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John Catalinotto, The Carter Visit

By John Catalinotto, in Workers World,
9 March 1995

On the weekend of Feb. 25-26 the United States government tried to reassert its role as occupying power in Haiti with a three-day visit by former President Jimmy Carter, former head of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell and Sen. Sam Nunn. The visit had mixed results.

There was no doubt it was an arrogant show of power. Carter told Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide he should "stay neutral" in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Carter was obviously far from neutral with this intervention against Aristide's party.

Carter also met with all the parties and groups opposing Aristide, including those that backed the 1991 military coup. According to one right-wing leader, the former U.S. president urged the various rightist and militarist groups to get together to more effectively oppose the pro-Aristide forces.

Many in Haiti rightfully see Carter as a protector of the military coup leaders. He negotiated the agreement that got the U.S. military in without a fight but left the coup leaders unpunished. Aside from a few top government officials, many coup supporters remain in positions of power.

During the U.S.-United Nations occupation, the masses of people have brought army or paramilitary criminals to the occupying forces, hoping they would be punished. U.S. policy has been to let these people go free, even though some of them were known killers.

When Carter arrived in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, he found the walls covered with graffiti reading "Carter go home," "Carter, lawyer for soldiers and thugs" and less polite slogans. The graffiti expressed the sentiments of a large section of the Haitian masses, who have grown disillusioned with the results of the U.S. occupation.

Among Aristide's aides there was also outrage at Carter's direct intervention into the Haitian elections. According to a Washington Post report, a Haitian senior official said: "It is bizarre and mad to ask a president not to get involved politically. It is terrible, terrible, and it is arrogant."

Aristide himself had originally invited Carter, and made no public statement criticizing the U.S. envoy.

While Aristide has been a captive of the U.S. occupation, that doesn't mean every step his government takes has U.S. approval. Earlier in the week of Carter's visit, U.S. officials told Aristide he should get rid of two high military officers. On Feb. 21, Aristide followed this suggestion, but also got rid of the 41 other top army officers, including all four generals, along with the commander of the interim national police force.