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Latin America and the Caribbean facing hard times

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    Article: Latin America and the Caribbean facing hard times - By Saeed Shabazz Date: Updated Monday, March 15th, 2004, 9:06 am Source: www.finalcall.com - Final
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 15, 2004
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      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

      Link: http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_1339.shtml

      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
      Pacifica Network.

      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]
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