Sunday, October 24, 2004

Haiti: Bastard child of the Caribbean

For years the U.S. has largely ignored the simmering cesspool that is Haiti.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide was supported by the U.S. for years until his incompetence and festering unrest forced his departure in February, 2004. Aristide’s leadership nearly sparked all-out civil war in the island poorest country in the western hemisphere. In 1990, Aristide won Haiti’s first democratic election but was overthrown by a coup in 1991. In 1994 Aristide was reinstalled as president after the U.S. flexed its muscle. In 2000 he won re-election in what many consider a fraudulent vote. Haiti is now led by Yvon Neptune.

Things are so bad in Haiti that Neptune declared a state of emergency and the U.N. sent in a peace keeping force that remains there to this day. The situation is so tenuous that the U.N was forced to delay tons of relief supplies and food in mid-October after tropical storm Jeanne killed 3,000 and left over 200,000 homeless. The widespread violence and unrest is the reason for the U.N.’s decision.

In the week of October 10, Father Gerard Jean-Juste, pastor of St. Claire’s in Port au Prince, was arrested for disturbing the peace. He is being held in a Haitian penitentiary for a crime punishable by a 40 cent fine. What makes his arrest unique and disturbing is the fact that Jean-Juste’s apprehension was a violent affair wherein three children were shot. One girl was shot in the leg, another child was wounded in the shoulder, and yet another child suffered a head wound. They were gathered at St. Claire’s along with 600 other children as Jean-Juste was attempting to feed them. Haitian police stormed St. Claire’s, beat Fr. Jean-Juste, drug him out a broken window, and carted him off to jail. In fact, the Father’s lawyer has been threatened with jail time by Haitian authorities.

Haiti officials, the police, and our own U.S. State Department have completely denied these allegations. Amnesty International is investigating the incident.

Haiti has been a cauldron of unrest for over thirty years. Ever since the days of “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son “Baby Doc” and their murderous security force, the dreaded Tontons Macoutes, Haiti has been ruled by one savage dictator after another. Haiti has been the poorest country in the western hemisphere for decades and a veritable killing ground where voices of dissent are squelched by murder.

The U.S. has stood idly by as this nation has descended into anarchy. Every president from the Current Bush administration back down through Kennedy has ignored the plight of a nation that is barely a stone’s throw from our own country. The U.S. has interceded in national crisis situations in a number of other countries yet we continue to snub Haiti. Why?