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