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#4993: Haiti and the politics of paranoia (fwd)

From: HYSEKA@aol.com

We all know now that the game is over. The elections took place after months 
of bickering, accusations, counteraccusations and murder. The 47th 
legislature took seat this past Monday and Haiti is still alive. But what we 
should think about however, is the paranoia of our political leaders.

A quick review of Haiti's recent history will tell us that our politicians, 
at least from Duvalier on, have all been obsessed with the fear of being not 
only overthrown, but also completely crushed from the political landscape. 
The paranoia itself, as I understand it, began with Paul Eugène Magloire who 
overthrew his "good friend" Estimé. It came as a shock to many. Duvalier the 
father was obviously profoundly influenced by that act. He became paranoid 
and vowed to himself, never to fall into such trap. This to me, explained his 
dealings with the military and his creation of the vile VSN. 

I am no apologist for Duvalier. Not at all. In fact, I despise the man as a 
politician. But if we wish to be candid, we must ask ourselves: who knows 
what kind of a leader he would have been, had Estimé been able to finish his 
term which seemed to be so promising? In fact one could even ask, would 
Duvalier ever had the opportunity to be "elected" president in the first 

In 1991, Aristide became president. He eventually put his trust in Cédras and 
chose him as chief of our army. Another treason. Cédras overthrew the elected 
chief of state. Perhaps this was the best thing for Haiti. After all, our 
civilian leaders (present and future), will no longer have to fear the wrath 
of a rogue army.

This year in early April, the most famous Haitian journalist, Jean Dominique, 
was coldly murdered. Those of us who have followed the investigation so far, 
have come to realize that this crime was no accident. It was a classic hit. 
It is a travesty at times, for me to hear or read people accusing some in the 
opposition or some associate of the government in power for having committed 
such crime. I've got my suspicion but will keep it to myself. It is 
irrelevant here. What we must realize however, is that this crime marked the 
end of the innocence in our burgeoning democracy.

Many suspect that he was murdered, probably because of his stands on the 
making of  the recent elections. He on many occasions, talked about an 
electoral coup d'état in process. He was no man to say things unless he was 
sure of his arguments and the facts were convincing. So most people believed 

Sadly true, virtually none of those in the opposition, for whom Jean fought 
so hard so they can enjoy the freedom of criticizing those in power, organize 
politically against the government and be free to travel inside and outside 
the country, virtually none of those came to his funeral. None. This is truly 
the end of the innocence, the naiveté.

Many seem to wonder why the government did not agree for a second round, when 
the odds are clearly in their favor. The OAS and everyone else (except the 
opposition), agreed that nine of the eighteen Senators did win in the first 
round. Even when Lavalas would have only won four out of the ten in a second 
round, the probability that they would have gotten two-third of the Senate 
was still great, considering that on November 26, the other eight Senators 
who were still members of the Parliament, would have to go to reelection. 
This is where the coattail theory would have applied. Aristide is by all 
account very popular and is very likely to win the next presidential 
elections.  Except for Senator Wesner Emmanuel, the other seven senators who 
will go for reelection this November do not enjoy the support of the 
departments they represent. They were all members of the 46th legislature, 
that aberration in Haiti's parliamentary history. It is clear then that no 
matter what, Lavalas would have won the 2/3 majority it needs to do the 
business of the country. Why then did they not go for a second round?

Well, I suspect that there is currently a deep mistrust of the International 
Community amongst those in power. After all, the "Big Three" of that 
community, did not pay to Dominique their last respect either. They had their 
stated reason for that, which was undiplomatically not pro-lavalas. 
2-The party in power had to fight with the Electoral Council, just so they 
could install voting booths in poorer areas of the country, considered 
Lavalas strongholds. 
3-The opposition on the other hand, made it clear that it was not interested 
in a second round. It wanted a so-called "option zéro," where even Préval 
would have to resign, in addition to completely eliminating the May 21 
elections because they did not win.  

It all seemed to fit in a nice package, where the government and the party in 
power felt like it was being choked. In that kind of atmosphere, it was at 
best difficult for Lavalas to gamble its win. The paranoia is in that sense 
justified, since those in power feel sincerely, that they have no other true 
friend in this fight but the Haitian people themselves.

The issue here to me, is the paranoia of our politics. It has began at least 
since Magloire overthrew Estimé, continued on with Duvalier, and is now 
passed on to Lavalas.

Lavalas to survive and become the oddity in Haitian politics must do a few 
things. They must recognize their paranoia and deal with it rationally. 
Paranoia may at times be a lightning rod, depending on how it is used. They 
must also prove that they are indeed interested in institutionalizing our 
democracy and allow the opposition to mature with the Haitian people, if they 
so desire. They must continue to deal with the International Community, which 
oftentimes sounds more rational as an opposition, than our indigenous one. If 
everyone who is not a Lavalas, is still trying to "box" that movement and 
"kill it," it is because of their promises made to the Haitian people. With 
all that power that Lavalas now have in their hand, they have the capacity to 
maneuver. So they have to be creative, rational and calm. Perhaps the best 
thing that is now going on for Lavalas, is the so low level of expectation 
that many seem to have. If they can prove them wrong and still work towards 
institutionalizing our democracy, transform our economy and give us valuable 
peace, they will go down in our history as the greatest political movement in 
Haiti ever since Independence.

Many irrelevant thinkers seem to think that by calling our leaders dirty 
names with sexual overtone, they will make sense to the Haitian people. Well, 
many in the opposition have tried that trick and it only backfires. The 
people of that small nation, are no tragic heroes in some Dostoievsky's 
novel. They make their choice based on their own empirical analysis. They may 
be wrong but they know where they want to go. Ever since the 1940's, the 
Haitian people have been yearning for governments and leaders who speak their 
language, respond to their basic needs and respect them as human beings. Now 
that they have the opportunity, we should either stay on the sidelines and 
watch if we don't like it, or cheer if we do when something good happens.

I happen to have high hopes for our people. I think there are tremendous 
possibilities now for things to change for good. I will only add this. I hope 
and pray that the opposition's voice is kept intact, so long as they stay 
within the limits of the law. After all, it is better to have a bad 
opposition, than no opposition at all. There is a place where the paranoia 
must end.

Hyppolite Pierre