Saturday, March 15, 2003
by John Adams |
Sunday, March 09, 2003
by John Adams |
When one thinks of the first independent African nation in the Western Hemisphere, Ayiti, or Haiti, the vision is that of individuals who believed in justice and human rights at the cost of death, which is why, in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte and his forces surrendered the island, then known as Saint Domingue, to the people.
While no fan of the French aristocracy, I beg to differ as to the reasons for the Haitian revolt. Justice and human rights were not at the fore of the Haitian revolution. It was simply a brave, "live free or die" movement. The only unifying force in the movement, as proven by two subsequent centuries of internal strife and violence, was mutual enmity towards the white oppressors. When that threat was removed, many leaders of the Revolution turned to robbing white landowners of their properties, murdering dissidents, and enslaving their former comrades. With the exception of the justice the French met at the blades of Haitian swords, justice was not the objective. Human rights? Well, Toussaint Louverture, a truly great man by anyone's standard, might have instilled a love for them in his people, but he was whisked away to France, where he died in an Alpine prison. The men he left behind built fortresses at the expense of 20,000 of their countrymen, and ripped French babies out of their mothers' stomachs as retribution for their own enslavement.
It’s criminal that the richest nation in this hemisphere continues to undermine the economic well being of its neighbor to the south, but such has been the case throughout Haiti’s 199-year history. This relationship has had a dire impact on Haiti’s regional political stability, as the United States continually supported corrupt regimes that allowed U.S. economic interests to flourish.
It's comical that Sabir doesn't realize how much money the United States pumped into Haiti restoring her beloved Aristide. In one year alone (1994-1995), U.S. taxpayers lavished $1 billion on a corrupt regime that to this day has done absolutely nothing to improve the quality of life. Furthermore, Sabir doesn't even understand her argument well enough to make it coherent. The U.S. didn't support corrupt regimes here (Duvalier specifically) to allow its economic interests to flourish, it did so to provide a counterweight to Fidel Castro, thus serving its own political interests.
Clinton's reinstallation of Aristide was a shrewd political maneuver as well. Hoping to kickstart his erstwhile lethargic presidency and gain some critical PR applause, he invaded a helpless country in a show of power, put Aristide back in, and then beat a hasty retreat in time for the 1996 elections. In 1997, Aristide's successor/puppet (depending on who you ask) dissolved the Parliament, and things have deteriorated since then.
This all came to a halt when a parish priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected overwhelmingly in 1991 to the presidency. This was the first democratic election in Haiti’s history. In a speech, Aristide says that the church should be a tool for justice, equality and freedom. “It’s hypocritical,” he states, “for the pastor to feed the peasant’s children with free foreign rice that is being sold on the market for less than the farmer’s own produce.”
Please give me a few moments while I laugh at this wide-eyed statement. Exactly how has Aristide helped the Haitian farmer? He still can't sell his produce, and now there's no free rice.
Not only did he set a minimum wage for employment, he also began micro-lending programs to help his citizens become entrepreneurs. During the two Lavalas administrations, Aristide (1991, 1994-6) and Rene Preval (1996-2001), the government began building schools, clinics and housing that is developing the infrastructure. This was also the first peaceful transition of power in Haiti’s history.
I haven't seen/heard of any new government-funded schools. I did notice one large government high school in the Artibonite once on a trip to Port-au-Prince, but it was only a skeleton of a building. There is a government housing project going up a mile away from my house, but it is not nearly large enough to meet Cap-Haitien's growth needs. Its construction has defiled a historical relic, the ruins of an old colonial house.
There has been a lot of construction since Aristide's return, but most of it has been off the private initiative. Humanitarian agencies and missionary organizations are doing most of the building. My father built his primary school the same month Aristide was reinstated. Some Catholics have built a school in St.-Raphael. There are a few missionaries who run medical organizations. As for housing, if Aristide's idea of developing housing includes turning a blind eye while immigrants from the country build on land owned by a radio station, then yes, he has done a whole lot. Then again, Aristide has always harbored a sort of Robin Hood mentality. The whole reason he was kicked out was because he took that idea to the extreme. He actually encouraged his hungry, zealous supporters through radio messages to burn out the rich, steal their lands, and squat on them. We have stories and tape to prove it.
“The difference was the same kind of elitist thinking. They didn’t want people to think their own independent thoughts, and it has an economic basis to it. When the peasants come to sell their products, they need to know how to read and write; otherwise they could be lied to about the weight of their product. The other thing is, when they’d get their bills, they couldn’t contest any errors. After they’d signed, they’d find out that they’d signed their life away. To this day, that’s why literacy and health are top priorities in this administration.”
Explain to me how Aristide's call-and-response speech techniques have encouraged independent thought. In a trip to Cap-Haitien last April, Aristide said things like, "Do you love your President?" to which an enthusiastic crowd, trucked in from the country, responded "Yes!" with mindless adulation. Many people still either cannot read, or cannot read well enough to be useful in a profession. They take their studies home to dimly lit shacks in shantytowns, and lose their sight at extremely early ages because Aristide's cronies at the power company haven't run lines out their way yet.
You say health is a top priority of this administration? Give me a break. A few weeks ago, my friend had a door slammed on her finger by a male whose sexual advances she had scorned. The skin had sloughed off of the wounded digit, and she was taken to the hospital at 10 mph on a deeply rutted road that Aristide promised to pave in the aforementioned speech. When she arrived at the city hospital, the doctors could not do anything for her. So she was taken to a private hospital in a nearby town over said road. By the time they found a doctor who would have been able to save her finger, it was too late. The finger was amputated because she could not get to a private medical facility in time.
I went to visit her the night the incident happened, and the halls of the public hospital are filthy. The floors are encrusted with blood, the rooms are overloaded, and patient files are stored in a cabinet left wide open for anyone to rummage through. I'll believe health is a priority when I see change.
After two paragraphs of sentimentalism about the return of Aristide, Sabir continues with this assertion:
The United States has blatantly undermined Aristide’s leadership by imposing economic embargoes as well as by harboring known terrorists. This is evident in its blockage of the Inter-American Development Bank loan of $146 million approved two years ago to assist the Haitian government in building schools, healthcare centers and roads and providing drinking water in the rural areas of Haiti, where there is much poverty and poverty-related disease.
It's interesting how much a story can change when one little fact is omitted—that Aristide's 2000 election was rigged. It was an election that went unobserved because of the unresolved controversy surrounding the May elections. Due to the absence of international observers, the election was supposed to have been monitored by the Haitian press. However, the Human Rights Report for 2000 states this: ``On November 22, nine separate explosions occurred in crowded areas of Port-au-Prince; the explosions killed two children and left many other persons injured. On November 25, marching FL members in Petit Goave staged citizen's arrests of several opposition members and detained several others. Also on November 25, an attempt was made during the evening to burn the communal electoral office (BEC) in Ganthiere. Police intervened and were able to save the electoral materials, although the building was partially destroyed."
Also, ``the day before the election, several radio stations were forced to close their news operations because of threats."
The election was characterized by low turnout, estimated to be between 5 and 20 percent. A pipe bomb exploded in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Carrefour, and ballots were burned in Anse d'Hainault. When you factor in this information, it's easy to see that the United States has not had to do anything to get Aristide to parody himself. He's a master at it himself. His vision of utopia in Haiti is a Marxist state from which all foreigners have been expelled, a state that relies on no one but itself. This utterly unrealistic and anachronistic worldview has accelerated Haiti's decline into world misery, and further entrenches its status as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Jean-Bertrand Aristide cruised into office on the backs of utterly unrealistic promises that he has never fulfilled. He is not, and never will be, the savior of Haiti. He is a semi-deluded dictator whose fury is held in check only by an American government that does not want to end up with egg on its face. The sooner he leaves/is removed from office, the better. People like Wanda Sabir do nothing to let Haiti live, they only serve to further blind the eyes of Westerners to the plight of a Haitian people in dire need of more realism and less ideology.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
by John Adams |
by John Adams |
by John Adams |
Friday, February 28, 2003
In a bipartisan effort to boost the desperate economy of Haiti, Floridians in Congress and other legislators began pushing Thursday for a significant trade break to increase jobs in that country's apparel industry.
Here's the catch: For the trade benefit to go into effect, ``Bush would have to certify that the Haitian government is making progress toward political pluralism and the rule of law." Well, here's hoping.
With Haiti's currency collapsing, the price of gas skyrocketing and many residents unable to afford even the basics, Haitians both on the island and in South Florida are debating whether their country's annual kanaval celebrations should take place this weekend.
I must admit I'm rather torn about this, too. I leave the debate to the comment box.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
by John Adams |
"Maybe God saved my life for a reason," Louima said in a rare interview while visiting Haiti last week. "I believe in doing the right thing."
Read the full story.
Sunday, February 23, 2003
by John Adams |
Wednesday, February 19, 2003
One of Haiti's most popular radio stations has stopped broadcasting news to protest an attack last week against one of its correspondents.
There's more. The nation's judges have also gone on strike in protest of what they call an unfair deposition of Judge Josiard Agnant. The judge in question had recently dismissed a drug trafficking case against defendant Jean Salim Batrony, citing a lack of evidence. This quote from Sen. Pierre Prince Soncon, of Aristide's Lavalas party, is classic:
"We want to fight against drugs, against impunity. It's a question of morality."
Gee, if the Lavalas Party is this zealous about fighting drugs in Haiti, maybe they should pay closer attention to their own Evans Brillant, who cordoned off a Port-au-Prince highway to land between 1,760 and 2,200 pounds of cocaine. Brillant's stash makes Batrony's charge of possession of 128 pounds of the stuff look like a mere pittance by comparison.