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7214: The Lauture issue and its wider significance
BOB: POST ANONYMOUSLY, PLEASE
TOPIC: More than Lauture
I have a lot of respect for those who dared to put their names - and much
more -- on the line in the discussion about Mrs. Lauture's role in the
Lavalas regime. Unfortunately, I can't do the same. Indeed, we know we are
getting into a serious discussion when so many of us who have no ax to
grind ask Bob to keep our post anonymous. For the doubters, I can't confirm
all the detailed facts advanced (and I am sure more will come up, some
truer than others). But the general picture is correct: we are talking
perhaps for the first time on this list, about people who hold real power
But I would like also to go beyond the individual and messy details to ask:
what does the presence of Mrs. Lauture as perhaps the most powerful private
individual in a "populist" government say about Haitian politics, Haitian
society, Haitian gender roles: sexuality, class, color and money. I think
those of us concerned about understanding Haiti rather than moving
recklessly from enthusiasm to despair will benefit from such a discussion.
I do not have any clear answer but I would like to see those who can
contribute to a serious (I don't mean academic) discussion of this topic
help us clear some of the mud.
The irony is obvious. Like him or not, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected
twice with wide popular support. He is still by far the most popular
politician in Haiti and the vast majority of his support come from the
poorest segments of the population. Like him or not, he took great risks
for his beliefs under Jean-Claude Duvalier. Like him or not, he was robbed
of his power by a coup financed by the richest people in Haiti.
Now, these same people are playing the same roles they were playing before
the coup, enjoying the same monopolies, getting the same HUGE profit
margins on international deals from phone operations to buying silverware -
as they did under the Duvaliers, as they did before Duvalier. Everybody who
knows Tabarre agrees that Lauture is the central player in that
reconciliation and the most important deal-maker in Haiti. Unless one
believes that Lauture is a genius and Aristide a fool (and nobody who knows
them will say so), then there are serious questions here.
How much does gender - and sexuality? -- play a role? How much do
Aristide's and Lauture's different class origins and color categories play
a role? That is, what kind of seduction is at work here? What allowed many
so-called bourgeois (mostly light-skinned) to make such an easy transition
from Duvalierists to Lavalassiens? Many "classes moyennes" or peasants were
not allowed to make that transition. Many houngans were killed before they
could make that transition. But Lauture was a long-time associate of the
liberal side of the Catholic Church (St.Martial, Adrien etc.). Is there an
unspoken class-color-francophone power that allows some people to survive
any transition and become power-brokers?
Even if Aristide himself was seduced (I don't mean sexually, that is
irrelevant), did the contagion reach other Lavalass leaders who were
genuinely suspiscious at first? Or was personal gain so high that they
changed their coats? But why did they feel the need to enlist these
bourgeois and proto-bourgeois since they have full political control of the
streets and there is no army in their way? If gain is the issue, why not
rob directly for themselves?
As I said, I don't have an answer for these questions. Are they even the
right questions. But I think there is a big puzzle here. How come a
government that reached power in such a unique way and still has a unique
legitimacy fall back into traditional Haitian practices. The details of the
relation between Aritstide and Lauture are worth exploring. But what they
tell us about Haiti is really what's important in the long term.