On the morning of February 29, 2004, I was asleep in Oakland, Calif., having gone to that city to deliver a speech. My cell phone went off around 6am, and a voice announced herself as a journalist from a major media outlet. She asked me, in my then capaci
On the morning of February 29, 2004, I was asleep in Oakland, Calif., having gone to that city to deliver a speech. My cell phone went off around 6am, and a voice announced herself as a journalist from a major media outlet. She asked me, in my then capacity as President of TransAfrica Forum, whether I could confirm that Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had stepped down from office. Needless to say I was stunned and, having no new information, could neither confirm nor deny the rumor.
It turned out that Aristide had not exactly stepped down; he had been removed in a coup, a coup in which the then-Bush administration was complicit.
At the time of the coup, the mainstream media accepted the line from the Bush administration that President Aristide had voluntarily chosen to go into exile in the face of an insurrection.
As the days and weeks went on, and through the work of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, TransAfrica Forum founder Randall Robinson, and Democracy Now producer and host Amy Goodman, a very different story was revealed. Rather than Aristide having voluntarily left Haiti, he had been forced to leave, first going into the hell of the Central African Republic, and then returning, briefly, to the Caribbean (where he stayed in Jamaica), and finally residing in South Africa in de facto exile. In either case, the Bush administration was vehement that Aristide would not be permitted back in Haiti.
The coup, though successful in removing democratically elected President Aristide, was unsuccessful in stabilizing the situation in Haiti or improving the living standard of the Haitian people. Despite the best efforts of the Bush administration to ensure that a puppet remained in control of the country, the Haitian people—when they had a chance to vote—elected Rene Preval, a former president and ally of President Aristide, to the office of the Presidency.
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