Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Just posted on the Narcosphere, some thoughts on Robert Novak's recent Haiti piece:

This was my first visit here since 1993, prior to Aristide's restoration, and Haiti is even more a Third World backwater. The radical president's reign left a country without electricity, passable roads or public schools, with a devastated economy and, according to LaTortue, a looted treasury.

Interviewed in his office, the prime minister told me: "The public finance is in crisis. They (the Aristide regime) took everything they could from the reserve of the country." His estimate: "over $1 billion" stolen in four weeks.

If Aristide had stolen a billion dollars from the treasury, you'd think he would have been able to afford a better security force...

A second return of Aristide as a free man is ruled out. Boniface Alexandre, the Supreme Court chief justice who became provisional president upon Aristide's resignation under Haiti's constitution, is a careful jurist who measures his words — except when it comes to Aristide.

"He cannot come back to Haiti," Alexandre told me. Aristide will return only if it is decided to indict and extradite him, Justice Minister Bernard Grousse informed me.

Of course the existing indictments of some of Latortue's "freedom fighters" for murder can be safely ignored.

I found the fear among many Haitians that John Kerry as president (under Congressional Black Caucus pressure) will return Aristide. The Democratic candidate should consider the experience of Mary Louise Baker, for 33 years co-owner of a five-building apparel factory in the Cite Soleil (pro-Aristide) slum — employing 700 people and feeding 7,000.

On Feb. 27, two days before Aristide left, some 200 heavily armed pro-Aristide gang members entered the Baker plant to loot and destroy equipment, leaving it an empty shell.

I asked Mrs. Baker whether she will rebuild. "I will have to see what happens here, whether you Americans send Aristide back again," she replied.

Such widespread doubt stalls economic recovery for this tragic land.

Because of course the problems of this "tragic land" only matter if they impact American politics.

I'd stick to random accusations of racism and outing CIA assets if I were you, Robert.

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