21 March 2004

'We Ugly! But We Here!'

Common Sense
John Maxwell

It's the Haitian equivalent of "You-ah go tired fi see mi face". In Haitian Creole it is "No lèd, Men Nou La!".

The Haitian people are the facts on the ground, and whoever pretends to be ruling Haiti has to deal with eight million of them.

It does not really matter that Mr Patterson has assured the Americans that President Aristide will not use Jamaica as a launching pad to overthrow the so-called government of Haiti; or that Mr Aristide promises that he will not interfere in the politics of Haiti.

It does not matter, because President Aristide is the politics of Haiti - until the Haitian people decide otherwise. No one else has that competence.

The so-called new prime minister of Haiti is one monsieur Latortue, who has a lot of chat for someone without a mandate from anyone except the US ambassador and his bosses. He is, he says, going to unite Haiti, so he has begun by boldly leaving out of his 'government' any representative of the people of Haiti. I give him three weeks.

My attitude to the farce now being played out in Haiti has drawn fire from a fellow columnist in this newspaper, who has described my columns as "Anti-American dissertations".

It would be easier to treat Lloyd Smith seriously if he could get even a few facts right, but when he says that it was Mr Loren Lawrence who was declared persona non grata by the Jamaican Government, he is 10 years and four or five ambassadors out of joint. He forgets that Mr Lawrence was thought by many to be Mr Seaga's manager. It was Vincent de Roulet who was asked to leave.

"No lèd, Men Nou La!" or as Michael Manley said one day in 1975, "We are not for sale".

Lectured on Democracy

I am personally tired of being lectured on democracy by the representatives of a government whose citizens gained universal adult suffrage 20 years after we did. It seems that I am not alone. The most recent Pew international poll suggests that the rest of the world does not endorse the Bush administration's policies.

I have nothing to apologise for when the world should know that the United States and France bear the major responsibility for the predicaments in which Haiti now finds itself. It is a savage irony, that two of the three nations founded at the end of the 18th century on the ideals of the Brotherhood of Man should continue to hypocritically dismiss the third on no other visible basis but that Haiti is black.

Racism is Racism is Racism. To describe Haiti as a 'failed state", to say that Aristide misgoverned his country, to allege that the mulatto elite in Haiti are capable of operating a democracy are sick jokes. The mulatto elite and the military have been the junior partners in the franchised predation of Haiti for most of its history.

Aristide was not perfect. Nobody ever claimed that he was. But is George W Bush perfect? or Jacques Chirac? The money misappropriated when Chirac was mayor of Paris could feed a great many Haitians. Does that make Chirac unfit to lead France? Does the fact that Ken Lay of Enron was the largest contributor to President George Bush, or the fact that Vice-President Cheney's company is accused of overcharging the US army for food make either Mr Bush or Cheney unfit to govern the United States and the world?

Whose Failure?

"His failure to adhere to democratic principles has contributed to the deep polarisation and violent unrest that we are witnessing in Haiti today... His own actions have called into question his fitness to continue to govern Haiti. We urge him to examine his position carefully, to accept responsibility, and to act in the best interests of the people of Haiti" - Colin Powell, secretary of state, USA.

"I am the chief, the military chief.. The country is in my hands" - Guy Philippe, 'rebel leader', convicted coup plotter, reputed cocaine baron.
"Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest countries in the developing world. Its per capita income - $250 - is considerably less than one-tenth the Latin American average. About 80 per cent of the rural Haitian population live in poverty. Moreover, far from improving, the poverty situation in Haiti has been deteriorating over the past decade, concomitant with a rate of decline in per capita GNP of 5.2 per cent a year over the 1985-95 period.

"The staggering level of poverty in Haiti is associated with a profile of social indicators that is also shocking. Life expectancy is only 57 years, compared to the Latin American average of 69. Less than half of the population is literate. Only about one child in five of secondary-school age actually attends secondary school. Health conditions are similarly poor; vaccination coverage for children, for example, is only about 25 per cent. Only about one-fourth of the population has access to safe water. In short, the overwhelming majority of the Haitian population are living in deplorable conditions of extreme poverty" - The World Bank - Challenges of Poverty Reduction.

"The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations announced that the poorest nation in Latin America was undergoing a 'silent' food crisis. The organisation implies that the crisis is 'silent' because the people somehow survive despite the dire food situation" - Foreign Aid Watch.

"The task facing this nation of eight million people is enormous.

"About 30,000 new cases of AIDS were diagnosed in Haiti last year. And though the spread of the disease has stabilised somewhat in recent years, about 4.5 per cent of the population - some 360,000 people - is infected, the highest rate in the region, according to the Ministry of Health.

"We have a detailed plan for fighting AIDS from 2002 through 2006," said Public Health Minister Henri Claude Voltaire. "It's a plan that was created by experts, not government ministers, although they are certainly involved."

But the plan is being stymied by a political quagmire stemming from disputed parliamentary elections in May 2000 that led to the suspension of some $500 million in foreign aid - Michael Deibert, Associated Press.

A quagmire and its sponsors

People are starving to death in Haiti, thousands are dying of AIDS. Thousands of children and adults are dead, dying or unable to function in any adequate sense because of polluted drinking water, lack of food and AIDS. The situation is dire, and it has been for years - long before Aristide. The High Panjandrums of the USA, France, Canada and the UN know all that and have known it for years.

Yet, the plans were "being stymied by a political quagmire". The political quagmire, according to the US and its clients, is entirely due to Aristide, except that the disputed senatorial seats were vacated three years ago and offers made for a new election. The Opposition refused. They refused as they have refused every single attempt by President Aristide to make peace and develop Haiti. One fundamental demand of the 'democratic opposition' was non-negotiable. There would be no democratic dialogue with Aristide!
But, according to the US, it is Aristide that is the problem.

The democratic opposition is almost entirely financed by USAID and by a far-right US Government outfit called the National Endowment for Democracy, which some describe as the human face of the CIA.

So while Mr Powell was urging Mr Aristide to make concessions, Dr Condoleezza Rice's people were presumably telling their clients not to speak to him. I am not sure what the Americans mean by "a zero sum game", but this sure sounds like one. The US Government was telling Aristide to play Russian Roulette, with bullets in all chambers.

Former US Congressman Ron Dellums has been working on behalf of President Aristide. According to him, a day or two before the president's departure from Haiti, Colin Powell told him (Dellums) to give Aristide a message. It was that Guy Philippe was coming to his palace to kill him and that the United States would do nothing to prevent it.

Patterson & Powell

Under various international laws and conventions people like Aristide and his family are specially protected persons. Officials of foreign governments such as Powell and Patterson are obliged to accord them a special duty of care. Additionally, according to custom, tradition and law, Patterson is obliged to offer as much aid, comfort and assistance to President Aristide as possible, since he is the democratically-elected head of a friendly state - removed by unconstitutional means, whether by threats, menaces or any other illegal procedure is immaterial.

The behaviour of Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council was barbaric. They refused to help a UN member in good standing when his country was threatened by the most disreputable, bloodthirsty assassins. Yet, two days later, when Aristide had been overthrown, kidnapped or whatever, the same group felt impelled to send a 'peace-keeping' force to Haiti. And a few days ago, the World Bank held a donors meeting to consider aid for Haiti. The hypocrisy runs like blood in an abattoir.

The problem for Aristide's enemies was that neither Plan A nor Plan B worked. Plan A was to starve the Haitians into submission. Despite starvation they stood firm. Plan B was to intimidate and overawe the president and his people by capturing some soft targets, police stations in rural areas with populations starving and unable to protect themselves. The people did not flinch, nor did Aristide.

Plan C then came into play, a last desperate option. It seemed to work, and since the world Press was prepared by hogsheads of propaganda about Aristide's wickedness, there would be no trouble, no backlash.

As the Haitian slaves said 200 years ago: "No lèd, Men Nou La!"

They're still there. No longer slaves. And they are not for sale.


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