Nepali Times
DANIEL LAK
Here And There
Haiti’s warning for Nepal


DANIEL LAK


You don't have to have 20-20 vision to spot Western hypocrisy, not in Nepal and not around the world. The latest example is Haiti.
Basically what has happened is this. The United States, France, Canada and a few other countries-all ostensibly democratic and committed to expanding democracy in other lands-backed an armed rebellion against an elected leader. And they were successful.

Make no mistake, what has happened in Haiti is nothing less than an internationally-backed coup. President Jean Bertrand Aristide was no angel. His administration was corrupt and incompetent. Its support was withering. But it was elected. Aristide was the first-ever elected President in Haiti, despite 200 years of proud independence as the world's first republic founded by black people.

He had a year-and-a-half left in his second term in office. If the motley opposition of rich people and American-educated rightwingers had been willing to wait, they might have seen Aristide humbled at the polls. They weren't. So under the auspices of the US Embassy in the Haitian capital, Port Au Prince, they came together and started to protest against Aristide. So far so good. Protest is okay. Opposition parties are free in democracies to demonstrate against the government and to rally popular support.

What happened in Haiti was something different.

Instead of launching a nation-wide movement to force a change in government peacefully, the opposition leaders tacitly backed armed gangs of criminals who captured towns and cities. Haiti has no army and its police force has only 4,000 officers, all poorly trained and underpaid. The rebel gangs were largely ex-army soldiers who'd kept their guns when Aristide disbanded the military in the 1990s.

It seems to me that the developed democracies, and Canada, France and the US are the big players in the neighbourhood here, and shouldn't be backing armed, drunken, violent thugs against an elected leader. However bad that leader was, surely the interests of democracy are best served by democracy. Right? Wrong.

Washington, Paris and Ottawa used diplomatic pressure and threats of aid embargoes to force Aristide to flee from Haiti last weekend. The US basically told the Haitian president that he could leave the country in a aeroplane or a body bag. The Bush administration blocked attempts by Aristide to bolster his coterie of armed body guards.

This is 19th century Imperial-style gunboat diplomacy done in the name of democracy. What bugs me most is not the brutal force or coercion that's used in these situations; it's the mealy mouthed self-justification. We do it for peace, we do it for stability, we do it for-hold your breath-democracy.

If this sort of behaviour by the West is going to continue, and it will, perhaps Nepal should take note. Perhaps the democrats in this country, agitating against the king, could convince the West to support their cry for a republic. But don't count on it. As an American black community leader said the other day in Washington, "We're always on the wrong side in these things."


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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