Latin America and the Caribbean facing hard times
- Article: Latin America and the Caribbean facing hard times - By Saeed
Date: Updated Monday, March 15th, 2004, 9:06 am
Source: www.finalcall.com - Final Call [dot] com - Staff writer
UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) - The officials of the United States,
France, Canada and the United Nations who agreed to the intervention
in Haiti attempted to channel the attention of the world to photo ops
of soldiers bringing peace, democracy and human rights to a thankful
populace. But, as The Final Call goes to press, demonstrations have
turned violent against what ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide
called an occupation of his nation, during a radio interview on the
The rosy rhetoric of U.S. officials attempted to obscure the darker,
more pernicious fact about American presence in Haiti, which
according to Bill Fletcher of the Washington, D.C.-based TransAfrica
Forum and many labor activists, is fueled by the interests of some of
the largest and most successful U.S. corporations, mostly in the
textile business, to exploit Haitian workers.
"There is a growing worker and peasant movement in Haiti, which is
putting pressure on the government for recognition," Mr. Fletcher
said. He explained that when President Aristide was first elected, he
did not pander to the foreign commercial interests. The San Francisco
Labor Council, in a resolution honoring the 200 years of Haitian
independence, said Mr. Aristide's landslide victory for the
presidency in 1990 meant labor had an advocate in the palace.
In the 1997 book "Democracy Undermined and Economic Justice denied in
Haiti," its author Liz McGowan said that Mr. Aristide's attempt to
raise the minimum wage has been cited as one of the principal factors
for the 1991 coup against his administration. According to Ms.
McGowan, when Mr. Aristide was returned to power in 1994, he was
under pressure from officials in the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID), which provides economic aid to Haiti, not to
raise the minimum wage. She said that Mr. Aristide did raise the wage
from 15 gourdes (US $1) per day to 36 gourdes (US $2.40) per day.
When he took office in 1990, the wage was 68 cents per day.
"He was elected by the people who shared his determination, in the
face of crippling U.S. opposition to improve the conditions of the
most poorly paid workers in the western hemisphere," Ms. McGowan
Mr. Fletcher says that President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was elected
for the same reasons as Mr. Aristide. "The West hates President
Chavez because he is talking about the fact that it is difficult for
small nations to stand up to the Empire, so therefore, they need to
establish a continental bloc that controls the maintenance of the
labor and resources," Mr. Fletcher said. For example, Mr. Chavez
recently signed an agreement with the government of Guyana to aid in
the exploration of oil deposits recently found in Guyana.
In the corridors of the UN, there is discussion on Haiti and the
ramifications of its president's removal for the world. "The old
problems derived from colonialism and exploitation are compounded by
new, pressing difficulties relating to the unjust and excluding
international economic order," commented Cuba's deputy UN ambassador
Orlando Requeijo Gual.
"It is crucial for the international community to express its
solidarity with the people and democratic institutions of Haiti,"
Venezuelan deputy ambassador Adriana Pulida Santana told The Final
Call. That was the same day the Financial Times ran a photo of an
anti-President Hugo Chavez demonstrator in Venezuela holding a sign
that read: "Aristide is out, Mr. Chavez you are next." Eduardo J.
Sevilla Somoza of Nicaragua warned that the crisis in Haiti might
spread to other nations of the region "one way or another."
The UN ambassador for the Dominican Republic, Marino Villanueva
Callot was angry when he told The Final Call that had the
international community paid attention to his president, Hipolito
Mejia in 2000, when he warned the UN about the socio-economic and
humanitarian problems facing Haiti, the chaotic situation there now
would have been avoided.
The ambassadors of Angola, Namibia and Lesotho briefly discussed with
The Final Call their concerns. They said that what happened in Haiti
was being watched closely in Africa. "What happened to their
government could happen to any of us. We see this as very serious,
and we want real answers," the ambassadors said. They all agreed that
what CARICOM had to say after their emergency meeting in Jamaica was
of the utmost importance.
The Inter Press Service reported on March 3 that Jamaican Prime
Minister P.J. Patterson, chairman of the 15-member Caribbean
Community (CARICOM), wants the UN to investigate what happened to Mr.
Aristide on the morning of February 29, when he and his wife and her
brother left Haiti. Mr. Patterson also said that the CARICOM members
want the Organization of American States (OAS) to ensure that the
probe is carried out. Mr. Patterson added that what happened in Haiti
constituted a "dangerous precedent" not only for Port-au-Prince, but
also for democratically elected governments throughout the world,
especially small states in the Caribbean.
The South African government has also sided with CARICOM in its
position for the need to have the international community investigate
what happened to the elected government of Haiti. Observers at the UN
said that this is significant, because it shows the international
community that Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora were
An attache from the UN Mission of Cote d'Ivoire told The Final
Call, "We were with Aristide when they sent him back in 1994, because
we believed he was the man of the people. Look what is happening to
my president. Outside forces are trying to dictate to us who to
follow, and we will no longer allow that to happen," he insisted.
But an editorial in the Jamaica Gleaner Online on March 5 said that
CARICOM leaders were limping back to the UN, admitting that its
initiatives to solve Haiti's crisis gave way to the realities of "Big
Power politics." The editorial said that CARICOM has been effectively
sidelined for now at the UN, left only to investigate the
circumstances of Mr. Aristide's departure.
But activists worldwide say that the people of poor nations are
beginning to understand that economic oppression and military
repression are flip sides of the same coin. "The economic terrorism
inflicted on the poor that accompanies corporate globalization starts
with repressive military approaches," writes the Latin America
Coalition, an association of national and local U.S.-based grassroots
working in the Caribbean and Latin America.
The Latin American Solidarity activists say they will converge on
Washington, D.C. from April 22 to 24 to demonstrate at the semi-
annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the
World Bank. For the past two weekends, the International Action
Center has sponsored anti-coup demonstrations in Brooklyn, NY and a
protest outside of the UN. Former U.S. attorney general and founder
of the International Action Coalition Ramsey Clark rendered some
analysis for reporters.
"The neo-liberal policies that are now being placed in position in
Haiti, which are being forced on the people of Haiti by foreign
governments through the IMF and the World Bank, which are being
touted as some type of new economic structure is not going to benefit
them economically," Mr. Clark said. He said that was true for all of
the Caribbean Basin, Latin America and Africa.
According to Mr. Fletcher, there is a growing awareness of the
negative effects the IMF and the World Bank have on small nation
economies, because they squeeze governments to downsize and privatize
their industries which in turn causes economic and political
destabilization. Also, that IMF reforms tend to support U.S.
strategic and foreign policy objectives. "Haiti is of minimal
strategic significance, but has a profound ideological position in
the grand scheme of things," Mr. Fletcher said.
He said privatization efforts go hand-in-hand with union-busting and
result in the weakening of social movements overall.
There are un-substantiated reports that Mr. Aristide was reneging on
his deal to allow the market economy policies (the so-called
Washington Consensus) to continue in Haiti. Observers believe that
the West had deep foreign policy concerns with trends in Latin
America, where regimes supportive of U.S./IMF/World Bank economic
policies had been removed by revolt.
President De La Rua of Argentina had to be plucked from the roof of
his palace by helicopter and flown into exile by the force of violent
street protests, as workers tried to rise up from the ashes of the
havoc wrought by the IMF. The same is true in Bolivia; and in Mexico,
there is a growing economic justice movement in the states of
Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca.
Activists continue to warn that the new agreements such as the Free
Trade Agreement of the Americas exploits workers in Mexico and in
fact leverages them against workers in Haiti, El Salvador and Brazil
by corporations seeking tariff-free access back into U.S. markets.
"We have to understand how inter-connected economies are today. For
instance, U.S. farm subsidies in the mid-1990s, to the tune of $30
billion, all but shut down production in the rice-producing and
livestock farms in the northwest area of Haiti," Mr. Fletcher
He added that Blacks in America need to become more aware of the
issues facing workers in Africa, who are victimized by sweatshops
that exploit the labor of men, women and even children under the age
of 10. He said that American workers must understand that the rights
of workers to organize to improve their conditions are being ignored
by the international community.
Noam Chomsky, professor of Linguistics at MIT, said that "the threat
of a good example solicits measures of retaliation that bear no
relation to the strategic or economic importance of the country in
"Aristide is gone, Mr. Chavez you are next."[-End]