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#3279: FED from Miami Herald, Boston Globe - Aristide's New Book (fwd)


Aristide searches for a `third way' to survive
Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization. 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Common Courage. 88 pages. $12.


For several years, former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide has 
remained in the shadows. In his Port-au-Prince home, he welcomes a stream of 
visiting dignitaries and businessmen and, every weekend, a busload of poor 
children. They come to swim in his pool.

In Eyes of the Heart, the value of those visits becomes clear -- just as he 
prepares to step back into the public eye and probably run for president 
again in November. The outsiders often tell Aristide what Haiti must do in 
order to join the global economy. The children remind Aristide he must resist.

Therein lies the heart of this eloquent book, a self-described ``letter'' 
that stretches to small-book length: Aristide tells the stories of the 
voiceless who suffer under the economic rules of globalization. He argues 
that the financial conditions imposed on Haiti and other poor countries 
guarantee more misery for the powerless, offering them ``a choice between 
death and death.''

And so, he writes, ``With choices like these, the urgency of finding a third 
way is clear. We must find some room to maneuver, some open space simply to 
survive. We must lift ourselves up off the morgue table and tell the experts 
we are not yet dead.''

Exactly how he proposes to create a third way is vague. He mentions his 
resistance in 1995 to loan conditions imposed by the International Monetary 
Fund for a sale of state assets. He fought for 10 percent ownership of shares 
in state-owned companies for victims of 1991's coup and later won support 
from the World Bank. But the next Haitian government didn't back him.

Aristide's story is well documented. In the 1980s, he and several other 
activist priests challenged the years of Duvalier dictatorship, eventually 
forcing the family to flee. He became Haiti's first democratically elected 
president in 1991 but was overthrown only seven months later. In 1994, after 
U.S. troops invaded Haiti, he returned to serve his final 16 months in office.

The book leaves no doubt he is even more determined to fight for social 
justice. For those who follow Haiti, Eyes of the Heart will give a sketchy 
blueprint for a second Aristide administration.

Drawing upon his faith and his experiences with the poor, Aristide provides 
sustenance to those who want to declaw the world's financial institutions. 
While some only see desperation when they look at Haiti and other developing 
countries, Aristide sees hope and a landscape that he calls a ``museum of 
humanity.'' Still, he acknowledges struggling with the unmet expectations of 
the Haitian people. The average Haitian survives on $250 a year; 85 percent 
of the people are illiterate.

Aristide's ``third way'' isn't likely to change life in Haiti substantially 
in the short run. But he chips away at the divisions between the rich and 
poor, inviting, for instance, children from slums over for a swim. It may 
seem like an odd symbolic gesture, but pools in Haiti are symbols of the 

``We know the kids need food, we know they need school, but we cannot give 
all of them these things in a day. So while we are working to change the 
society, we can give them a day in a swimming pool,'' he writes.

It's more than symbolism; it's empowerment.

John Donnelly reviewed this book for The Boston Globe.