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6087: The cost of democracy to Haiti (fwd)

From: Hyppolitep@aol.com

P.S. Please bear with me for this text is rather long.

It's been recently with amazement that I have been reading the news about 
Haiti and the recent elections. The reason is rather simple: the number of 
times a politician's name has been included in those texts.

If all of us on this list took the time to count how many times the name 
-Aristide- has been included in those few-hundred-words texts, we'd be 
surprised. I will tell you, though. At the very list, five times in the vast 
majority of them. 

My question then as an uninformed individual about Haitian politics, would 
have been: who is that man? What does that name symbolize? I would dig and 
dig, until I find its true meaning. 

It is indeed becoming clearer and clearer to the rest of us, that Aristide is 
not just the name of a person. It is a name that encompasses more, a lot more 
than we would have time to discuss. Let us just then move on, and debate a 
different issue. It is the matter of Haiti's burgeoning democracy and its 
cost to its people.

Many of us here seem oblivious to the fact that between May and November of 
this year, the State of Haiti has spent approximately $25 million US to have 
elections, to institutionalize our democracy: 300 million gourdes 
(approximately 12.5 million US) spent for the May elections, and another 300 
million gourdes spent for the November 26 elections. This is nothing to many 
people in the United States. But for those of us who know the misery in 
Haiti, this rather small sum could be the equivalent of the United States 
government spending close to 25 billion dollars for their recent elections. 

There is indeed a lot that could be done by the Haitian government with that 
sum (25 million US). From road repair to electricity to agriculture to school 
building, that rather small sum does amount to a lot for the Haitian people. 
They have thus compensated that government and the political party that they 
represent with a huge victory. This is probably the most difficult pill for 
Haiti's opposition and many in the International Community to swallow, for 
they have made their own investment too. But the vast majority of the Haitian 
people have decided to gamble their future one way, while some in the 
International Community were hoping that they would another way. 

The International Observers themselves during the May elections were quick to 
point out that overwhelmingly, the May 21 elections were free and fair. The 
point of contention was and still is, over 10 Senators from Fanmi Lavalas 
that were well ahead in the count, but should have gone for a second round. 

For sure there were irregularities during the May elections. Democracy is a 
brand new process in Haiti. Anyone who would say otherwise would be 
dishonest. But those irregularities could have been corrected if the 
opposition was wise enough to point to specifics (localities where they 
occurred and tangible proofs) and request if not a recount (sound familiar?) 
at most a revote in those places where they supposedly occurred. I suspect 
that even then, the opposition would have still lost if all is free and fair.

The truth of the matter is however, that the real issue seems to be lying 
under the rug. We must be honest here. We must. The opposition in Haiti did 
not lose because of fraud. The opposition lost because it did not address the 
issues that are at the heart of the matter for the Haitian people while Fanmi 
Lavalas was shrewd enough to address them head on. Those issues are peace 
(security) and food. I hope we all remember the FL slogan in May, and again 
in November of this year: "la pè nan tèt; la pè nan vant". Translated, "peace 
in the mind; peace in the belly."

The opposition lost because, rather than focusing on those two issues that 
should have been Lavalas Achilles' heel, they focused their attention on the 
man that symbolizes liberation for the vast majority of the Haitian people: 
Aristide for the foreign press; Titid for his beloved people.

I know it aches. It hurts an opposition that kept putting all their eggs in 
one basket, without realizing that this basket had a huge whole at its 
bottom, and that the eggs kept falling and breaking.

We must move on but how can we? Every time I think that we might be getting 
closer to a thaw, suddenly a new roadblock seems to be put in place. Recently 
for instance, the leader of the MIDH made a declaration explaining his 
position vis-a-vis the November elections and his reluctance to be a 
presidential candidate. He basically said that Aristide was too popular for 
him to even try. Last weekend, the leader of the RDNP made another 
declaration in which, after his usual rambling about Lavalas, he suggested 
that, those who wish to vote should and those who do not should simply 
abstain from the polling booth. Aristide after his all but certain victory, 
earlier this week made a declaration in which he extended his hands to the 
opposition. It's been total silence since then from MIDH; the RDNP leader 
called Aristide's offer for compromise a "trick," and we are back to square 

The truth of the matter is however, that we must all keep striving for a 
viable and strong democracy in Haiti with a vigorous and well-established, 
Haitian opposition. That is the only way to go. We must also acknowledge that 
our democracy is at a very high cost. Just consider children on their way to 
school, having their heads blown away just because it is a pre-election 
period and somebody is trying to scare the people away from the voting booth. 
Some seem to suggest that Lavalas could be behind such appalling acts. But 
how could that be? It is like someone working hard to afford himself 
alligator shoes, and shooting himself at the foot the moment he is about to 
wear them for some special occasion. Does anyone really believe that Lavalas 
is that stupid? Or is it that some people think that we really are?

The Haitian people are paying a very high price indeed for their democracy. 
They want it to be participative and many do not like that. We must be honest 
here. They hate their chosen leader not because he was poor, or is now 
reclusive as they like to say, or even because he wears Italian suits as they 
are now saying. They hate him because of what he represents and preaches. I 
am not surprised for the simple reason that any leader who stands for 
something and manages to bring it effectively to the forefront in political 
debates, is usually vilified.

Rest assured however that Jean-Bertrand Aristide, if he keeps his promises to 
work hard for all Haitians regardless of their race and class, will be as 
well known and studied around the world for generations to come, as is 
Toussaint Louverture. It does not matter whether he succeeds or not. His 
failure if provoked and managed by some invisible hand, will be in fact the 
key to his veneration. If he manages to succeed against all the odds, the 
greater his image will be in all Haitians hearts for many generations to 
come. I am sure that many of his detractors, here and elsewhere are now ready 
and willing to jump on me and call me a chimè. I am convinced however after 
eight hard years of following very, very closely Haitian politics, that I am 
absolutely correct on that point.

My only hope is that some in this so diverse, eclectic opposition, recognizes 
that it's best for the sake of the country, to negotiate in good faith with 
Fanmi Lavalas. Otherwise, short of an "invasion" which most of them seem to 
hope for, Lavalas if they play their card right and democratically, will be 
in power for a very long time to come.

Hyppolite Pierre