WASHINGTON -- When Sen. John Kerry was interviewed on foreign policy in Houston last Friday by New York Times reporters, he made news by declaring that as president he "would have been prepared to send troops immediately" to save Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president of Haiti. The newspaper published his statement Sunday, the very day that Aristide's Lavalas gunmen shot more than 25 peaceful demonstrators (five fatally) who were celebrating his departure. Neither Kerry nor Aristide's other supporters in Washington have mentioned the carnage.
Why would the Democratic Party's presumptive presidential nominee vigorously support a tyrant steeped in violence and corruption? Kerry's rationale is that the people twice elected Aristide (though his tainted second election was called fraudulent by independent international observers). An alternative explanation rests with Aristide's gold-plated U.S. connections. He is close to Kerry's influential friends, the Kennedy family of Massachusetts, and is the unconditional favorite of the Congressional Black Caucus.
While destitute Haiti is one of the world's poorest countries, Aristide has been profligate in spending millions on U.S. lobbyists and lawyers. Powerful American politicians sit on the board of Fusion Telecommunications International, which Aristide granted an exclusive concession over the country's lucrative long-distance market. These favors may partially explain the remarkable forbearance toward the Haitian leftist by American liberals.
In his interview declaring for military intervention, Kerry conceded "Aristide was no picnic and did a lot of things wrong." But Black Caucus members, during a House International Relations Committee hearing last week that they forced, were uncritical supporters in demanding Aristide's return. Aristide's accusations that the U.S. abducted him and sent him into African exile lack substantiation but have been spread by the Black Caucus anyway. The Bush administration contributes to the libel by having maintained a hands-off policy toward chaos in Haiti over the past three years.
Reports filed with the Justice Department by registered foreign agents reflect spending by the Aristide government of well over a million dollars a year, an astounding amount for such a small country. This money did not produce a concerted sales effort to attract U.S. foreign aid funds, but it did build personal support for Aristide. Black Caucus members have been frequent visitors to Haiti, where they have been entertained lavishly.