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#419: Shacochis et al: Bell comments (fwd)
From: madison bell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I am going to place my chips on a slightly more optimistic prediction of
the Haitian future than that of Bob Shacochis' editorial. At the same I
admit that Bob's prediction is possible-- a plausible worst-case scenario.
It could happen. It doesn't hurt to be reminded, frequently, that it could
happen. "Interesting times" as Dreyfuss put it, may be coming our way.
But perhaps they can also be prevented.
I was in Haiti in May and again in August, and can confirm from
ground-level observation much of the commentary made by Joel Dreyfuss.
There is evidence of all sorts of economic renascence that is not reported
in the States. In the region of Cap H there is a bewildering real estate
boom, and staggeringly rapid development-- new buildings shooting up all
over the place at a very fast rate. Diaspora money is behind a lot of
this, I think, as well as (in the Cap H) area, some foreign investment.
By chance I was in the country at the same time as the demonstration of the
"Chamber of Commerce sector" against insecurity, &c, on the Champ de Mars
in May, and in August for a big diaspora conference in the capital (which I
notice several other list members were present for). I didn't attend
either one of these events, but was able to imbibe the atmosphere. In
addition I have a long article on the Diaspora event from Haiti en Marche,
(August 29) sent to me in French by Max Blanchet.
>From all these separate sources I find evidence of an emerging middle class
in Haiti, which is what everyone says the country needs to create a
salubrious climate for reconstruction and reform. Reunification of Haitian
families from across the ocean could do a lot to promote the formation of a
reasonably solvent middle class. I have seen this happening to some
extent-- have seen members of the diaspora rebuilding the communities from
which they sprang. In terms of visible, tangible results, these
inititiatives look more effective than aid efforts admiministered by non
Haitians, though whether they will be durable remains to be seen. If
conditions remain stable enough for development, larger numbers of ti neg,
often with the support of their diaspora families, will be able to move
into a reasonably solvent middle-class. Unibank, with its $100 minimum US
dollar accounts, is underwriting this social movement with some efficacy.
I myself I have an account with them and so do some of my Haitian friends.
Then there are those business people from the late-May demonstration.
Many of them are alleged to be politically suspect. Some of them probably
are. But it is not in their economic interest for Haiti to return to the
conditions of the embargo and defakto period. Have they recognized that
fact? It seems possible that they have. It is possible that this sector
may at last recognize a community of interest with the ti neg struggling up
into the middle class. They have a common need for stability,
infrastructure, and investment.
One thing seems beyond a doubt. There are a significant number of people
who believe and are betting on the notion that Haiti will, one way or
another, remain reasonably safe for investment. Without that, the
commitment of the banking industry and the real estate boom would not be
What about foreign and especially U.S. involvement? Haiti, esp US military
presence there, has been the terrain for a tug of war between the right and
left wings of our system. But it is not in the interest of either the US
left or right for the Shacochis scenario to take place. (See Alex Dupuy's
HAITI AND THE NEW WORLD ORDER, which indicates that even the most sinister
right-wing vision of Haiti requires basic political stability, safety for
investors and investment projects, probably even some sort of cosmetic
respect for human rights.) Have both wings recognized that fact? Not
certain. But neither our right nor or left stands to benefit from anarchy
or a new reign of terror in Haiti. In fact, both sides have a lot to lose.
Does the US or the UN have the will to prevent the potential explosion?
Malone's post leaves room for doubt. There is a scary possibility that
Haiti's situation might just slip through a crack. On the other hand, it
doesn't take that much foreign military presence to prevent a coup. At
least I always believed that the 400-member US support group was sufficient
to guarantee that rudimentary level of security. Perhaps it will still be
guaranteed by other means-- since it is certainly in the interest of the US
to guarantee it.
Haiti has always had a great appetite for heroism, and has killed a great
many heroes, and corrupted some others. Maybe it will need heroes again,
as Shacochis predicts. What it certainly does need is a lot of quieter,
less visible, patient and persevering people to invest and to work. These
people may come from the ti neg sector of Haitian society, or from the
business sector of the old elite echelon, or from the diaspora. Some of
them may even be blan. Some of them are already among us. The situation
is a long way from hopeless-- unless we decide that it is.