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#4316: On the failure of a democratic success: reply to Gill
Mark Gill wrote:
<<since is is the average Haitian who is voting for Lavalas, what do you think
they are really voting for? are their interests
jelled into a systematic set of goals/objectives, or based on some elusive
hope that Aristide will "just make things better"?>>
I think Mark that once again, a lot of us do not realize what is happening in
Haiti. I do not pretend to know. But I am willing to make an educated guess.
Please bear with me. I won't be long, hopefully.
It may be easier for me in a sense, to follow what's happening down in my
country and also, with less emotion. After all, I do not leave there and am
not actively involved in any way in the process. I am just an honest observer
with a penchant for the Lavalas movement.
First of all, when you are running a political or even, a marketing campaign,
you need a slogan. Haiti is a country at war: war of words, that is. It is
also at war with itself, since everyone seems to be willing to lead it into a
specific direction, without the willingness to compromise. The trouble is, it
is not easy. Only those who can move away from the constant verbiage and deal
with the substance of the problems will survive the political jungle down
Lavalas has done a very good job at that, whether you agree or not. First of
all, they had a slogan for their campaign. It was a slogan for peace. As
Aristide said it himself, peace in the stomach and peace in the people's
lives (security). These are two key things that Haitians need right now. In
fact, they are begging for it. They truly believe that Aristide and his
acolytes of Fanmi Lavalas can deliver. Guess why? I am going to once again
make a rational guess.
First of all, Haitians love peace. They even prefer a dictatorial peace,
rather than a democratic turmoil (which is what we are having now). Lavalas
promises them peace. They are therefore willing to give them credibility on
that issue for two reasons:
1-the opposition uses a language that is not quite adversarial, but rather
inimical. If the opposition truly wants to make inroads in the political
process, it has to use a measured tone and a more rational approach. The
Lavalas leaders on the other hand, continue to stay away from that kind of
rhetoric. So, even when there was turmoil occured prior to May 21 in the
capital and in the provinces that were attributed to Lavalas, many people
decided to believe that it was really the work of some foreign nation(s)
[conspiracy theory, maybe]. But it sure did look that way at times.
Every time Lavalas had to make a statement, they used one person, one single
voice; that of the party spokesperson now Senator, Yvon Neptune, to make that
statement. That gentleman uses a measured tone to get his point accross. No
shouting, no crazy language, etc. So Lavalas looks good that way. That has a
great psychological impact on the people, believe it or not.
2-the issue of peace in the stomach (pè nan vant), like Aristide himself
says, is also a crucial issue for the population. People are hungry. They are
promised that with Lavalas, they may have a chance to at least, have one meal
a day. In a country like ours where middle class is not even defined as we do
here in the United States, that has resonance.
Incidentally, these are two key issues (slogans if you wish to call them so),
that Lavalas used to get its point accross.
No one on the other hand, can tell me exactly what were the opposition's
slogans during those elections. They seem to think by just personalizing
Haiti's politics (i.e. attacking Aristide), they will arrive at creating
doubts into the people's minds. That's another issue which we won't discuss
here. I will only say that, if they believe that's the proper approach to
take, they are dead wrong. They will keep losing, and losing, and losing.
Also Mark, they are not just hoping that Aristide will make things better as
you asked. Rather, they based their analysis on some specific. Many people
seem to have forgotten, or are denying the fact that there has been an
agrarian reform going on in Haiti for more than three years now. The results
are not that great. But at least, the people in the Artibonite region are not
killing each other anymore as they used to. There is an institute that is
responsible exclusively, to make the agrarian reform work, INARA. Aristide
does a lot of work with the poor through his foundation. These are concrete
things that are really on a small scale, but still relevant.
Finally, Haitians have a long memory. They also remember what hapenned with a
divisive parliament between late 1996 and 1998. No budget for two years, to
say the least. They'd rather thus, concentrate the power into mostly one
hand, instead of having the same old divisiveness which is surely not
creative or advantageous to the country. If anything could have been based on
the last municipal and legislative campaign, it was the distinct possibility
of the same kind of politics that we had down there bewteen 96 and 98, with
an opposition parliament opposed to just about everything the government
would have proposed. More chaos, etc. The people knew. Hence, they voted
Lavalas all the way.