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8633: o'grady and the WSJ (fwd)

From: Amy Wilentz <amywile@panix.com>

I have sent the following letter to The Wall Street Journal

To the editors:

        Mary O'Grady's article on Haiti and President Jean-Bertrand
("Haiti's Aristide Says 'Show Me the Money,'" July 6, 2001) is notable
both for its heavy-breathing language and for its endless errors of fact
and interpretation. 
        Haiti is not an "inferno of terror." As anyone who's been there
recent months knows, it is terribly poor and suffers from repeated
popular unrest and criminal actions, but for the most part and most of
the time, you are as safe in Haiti's capital as you are in most major
American cities.  
        O'Grady's article makes it sound as if Aristide were Francois
Doc) Duvalier. But he is clearly not. Tens of radio stations function
independently of the government in Aristide's Haiti. Gerard Gourgue, a
longtime figure on the Haitian political scene, has even had himself
declared himself "parallel" president by the opposition, without so much
as a hair on his head being harmed. Other opposition leaders whose
intransigent blocking of the Aristide government has been outspoken and
quite successful are out and about as any U.S. politician would be in
similar circumstances.
        To call Aristide a "corrupt authoritarian" and "the Haitian
as O'Grady does, is to link him with Haiti's unfortunate recent
political past while neglecting to convey how he is different from those
past military regimes and brutal dictatorships: He is Haiti's first
democratically elected president; he is and remains the overwhelming
choice of the Haitian people, in spite of their continued povery; he has
committed himself to helping them, and remains committed to this goal in
what are extremely trying political circumstances. His achievements as
president so far are not overwhelming -- to put it mildly -- but there
is still far more room and more security for political activity,
opposition, and assembly under Aristide than there was in pre-Aristide
Haiti, which is, by the way, what O'Grady really seems to be describing.

Amy Wilentz
(author of The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier, Touchstone, 1990)