[News] Haiti - No More Lavelas, the fire next time?
News at freedomarchives.org
Sun Feb 19 13:47:11 EST 2006
Feb 19, 2006
NO MORE LAVALAS, THE FIRE NEXT TIME?
The Associated Press headline says it all: 'Haiti
poll marred by ballot fraud protests'
The poll was marred not by fraud, but by the
people's protests against the fraud.
It is important that we understand the
difference, because for the next few years what
will be important in any international discussion
about Haiti is not whether René Preval won the
majority of the votes cast, but that it took a
peaceful uprising of the people to establish that
Mr. Preval did win more than half the votes cast.
It has taken nearly two weeks for the Interim
Government of Haiti to declare what every Haitian
and many outside Haiti suspected, that the masses
of Haiti, mainly poor, had stood patiently for
hours in hot uncomfortable conditions, to tell
that world that they wanted their democracy back.
Brian Concannon is an American lawyer who spent
several years in Haiti helping the governments of
Aristide and Preval identify, document, track
down and prosecute some of the most gross human
rights abusers of the era of the dictatorships of
Duvalier and Cedras. On Friday, on the site of
the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti,
he gives a clear and dispassionate analysis of
the recent elections
which explains in much greater detail than I can
here, what really happened in Haiti over the last twelve days.
"On February 7, Haitian voters went to the polls
to elect a President for the fourth time since
1990. Through great patience and determination
they overcame official disorganization,
incompetence and discrimination, and for the
fourth time since 1990 handed their chosen
candidate a landslide victory. And for the fourth
time Haitian elites, with support from the
International Community, started immediately to
undercut the victory, seeking at the negotiation
table what they could not win at the voting booth."
Concannon points out that there is very little
doubt that René Preval was the overwhelming
choice of the Haitian people, and that they made
this choice despite two years of brutal
intimidation, despite the fact that many of their
leaders have been murdered or are in jail
unjustly, despite the fact that it was made
extraordinarily difficult for them to register to
be able to vote, despite the fact that their
candidate was prevented from staging an effective
campaign, despite the fact that the number of
voting places was inhumanly deficient, despite
the fact their enemies did not want this election.
The electoral council using a legal technicality,
stuffed the total ballot count with blank ballots
thus inflating the number of votes needed to win
an absolute majority. Somewhere in the system
too, thousands of ballots were dumped and burned,
and other mischief done to prevent it becoming
known that Preval had triumphed and did not need
a second round of voting, a runoff, to seal his victory.
As Brian Concannon points out, the Electoral
Council was shamed into making the right
decision, but for the wrong reasons: "Although
the negotiated agreement reaches the same result
as a correct tabulation would have reached, it
does so by changing the rules instead of
correcting the violations of the rules."
As it was in the past, so it will be in the future. Concannon says:
"The deal provides leverage for those seeking to
de-legitimize Prevals presidency and block the
progressive social and economic policies that he
was elected to implement. The elections
also-rans are already crying foul, and they will
be joined by more voices from Haitis elite and
the International Community. Soon enough,
invoking the contested elections of February
2006 will suffice to justify an array of
economic and political coercion against Haitis elected government. "
This is precisely what the sweatshop bosses, the
American fundamentalist Republicans and the other
criminal conspirators used against Aristide and
Preval in the past. As I pointed out last week,
one of them, a candidate for President named
Charles Henry Baker, was before the votes were
halfway counted, preparing to try to annul the
results of the election because of what he said
were irregularities favoring Preval. It was
typical of these characters, who routinely accuse
their opponents of doing that they themselves
intend to do. We've seen it in Jamaica and we've
more recently seen it in the last two US Presidential elections.
The Resource Curse
In certain circles, among sophisticated
journalists and coiffured statesmen
and development 'experts' , there is talk about
a "Resource Curse" which is said to afflict Third
World nations rich in natural resources. This
curse prevents these nations from developing as
logic would suggest is possible. Instead, they
are afflicted with corruption, huge income
inequalities and persistent poverty. Their
leaders frequently have large holdings in
offshore banks and similar institutions, and the
people are miserable, rebellious and usually
unaware that they live in failed or about to be failed states.
Some people from states afflicted by the resource
curse have other ideas; speaking in the early
1970s, Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, former
Venezuelan oil minister and a founder of the
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC) declared Ten years from now, 20 years
from now, you will see, oil will bring us ruin.
Its the devils excrement. We are drowning in the devils excrement.
He was speaking of course, pre Hugo Chavez, who
seems to have exorcised the Resource Curse and
turned the oil wealth of Venezuela into an engine
for the development of Venezuela, educating and
feeding the poor, bringing them drinkable water
and affordable health services instead of
enriching only the distant elites of colder climes.
Chavez' performance seems to suggest that the
Resource Curse consists largely of intransigent
elites and their foreign sponsors who refuse to
believe that all human beings should have the
right to sustainable development development
within their environments for the benefit of
their communities and their nations. In countries
without a national elite the West will attempt to
invent one with the worthy and pure intention
of improving governance and enhancing democracy
as in Angola and the Congo. Political eugenics
demand the removal or neutralization of
'Populists" highly dangerous vectors of
virulent epidemics like liberation theology and socialism.
The diamond mines of Tanzania and South Africa,
the gold mines of Angola, the uranium mines of
the Congo and Niger, the forests of Liberia and
Brazil and the enormous deposits of Western oil
underlying such failed or failing states as Iraq,
Iran, Sudan and Nigeria all witness to the
potency of the resource curse. Haiti's sole
resources as far as we know now, are its people
and its strategic position halfway between the
United States and Venezuela and conveniently next to Cuba.
The Cubans are believed to have found promising
undersea structures within their exclusive
economic zone, which borders on Hispaniola and is
part of the same geological formation. In Jamaica
environmentally disastrous seismic exploration
has been licensed by the government in the hope
of finding enough oil to make the Doomsday
Highway viable. Perhaps, as I suggested nearly
two years ago, there may be oil in Haiti.
Whatever the truth of those speculations, Haiti's
new President will begin with enormous problems.
The most dangerous problem is the Haitian elite,
whose hatred and disrespect for the 'slum priest'
Aristide and his barefoot followers knows no
bounds. Any leader of the poor is a gangster or
'chimere' in their words. Any attempt to say,
raise the minimum wage is cause for immediate
'withdrawal of confidence" which is a time tested
way to get rid of unwanted and dangerous reformers.
The leader of the Haitian 'elites' is a an
American citizen of Lebanese origin called Andy
Apaid, who owns what are politely called garment
factories sweatshops producing T-shirts for a
Canadian company Gildan for the Canadian and
American markets. Charles Henry Baker, one of the
presidential candidates swept aside by the Preval
flood, is Apaid's brother in law. The elite power
structure is close knit and apparently absolutely
agreed on one thing to squeeze Haiti until the
pips squeak. They have put nothing back into
Haiti. The depredations of people like them have
drained Haiti dry. When people are starving they
have no money to save. Capital investments in
Haiti consist simply of large prefab buildings
with hundreds of sewing machines, ready to be
transported at a moment's notice to the next failing state.
Apaid pays his workers 1500 Haitian gourdes per
fortnight or about US3 per day or less than one
fifth of the Jamaican minimum wage.
No wonder that Gildan's CEO Glen Chamandy
boasted "Gildan's labor costs in countries such
as Haiti and Honduras are actually cheaper than
those in China
the bulk of T-shirts heading to
the US market are from the Caribbean" (Toronto
Globe & Mail April 11, 2005, quoted by ZNet))
A report by a fact finding mission from the
University of Miami Law School in November 2004
quoted Apaid himself as admitting that he had
ties to a notorious gangster named Thomas
'Labaniye' Robinson. The report said " During
the investigation, investigators repeatedly heard
reports from police and slum residents that Apaid
pays a Cité Soleil gang leader to kill LAVALAS supporters.
What Haiti Needs
So-called friends of Haiti like Roger Noriega,
Luigi Einaudi and US Ambassador Timothy Carney,
all exponents of the State departments policies
toward us lesser breeds without the law, are full
of advice for René Preval. The problem is that
their advice is largely about the need for Preval
to keep his distance from President Aristide and
LAVALAS. Einaudi, two years ago said the only
thing wrong with Aristide's Haiti was that it was run by Haitians.
Defying logic and the evidence of their senses,
they say Aristide is a man of the past.
Aristide had a pretty clear-eyed view of what
Haiti actually needs. He was resolved to build
"Utopia upon a dung heap" as he said, to build
some kind of viable national community upon the detritus of the past.
To do this he needed money to educate and train
his people, money for water supplies, for health
services, for building and repairing roads and
basically, for inventing a viable state on the
ruins created by Haiti's friends from Thomas
Jefferson and Colin Powell to Pierre Pettigrew
and Dominique de Villepin, to say nothing of Kofi Annan.
Most of all, Haiti needs friends, people like
Jamaicans who can lend support in agricultural
extension and other basic skills which have been
driven out of Haiti. And, most of all, Haiti
needs to reclaim its real elite, the far-flung
exiles driven from home by rapacious greed,
mindless cruelty and the total disrespect for
life and dignity which defines the Cuckoo elite now roosting in Haiti.
The problem is that the Cuckoo Elite cannot help
themselves. They are like the scorpion in the old
fable, who seeks a ride across the river. He
convinces a frog to ferry him across, promising
upon his honor that he will not sting the frog.
The frog is doubtful, but agrees. As they
begin to cross the river he again cautions the scorpion:
"Remember," he tells his passenger, "If you sting me, we both die!"
Those were his last words.
Copyright ©2006 John Maxwell
jonmax at mac.com
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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