Though their long histories of wishing America would leave them alone and of trying to assert their own democratic voice are uniquely their own, the recent story of American interference in Haiti and Ecuador seem to be following the same plot.
Act I: The Coup
In Haiti, this act has been reprised a number of times. When the people of Haiti longed to elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power, the CIA, with the authorization of President Reagan, funded candidates to oppose him, according to William Blum in Killing Hope. When the people of Haiti surmounted American obstructions and elected Aristide, the US took him out: twice!
In 1989, the US undermined the Aristide government, according to Noam Chomsky in Hegemony or Survival, and, immediately following the coup, supported the junta and increased trade to Haiti in violation of international sanctions. CIA expert John Prados says that the "chief thug" amongst the groups of thugs and militia behind the coup was a CIA asset. Tim Weiner, the author of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, agrees. Weiner says that several of the leaders of the junta that took out Aristide "had been on the CIA’s payroll for years."
When the people of Haiti got the chance again, and again elected Aristide in 2004, the US, with the help of Canada and France, crushed their choice, kidnapped Aristide and sent him to exile in Africa.
In Ecuador, the coup is less clear. Rafael Correa served as president of Ecuador from 2007-2017, bringing in the socialist Citizen’s Revolution for the people of Ecuador. In 2017, Correa’s vice president, Lenín Moreno, was elected president. The people elected him, trusting the promise that he would continue his predecessor’s policies. However, with US backing, Moreno underwent a sudden conversion to the right, engaging in a policy of privatization and the elimination of social programs. His popularity plummeted to 8%. With US support, Moreno committed a self-coup, and the people did not get the government they wanted.
Act II: Bar the People’s Choice from Running
Aristide and his party have won every election they were allowed to compete legitimately in. The Haitians clearly wanted him; the Americans clearly did not. So, to ensure that the US, and not the Haitians, got their way, Aristide’s party has been barred from elections, including the 2010-2011 election.
The same script was followed in Ecuador. With Moreno giving the people the government they didn’t want, the people who did want him numbered only 8%. When the people once again got the chance to choose, they, once again, wanted to choose Correa. To put an end to that, as in Haiti, Correa was simply barred from running. And, just to be sure, he was also banned from running for vice president. To be doubly sure, his supporters were even banned from using Correa’s image or voice in their campaign.
Broader attempts were also made to prevent his party from running. So, his movement tried to form a new party. Guillaume Long, the former Ecuadorean foreign minister, told me in a personal correspondence that the attempt to compete as a new party was barred six times before another party allowed Correa’s movement to join them.
This pattern of the preemptive coup has recently played out in other Latin American countries as well. If the polls clearly show that the people are going to re-elect the person you don’t want to be elected, prevent him from running in the election. This form of the preemptive coup that is so impatient, it can’t even wait for the election to happen, was infamously deployed against Brazil’s Lula de Silva and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. Less famously, it may also have been carried out in Guatemala, where several candidates who were running against the right wing candidate Alejandro Giammattei were barred from running mid-campaign. The throwing out of Thelma Aldana, who fought government corruption as the attorney general, was “widely considered politically motivated,” according to reporting by The Washington Post.
Act III: Support Your Choice Against the People
The people of Haiti didn’t get the President they wanted. The US did. So, when the people turned against their president, the US firmly backed him. The backing has taken two forms for two presidents.
Haitian president Jovenal Moïse had become enormously unpopular. At the end of his term, rather than put the choice back in the hands of the people, Moïse attempted to hold onto power for another year, claiming it was owed to him because disputes over the 2018 election cut into his term. Moïse had always been the US backed candidate, and now, rather than let the people speak, the US backed him again. Even though the Haitian judiciary refuted his claim, the US State Department backed it. State Department spokesman Ned Price supported Moïse, declaring that "a new elected president should succeed President Moïse when his term ends on February 7th, 2022."
And that promised election was also disguised US support for the president the people didn’t want. As democrat members of congress tried to explain to Secretary of State Blinken, “While elections will clearly be needed in the near future to restore democratic order, we remain deeply concerned that any electoral process held under the current administration will fail to be free, fair or credible…." So, supporting the elections in Haiti was supporting Moïse’s attempt to hold on to power. But the US continued to support the elections.
In July 2021, Jovenal Moïse was assassinated. A power struggle followed. Initially, interim prime minister Claude Joseph assumed power. But Joseph lost out to Ariel Henry, who was anointed by the Core Group. The Core Group is led by the US and includes ambassadors to Haiti from Canada, Germany, Brazil, Spain, France, the EU, the UN and the Organization of American States but is devoid of Haitians. Once again, the people of Haiti had no say in who their prime minister was with other countries’ ambassadors to Haiti, instead of Haiti, deciding.
Brian Concannon argues that Henry is no more legitimate than the US installed Claude Joseph who came before him nor the US supported Jovenal Moïse who came before him. But the US has continued to support their candidate. On September 22, the American Special Envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned in protest. He called the government of Ariel Henry "corrupt" and the country he runs a "collapsed state." What the people of Haiti "really want, and need," he said, "is the opportunity to chart their own course, without international puppeteering and favored candidates." Foote said that Haiti cannot "enjoy stability until her citizens have the dignity of truly choosing their own leaders fairly and acceptably." The US continues to block that enjoyment by supporting the candidate of its choice. They did that again in September by issuing "another public statement of support for the unelected, de facto Prime Minister Dr. Ariel Henry." Foote points out that the US is continuing to support the party of Ariel Henry over the desires of civil society.
As in Haiti, the US has used public statements of support to maintain their unpopular candidate in Ecuador. The beneficiary of all the election interference in Ecuador was Guillermo Lasso. Lasso’s economic policies, especially his austerity policies, are deeply unpopular. His approval rating is in free fall, currently sitting at 34%. As the people of Ecuador began to mobilize and take to the streets in protest, Lasso declared a state of emergency.
Under the state of emergency, the constitutional rights of the people of Ecuador were suspended. The streets were filled, not with the protesting people of Ecuador, but with armed soldiers.
According to reporting by Vijay Prashad and Taroa Zúñiga Silva, the justification given for the state of emergency was the killing of a child who got caught in the crossfire between police and an armed robber. Lasso explained that the state of emergency was necessary to combat Ecuador’s drug gangs. While tragic, the child’s death does not justify the militarization of Ecuador and the suspension of constitutional rights.
Nonetheless, the very next day after the state of emergency was declared, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken jetted into Ecuador to support Lasso. Shockingly, he said in his press statement that “we know that in democracies there are times when, with exceptional circumstances, measures are necessary to deal with urgencies and urgent situations like the one Ecuador is experiencing now. And as I discussed with President Lasso, we understand that, support that. . . .”
As in Haiti just weeks before, a public statement of support under shocking conditions, provided US backing for a leader the US wants but the people of that country don’t.
In both Haiti and Ecuador, a similar plot has been followed. In act one, you eliminate or turn the leader you do not want. In act two, you bar their return by banning them from running in future elections. In act three, you prop up the unpopular leader you are imposing on the country through very public statements of support for their undemocratic behavior.
Ted Snider has a graduate degree in philosophy and writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.