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#1812: Sunday Observer article on Haiti: Antoine comments about post #1801 (fwd)

From: Guy Antoine <webmaster@windowsonhaiti.com>

Thank you, Mary Durran, for forwarding this article.  It's a good
article for critical reading, and I have several comments about it:

In spite of the author's rather crude language, I have seen far worse
and more insidious prose than the one you just exhibited.  In fact,
there are some redeeming elements to it, but before I address 
those, I will start with the following criticisms:

1) I doubt that the handwritten card actually said "Sak vol kriminel".
He is supposedly the eyewitness, not me, so I could be wrong, but 
this "coded description in Creole French" does not make much
sense to me.  It's also true that I speak Kreyol, not "Creole French".

2) Since the writer does not know how to spell "Lavalas", one would
have expected greater competence from his desk editor at the UK

3) "children sick with boils play in the excreta that flows along open 
sewers."  Here the author engages in a bit of sensationalism,
reminiscent of "Haiti, Who Goes There?".  In poor neighborhoods,
children play in very unhealthy environments.  However, the projection
that Haiti's children are totally oblivious to excreta is a dangerously
false proposition, which invites even more prejudices towards Haiti.

4) The journalist himself routinely refers to the victim as "the rapist".
However, I did not read that the man was actually caught in the act
of raping the girl.  Regardless of his culpability, it would have been
preferable to refer to him as "the alleged rapist".  If the guy actually
committed the crime, justice is not served by his getting stoned to
death, and his body desecrated--there surely are or should be more
appropriate forms of retribution.  If he did not (an always distinct
possibility), that's even more horrific. But just because someone
gets killed in Haiti does not make that person automatically guilty.

That being said, there are also some redeeming qualities to the

1) it clearly depicts the horror of mass frenzy, of uncoordinated
acts of vigilantism, of the devaluation of life, of the price the poor
have to pay for the same acts that more privileged ones routinely
do with impunity.  What for instance happened to the 20 year-old
from Florida who for years had sexually abused his family's restavek,
and then probably found his way back to Haiti?  Is it the socially
accepted impunity for the rich that translates into an overzealously
strict system of justice for the poor?  This is a link worth exploring.

2) The article is far from polished, however there is the welcome
aspect of not having to read again the usual rehash from Reuters
(and other wire services) about Haiti being "the poorest country
in the western hemisphere" and oft-repeated standard paragraphs
the Americans' attempts to restore democracy in Haiti.  Indeed he
talks of "Operation Restore Democracy", but at the very least, he
gives a voice to local people, rather than regurgitating the same
lines over and over, that (conspiratorially or not) are generally force
fed to the Haiti reader. 

3) Then the author describes in this manner this other largely
uninvestigated big news about Haiti: "It is evident in Jacmel, an old
coffee port on Haiti's southern shore, which is a target for the latest
corrosion of an already rotten society - the adoption of Haiti by 
Colombian cocaine cartels as their export hub to the US.  Haiti is 
the perfect lawless merry-go-round for their speedboats and global
positioning systems. This has generated gang war in the shanties 
and Rolls Royces atop the hills, but also unexpected fortunes as 
peasants become overnight millionaires after finding a fraction of 
the vast quantities drifting ashore - now one fifth of all cocaine 
passing to the US."

If true, it is astounding that one-fifth of all cocaine passing to the
U.S. comes from Haiti.  Of course, I would like to see more
substantiation of that estimate.  However, one has to wonder just
what has been the role of the U.S. D.E.A. in Haiti; why has there
been such a spectacular failure to control the flow of drugs through
this little country under recent U.S./U.N. occupation; how much
more rot will be generated in Haiti if this flow of drugs continues
unabated; whether the already besieged way of life in the country
will stand a chance against the fast life brought about by this new
found prosperity.

"Rolls Royces atop the hills"... who owns those Rolls Royces and
how much mileage do they get in Haiti???

Anyway, I am not claiming that the author delved into any of those 
concerns in an analytical way, but this particular article has given 
me more to reflect on than many of the "less offensive" but "more 
insidious" press articles from AP, Reuters, etc.

Guy S. Antoine
Look thru & Imagine!