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"Progressive" Latin American Leaders Support the Coup in Haiti

After a coup d’etat planned, coordinated, and executed by the most reactionary elements in Haiti, with the substantial material support of the governments of the United States and its ever-obedient Dominican Republic, the proud nation of Haiti is again under foreign military occupation. The shameful fact, however, is that this time the occupation is being carried out by not only by the French, whose savage imperial history there is well known, and by the Canadians (perennial handmaidens of the US), but by Argentina, Brazil, and Chile–three nations who have themselves been victimized by the covert operations establishment of the United States, and governments who are making the now-specious claim that they are “progressive.”

The Haitian people and their popular organizations are utterly astonished by this grotesque betrayal and unabashed political opportunism. More than one Haitian with whom I spoke while there for three weeks in June posed the question: How will these allegedly leftist governments respond when and if we attack them?

This was not a rhetorical question.

Almost everyone with whom I spoke said explicitly that they would welcome such an attack as a needed catalyst to initiate another general uprising. The spectrum of opinion on this question ranged from those who merely asserted that attacking occupiers was a right, to those who said it will become a patriotic duty. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not speak with the macouto-bourgeois faction in Port-au-Prince who had been on the payroll of the US Embassy, via the International Republican Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy.

In fact, I spoke with few urban dwellers at all. On this trip, it seemed appropriate — given the demagogy about democracy with which we are constantly assailed — to go where the Haitian majority lives: the countryside. I encountered not a single peasant (at least in the Central Plateau) who accepted Latortue or anyone else in the de facto government appointed by the United States. They regard them not even with fear, but with derision as fools. What might surprise those unfamiliar with Haiti was how well many peasants understand the paradox of these Latin American occupiers. Almost all had heard of the landless peasants’ movement in Brazil, and wondered if these kinds of formations in Latin America might not rise up against their own governments for participating in the consolidation of the coup d’etat in Haiti.

The timing of this coup d’etat–Haitians believe, and I agree–on the bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution constitutes an intentional humiliation of Haiti, shepherded as it was by Roger Noriega, former aid to arch-racist Jesse Helms. That intent festers with every passing day in the sullen and smoldering determination that this will not stand.

The people of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile (A,B, & C) should perhaps grasp the ABC of American covert operations better than their ostensible leaders. Lending the US a hand in one imperial enterprise will not protect them from the predations of the US. In fact, it only strengthens the hand of the US foreign policy establishment to commit the same crimes against them when it’s expedient. That applies to the liberal US establishment — now out of power — that wants to increment its domination through financial structures, but it applies even more immediately to the black-shirted reactionaries of this administration who, if we look closely, are an aging replication of the self-same clique that brought us the Iran-Contra-Cocaine scandal — men who left thousands of Latin American bodies in their wakes.

Has Argentina’s Kirchner forgotten the US’s supportive role during the Dirty War? Has Chile’s Lagos forgotten 1973 and the CIA attack on Chilean popular sovereignty? And has Brazil’s de Silva developed amnesia with regard to Goulart’s ouster at the hands of the same CIA in 1964?

How is it, then, that these nations, of all nations, can send their militaries to prop up the transparent coup d’etat against yet another democratically elected government? How have they become obliged, in the face of their own histories of struggle against US plotters and assassins, to support this racist subjugation of a fellow Latin American nation?

Driving through Gonaives, I saw pimply-faced youth in Canadian uniforms waving from atop their armored personnel carriers in the apparent expectation that they will be received with accolades — a la the Chalabi hallucination of cheering crowds in Iraq — only to be met with hostility and contempt from the street. The flags of A,B, & C snapped in the wind from behind barricades at Toussaint L’Overture Airport in Port-au-Prince, but the post-pubescent lads from those countries will soon be pushed out into Haiti’s genpop, and it is inevitable that some will be attacked.

How will these governments — all claiming to be progressive — explain themselves to their own general populations then? The United Nations imprimatur will be cold comfort indeed for the families of the fallen and a puny poultice for the political wounds resulting not from the actions of an external Right, like the manufactured crisis that culminated in the kidnapping of Aristide in Haiti, but from the home grown Left in A, B, & C themselves.

This acquiescence — no, collaboration — with the diktat of the US will not loosen the parasitic grip of the Imperial Center on a single Latin American, nor will it ameliorate that Center’s intent to continue exploiting the entire region until it is used up and dead. This pious fantasy that cooperation will be rewarded has been the downfall of many a leader, including Aristide who was taken from his home after calling for “peaceful mobilization” even in the faced of murderous paramilitaries.

It looks more and more, at least to this writer, like there are only three Latin American leaders left with a spine — Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Manuel Marulanda. With the commitment of troops to the coup against Haitian popular sovereignty, Kirchner, de Silva, and Lagos have displayed a craven disregard for their own people and for their own histories. They now stand objectively as allies of Jesse Helms — a man who praised D’Abuisson’s death squads, and who never relented in his commitment to American Apartheid.

May they all admit this terrible error and quit Haiti now, or may history mark them with shame.

STAN GOFF is the author of “Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti” (Soft Skull Press, 2000) and of the upcoming book “Full Spectrum Disorder” (Soft Skull Press, 2003). He is a member of the BRING THEM HOME NOW! coordinating committee, a retired Special Forces master sergeant, and the father of an active duty soldier. Email for BRING THEM HOME NOW! is bthn@mfso.org.

Goff can be reached at: sherrynstan@igc.org

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