A Step Up for Haiti?

Jeremy Sapienza, August 19, 2008

Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis, the new Haitian prime minister, is having some trouble getting ratified by parliament — and the Haitian Constitution is no help in pointing the way to a resolution. It’s about time Haiti had a female kleptocrat — it’s quite progressive. No but seriously, Ms. Pierre-Louis seems a lot better than former president Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who hoodwinked the significant and comparatively wealthy Florida Haitian community into rooting for him, only to pull off the angelic democrat mask and reveal his true diabolic dictator face. He’s now in exile in Central African Republic, one of the only places on earth worse than Haiti. Pierre-Louis split with Aristide’s party seemingly over its promotion of mob violence. Not a fan of the Père Lebrun, I guess.

Here’s to hoping Haiti, that could-be Caribbean paradise, can finally liberalize and knock it off with the mud-eating crap already. Communist Cuba has a better standard of living, to give you an idea of how wretched Haiti is.

UPDATE: I have picked the wrong blog for flippance. I don’t have the time or inclination to debate with most of the offended commenters, mostly because I actually agree with most of you. I was not placing all the blame on the Haitian people for the centuries of political tragedy that continue to befall them, just making silly observations in poor taste. I simply wish to apologize for any misunderstandings and hurt feelings and promise to be more serious and substantive in my future contributions here.




28 Responses to “A Step Up for Haiti?”

  1. Communist Cuba has a higher standard of living then Nicaragua, Honduras, Suriname, Bolivia, and some other nations in the hemisphere. It is hardly a proper comparison. Sorry for being nit-picky.

  2. What a mean-spirited article from Jeremy Sapienza above. Outsiders need to stop messing with the people of Haiti.

  3. Haiti is a total basket case partially becuase of all this interference from American imperialists.

  4. I don’t dispute that foreign intervention starting with Thomas Jefferson has helped keep Haiti horrible, and it’s difficult to blame the Haitian people at large for its situation. But they really need to stop allowing themselves to be whipped into a fervor over this hack or that crony. There is no denying Haiti is a kleptocracy of the highest magnitude, something foreign intervention can only magnify, not introduce.

  5. Jose, Havana does not have a higher standard of living than the urban areas of those countries. Santa Cruz in Bolivia is probably on par with Buenos Aires. It’s not exactly fair to compare a historically advanced society like Cuba to backwaters like Suriname and the indigenous regions of Bolivia and Honduras — or Haiti, for that matter. I guess my comment wasn’t very illustrative.

  6. The only crime Aristide is guilty of is not following the Washington consensus, that is why he had to go. From the first day he took power in 1991, the U.S. State Department and the Haitian elite( i.e. the real kleptocrats) searched for a way to destroy him, finally succeeding on the second coup attempt. Subsequently, the army unleashed a wave of political violence that dwarfed even the darkest days of the Duvalier regimes. No country recovers easily from such events, but in a country like Haiti it’s damn near impossible. Suddenly from 2001-2004 violence in Haiti becomes a big issue and it’s all blamed on Aristide’s supporters. Meanwhile those who participated in the bloodlust of the previous decade walked away scot free, or actually participated in the 2004 “revolution” which was about as authentic as the color coded revolutions of the time in Eastern Europe.

    A fight over who will become the next prime minister is at least preferable to the events described above. Hell, Belgium took a year to finally pick a prime minister. Haiti will never be a “Caribbean paradise”, the environmental degradation of the country is too great(see Jared Diamond). It may yet become more livable, there is still hope for that. If anyone wants good background on Haiti, read Paul Farmer, a man who has spent most of his life delivering medical care to the Haitian poor.

  7. And what exactly did Thomas Jefferson do?

    The US government didn’t even recognize Haiti until 1862.

  8. I was in the bahamas not long ago. they have no taxes, cab drivers make as much as 100,000 dollars a year. I've never seen happier people in my life.

  9. Absolutely ridiculous conclusions by someone who clearly knows very little about Haiti. If Haiti suffers from anything more than kleptocracy and hunger, it’s uninformed pundits like this. My suggestion, stick to something you know.

  10. Thank you, DK.

  11. Your article is extremely ill inform and mean spirited. Instead of complimenting a country that is appointing a female head of governement, you spend more time on the negative aspects of it all. Kevin Pina has it right, you couldnt even get the correct country of exile for Aristide. It’s South Africa, he was initially taken to the Congo but later move to S.Africa. If you cant get that simple fact that is easily verifiable right, what authority do you have on Haitian politics let alone a complex issue like electing the head of governement. Listen to DK and get some facts from Dr. Paul Farmer, hell, read anything factual on Haiti then write the article.

    For some reason you think you also have some special insight into the Haitian Constitution. It does provide a framework for ratifying the prime minister. Like anything that has to go through congress and needs a super majority, it takes alot of negociations hence is time consuming. You backward pundits say haitians are conflict prone and they play a winner takes all politics but when they are trying to work out compromises, you spew trash like this article.

    Please inform yourself before trying to inform others.

  12. Aristide diabolical? dictatorial?

    As far as I can tell (I visited Haiti in 1992 and 1993), he listened to and responded to the poorest people of Haiti – and they responded with their votes. But democracy isn’t accepted or respected when the poor get their candidate in power.

    I met Aristide in Washington DC in the year 2000. He came across as idealistic, but not naive. And still devoted to the poorest of Haiti.

    My sense is that it was Aristide’s communist leanings – as in, the wealth of the country HAS TO BE distributed so that it can be shared among all Haitians – that led to his ouster. At this point, I find myself hoping that Haiti can someday adopt a more socialist government, but it will probably take a revolution, not a vote.

    Too bad the Catholic Church can’t lead the way, but it gets so caught up in the politics and power that it sells its soul.

    And I agree with the other commenters that Paul Farmer is a national treasure, who truly loves Haiti and her peoples.

  13. So all Hatians problems are caused by American imperialism? I wonder if CIA helped them to invent necklacing or they learned it from Winnie Mandela?

  14. That’s disingenuous. It doesn’t matter what form the political violence takes, the fact is that Haiti’s problems are mostly due to the long term interference and imperialism of The US, France, and Canada.

    Oh, and speaking of unfair comparisons, Sapienza, Santa Cruz is home to Bolivia’s plutocrats, so wouldn’t it make more sense to compare Cuba as a whole with Bolivia as a whole? Or, even better, compare it with the countries in this hemisphere that have enthusiastically embraced the Washington Consensus, and then compensate for the massive damage caused by the emargo.

  15. correction: embargo, not emargo.

  16. Not really Alex. No one is putting all blame on the U.S for our countries problems but no other country influences it more. To answer your question, if u take a look at some of the worst dictators and mass murderers in that surfaced in haitian politics; Raul Cedras, Emanuelle Constant, and the majority of the ruling class of the army, you’ll see they had better means of exterminating i.e rape, massacres,torture. And something i bet you dont know about, guess who trained and armed this “great” army of ours, the Unite States. Necklacing was simply the tools of those who did not have arms to fight with. The cia is responsible for alot of things in Haiti but necklacing is the invention of poeple enraged and desparate for change that was not going to happen without extreme violence.

  17. Racist is the word I would give to this elitist comment. Anyone who has bothered to study the record of US imperialism in the Caribbean and Latin America would know that the people of Haiti have been destroyed by Western multi national exploitation of its land, government, and desperately poor citizens.

    The same smug attitude is directed towards Iraq by many American politicians. We utterly
    destroyed your country form end to end, now pay for your own reconstruction.

    As for the comment about Cuba, your editor Raimondo must feel its necessary to attack Cuba on a regular basis in order to keep the cash flowing in these quarterly funding drives.
    Raimondo somehow doesn’t get the connection between free market capitalism and its role in the destruction of Iraq. And he does not understand the tremendous struggle the Cuban people have endured to prevent a similar fate.

  18. How exactly is Haiti suppose to stop the most powerful nation on earth from continuous
    interference in there internal affairs? Your racist uninformed comments are not worthy of
    the space taken on a supposedly progressive site. Your attitude towards the exploited masses of poor in Haiti is similar to the so called neo cons who believe that wealthy white
    US citizens have a right to steal the land, labor, and resources of any country because we are a cut above everyone else. They believe we are gods chosen few. That might makes right.
    In short: RACISM.

  19. And who are the majority of the ruling class and army? Aren’t they also Haitians? People that are already prone to extreme violence will commit it anyway. And how do you explain horrendous murder and rape rate in South Africa? Country is ran by ANC since 1994. Are people there still enraged and desperate for change?

  20. I’ve visited Haiti twice. The last time was in 2004. Like most places in the world it is not easy to just say “Imperialism is at fault” or “Aristide is at fault” and have those statements be either true or false.

    Many people assume that the poor in Haiti supported Aristide but the rich opposed him. That is not true. In the slums of La Saline and Cite Soliel there are Aristide supporters but the slums of Cap Hatien had some of his most virulent opponents.

    When I was in Cite Soliel (and shot at by a teenage Aristide supporter known only to me as “Billy’s Soldier”…while he was on a bicycle and I was in a speeding beat up Honda) the people I talked to before the encounter with the homocidal teen wanted Aristide to be in power because they hoped that “Aid” money would trickle down to them. They had no idea what “aid” was or where it came from, but only that gang leaders would get a cut and that would then be distrubted to the gang members themselves. In the mean time the gangs fought for turf and extorted passengers and drivers of Tap-Taps (Haitian public transport) that gathered nearby.

    In the slum of Cap Haitien I ran accross a similar but more docile group who hoped that “aid” money would come to them from their support of Guy Phillipe.

    Now if you break things down to simple relations on the US level , you will see that Democrats tended to want to give aid to Aristide and Republicans tended to want to give aid to Phillipe. So in Haiti in 2004 the Republicans and Democrats had a proxy war being fought with real guns and real blood over the promise of aid money.

    In conclusion, no matter what the opinion of who is at fault for Haitis condition we can see that even the presumption of aid money has caused violence and will probably continue to cause violence. Therefore it should be stopped and never promised at all by anyone.

  21. Absolutely, the US should keep out of the internal affairs of Haiti, and Iraq, and Iran,
    and Cuba.

  22. This is a curious place to find the fascist view of Aristide repeated with approval.

  23. Not only is the article mean sprited, it is woefully inaccurate. Aristide has been in exile in South Africa where he teaches at the university level and recently earned a Ph.D in the Zulu language. Furthermore, Ms. Pierre-Louis was ratified as prime minister last month. A simple google search would have revealed these facts. This seriously calls into question the authors credibilty.

  24. This is about “phase 2″ of the ratification vote. Otherwise, a rather less than simple Google search did indeed reveal Aristide is in South Africa, not his original exile location of Central African Republic. In this case, I think “woe” is a rather strong word.

  25. TJ originally planned to help the French capture revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture and retake Haiti, and though later changed his mind (due to fears that Napoleon wanted to also move his army onto the North American mainland), did nothing to prevent the retaking of Haiti. He later enacted the equivalent of sanctions on the Haitians, reasoning that the US couldn’t consider blacks here slaves and there as equals and trading partners.

  26. Ridiculous hyperbole. Neocons don’t even believe what you say they do, let alone myself.

  27. The only damage the embargo has done is keep Castro in power by giving him something to blame for the demonstrated failures of socialism to meet human needs and wants. The pressure of trade and continuing and strengthening of the close ties Floridians and other North Americans had with Cuba in the first part of the last century would have had Cubans tossing the Beard out on his ass decades ago. The embargo is a disaster — but it did not create the disaster that is the Cuban economy.

  28. its been while since i’v been on here but i wanted to make one last point to mr. alex. The fact that the ruling class of the army and the so called “elites” are haitians doesnt mean they have democracy for the majority of haitians as a goal. It seems like it is safe to assume that you think some people are prone to violence and some are not. that has been disproved by every decent social study thats ever been conducted. I dont presume to know the dynamics of S. African social behavior but if you look at the patterns of violence in haiti, it is clear to everyone with half a brain that violence is worst when foreign interference is the highest. you can go back to as early as the american occupation to the last occupation with Latortue. the pattern has been consistent. rapes and murders increase during times of foreign political influence and fall after haitians were left to thier own devices.
    to render ur point of people being prone to violence moot, the south in america was known for its rapes and murders of african americans,making them work as slaves even after the Civil War, would that make then more prone to violence? if yes than, you have a valid point and also need to have ur head examined. :)