Haiti Needs a Counter-Coup

October 02, 1991

The United States, which was so quick to mobilize world action against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, should rally the aid-givers to smother the coup in Haiti and restore its legitimate government. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected in an honest landslide last December and has inspired the Haitian people and the world with the possibility of honest government that does good. For that he was overthrown and barely escaped with his life.

The thugs have taken over Haiti again. The ghost of Duvalierism rules. This was a mutiny by a few mis-commanded troops because President Aristide, having swept the corrupt high command away from the abused and abusing army, did not give its successors -- nine officers -- the promotions to which they felt entitled. For that, dozens of Haitians had to die, the hopes of all six million were crushed and the legitimacy of a nation was junked.

Haiti is not self-sufficient. Days before his overthrow, President Aristide was telling the United Nations General Assembly that "Democracy has won for good," and pleading for aid. In Paris last July, donors assembled by the World Bank pledged some $350 million in aid. Previous thug rulers have stolen too much loot and the starving people have so overwhelmed the eco-system that Haiti cannot live (or pay its army) without foreign aid.

The United States, France and Venezuela have key roles to play. The army can be forced back into barracks, strongman Brig. Gen. Raoul Cedras can be discharged from service and democratically chosen government can be restored. And this can be done with firm international economic and diplomatic action short of military intervention.

Perhaps China, India and Romania, among others, will prevent U.N. Security Council mobilization of economic and diplomatic force because the troubles are internal and present no threat to world peace. In that case, the Security Council can be bypassed. The Organization of American States has a role to play. So does the European Community, which at French behest had become an aid-giver to Haiti. So do all Haiti's neighbors.

President Aristide should not be set up in comfortable exile in France as was his tyrannical predecessor, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. Rather the fiery revolutionary priest turned responsible politician should be restored to office. His rule has offered Haitians more collective self-respect and hope and even prospect of economic development than anything since the revolution establishing independence in 1804. Bring him back.

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