and diplomats, had armed and provisioned a criminal aggregation of rapists, mass murderers and putschists to go into Haiti to finish what all the American NGOs and enhancers of Democracy had not been able to do: to subvert the lawfully and overwhelmingly elected President of Haiti.
When the mercenaries proved unable to do that job, the US itself stepped in with its Ambassador and its Marines making a predawn call on the President to inform him that if he didn’t leave the country his life was worthless. They put him on a cargo plane and rendered him to Africa.
It was not only Aristide and his family who were taken for a ride. The world was conned by official propaganda and journalistc pimps, which managed to paint a picture of the mild-mannered slum priest as a violent, corrupt demonic oppressor of his people. The US Secretary of State was reported to have warned Ron Dellums, a former US Congressman, a friend of Aristide’s, to tell the President that he was going to die and that the US would do nothing to save him.
President Bush Feb 29, 2004: “President Aristide has resigned. He has left his country, The Constitution of Haiti is working. This government believes it essential that Haiti have a hopeful future. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the countrys history.”
What a chapter it has been!
The new harbingers of democracy looted the Presidential Palace, burned museums, shut down radio and television stations and terrorised the country, murdering anyone who they considered to be a loyalist of the ancien regimea chimere. The OAS’s man in Haiti, a Canadian, travelled to celebrate with the imposed Prime Minister, Mr La Tortue, as he declared the sanguine gang of murderers and rapists to be ‘freedom fighters’.
Caricom, whose representatives had completely surrendered to US propaganda and tried to get Aristide to surrender to his elite tormentors, were left up the creek, without a paddle, trying to figure out what day it was and which way the wind was blowing.
The then OAS Assistant Secretary General, one Luigi Einaudi, an American, had been heard to say at Haiti’s bicentennial celebrations two months earlier that Haiti’s only problem was that it was being run by Haitians. The elite with the help of the gangsters and murderers soon changed that. In concert with the United Nations, the Americans, the Canadians, the French, and latterly the Brazilians, no Haitian chimere would be allowed to bark unpunished and thousands died, thousands of them murdered, plus 3000 suffocated by malign incompetence and floods.
The next two years are a chronicle of murderous mismanagement, cruelty, repression and incompetence.
But the Americans, scattering democracy like manure across the Middle East, had to be seen to be doing something useful in this hemisphere. Elections were all important. Mr Roger Noriega said so, (his mentor Jesse Helms must have told him that) Mr Einaudi said so and to top it all, Dr Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State said so.
Unfortunately, for the newly arranged democracy to be, Haiti’s poverty and lack of electricity make it impossible for voting machines to be used and the recent elections had to be carried out the old way, un-hackable except by machete. There were neither computers nor machetes, just lots and lots and lots of ‘dirt poor’ Haitians smart enough to figure out how to get their democracy and their leaders back. Despite all the plots and stratagems their will was made manifest and the electoral authority and the US government have been forced to admit that the people of Haiti have elected in one go, the president they can get if they cant get the one they want.
But this is just the start of another black farce, unless Jamaica’s next Prime Minister and her Caricom colleagues intervene decisively with the support of the South Africans and the Brazilians and any others who respect Haiti.
Preval has been given a basket to carry water.
His country is still run by criminals, the leaders of the people are still in exile or in prison and thousands of crimes need to be prosecuted and criminals brought to justice. And then the job of development will need to be tackled.
To do any of this Haiti requires money and help. Some of the help will come from the millions of Haitians driven out of Haiti in the past. At this point it may be useful to remember some of the argument before the coup in 2004. Just before the coup I wrote in this column:
The twentieth century story of Haiti is one of economic and social strip-mining, of rapacious exploitation on a scale that is almost incomprehensible. As one of my correspondents says, Haiti is an international crime scene. For decades the Haitian people have been driven abroad to seek some sort of dignity, livelihood and an end to suffering. The brightest people including journalists, have been murdered or are in voluntary or involuntary exile.
Haiti needs help, not interference. The people of goodwill, in Haiti or outside, must be brought into a dialogue of respect for each other, to devise solutions, made by Haitians for Haitians. But they need help, simply to build the basic infrastructure for dialogue, for communication, for education and for health. Haiti is a war zone, where the rich have scorched the earth so thoroughly that the emotional landscape seems to have been sown with salt.”
I then reported on a fact which has obviously long been forgotten:
This week, Haitians in the United States were asked for their opinions on what should happen in Haiti. A poll among Haitians across the United States was done by the New California Media Coalition, an association of ethnic media companies .
‘Surprise! More than half (52%) of those polled said they believed President Aristide should stay in office in the interest of democracy. Just over one-third (35%) believed he should resign. More than half – 55% – felt the Haitian Opposition was fighting for ‘power’; only 22% believed [they were] fighting for ‘democracy”‘.
‘Given these figures and the facts reported elsewhere, it would seem a little crazy for CARICOM/OAS to be putting pressure on Aristide to dismantle his government to give power to an opposition which refuses even to discuss its differences with Aristide.
I repeat these statements because very little has changed in the Haitian reality since then. Aristide’s support has probably risen.
But the power elite are still there, elected by no one, responsible to no one but their bankers and clearly, totally contemptuous of the people upon whom they feed.
The Prime Minister is still in jail. The Americans, in a demonstration of remarkable stupidity, are still demonising Aristide and purporting to be able to direct Haitians in the solutions of their problems.
What has been clear for two hundred years is that Haiti’s main problems have been and are, in order, the United States of America and France, joined now by Canada.
The recent apparent suicide of the Brazilian general commanding the United Nations Mission in Haiti MINUSTAH occurred shortly after he had met with the two most prominent members of the elite. One wonders what they could have said to him and what drove him to take his own life, if indeed he did.
If he did take his own life one imagines that confronted by the intransigent stupidity, greed, and racism of the elite he was so depressed that he could see no way out. But we are faced with a holocaust, which must be ended. We can no longer connive at the slow motion genocide of the Haitians. If you believe that my use of the word genocide is overblown, please consider the meaning of it.
Article III of the convention against genocide says:
genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
ARTICLE IV: Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in ARTICLE III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.
As my correspondent said two years ago, Haiti is an international crime scene, and the crime is genocide. Certainly, what has happened in Haiti is genocide as described in the first three sub-clauses of Article III.
Haiti’s 8 million people may be luckier than the 6 million Jews, gypsies, blacks, homosexuals and other ‘untermenschen’ killed by the Nazis; they are at least, still alive.
But life in Haiti is clearly not life as most people anywhere else understand it, with the exception of Darfur.
The major actors in this crime may make amends to some extent, by paying reparations to Haiti for their misdeeds over nearly two centuries. But what they can do which would have the most beneficial effect is to extricate themselves from the affairs of Haiti.
Nation states are generally formed by groups of people wanting to preserve their common culture. The Haitians, with the exception of the Elite, transcended that when they abolished slavery and declared independence in 1804. Their shared culture was the desire for freedom, for which they had fought so long and hard. Rising out of the most cruel and barbarous slavery, they extended the hand of friendship to everyone, black and white alike. They financed Simon Bolivar and sent him off to liberate South America.
If only for this reason, we, the world, owe them the most profound respect.
The best way of paying that respect is that we should respect and guarantee their freedom, their human rights and celebrate their unquenchable dignity under the most appalling oppression.
Copyright©John Maxwell email@example.com (2/24/06)
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6/7: the massacre of the poor that the world ignored
By Naomi Klein
The US cannot accept that the Haitian president it ousted still has support
Monday July 18, 2005When terror strikes western capitals, it doesn’t just blast bodies and buildings, it also blasts other sites of suffering off the media map. A massacre of Iraqi children, blown up while taking sweets from US soldiers, is banished deep into the inside pages of our newspapers. The outpouring of compassion for the daily deaths of thousands from Aids in Africa is suddenly treated as a frivolous distraction.
In this context, a massacre in Haiti alleged to have taken place the day before the London bombings never stood a chance. Well before July 7, Haiti couldn’t compete in the suffering sweepstakes: the US-supported coup that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had the misfortune of taking place in late February 2004, just as the occupation of Iraq was reaching a new level of chaos and brutality. The crushing of Haiti’s constitutional democracy made headlines for only a couple of weeks.
But the battle over Haiti’s future rages on. Most recently, on July 6, 300 UN troops stormed the pro-Aristide slum of Cité Soleil. The UN admits that five were killed, but residents put the number of dead at no fewer than 20. A Reuters correspondent, Joseph Guyler Delva, says he “saw seven bodies in one house alone, including two babies and one older woman in her 60s”. Ali Besnaci, head of Médecins Sans Frontières in Haiti, confirmed that on the day of the siege an “unprecedented” 27 people came to the MSF clinic with gunshot wounds, three-quarters of them women and children.
Where news of the siege was reported, it was treated as a necessary measure to control Haiti’s violent armed gangs. But the residents of Cité Soleil tell a different story: they say they are being killed not for being violent, but for being militant – for daring to demand the return of their elected president. On the bodies of their dead friends and family members, they place photographs of Aristide.
It was only 10 years ago that President Clinton celebrated Aristide’s return to power as “the triumph of freedom over fear”. So it seems worth asking: what changed?
Aristide is certainly no saint, but even if the worst of the allegations against him are true, they pale next to the rap sheets of the convicted killers, drug smugglers and arms traders who ousted him. Turning Haiti over to this underworld gang out of concern for Aristide’s lack of “good governance” is like escaping an annoying date by accepting a lift home from Charles Manson.
A few weeks ago I visited Aristide in Pretoria, South Africa, where he lives in forced exile. I asked him what was really behind his dramatic falling-out with Washington. He offered an explanation rarely heard in discussions of Haitian politics – actually, he offered three: “Privatisation, privatisation and privatisation.”
The dispute dates back to a series of meetings in early 1994, a pivotal moment in Haiti’s history that Aristide has rarely discussed. Haitians were living under the barbaric rule of Raoul Cédras, who overthrew Aristide in a 1991 US-backed coup. Aristide was in Washington and, despite popular calls for his return, there was no way he could face down the junta without military back-up.
Increasingly embarrassed by Cédras’s abuses, the Clinton administration offered Aristide a deal: US troops would take him back to Haiti – but only after he agreed to a sweeping economic programme with the stated goal to “substantially transform the nature of the Haitian state”.
Aristide agreed to pay the debts accumulated under the kleptocratic Duvalier dictatorships, slash the civil service, open up Haiti to “free trade” and cut import tariffs on rice and corn. It was a lousy deal but, Aristide says, he had little choice. “I was out of my country and my country was the poorest in the western hemisphere, so what kind of power did I have at that time?”
But Washington’s negotiators made one demand that Aristide could not accept: the immediate sell-off of Haiti’s state-owned enterprises, including phones and electricity. Aristide argued that unregulated privatisation would transform state monopolies into private oligarchies, increasing the riches of Haiti’s elite and stripping the poor of their national wealth. He says the proposal simply didn’t add up: “Being honest means saying two plus two equals four. They wanted us to sing two plus two equals five.”
Aristide proposed a compromise: Rather than sell off the firms outright, he would “democratise” them. He defined this as writing anti-trust legislation, ensuring that proceeds from the sales were redistributed to the poor and allowing workers to become shareholders. Washington backed down, and the final text of the agreement called for the “democratisation” of state companies.
But when Aristide announced that no sales could take place until parliament had approved the new laws, Washington cried foul. Aristide says he realised then that what was being attempted was an “economic coup”. “The hidden agenda was to tie my hands once I was back and make me give for nothing all the state public enterprises.”
He threatened to arrest anyone who went ahead with privatisations. “Washington was very angry at me. They said I didn’t respect my word, when they were the ones who didn’t respect our common economic policy.”
The US cut off more than $500m in promised loans and aid, starving his government, and poured millions into the coffers of opposition groups, culminating ultimately in the February 2004 armed coup.
And the war continues. On June 23 Roger Noriega, US assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, called on UN troops to take a more “proactive role” in going after armed pro-Aristide gangs. In practice, this has meant a wave of collective punishment inflicted on neighbourhoods known for supporting Aristide, most recently in Cité Soleil on July 6.
Yet despite these attacks, Haitians are still on the streets – rejecting the planned sham elections, opposing privatisation and holding up photographs of their president. And just as Washington’s experts could not fathom the possibility that Aristide would reject their advice a decade ago, today they cannot accept that his poor supporters could be acting of their own accord.
“We believe that his people are receiving instructions directly from his voice and indirectly through his acolytes that communicate with him personally in South Africa,” Noriega said.
Aristide claims no such powers. “The people are bright, the people are intelligent, the people are courageous,” he says. “They know that two plus two does not equal five.”
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 25 February 2005
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