Haiti Investigation Instigated

Despite U.S. pressure, Caribbean nations force an examination into Aristide’s removal

Brian H. Kehrl

On June 9, after a nasty, two-month diplo­mat­ic bat­tle between the Caribbean Com­mu­ni­ty (Cari­com) and the U.S. State Depart­ment, the Orga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS) passed a res­o­lu­tion call­ing for a for­mal inves­ti­ga­tion into the removal of for­mer Hait­ian Pres­i­dent Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Although the Bush admin­is­tra­tion attempt­ed to keep the dubi­ous con­di­tions sur­round­ing the ouster of Aris­tide from turn­ing into anoth­er unsight­ly for­eign pol­i­cy pock­mark, it found a sur­pris­ing­ly obdu­rate oppo­nent in Cari­com, a fed­er­a­tion of 15 Caribbean nations.

The Unit­ed States threat­ened to impose an arms embar­go against Jamaica, the most out­spo­ken mem­ber of Cari­com. Con­doleez­za Rice warned of pos­si­ble mil­i­tary recourse against Jamaica for har­bor­ing Aris­tide. And the Unit­ed States with­drew in protest from a pre­vi­ous­ly sched­uled region­al con­fer­ence on ter­ror­ism and inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty. Still, Cari­com, while pledg­ing its sup­port for the peo­ple in the poor­est coun­try in the West­ern Hemi­sphere, refused to rec­og­nize the U.S.-backed régime of Ger­ard Latortue in Haiti.

After ini­tial­ly call­ing for a U.N. inves­ti­ga­tion, a call fil­i­bus­tered by Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil mem­bers France and the Unit­ed States, Cari­com peti­tioned the OAS, where it had addi­tion­al sup­port from Venezuela.

In their request for the OAS inves­ti­ga­tion, Cari­com invoked Arti­cle 20 of the Inter-Amer­i­can Demo­c­ra­t­ic Char­ter. Signed by both the Unit­ed States and Cari­com, the char­ter calls for a col­lec­tive assess­ment” of the con­di­tions in the event of an uncon­sti­tu­tion­al alter­ation of the con­sti­tu­tion­al régime that seri­ous­ly impairs the demo­c­ra­t­ic order in a Mem­ber State.”

Despite get­ting the inves­ti­ga­tion it want­ed, Cari­com con­tin­ues to refuse to acknowl­edge the legit­i­ma­cy of the Latortue government.

After stints in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic and Jamaica, on May 30 Aris­tide set­tled in South Africa, where he still main­tains that he was force­ful­ly and unwit­ting­ly removed by U.S. forces. I didn’t resign. What some peo­ple call res­ig­na­tion’ is a new coup d’etat, or mod­ern kid­nap­ping,” Aris­tide said in an inter­view with Amy Good­man of Democ­ra­cy Now. They broke the con­sti­tu­tion­al order by using force to have me out of the country.”

The State Depart­ment denies all charges of wrong­do­ing, say­ing that the Unit­ed States mere­ly gave Aris­tide a free ride out of the coun­try. U.S. Ambas­sador to the OAS, John Mais­to, says the ouster of Aris­tide was con­sti­tu­tion­al and argues that Arti­cle 20 can­not be invoked. If Aristide’s ouster was uncon­sti­tu­tion­al,” he said to The Asso­ci­at­ed Press on June 9, how can you have a gov­ern­ment in place that is con­sti­tu­tion­al and legal?”

When asked in March about the State Department’s hes­i­ta­tion to go along with the inves­ti­ga­tion, spokesman Richard Bouch­er said, We just don’t think it’s necessary.”

Aris­tide, who has been accused of fos­ter­ing cor­rup­tion and human rights vio­la­tions while serv­ing as pres­i­dent, says he will return to Haiti in tri­umph. Dia­logue can be one of the best ways to pave the way for my return and to con­tin­ue work­ing with the Hait­ian peo­ple and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to make democ­ra­cy flour­ish [in Haiti],” he said at a press con­fer­ence in South Africa.

The Bush admin­is­tra­tion how­ev­er has no inten­tion of resum­ing any dia­logue with Aris­tide. Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of State Roger Nor­ie­ga faults Aris­tide for fail­ing to put an end to the process of vio­lence, author­i­tar­i­an­ism and con­fronta­tion that has plagued that coun­try since its inde­pen­dence 200 years ago.”

Bri­an H. Kehrl, the for­mer edi­tor of Sifter mag­a­zine, is a reporter based in Wash­ing­ton D.C.
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