I always read about Haiti written in the United States with the jaded eye of someone who has lived and worked in rural Haiti for almost four years. I was not in the Presidential Palace when Jean-Bertrand Aristide accepted a woulib (free ride) from the U.S. Marines, hence I cannot comment on the competing scenarios of abdication or abduction. I do feel the need to dispel the urban myth that continues to be foisted upon the American public by Kevin Pina, Ira Kurzban and others who are blinded to the truth either by ideology or because they are paid performers.
In Nov. 16’s “Love him or Haiti him, Pina comes to town,” Christopher Larson describes Haiti as “a society where the masses want the return of their rightful president and the reinstatement of their government.” It’s a nice catchphrase, but it does not reflect the reality I have experienced. Outside of the poorest slums in Port-au-Prince, support for Aristide is razor thin at best. Even in the communities where his support is believed to be strongest, those loyalties are based on a misguided belief that Aristide cares about anyone other than Aristide. What is more certain is that this loyalty is immediately transferable to any personality who preaches a populist message. If one leaves the confines of Port-au-Prince and travels to other areas where 70 percent of the population lives, Aristide and the Lavalas movement are completely discredited.
One anecdotal fact says more a lot about the state of democracy. The most popular figure in the country is Jean-Claude Duvalier. Just as many in Russia wax sentimental for the “good old days of Stalinism,” Haitians are drawn to the relative stability of an autocracy. Aristide and the Lavalas movement were a revolution in name only. In practice, it was more of the same corruption and human rights abuses that have characterized Haiti throughout its 200 years of independence.
Haiti will still bleed after the next electoral exercise because whichever person assumes the mantle of leadership, we can be certain of one thing: Self-interest will trump national interest. Nothing will change because none of the 35 approved candidates represent a broad constituency or have shown the slightest interest in galvanizing the population. They preach populism when Haiti needs pragmatism.
David Doherty resides in Camp Perrin, Haiti. Please send comments to [email protected]