Confronting the threat of Haitian democracyWas Jean-Bertrand Aristide kidnapped by U.S. diplomats, as he charges, or did he agree to leave after the U.S. told him that if he didn't he would get killed, which is (in essence) what Colin Powell is saying? And what's the difference? In the greater scheme, it doesn't matter whether he scampered into the plane on his own or was dragged there kicking and screaming -- either way, it was the U.S.'s power that forced him out and is now tolerating -- maybe even encouraging -- the chaos in Port-au-Prince and the rest of the country today.
But "chaos" is the wrong word. What appears chaotic is really targeted violence, the destruction of the people and institutions that might support democracy. Why did the U.S. Government undermine Aristide's government (by vetoing international loans, egging on the opposition, and probably providing the arms of the rebels), and why are U.S. troops standing by while the murders, burning and destruction continue? Aristide, whatever his faults, was constitutionally elected and represented democracy. Is the U.S. governing cabal threatened by democracy in Haiti?
Yes, it must be, and it should be. Democracy -- even an uneven and imperfect democracy -- in a country that poor and that close is a threat to the unbridled rule of U.S. corporations and financial institutions. A democratic Haiti, responding to the needs and desires of its desperately poor majority, will defy U.S. Government directives that seem to go against the national interest. Democratic Haiti would certainly accept medical personnel and other aid from Cuba, as Aristide has in fact done. As it gains strength to do so, it might also attempt to enforce labor laws in the foreign industries set up to exploit its cheap labor. It will doubtless serve as an inspiration to other populist movements in the hemisphere that so frighten Washington. (Just look at what they're saying about Evo Morales in Bolivia, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, and the piqueteros in Argentina, for example.)
For now the danger of democracy is past. Perhaps, no, surely, Aristide is right when he says "the tree of democracy will grow again." But now, by the force of the U.S. government, is the time of clear-cutting of all the seedlings.
For news and analysis on Haiti, see Democracy Now! The War and Peace Report