Not much to celebrate as Haiti observes 200 years of independence What others say

Posted: Monday, January 26, 2004

The BBC says Haitians are observing the 200th anniversary of their independence this month. Observing, maybe. There is little to celebrate.

Twice, the United States tried to rescue Haiti, and twice it failed miserably.

Woodrow Wilson sent the Marines to stop political violence, but it resumed when they left. Bill Clinton dispatched troops to restore democracy. What they really did was restore power to Jean-Bertrand Aristide who, having effectively dissolved parliament, rules as a dictator.

Virtually all industries have dried up since Aristide's disputed 2000 re-election, except drug trafficking. Despite his class-warfare rhetoric as a candidate, there are only two classes very wealthy and extremely impoverished.

By per capita income, reports, Haitians have just 60 percent of what they had in 1800.

Crime is rampant, and the average life span only 49 years. Political unrest is widespread; tens of thousands of anti-Aristide protesters showed up for a march in the capital city earlier this month. The protests frequently turn violent, and often people are killed. Extrajudicial executions and torture aren't uncommon.

Economic problems were compounded when foreign nations froze aid after fraudulent elections. Aristide, ever the demagogue, told his people that the world was conspiring to make slaves out of them by "embargoing" and "blockading" aid that rightfully belonged to them. September will mark the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion to "restore democracy." Members of the former administration may be tipping champagne glasses, but don't look for the Haitian people to join them. They're too busy demonstrating against Aristide, scrounging for food and looking for a raft ride to Florida.

Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville - Jan. 24

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