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How Our Governments Snuffed Out a Democracy And Kidnapped a President: A Modern Parable

While Americans are fighting and losing their lives halfway around the world in Afghanistan and Iraq to build democracy here’s a story from a lot closer to home of how we respond  to a democracy that gets too democratic. The country of Haiti.

From HuffingtonPost Johann Hari

Columnist for the London Independent

Posted: September 17, 2010 06:23 AM

“All this left Haiti the most unequal country in the world. A tiny elite lives in vast villas in the hills, while below and all around them, the overwhelming majority of the population live in tiny tin shacks with no water or electricity, crammed six-to-a-room. Just 1 percent own 50 percent of the wealth and 75 percent of the arable land. Once the Haitian people were finally able to rise up in 1986 and demand democracy, they obviously wanted the country’s wealth to be shared more fairly. They began to organize into a political movement called Lavalas — the flood — to demand higher wages and higher taxes on the rich to build schools and hospitals and subsidies for the half-starved poor. This panicked the elite.

And nobody panicked them more than a thin, softly-spoken, intellectual slum-priest named Aristide who found himself at the crest of this wave. He was born into a bitterly poor family. He became a brilliant student and studied to be a priest in his cluster of tin shacks. He soon became one of the leading exponents of Liberation Theology, the left-wing Catholicism that says people shouldn’t wait passively for the Kingdom of Heaven to seek justice for the poor, but must demand it here and now. (The current Pope tried bitterly to stamp out this ‘heresy’.) Aristide explained: “The rich of my country, a tiny percentage, sit at a vast table overflowing with good food, while the rest of my countrymen are crowded under that table, hunched in the dirt and starving. One day the people under the table will rise up in righteousness. It is our mission to help them stand up and live as human beings.”

On this platform, he was elected in 1990 in a landslide in the country’s first free and fair election, taking 64 percent of the vote, and was compared across the world to Nelson Mandela. He kept his promise to the Haitian people. He increased the minimum wage from 38 cents a day to $1, demanding the multinational corporations that employed the island’s population pay a less insulting wage. He trebled the number of free secondary schools. He disbanded the murderous US-armed national army that has terrorized the population. Brian Concannon, head of the Institute for Democracy and Justice in Haiti, says: “It is impossible to overestimate the impact of this accomplishment on the lives of average Haitians. It has been called the greatest human rights development in Haiti since emancipation, and it is wildly popular.”

Even the International Monetary Fund had to admit that over the period he was in charge and just after, Haiti’s Human Poverty Indicator — a measure of how likely your kids are to die, starve or go uneducated — dropped dramatically from 46.2 percent to 31.8 percent.”

To read the entire post click here.

Some clips of Haiti in the 1940’s from MindsiMedia

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