After Haiti, Venezuela?
Baby Doc is known for torturing and killing prisoners in the presidential palace even on the eve of his flight from Haiti in 1986. The return of the unemployed dictator seems as likely as the more peaceful democratic era the United States is promising after making their kid-glove contributions to the current Haitian coup.
Pressured by the U.S., rebel leader Guy Philippe says he has ordered his fighters to lay down arms, but deaths continue on the island, many of them retaliatory killings. Hospitals are full of women raped or assaulted. Doctors are reportedly bracing for an additional influx of assault victims over the weekend.
The U.S. may not be able to stuff the genie of violence back into the bottle. There are both the armed pro-Aristide gangs that are fighting for their lives, and, according to The New York Times, members of the rebel army collectively responsible for the massacres of thousands in earlier regimes. Typical are Louis-Jodel Chamblain and Jean-Pierre Baptiste, two former leaders of Fraph, the Haitian Front for Advancement and Progress. "Fraph was an instrument of terror wielded by the military junta that overthrew Haiti's embattled president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in 1991. It killed thousands over the next three years."
The Economist predicted March 4 that the U.S. has opened the door to "a repeat of the refugee crisis of the mid-1990's, when tens of thousands of Haitians fleeing violence washed up on the shores of America and other Caribbean islands."
Worse, The Economist expects the coup to undermine shaky democracies in the region, particularly Venezuela. One banner reading "Bye bye Aristide, Chávez you're next" was carried during last Sunday's demonstrations demanding a referendum to recall President Hugo Chávez.
The Bush White House has already supported one quick coup against the democratically elected Chávez who persistently thwarts U.S. oil policy maneuvering, and further irritates the Yanquis by associating with that other Caribbean gadfly, Cuba's Fidel Castro.
Already, White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said Tuesday that the Bush administration urges Venezuela's electoral council to "allow the people's voices to be heard" in the recall movement, and called for a "peaceful, democratic and constitutional resolution of the political crisis in Venezuela," both statements echoing previous rhetoric about Haiti.
Unsurprisingly, President Chávez responded by accusing the United States of meddling, and warning that Venezuela was not Haiti. Not yet, anyway. One of the main players in the 2002 coup against Chávez was Gustavo Cisneros, Venezuela's wealthiest man and sometime fishing partner of the first President Bush.
It doesn't matter that Chávez is autocratic. So is his opposition. The main thing is U.S. hands off. Venezuelans have a constitutional process to get rid of Chávez if they want to. It should be respected.