by BAR editor and columnist Jemima Pierre
Nobody forced President Obama to further oppress the proud people of Haiti. “Obama’s actions in Haiti prove that a Black president is as effective at preserving U.S empire and white supremacy.” Obama allowed mass murderer “Baby Doc” Duvalier to return, but he “personally called President Jacob Zuma, twice, to stop” democratically elected former president Aristide’s return from South African exile.
Don’t Blame Republicans for Obama’s Actions in Haiti
by BAR editor and columnist Jemima Pierre
“In his dealings with Haiti, Obama has exceeded the cruelness of his predecessors.”
Black people continue to justify their support for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party by claiming that his policies are constrained by an intransigent Congress and the Republican Party’s racist tactics. However, we can’t blame Republicans for Obama’s policy in Haiti. And, in fact, since taking office, Obama’s actions in Haiti prove that a Black president is as effective at preserving U.S empire and white supremacy.
For example, following the January 2010 earthquake, Obama sent in the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) to “secure” Port-au-Prince’s Toussaint Louverture International Airport. By the third day after the earthquake, SOUTHCOM deployed a military force of 22,268 personnel in Haiti. At the same time the country was surrounded with a flotilla of US Navy and Coast Guard ships, as Hillary Clinton declared full command of Haiti’s airport and airspace by the US. The US restricted entry into and exit from the country by air while inhibiting or diverting humanitarian missions from other nations. Fifteen days after the earthquake, in addition to the large number of military personnel, there were newly stationed in Haiti 23 Navy ships, 10 Coast Guard cutters, 264 fixed-wing aircraft, and 57 helicopters. All this was said to be for US security purposes – not to aid in the country’s recovery efforts. It was clearly a military intervention under the guise of disaster relief.
“We can’t blame Republicans for Obama’s policy in Haiti.”
Around the same time, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to aggressively prevent Haitian attempts to migrate to the US. They activated Operation “Vigilent Sentry” making use of the large naval flotilla surrounding the island to intercept, detain, and repatriate any Haitian refugee thought to be heading to the US. ICE also threatened to proceed with its scheduled deportations of undocumented Haitian immigrants. It wasn’t until activists complained that the administration extended Temporary Protection Status to Haitians – an extension which lasted only 18 months.
It turns out that the heavy military presence in Haiti soon after the earthquake was part of Obama’s larger strategy to create a military counterpoint to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. To conceal this reality, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were quickly chosen to lead the US civilian response. The US then established the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission that, with Clinton as co-chair, effectively controlled every aspect of Haiti’s economics and politics. In other words, as this proud Black nation struggled to emerged from yet another unthinkable disaster, the Black US president not only forcefully affirmed the theft of the country’s sovereignty, but he established as overseers two of the most effective representatives of white supremacy – Clinton and Bush.
“The Black US president forcefully affirmed the theft of the country’s sovereignty.”
Nothing, however, beats the Obama administration’s hijacking of the Haitian electoral process in Haiti. Soon after the earthquake, the US, along with France and Canada forced national elections in Haiti, even as Haiti remained under military occupation, administered by a 14,000 strong US controlled, UN-led force in the country. The 2010 - 2011 elections banned the largest grassroots political party in Haiti, Fanmi Lavalas, resulting in less than 20% of the eligible voters participating. Randall White, of haitiaction.net, writes that many were “stunned that the Obama administration had made it a priority to spend a disproportionate amount of resources and political capital to subvert Haiti’s elections” while the rest of the world was focused on the revolution in Northern Africa and Japan’s nuclear meltdown.
Indeed, in the lead up to the second round of the elections, Haiti’s former dictator and mass murderer, Jean Claude Duvalier, abruptly returned to Haiti. The Obama administration barely reacted. But when former president Jean Bertrand President Aristide, who had been living in exile in South Africa since he was ousted by the Bush II administration in 2004, decided to return to his home country, Obama’s administration went into high gear to prevent it. In fact, Obama personally called President Jacob Zuma, twice, to stop Aristide’s return. He also persuaded France and UN secretary, Ban Ki Moon, to follow up with further threats. Even after South Africa defied the request and returned Aristide to Haiti, the Obama administration was able to install its puppet, neo-Duvalierist, Michel Martelly, as president. Bill Clinton’s former aide was later named Prime Minister for good measure.
“Many were stunned that the Obama administration had made it a priority to subvert Haiti’s elections.”
And Martelly has proven to be the dictator-in-making that the US obviously wants for Haiti. He doesn't have much support among the masses, he’s belligerent, corrupt, and has begun reinstituting Haiti’s army using rogue elements from Haiti’s old paramilitary forces. At the same time, he has opened Haiti’s many newly found resources to foreign corporate interests. All this with the blessing, if not mandate, of his US and European patrons who continue to strip all social, economic, natural, and political resources of this small Black country. Take, for example, the Caracol industrial park planned for northern Haiti. It is said to be funded by the so-called reconstruction money allocated by US aid agencies, but is both an environmental disaster, and a clear cover for US exploitation of the vast mineral and oil reserves.
In his dealings with Haiti, then, Obama has exceeded the cruelness of his predecessors. Republicans did not force his hand. In Haiti, Obama has acted consciously and decisively on behalf of US empire. And generations of Haitians will pay for his deeds. US Blacks who would rather blame Republicans for this presidency’s failings – while turning a blind eye to its blatant violations of international human rights and sovereignty – are enablers of this country’s morally repugnant actions at home and abroad. They are also placing themselves in direct confrontation with the struggle for global Black emancipation. It is time for the rest of us to “break ranks,” as W. E. B. Du Bois once suggested, and find new alliances apart from this narrow, pro-imperial US Blackness.
Jemima Pierre can be reached at [email protected].