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2004-03-04

Rep. Barbara Lee Criticizes U.S. "Systematic Destabilization and Undermining of Democracy in Haiti"

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Rep. Barbara Lee compares the administration’s policies in Haiti to the invasion of Iraq and talks about the systematic embargo and the disallowance of funding for humanitarian projects in Haiti such as health education and clean water efforts. [includes transcript]

  • * Rep. Barbara Lee*, Democrat from California and member of the Black Congressional Caucus.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Barbara Lee, who also questioned the Assistant Secretary of State Noriega yesterday in the House hearing. Congress member Lee, I was reading last night, Paul Farmer’s book, "The Uses of Haiti." Looking at Toussaint Louverture, one of the Haitian heroes. In 1802, right before Haitian independence, he went to meet with Napoleon’s brother-in-law, a Captain General. Instead, he thought he was going for peace talks. They captured him, Toussaint Louverture, and they took him to France where he died an isolated and lonely death. Aristide, of course, says he left the country leaving Toussaint Louverture Airport. Did you see similarities here?

REP. BARBARA LEE: Thank you for continuing to stay on this. I think yesterday’s hearings pointed out some of the real similarities and continuity, unfortunately, with regard to the U.S. policy toward Haiti. When I asked Assistant Secretary Noriega about the safety of President and Mrs. Aristide and their family, he indicated that the United States could not ensure the safety of them, and we all know, you know, they’re in a country where there’s no United States embassy. It appears that they’re very isolated, and it is appalling to me that while the president had no idea where they were going, the State Department was telling us Saturday night and Sunday morning that they were going to a destination of their choosing.

AMY GOODMAN: Hmm.

REP. BARBARA LEE: I am very concerned. So, one, the safety and security and health and well-being of the president and his family, and secondly, the Haitian people because certainly the conditions there and the situation is very unstable. The Haitian people deserve a life that they have never had as a result of our policy. I have witnessed systematic, and I think all of us know there has been systematic destabilization, systematic undermining of democracy in Haiti. Systematic embargo and the disallowance of funding for humanitarian projects, for clean water efforts, for health education efforts. Haiti has the largest HIV/AIDS rate in the Caribbean. It’s unconscionable that our country, because they–for whatever reason–did not like President Aristide, tried to not only destroy President Aristide, but also the entire country.

JUAN GONZALES: And in the hearings yesterday you made some comparisons to the situation in Iraq, with Haiti. Could you review some of those for our viewers and listeners?

REP. BARBARA LEE: Well, you know, I think what we have to really understand is that this country continues to talk about democracy throughout the world and promote democracy. It will invade countries, and kill people–such as in Iraq–to establish its form of democracy. I think what I have learned and continue to believe is that it’s only democracy where the United States can have some form of control. We spent $87 billion-plus in Iraq, not to mention the money that’s going to be appropriated later this year in Iraq in terms of reconstruction efforts and in terms of really fending off this guerrilla war. But yet, here in the western hemisphere, in a black nation, the poorest in the western hemisphere of 8 million people, we can’t support democracy and cannot allow the country to participate in the democratic process. Rather, we support and engage in and give a wink and a nod to thugs and murderers who want to overthrow the government. In essence, what I think we have done is supported a coup d’etat in Haiti, and turned our back on democracy. I think that’s a shame.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Lee, finally, how you addressed the issue of the ridiculing of the charges that Aristide was kidnapped. Explain why you think it’s important to continually question the administration?

REP. BARBARA LEE: It’s important that we continue to question the administration because clearly there’s a big discrepancy there. Clearly, they’re withholding, I think, the true facts. Clearly, President Aristide has communicated to many individuals here, and he has stated what has happened, and I believe that it is incumbent upon to us get the facts to make sure that he’s protected and not allow Colin Powell, which he said publicly that what we were saying was nonsense, that this is the part of the conspiracy theory. You know, I think it’s very shameful that they would question or at least make these allegations against members of Congress. Several of us are calling for congressional investigations. I’m going to be introducing with Congressman Conyers and others a resolution to establish an independent commission to look at what happened. We have got to investigate this from a variety of points, and wherever we want our committees to look into this, the intelligence committee, the international relations committee, and the judiciary, independent commissions ...

JUAN GONZALES: Congresswoman, I’d like to ask you one last question. Is there any discussion about the possibility of some members of congress going to the Central African Republic to see President Aristide since apparently some journalists are having trouble getting visas to get into the country?

REP. BARBARA LEE: There are discussions with regards to members of Congress participating in all activities with regards to investigating the facts around this, how we — how we bring the truth to the American people and also to make sure that the president and his family and his wife are secure and not under the type of cloud and the type of intimidation and the type of repression that we hope they’re not dealing with. So I think it’s very important for members of Congress and others to really look at what is going on with President Aristide — how we do that is going to be left up to how we figure out how to do it.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Lee, I want to thank you very much for being with us. This is Democracy Now! When we return, we go from Haiti to Venezuela. Stay with us.

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