Personal thoughts on the Haitian crisis (February 28, 2004)

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Personal thoughts on the Haitian crisis (February 28, 2004)

Post by admin » Sat Feb 28, 2004 10:44 am


Like the level of water steadily rising in a bucket under our predictable yet sudden tropical storms, the political crisis in Haiti is reaching the point of overflow, but in the process making liars out of all who bet on its futures, that is the precise moment(s) when “Titid's era” will be no more... Champagne, thrice chilled, waiting to be uncorked (any day now) by members of an elite opposition which has had to endure three initials, JBA, far longer than any reasonable notion of purgatory would permit... Notes of premature e-jubilation tripping over cries of anguish... Press releases announcing, welcoming, institutionalizing the “Cannibals”, the “Freedom fighters”, the “Resistance”, the “Thugs”, the “Rebels”, the “Terrorists”, the Angels or the Devils, the Zakatas or the Katelemas... Everything and everyone is admissible in the theater of the absurd, while in the real world the kids do not go to school, the adults have no jobs to go to, and the body count threatens to approach Iraqi-like proportions.

I fear for the country, for what will come in the next several months and years. Even though it is easy money to bet on the shifty nature of America's defense of democratic principles when it comes to Haiti, and the duplicitous maneuvers of the non-Latin bi-continental, pardon me, the “international community”, in the undoing of the popularly elected (but perhaps un-appointed or un-anointed) government of Haiti, it remains that the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide has also failed due to its unwillingness to listen to the genuine concerns of Haitian Nationals, particularly those departing from the scripted “Viv Titid, tout sa ou fè se li ki bon”. Unsurprisingly, this government has preferred to place its faith in “yes” men and handsomely compensated foreign advisers. It has been very slow to correct any of its mistakes. In a very real sense, it reminded me of great orthodox institutions like the Catholic Church.

The government's response to the irregularities of the May 2000 elections for instance, made as much sense as the Vatican's response to the allegations of sexual abuse and pedophilia among its priests in North America.

Likewise the government's response to accusations about and growing evidence of corruption in its administration (the rice scandal, the cooperative bank fiasco -- Haiti's Enron).

Likewise the government's aloofness and reactionary stance towards its own disaffected popular base (Guacimal, Maribahoux ...) that turned Haiti's best known workers' organization, Batay Ouvriye, decidedly against the government.

Likewise the government's lack of leadership in economic and migration policy that caused a pro-Haiti think tank like PAPDA to denounce the retrogressive nature of the government's policies as well as the arbitrariness in its decision-making... long before PAPDA's recent, politically questionable call for Aristide to resign without delay (and before any alternative had been formulated).

Likewise the government's lack of initiative in diplomacy that failed to condemn vigorously human rights abuses of Haitian Nationals in the Dominican Republic and in the State of Florida.

Likewise the government's lack of interest in taking measures to appropriately integrate the capabilities of the Haitian Diaspora in lieu of continuing its demonstrably harmful politics of economic dependence.

Likewise the government's non-pursuit of justice in specific, high visibility, criminal cases where the personal interests of its officials or associates were at stake. Commitment to justice is not demonstrated only in the just and necessary pursuit of FRAPH and military officers who were implicated in wholesale massacres of defenseless civilians. Commitment to justice is evidenced foremost by the political will to pursue the aims of justice, based on the merit of the claims and not on the name, status, or political affiliation of the suspects.

In the last few years, we have witnessed a mind-numbing polarization in the discourse about Haiti, where it has become extraordinarily difficult to critique the government without being spat out by the Lavalas camp on one hand or being assimilated to a mindless intellectual opposition whose only message to the Haitian people has been that Aristide must go. I have felt stymied by both an ineffective government and an obstructionist opposition. I am baffled by the behavior of an elite class that has sacrificed its own business and political interests, in its categorical rejection of the non-elite. On top of it all, I am exasperated by the perfidy of the “international community” that has denounced the failures of the government, while wringing its neck and only supporting the opposition. Finally, I have been dismayed by the clear politicization of even our human rights advocates. Just about everyone, the government included, has appeared dedicated to the (self) destruction of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his administration.

When the curtain closes, according to the most persistent of the scripts, there will be some short-lived celebrations. But the hangover will be brutal. No one will walk away pretty from this disaster. Not the United States. Not France. Not Canada. Not the Organization of the American States. Not the United Nations. Not the Dominican Republic. Not the Front of Resistance, not FRAPH, not the ex-and-perhaps-restored-Armed Forces of Haiti. Not the CIA. Not IRI. Not NED. Not USAID. Not the fractured but superficially united opposition parties in Haiti. Not Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

And not I, because I have not given my life for the betterment of Haitian society and have only chosen safer approaches, from my pulpit of Windows on Haiti. I cannot walk away pretty from the mess, though I have a clear conscience of not having participated in it. But who, might you say, could walk away, unsullied? Surely, no one can “walk away” in a dignified manner, but I can think of a few who have “walked with it” in exemplary manner. Let's start with those who are done walking:

Jean Dominique... Jean-Marie Vincent... Jean Pierre-Louis (Ti Jean)... Antoine Adrien... Renaud Bernadin... and the thousands of others who have sacrificed, but whose actual names will not make any list because they did not achieve personal notoriety.

And those who are leading the walk of the just: Franklyn Armand in Pandiassou, Joseph Philippe in Fondwa, Michaelle de Verteuil in Les Abricots, Brian Concannon in Port-au-Prince and Jomanas Eustache in Jeremie, Antonia Malone in Pignon, Paul Farmer in Cange, and many more in Haiti and abroad whose work hand-in-hand with Haitian peasants, who constitute the overwhelming majority of Haitian citizens, cannot be cited here because of the limits of this format or because I have not yet had the privilege of getting acquainted with their life service on behalf of Haitians like me.

I say Haitians like me, though I am now an American citizen. I believe in Haiti Without Borders. I believe that Haiti resides in every Haitian community, whether in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the United States, Europe, or wherever. Haiti cannot die, Haiti will never die. But Haiti suffers...

Since I have mentioned examples of those who have walked the walk, I cannot end this note without mentioning the help of one country in the international community, which has been much ostracized by every U.S. government since the end of the Batista regime: Cuba. Oh yes, the authorities in my country of citizenship may be upset when I point out their miserable failure of helping Haiti emerge from the trappings of misery over the last 200 years and the relative success of the Cubans to provide humanitarian assistance to Haitians, man to man. True success is not measured in dollar expenditures but in the sum of the qualitative differences one's contribution makes. How can one small country be so big and one big country be so small in terms of the actual good that they do, people to people? You spend (or withhold) the billions of dollars, but the eyes see, the ears listen, and the hearts understand what is genuine assistance and what is merely bluff. If I do not point this out, I would not be worthy of your vaunted traditions. I have learned your lessons on democracy. You have perhaps taught me too well.

If you truly care about Haiti, then “walk with it”. In the long term, this should save you billions of dollars in loans, and Haiti her blood and soul in loan repayments. That's what you call a win/win outcome for the American continent and for the World.

Guy S. Antoine
Windows on Haiti
February 28, 2004

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