[News] Haiti - No More Lavelas, the fire next time?

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Sun Feb 19 13:47:11 EST 2006


http://www.haitiaction.net/News/JM/2_19_6.html

Feb 19, 2006
NO MORE LAVALAS, THE FIRE NEXT TIME?
John Maxwell

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 
(<http://www.ijdh.org/)>http://www.ijdh.org/) 
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 Preval’s presidency and block the 
progressive social and economic policies that he 
was elected to implement. The election’s 
also-rans are already crying foul, and they will 
be joined by more voices from Haiti’s 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 Haiti’s 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. 
It’s the devil’s excrement. We are drowning in the devil’s 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

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