by Global Women’s Strike
The universal condemnation of the military coup in Honduras by Latin American governments is unprecedented. Everyone is clear that if this dictatorship is allowed to stay in power, no democratically elected government is safe. Just as we were finally leaving behind decades of dictatorships imposed or backed by the U.S., massacres and disappearances; just as President Obama promised a more respectful relationship between the U.S. and the rest of America – we are faced with another coup with U.S. military complicity.
But while the Hondurans’ struggle for the return of their elected and then deposed President Manuel Zelaya receives the support it deserves, the Haitians who struggle to regain their elected and then deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have been denied that support.
In 2004 President Aristide, a liberation theology priest with a 91.8 percent mandate from the 2000 election, was forced into exile by a U.S. military coup backed by Canada and France. Two months later U.N. forces occupied Haiti legitimizing the coup.
Some of the governments now working for the return of Zelaya have been collaborating with the occupation of Haiti. The U.N. occupying forces are headed by the Brazilian military and include troops from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Only Caricom, English-speaking nations in the Caribbean, and Venezuela have refused to be involved, along with Cuba, which has continued to provide doctors.
Aristide was removed because he dared to try to bring Haitians “from destitution to poverty.” His policies did not suit the elites of Haiti and the U.S., which profit from sweatshops, privatization and the import of rice, which has destroyed local agriculture and brought starvation. Like Zelaya in Honduras and Chávez in Venezuela, who also faced a coup in 2002, Aristide increased the minimum wage and invested in food security, health and education.
The U.N. occupation has been responsible for many rapes, disappearances like that of Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine and murders, most recently in June 2009 when they opened fire on mourners at the funeral of Father Jean-Juste, another liberation theology priest, killing one of the mourners.
In February 2009 we wrote to President Evo Morales of Bolivia to respectfully ask that he withdraws his troops from Haiti. We felt that as an Indigenous president who has faced huge racist attacks because he represents a grassroots movement determined to eliminate poverty and discrimination, he would be most likely to respond to the people of Haiti. See the letter at www.globalwomenstrike.net/Haiti/lettertoEvoMoralesMarch09.htm.
The letter was delivered to President Morales via his sister, Esther Morales Ayma, and by the Bolivian ambassador to London, Beatriz Souviron. We have received no reply to date.
We urge you to endorse and circulate this letter. We urge you also to write to other Latin American governments which are collaborating with the occupation of Haiti.
The world owes a great debt to the Haitian people, whose 1804 revolution overthrew slavery, making way for emancipation in the region and for liberation and anti-colonial movements everywhere.
Haitians have never given up. Their determination was in evidence once again when they boycotted the June 2009 elections from which President Aristide’s party Fanmi Lavalas was banned. Despite huge U.S. funding to get out the vote, only 3 percent voted – a triumph of organization and solidarity from which we can all learn!
Commenting on recent U.S. involvement in Honduras, President Chávez said, “Obama is a prisoner of the Empire.” Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has referred to “interests that may want to change the direction” begun at the Summit of the Americas, held in April 2009 in Trinidad and Tobago.
Some suspect that Honduras may be a U.S. military coup against not only Zelaya but Obama too. Others worry that Obama has given in to the military and their Washington hawks. We know that friends of the Clintons have been speaking for the coup in Honduras, and that the U.S. has announced the building of seven additional military bases in Colombia, to the condemnation of the whole region.
It is clear to us that after the people of Venezuela defeated the coup against their president in 2002, both the imperialist and the national racist elites were weakened. But the acceptance of the 2004 coup in Haiti allowed them to regroup. The Honduras coup would have been less likely if Latin American governments had refused to collaborate with the U.S. in Haiti.
Let’s use Latin America’s new-found unity on Honduras to demand the return not only of Zelaya but of Aristide. Invest in caring, not killing.
The Global Women’s Strike network, with national coordinations in 13 countries and participating organizations in over 60 countries, is demanding the return of military budgets to the community, beginning with women, the main carers of people and the planet. Learn more at www.globalwomenstrike.net.