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Haiti’s History: Noam Chomsky Traces Underpinnings Of Aristide’s Ouster Back To 1991-1994 Coup

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We hear an excerpt of MIT professor Noam Chomsky speaking days before President Aristide was flown to the Central African Republic about the first coup against Aristide in the early 1990s. [includes transcript]

A few days before President Jean Bertrand Aristide was flown from Haiti to the Central African Republic, MIT professor Noam Chomsky spoke at the University of Massachusetts about Haiti and the brewing coup d’etat.

Noam Chomsky is an institute professor and professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His latest book is Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest For Global Dominance.

  • Noam Chomsky, speaking at the University of Massachusetts on February 24th, 2004.

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

NOAM CHOMSKY: In Haiti, you can read on the front pages of the main newspapers that death squad leaders are rampaging through the country. The death squad leaders, apart from a hideous record in the — in earlier years, were responsible for maybe 4,000 to 5,000 deaths during the period of the military junta in 1990, 1994 — 1991 to 1994. The military junta, though it’s — that much is reported, they were leaders of the military junta, which killed maybe 4,000 or 5,000 people than death squads did, the paramilitaries. What is not mentioned is that the military junta was supported by the Bush and the Clinton administrations. Inform, just quickly go over the background. There’s a long, ugly, horrifying history going back two centuries. But just starting in 1990, the Haiti did have its first free election in 1990. The U.S. had a candidate, World Bank official Mark Bean who would assume obviously win. He had all the money and everything else. Nobody was paying attention to what was going on in the slums and the streets and the hills and what was going on was pretty impressive. A lot of large-scale effective organizing among some of the poorest, most miserable people in the world and grassroots movements had developed with nobody paying any attention. Which were so powerful that when it did come to an election, they swept the election. The U.S. candidate got 14% of the vote and Aristide, President Aristide won by a very large majority, which shocked everybody. The United States instantly, instantly turned to overthrowing the government. It withdrew support from badly, desperately needed support from the government and not because the government was inefficient, it was getting very good marks from the international lending institutions and so on, but because it had broken the rules. It was a popular government that had been elected on the basis of large-scale grassroots organizing, all aid was withdrawn from the government. Aid was given, but only to the opposition.

Up until that point, under agreements first with carter and then intensified with Reagan, the U.S. had a virtual blockade around the island during the periods of the vicious military dictatorships that the U.S. was supporting to try to prevent people from escaping. That’s illegal, of course. It’s in gross violation of the universal declaration of human rights and conventional humanitarian law. But anyway, that’s what was going on. They changed it when Aristide was elected. For the first time, Haitians were allowed to come to the United States and accept political asylum, not when they were being tortured by Duvalier’s thugs. It didn’t matter too much because very few people were trying to get out. In fact, during that moment of hope, people for the first time were trying to get in. But if anyone was trying to get out, they were, for the first time, allowed to be called political refugees. When the coup took place, it was anticipated seven months later, it reversed. Then nobody could flee again because they weren’t political refugees. The organization of American states called an embargo after the military coup, bush was then president, announced right away that the U.S. Would disregards it. It would permit U.S. Firms to break the embargo to continue providing aid, commerce with the military junta and the rich backers. The press did report this, New York Times reported it. There was an effort to fine-tune embargo for the benefit of the Haitian poor. And namely by allowing U.S. firms to violate the embargo. That passed without comment. And, in fact, traded with Haiti continued, extended under Clinton, even further. The crucial element in the embargo, any embargo as oil to Haiti, the military would — and the rich elite would run out and wouldn’t be able to continue if they didn’t have oil.

The C.I.A. was testifying solemnly to congress that no oil was getting in. I was there for some of the time. I’ve been in a lot of horrible places. I’ve never seen people so terrorized and terrified, just afraid to open their mouths. All you had to do is walk around the streets of Port-Au-Prince to see the C.I.A. Was lying. You could seeds the oil forms that were bill. You could go to the harbor and see the ships coming in with the oil. But the pretense was maintained that the U.S. Was not permitting oil toll go in. It later turned out that the bush and the Clinton administrations had authorized Texaco Oil Corporation to circumvent presidential directives and supply the oil illegally to the gangsters who were torturing and terrorizing the population that has yet to be printed outside of the business press. it was known in1994 and the dissident press, of course, which isn’t subject to those constraints. Finally, in 1994, Clinton decided that the population had been tortured enough and the president was permitted to return. That is described, and like I said, you don’t read the front pains, but what you do read is that this was a magnificent act of humanitarian intervention, pure altruism entering the noble phase of foreign policy as we restored the democratically elected president in 1994. Continuing with what isn’t reported, the president was indeed allowed to return, but on a condition, namely the condition that he accept the program of the defeated U.S. candidate in the 1990 election who had gotten 14% of the vote. That is a very harsh neo-liberal program, which opens Haiti up to complete takeover by foreign, meaning U.S., mainly corporations, no constraints. It was bound to be an economic disaster for what shreds of the economy remained. It’s a familiar program. It has just been imposed on Iraq by the pro-counsel, Paul Bremer, Order 39 last October declares that Iraq — the Iraq economy must be open to and takeover by foreign, namely U.S., multinationals, the bank, U.S. banks, J.P. Morgan and others have to be able to take over the financial institutions, which means essentially running the economy and everything else can be brought up by the foreign, mainly U.S., businesses. No sovereign country would ever accept that.

But this is a country under military occupation. The business classes in Iraq are protesting because they know they can’t withstand international competition trust massively subsidized U.S. multinationals. But it doesn’t matter. Bremer also imposed a 15% top tax. The Bush administration’s delight. Again, no sovereign country would accept that. It’s program like that that Adam Smith was complaining about. As a matter of fact, it’s programs like that, forced into position of market principles on countries under military occupation, now that’s basically what’s created what’s today the third world. The rich countries are, including the United States, have never accepted such rules and if the — actually, it is interesting. Adam smith urged the U.S. colonies, this is 1776, to pursue comparative advantage to do what they were good at. What they were good at was agricultural production. You know, catching beavers, sending fish to England. They’d concentrate on that. That was the best way to maximize efficiency. But don’t try to develop industry. That would be crazy because British industry’s far more efficient, which was true and you’ll just be harming overall efficiency if you try to develop your own industry. Well, you know, same laws for India. But India had to accept them because they were under occupation. The U.S. was able to throw the British out and disregards the advice, which happens to be the same advice that economists are now giving to the poor countries of the world. And that violated the principles of comparative advantage and economic efficiency and developed its own industry and the story goes on from there. If the U.S. Had followed the rules, the ones now imposed on Iraq and Haiti and others, we would be not here, we would be maybe a couple of us would be around talking in some hut somewhere while we’re off to catch fish to send to evening land or something, pursuing our comparative advantage. Anyhow, Haiti had to accept that as a condition on the return of the elected president, that is the great humanitarian achievement.

Well, it was — what was predicted as once happened, the remnants of Haitian economic functioning were destroyed, of course. Haitian farmers, rice farmer, for example, happened to be quite efficient, they were producing rice efficiently at a high quality, which was feeding the population and now you read that Haiti can’t feed itself, which is correct. Haiti fish farmers cannot begin to compete with U.S. Agri-business which maybe gets 40% of its profits from subsidies granted to it by the Reaganites under free market doctrine t way it actually works. The same happened with just about whatever was left. And one of the few businesses that was actually functioning in Haiti was making chicken parts. But it turned out — turns out that Americans don’t like dark meat. So, there’s lots of extra dark meat lying around here and companies like Tyson don’t want to throw it out. They would like to force other countries to buy it at dumped prices. So, they dumped dark meat on Haiti. They fried to do it in Canada and Mexico, but those countries are able to impose barriers to dumping. However, Haiti wasn’t allowed to because of the condition for their freedom so that industry was wiped out. And so it goes case after case. And the result is complete chaos, destruction, what you see today on the front pages. Well, that is the background. Now let’s come to the doctrine of the Bush doctrine.

The head of the paramilitary forces that are now rampaging once again in Haiti is a gentleman named Emanuel Constant who is living happily in Queens. There is no question about his responsibility. He’s already been tried in absentia in Haitian courts and no one questions that he was the leader of terrorist forces. Haiti has made several efforts to have the United States extradite him, but they rarely even get a response. Some of these are interesting. The timing is interesting. One request was on September 30 2000 1. That was right in the middle of the furor over the fact that the Taliban are unwilling to turn over to us someone who the U.S. Accuses of terrorism without providing any evidence. You know, a big topic, if we’re going to bomb Afghanistan. Haiti required extradition of Emanuel Constant. It was mentioned in the sort of back pages, but obviously no response. Just not their kind of thing.

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