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Commentary: What Haiti needs is respect and democracy – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel

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A Nov. 15 Bloomberg editorial called only for police order, with nary a word about free elections or respect for Haitian independence.
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The recent editorial by Bloomberg Opinion (“Another View: Sending troops to Haiti would make things worse,” Nov. 15) was well-intentioned but ill-informed.
A child eats a handful of grain from a pot at Hugo Chavez public square in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, transformed into a refuge for families forced to leave their homes because of clashes between armed gangs. Disagreeing with a guest editorial urging police order, a reader wants to allow civil-sector leaders to “invite U.N. assistance as it requires to end gang rule and install democratic governance.” Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press
William Slavick is a resident of Portland. He and his wife, Ursula, are benefactors of a Haitian kindergarten and grade school.
By refusing to recognize Haitians’ only successful slave revolt self-government until after our Civil War for fear of its repetition here, we conspired to make Haiti governments primarily colonial servants of our exploitation, acting variously through small Haitian elites, occupation, the dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier and his son or questionably elected presidents.
When we finally yielded to a free election in 1990, the surprising winner of Haiti’s first honest election (with two-thirds of the vote) was the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Salesian priest and “Little Church” democratic movement leader. Aristide set about governing for Haitians with a literacy campaign, improved health care, restraints on the military, imprisonment of remaining Macoute terrorists and efforts to interdict drug trafficking.
But when Aristide moved to raise the minimum wage, a September 1991 coup led by CIA Haitian agents, one Aristide’s chosen military head, removed Aristide and exiled him. Wholesale assassinations of Haitian democrats by the military and the far-right paramilitary group the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti followed and drug trafficking went unchecked.
Growing pressure finally prompted Bill Clinton to restore Aristide for the last year of his term, which was followed by that of his prime minister, Rene Preval. But later George W. Bush’s prompt response to Aristide’s second election was to block hundreds of millions in promised foreign aid, crippling his administration.
When Aristide called for France to refund Haitian payments of millions of francs by self-freed slaves over two centuries, we implemented the French-Canadian-U.S. “revolt” response finale. We kidnapped Aristide and removed him to Africa, again favoring violent repression of democrats and a succession of corrupt and/or incompetent U.S.-anointed presidents.

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USAID’s central concern remains keeping Haiti’s minimum wage, paid to the thousands of U.S. sweatshop workers, the lowest in the Caribbean. Haitian penury holds down wages throughout the region. Our interest in Haiti ends there.
After Nepalese U.N. troops caused a cholera epidemic in Haiti in 2010, we led in years of refused international responsibility as up to 10,000 people died of the disease in the decade that followed.
Our initial response to the devastating 2010 earthquake was troop deployment. Except for health care funding, little of the billions in earthquake and subsequent hurricane relief and pledged aid ever reached the Haitian street.
Meanwhile, oblivious to our debt to Haiti, Washington has maintained uniquely harsh denials of safe harbor to Haitian refugees, flying them all back to Haiti without a hearing. Flying them back to homelessness, joblessness, hunger, misery and gang violence.
The assassination of our latest anointed president, Haiti’s Jovenel Moïse, came as civil-sector organizing was demanding an end to government corruption and free elections. The Nov. 15 Bloomberg editorial called only for police order, with nary a word about free elections or respect for Haitian independence.
Rather, let civil-sector leaders invite U.N. assistance as it requires to end gang rule and install democratic governance. Then let Haitians make Haiti livable again, as they did first under Aristide and then under Preval.
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