Haiti's Predatory Republic

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Haiti's Predatory Republic

Post by Barb » Mon Jan 01, 2007 12:01 pm

I would like to let this discussion know that I am changing my screen name from the one that I used in Ann Pale I, which was Apharion, to my real first name, which is Barb. There were no sinister motives in my previous choice of a screen name, just a life long caution about leaving a paper trail. My earliest years were during the Joe McCarthy era, and while I have no conscious memories of their impact, I was obviously repeatedly warned of the dangers of leaving any records of my political opinions. So I am cautious.

I received a Christmas present of Robert Fatton, Jr's book, Haiti's Predatory Republic; The Unending Transition to Democracy. It is tough sledding to read, but I am finding it very interesting. I would be interested to know if anyone else is acquainted with the book and their opinion of its point of view. It's copywrite date is 2002, so it does not address the LaTourte government or the recent re election of Preval, but it gives a possible explanation for things about Haiti that I have found very puzzling.

[quote]The Preval presidency was marred by internal power struggles within Lavalas, culminating in a major split between Aristide and his erstwhile supporters. In addition, it symbolized the politics of doublure—meaning those holding public office were not those ruling the country…What the opposition failed to acknowledge, however was Aristide's continued popularity with le Peuple, which still viewed him as the savior. The opposition could not accept the simple fact that Aristide remained an inescapable reality. Because the opposition had no popular roots, it was incapable of mobilizing the Haitian masses; it lacked a coherent program and comprised disparate groups ranging from Duvalierists to former Lavalasians and Marxists. What united these groups was neither ideology nor democratic principles, but a common visceral dislike for Aristide and an uncommon appetite for state power.

In this respect, both Lavalas and the opposition were prisoners of la politique du ventre (politics of the belly) a form of governability based on the acquisition of personal wealth through the conquest of state offices. In a country where destitution is the norm and private avenues to wealth are rare, politics becomes an entrepreneurial vocation, virtually the sole means of material and social advancement for those not born into wealth and privilege. Controlling the state turns into a zero sum game, a fight to the death to monopolize the sinecures of power. The tragedy of Haiti's systemic foundation is that it literally eats the decency and humanity of perfectly honest men and women, transforming them into grands manguers (big eaters). (x-xi)

Corruption is thoroughly pervasive; it is the grease that oils the political system and facilitates access to bureaucratic and elected positions. Except for the 1990 ballots that carried Aristide to power, elections have become increasingly predetermined and fradulent affairs in which those selected by the president's party are virtually assured of entering the ranks of a new aspiring ruling class. While citizens continue to go to the polls, the exercise is a mere façade that poorly masks the grossly deceitful modes of organizing, supervising and counting the votes. The semblance of democratic rituals and practices characterizing the formal structures of governance have obscured the real sites of power where the dominant actors make critical policies “offstage.” It is in this anonymous, opaque, and hidden world that power holders establish the rules of the game, select their cadres, acquire illicit resources, and manipulate their Chimeres. In this world political acts are disguised and subvert public pronouncements and images. In a predatory democracy things are simply not what they seem. As the Creole proverb puts it, “Tout sa ou we, se pa sa.” (everything you see is an illusion)

Those who rule are not necessarily those who have power, and those who have power are not necessarily those who rule…

The disjunction between reality and appearance is a fundamental façade of a predatory democracy. Behind it hides a criminalized zero-sum game of power dominated by intense processes of class formation where factions of the petite bourgeoisie fight for political supremacy, were elected officials at the highest level are controlled by opaque private forces, where elections are held regularly and are usually fraudulent, where public administrators claim to save the constitution by continuously violating its spirit and its laws.

This explains to me why someone like Preval can win the election with what appears to me to be an overwhelming vote (when you discount for the ballots found in the garbage dump and the requirements to include all the blank ballots to "make things fair") and yet he seems to be completely unable to do anything as President. It also makes me wonder about the last two US presidential elections, which in some ways might be said to fit the description found in the last paragraph.

I really have only read the introduction and the first chapter so far, but I thought I would post and see if anyone else has read it and what they think.

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Post by Guysanto » Thu Jan 04, 2007 5:36 am

Barb, I congratulate you on being the first person to register to ANN PALE II, besides the administrator. I know that you feel uneasy when no one answers your posts, and unfortunately this has been the case more often than not. I was hoping that someone else on this forum had read Robert Fatton Jr's book and would be willing to discuss it with you.

However, don't feel discouraged by the lack of response. Ann Pale is a slow cook pot, we do not go anywhere fast, but we're here (Nou la!) So, keep contributing, share your ideas, ask questions (well, you already do!), until we reach the boiling point. This has nothing to do with you in particular, it's just the way our community reacts to diverse stimuli (at least you were perceptive enough to note that if we were not a community, we would not have argued so much on whether we were a community).

When you finish the book, tell us your overall impressions. Sooner or later, someone will pick up on your remarks.

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Post by Barb » Sat Jan 06, 2007 1:32 pm

Thank you for your kind, gracious, and encouraging words. I am interested in the topic, I do read the boards and follow the discussions, so I expect I will stay.

I've been thinking a lot about a remark that Jafrikayiti posted in response to one of my posts. He said "beware of pimps posing as Santa Claus." At first the remark seemed a little shocking and confusing, but as I've thought about it, I think there is a sliding scale of altruistic behaviors. THere's been a couple of news articles on AOL recently about people saving the lives of others--the man who jumped on top of the teen who fell in front of the subway train and the two men who caught the toddler who fell out of the high rise. No pimpdom here--they saw the problem and they acted. I would put Dr. Farmer's work in that catagory, although perhaps some would debate that. I think there are also a lot of naive and well meaning people who do what they think will help others, sometimes with more success, sometimes with less. Perhaps they are contributing to dependancy, perhaps they are facilitating dysfunctional behavior, but the motivation is straightforward and the goal is to genuinely help.

Sliding down the scale are the "Doing well by doing good" types, who think in terms of whether helping others will help their bottom line. Corporate charity comes to mind. When I was working in Philly, one of my mentors explained to me how she was approached to be part of a program designed to help poor Blacks. She had a master's degree in social work, and was working in her field. What she told the gentleman was that he needed her to make his program look good to the funders, but she didn't need him. She was able to show me that there was a whole industry of people on soft money who were parasites on the poor inner city community. They provided services, and were compensated at suburban middle class wages. The services they provided were of considerably less monetary value than the wages they received. Often they were themselves the designers of the services they provided, and had little notion or interest in learning what services were actually needed. The money would probably have been much better spent as cash handouts to the people who were the targets of the service, but that's not how the game was played.

As a public school teacher, I may even be part of this system. I work with children who come from families that make probably a quarter of the money I am paid to work with them. I'm not on soft money, and the state has determined that my position should exist and be funded by the taxpayers. It occasionally bothers me that I am making a comfortable living doing this, but not enough to consider quitting. I like my job, and know that if I left it, it would merely go to someone else--it wouldn't mean the money went to the families of the kids. So maybe I am one of the pimps, too.

Further down the line yet are things like this employment program for Haitians that gives no protection or rights to the workers along with our ambivalent attitude towards illegal immigration. The goal here is to help oneself by appearing to help others.

Down at the bottom I would put the loan sharks, FEMA's no bid contracts after Katrina, the "liberation" of Iraq, and all the dirty back room stuff that seems to guide our foreign policy. Here the goal is only to look enough like Santa Claus that the voters who aren't really paying attention will nod approvingly so the wholesale theft can continue unchecked. Fortunately, this level is prone to occasionally backfiring in expensive and embarrassing ways.

So, Jafrikayiti, is this more or less what you meant? Did I get it right?

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Post by jafrikayiti » Sat Jan 06, 2007 3:32 pm

Hello Barb,

I am in allignment with how you summarized the situation. Of course there can be and there are genuine solidarity among peoples. And I wholeheartedly accept the inclusion of Partners in Health and Dr. Paul Farmer in that category of true human brotherhood and sisterhood.

On the other end of the spectrum, as individuals, there are various ways we can knowingly or unknowingly contribute to the fake Santas' agenda. It can be a very complex thing to analyze however, when one looks at the facts. the results over time, obtained by an institution such as the World Bank whose mandate is the eradication of poverty, there can only be one of 2 valid conclusions: Either it failed in its mission or it was all along a deceiving entity whose real objectives had nothing to do with the welfare of the empoverished peoples of this planet.

When I refer to "pimps posing as Santa", I am not refering to individuals who are unknowingly contributing to the new world disorder. But rather to people who are knowingly and actively pushing for the implementation of the R2P doctrine (Responsibility to Protect) which I consider to be among the most dangerous tools being used by the U.N. machinery today.

We discussed this earlier last year. See:


A couple of revealing quotes:

[quote]“The interest in being seen to be a good international citizen is simply the reputational benefit that a country can win for itself, over time, by being regularly willing to pitch into international tasks for motives that appear to be relatively selfless.”.

“There is much direct reciprocal benefit to be gained in an interdependent, globalized world where nobody can solve all their own problems: my country's assistance for you today in solving your neighbourhood refugee and terrorism problem, might reasonably lead you to be more willing to help solve my environmental or drugs problem tomorrow.”.

http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/ ... fileId=104 [/quote]

So, today, you have a whole lot of organizations active in Haiti to defend their own business - yet pretending they are there to "help hapless Haitians". Its all hypocritical and cynical because they (foreign governments, U.N. and other institutions) are actually contributing to the conflict which they claim to want to end. And of course, the very existenc e of conflict is what they use to justify their presence. The conflict that truly exists is a conflict of interest.

Pimps dressing as Santa is nothing new. You mentioned the inner city programs which I certainly agree is yet another manifestation of the same problem. As is evident in the Gazette de St-Domingue, you will see also that the priests were playing the same role as many NGOs or foreign government agents are playing in Haiti, in Africa, in Latin America, in Papua New Guinea etc....today. Pimps posing as Santa.


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Post by Tidodo » Sat Jan 06, 2007 7:41 pm


I have not read Fatton's book, and unlikely to do so for one reason. I have found reading about recent events, that I followed in the news while they were taking place, of little rewards in terms of new information. After Aristide was taken to South Africa, Fatton and Luigi Einaudi were guests of Gwen Ifill on a Lehrer Newshour edition. He certainly knows a lot about Haiti. But, there was not more insight provided that could not be found on any given day by reading posts on the Ann Pale forum here. However, I did want to comment on a statement you made in a subsequent post here.

[quote]As a public school teacher, I may even be part of this system. I work with children who come from families that make probably a quarter of the money I am paid to work with them. I'm not on soft money, and the state has determined that my position should exist and by funded by the taxpayers. It occasionally bothers me that I am making a comfortable living doing this, but not enough to consider quitting. I like my job, and know that if I left it, it would merely go to someone else--it wouldn't mean the money went to the families of the kids. So maybe I am one of the pimps, too. [/quote]

I am very grateful to the school teachers who taught me the basics of formal education. Without them, my life would not have been as enjoyable as it is today. From what I understand, teaching is one of the most noble but least paid professions. The way you stated this, one would think you were one of the millionaire basketball players! :D

I am glad to hear that at least one teacher feels that her efforts are adequately compensated for. Society need teachers to prepare the next generation of working people. If your work can help the next generation have a better life than their parents did, you would be their true hero. As long as you are doing your part educating the children, I don't see why all their parents should be making more than you. That should only depend on their profession and their dedication to it.

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