$5,000,000,000 contract plus/Haiti, Part II
sherrynstan at igc.org
sherrynstan at igc.org
Tue Dec 18 07:53:37 MST 2001
[ Haiti, cont'd.]
Haiti is slippery. Its hard to get hold of. Sometimes it bites.
If the Dominicans invade, and Aristide is dead, says Numa, then the OAS can
be invited in to relieve them. The U.S. can then play a role of post-crisis
benevolence as it restructures Haiti to suit itself. This is mass paranoia if
it is paranoia at all. This strategy is one the U.S. has employed again and
again. Americans even wrote Haitis Constitution once.
These transparent pretexts for intervention are not for Haitian consumption.
The average illiterate peasant knows bullshit when she or he sees it,
literally and figuratively. Their experience with both is vast. These
pretexts are for us, the blan, the Americans. We are the real market for
political snake oil, for rationalization, for Manichean simplicity, for
January 27, 2001. Convergence has its conference, one they have projected
would draw 20,000 supporters. Three hundred would be much closer to the mark.
They changed the location, because the giant Rex Theater at Champ de Mars
feared popular outrage against them. It is a stroke of luck, in a sense. The
Rex would have dwarfed them with the low turnout. They end up having it at
The government, anxious to avoid all criticism, dispatches a phalanx of PNH to
provide security for Convergence. Threats have been called in. Indeed,
arrests are made when two men are caught with anti-Convergence leaflets and
bag loads of throwing stones. Oddly, its Convergence who appeals for their
release. Both men are identified as members of a Convergence affiliate.
Had this charade not been unmasked, the State Department and the New York
Times would doubtless have been decrying, a la Gillman and Goss,
Aristide-inspired acts of violence.
January 31, 2001. The Dominicans have mobilized all available armed forces to
the Haitian border, ostensibly to interdict drug traffic. Overnight,
whatever drugs may or may not cross from Haiti to the Dominican Republic have
become a threat to Dominican sovereignty.
The mediated meeting between Aristide and Convergence, to be facilitated by
the Papal Nuncio, scheduled for the 31st, didnt take place. No one is sure
why. Convergence has announced a new deadline to name the parallel
government. February 6th. The day before Aristides nomination. Convergence
has been emboldened by Aristides display of weakness, his legitimizing of
Convergence by offering to negotiate.
If you give the thief your finger, says Numa. He will take off your hand.
The PPN believes that Convergence, cockier now with Dubya coronated, may be
planning some kind of destabilization on the 6th. If the inauguration doesnt
take place on schedule, the Constitution requires the government to be
dissolved, which triggers new elections. They might try to engineer a
Constitutional crisis. If this fails, Aristide might be in great danger.
February 1, 2001. On the news this morning, we hear that a Chilean general
has threatened trouble if Pinochet is imprisoned. The successful coup of
George W. Bush is rousing reaction from its sleep across the world. Theres a
whiff of blood in the air. The fascists are flashing their teeth.
There were a few demonstrations after the Bush judicial coup, but America
tossed a bit then fell back to sleep. The vast majority of us watched the
theft of our own elections, wrung our hands for a day, and went shopping.
Blan will eat anything.
No one says the Haitians cant also be distracted, bamboozled, manipulated. A
fair number of people here still believe in werewolves and witches (instead of
Scientology and CNN, I suppose). But their exploitation at the hands of the
dominant classes is brutally direct, unadorned, and unabashed. It doesnt
take a PhD. And the Haitian collective memory about the foreign policy
establishments of the United States is crisp and current.
I leave the little hotel Im in, La Jolla, perched between affluence on the
right along the seawalk and the survival grind on the left where shacks along
a potted road climb unsteadily over the deforested hill. Im hungry.
Even my modest hotel wants more than I can afford right now for food. Its French.
The first restaurant I drop in on, where they ran out of butter yesterday, is
closed until five for cleaning. I try the Brise de Mer. Very nice. Very
expensive. Into the interior I walk, until I see the sign for Mont Joli
Hotela hangout for macoutes, partisans of the semi-feudals who dominate the
But I just survived a bout with untreated water over the last two days, so I
need safe food to give my frangible blan gut a little cover.
There is spaghetti bolognaise on the menu for only $20 Haitian, thats $4 US
since the gourd had a dip last week (Every cent of inflation is disastrous
news for Haiti.).
I am seated in a paradise, next to the pool, nice breeze, the great bay
visible only beginning past the coffee colored ribbon of excreta along the
littoral. The architecture is exquisite. The landscaping is lush, diverse,
brilliant, perfectly cared for. The breeze animates the palms. Silent waves
flash against the distant reef, surrounded by delicious blues below and above
The rich do truly understand beauty. Thats undeniable right here, right now.
And it comes cheap right here, right now.
Every tile, every arrangement of chairs, every careful touch in the gardens,
every attentive gesture in this restaurant is applied by people who will make
less money today than I am paying for this plate of spaghetti.
The French have arrived for lunch. Four of them sit at a table near mine,
with their briefcases, their open collars, their ledgers, their calculators.
They are in very good spirits. Its a marvelous day, theyre making money,
and they have good appetites.
They are pilot fish, I find myself thinking. The Big Blan is still Uncle Sam.
I know. Ive studied the history, and Ive done the math. Most here have no
need of the data, the dates, the tortured analyses.
Many Haitians are so confident of U.S. official pronouncements that they use
them like a compass. When the U.S. Embassy expresses it aims, its like a
north-seeking arrowwhich they use to travel directly to the south.
The French speaking radio stations give a daily platform to something calling
itself Societe Civil, a component of Convergence led by Rosny DeRoche, the
president of Baby Docs alma mater, College Bird. Societe Civil is composed
of a professional elite; bishops, professors, economists and their ilk. They
are perceived as a kind of ultimate legitimizing force, having mastered the
smooth Orwellian mush of their northern mentors.
Prime Minister Jacques Eduoard Alexis seems the only soul in the public eye
who isnt speaking in riddles and innuendos. He has almost daily denounced
this whole Convergence charade. Its refreshing in a sea of mountebanks to
hear this resounding cry of Bullshit!
February 5, 2000. Convergence had presented a proposal to Aristides
people. They will accept a three-person co-presidency with Aristide and two
of their people. They also want the Prime Ministers position. This is, in
Haiti, where most executive power resides, and by the Haitian Constitution,
the Prime Minister is appointed by the President from the majority party in
Parliamentwhich is Fanmi Lavalas. It is a demand so absurd on its face that
my comrades, who compulsively chase news across the radio dial, hear it and
fall out with laughter.
I think of Rambouillet, and wonder when Powell will do the yeomans job that
Madeline Albright did.
Fanmi Lavalas says they will prepare a counter-proposal. The clock is ticking.
In Petit Goave, a group of young thugs claiming the grandiose title of Jeunes
Revolucionairesyet another affiliate of Convergenceattempt a dechoukage
against the Lavalas mayor. An uprooting. The attack is met by a massive
demonstration and withdraws. Convergence grows desperate. Representatives of
the international community are declaring they will attend Aristides
inauguration. No one from the de facto regime of the United States will
February 6. Gerard Gourges, former Justice Minister under the regime of
macoute General Henri Namphy, circa 1986, is declared the Provisional
President of Haiti by Convergence. Popular outrage erupts in response to the
attack in Petit Goave, in Gonaives, historically a hotbed of popular
militancy. Pasteur Silvio Diendonne of Movement Chretien por une Nouvelle
Haiti (MOCHRENAH), a local spokesperson for Convergence, is met by a large
street demonstration led by Organizasyon Popile d Gonaives, a Lavalas
The streets across Haiti fill. Paper flags and paint, blue and red, the
colors of the Haitian flag, since Dessalines independence fighters ripped the
white out of the French tricolor, begins to decorate every tree and stone.
Aristides power makes itself felt.
February 7, 2001. 7 AM. Inauguration day. I am underslept. Drunken revelry
and music dominated the street last night, and I have been sleeping on the
roof. My room stays hot at night and fills with mosquitoes. I have watched
the moon fill out over the last seven nights.
We have just heard on the radio that Dominican soldiers are occupying the
Hotel El Rancho in Port-au-Prince for three days. How many we dont know.
Anpil. A lot. They are ostensibly there to give President Mejia of the
Dominican Republic security, but Mejia has now canceled. He has his army to
think about, holding him in check, making him a partial president. And the
Dominican Armed Forces work for the United States Department of Defense.
The first word to pop into my fuzzy, sleepless head is reconnaissance. I may
be getting paranoid.
Accounts are that the capital was quickened throughout the night with Lavalas
parties and demonstrations. The U.S. State Department is warning Americans
not to travel to Haiti. They are claiming extreme danger. Ive seen this
pre-conditioning before. The warning is not to protect, but to leave an
impressionpart of the set-up. Every U.S. Embassy has its Political Section.
Thats double-talk for CIA. The combination of macoute and CIA here is known
as labwatwa, the laboratory. The whole place reeks of the laboratorys
concoctions today. I cant help remembering that it waited eight months to
poison the last Aristide presidency, but there is an urgency crackling in the
air around the centers of reaction here.
Aristide gives his inauguration speech in four languages. Its a masterful
performance. Aristide reiterates his commitment to kowtow to the eight-point
plan, and as much as swears fealty to neoliberalism. Joe Kennedy is the sole
U.S. representative, so he quotes JFK. Ask not what your country can do for
In an orgy of ass-kissing, he calls for brotherhood with the Dominicans.
He promises dialogue with his oppostion. He promises countless kilometers of
roads, new schools, hospitals, bread. He is setting up his own fall with
Over a hundred thousand people clamor in the street for him. They are
energized by their deathless hope. Convergence decided, wisely, to withdraw
its plan for counter-demonstration. Their last demonstration netted fewer
than 200 people.
Paul Denis of Convergence resorts to archaic demagogy: We refuse to see a
totalitarian hegemonic regime installed, founded on violence and constructed
on anarchy, assassinations, crime, and generalized, daily, constant violence.
This from a man who consorts now with Duvalierists.
When the last coup happened, Aristide took refuge in his home, and 8,000
people surrounded his house, putting themselves between him and the militarys
guns. The mighty latency of this people has carried him through yet another
crisis and checked his enemies. Even as he sets them up for a fall. The
people have a right to be wrong.
Convergence withdraws to lick their wounds and confer with blan. The
Dominicans check out of the hotel. On the border they begin to stand down.
Here in Cap Haitien, where I now sit, one can see the mountains folded, layer
upon receding layer along the northern coast. No people understand the
principle of protracted struggle better than Haitians. Deye mon, gen mon.
Beyond every mountain, is a mountain. Their rebellion has been punished, from
home and abroad, for 197 years. When these resilient masses finally see
through the fog of these internecine battles for privilege, position, and
power, there will be hell to pay.
Another day: Two peasants lead us now on a foot tour of the region around
Marmelade. My age catches up with me, and I beg for the mercy of a halt. If
this country were flattened out, it would be the size of Texas, I think. The
word Haiti is Arawak for mountain. And some 5 or 6 million wills are daily
forged on these breathless slopes.
Aristide, the conciliator, may go the way of Toussaint LOverture. Plenty of
people here still name their children Dessalines. Dessalines own DNA has by
now been broadcast throughout his nation. New Years Day, 2004, is the
Revolutionary Bicentennial, and its in peoples headsthe work left undone.
There is a new saying on the street here. Why should we be afraid of one
Bush, when we are 8 million bouches? Bring it on. We can take anything.
Ladies and gentlemen, the revolution will not be televised
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