Can Serve Two Masters
Jean-Claude Bajeux, January 31, 2001
of the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights
"And so Jesus was taken into the
desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil."
--Matthew, 4, 1.
"None may serve two masters: You
cannot serve God and money." --Matthew, 6, 24.
Everyone remembers and cherishes the excitement that
seized the whole country between October 1990 and March
1991. A virtually religious élan seemed capable
of curing this former slave society of its historical
partition, its cleavage into two blocs. Liberation theology
saw the poor people as agents of an anti- and post-capitalist
revolution. I always had doubts about this even while
admitting that it accomplished a lot among certain sectors
of the population with the aid of a nucleus from the
clergy, particularly Karl Levêque, Jean-Marie
Vincent and Jean Pierre-Louis.
However, one can also find in the inner workings of
this society, in its history and culture, the type of
biblical aspirations also found in Voodoo rites that
could take a young ex-Salesian priest to the national
palace, in a point-by-point riposte to the empire of
evil and death of François Duvalier, Roger Lafontant,
and their thousands of Tonton-Macoutes. This young ex-Salesian
priest became an icon whose presence reversed the magnetic
field which had dominated the country for the previous
twenty-nine years, warding off the waves and evil forces
that had dominated the people.
The people of poverty known as the people of God emerged
from a long and sinister servitude and looked again
to the state for the benevolent laws that had been destroyed
by the Duvalierists. This tumultuous liberation recalled
the miracle of the Exodus. All for one, one for all
became the order of the day for a people atomized by
history who now discovered their community, which they
saw as a family seated around the table. The religious
aspect of this process was evident even though the Catholic
Church backed away from the scene and conspicuously
broke with the young Salesian priest.
In 1803-04 it had been in the name of equality. This
time the origins of the voice and message lay in the
Sinai desert, in the biblical songs that accompanied
the drums and guitars of liberation.
"The kingdom of this world" is the place of temptation
of which St. Matthew spoke, the place where good and
evil are mixed, the ground underlain with evil intentions.
It is the place of plurality, of the relative, of contradictions.
It is the seat and field of action of political power
which if not kept in check can operate with full discretion
on the lives and fortunes of the people. It can leap
from holy ground into the arena of political combat
in which Jesus took no part.
It was necessary in the name of greater unity to find
a candidate with whom the poor could identify and whose
good faith would make up for lack of administrative
experience. Above all it was necessary to have someone
who was the opposite of those we had always had, the
opposite of the dictators and satraps. It was necessary
to have a governmental team of a new style acting according
to ethical principles giving an example of earnestness
and transparency in dealing with money, following a
policy of development, modernization, and opening to
the outside world, breaking with the previous regimes
and swindlers. It was necessary to have someone at the
head of the state who could respect the rules of the
game, pluralism, legality, democracy, the verdict of
elections, rights of the minority--someone with a vision
of the future for the national interest.
Eleven years later there is no doubt about the result.
It is clear. There is a flagrant moral failure, politically
and economically. The democratic movement that blazed
the way to power for Aristide finds itself, all its
components, on the outside. The "biblical" inspiration
and its setting of roots among the popular communities
did not last long. Soon came, in undeniable form, the
rumors of the "big eaters" carving up the privatized
state enterprises and the politicians who were simultaneously
Some days ago an article
in the Wall Street Journal explored the fortunes
being mined from the "treasury" of Teleco, the state
telephone company, in contracts for material and construction.
It's time to talk openly about what has been only mentioned
in whispers-- the lack of accounting for the "gifts"
of Voam, Taiwan, and the highly touted "small projects
of the presidency." Since 1997 to the present day the
country has stagnated with an inflation rate in 2000
of 10 percent a month, negative growth of 1.2 percent,
and a gourde that has fallen to twenty-five per dollar.
Article 279 of the constitution says, "Thirty days
after his election the president must present an accounting
of all his assets, liquid and non-liquid, and must do
likewise at the end of his term." The next article extends
this to all the members of the government. This remains
a pious hope. The rumor mill now speaks of wealth reaching
into the millions of dollars.
The Wall Street Journal article followed on another
by Jean-Michel Caroit appearing in Le Monde on January
15, "Haiti's Misery." Also an article by Jean-Claude
Leclerc on December 11, 2000 in the Devoir
of Montreal and an article by Richard C. Hottelet
in the Christian Science Monitor of January 30. After
all the indignation, revolt, and death, the morals of
yesteryear have returned in all naturalness. Life has
resumed its course, as before, as always, and it says
enrich yourself any way you can as fast as you can,
and do everything to arrange a sacrosanct immunity.
For corruption needs impunity. Let not the fates of
Milosevic, Fujimori, Pinochet, Philippines president
Victor Estrada, and in France, Roland Dumas, be repeated
This is one of the reasons for the obstinacy with which
they falsified the results of the last four elections.
It is striking how populism fears the numbers and the
votes. They do this not only to assure their return
to "the table" but at the same time to eliminate all
dissenting voices, so that the country has been literally
paralyzed for three years and is now denied foreign
aid as in the time of Duvalier.
There is a strange irony of history in the return of
Aristide by the unanimous United Nations. There is a
paradoxical situation recalling the blathering and empty
bombast of the Duvalierists and the military coupsters
on nationalist themes and so-called self-reliance, sprinkled
with muscular slogans about peace, although the first
condition of peace is respect for rules of the game
and the patient exercise of nonviolence. For peace as
St. Augustine said is "the tranquility of order," the
primacy of law over the passions, the victory of nonviolence
over brutal force, and above all consistency of words
and action by those in power. Eleven years, after which
the situation of the country is more precarious than
ever. The situation of the citizens in all classes is
more precarious than ever. Life is harder and more anguished
than ever. For personal reasons of gaining and holding
power the whole plan of development has been sacrificed
and the country paralyzed for five years. Democratic
institutions are being subverted. Despite an expenditure
of a billion gourdes the election commission, and for
good reason, is unable to come up with any solid numbers
on the last four elections. The last election was called
a "farce" by the sober newspaper Le Monde. The last
election commission compounded the frustrations of the
citizens of every category and made us the laughingstock
of the world.
Forget about real and credible tallies, why have elections
at all if "the people" have already voted? And who cares
if at least two hundred thousand people had their cards
lost in the last election if the official spokesman
says that 61 percent (of what?) voted? The refusal to
verify the tally sheets is linked to the arrogant insistence
that they speak for the people, period. They are like
the small group depicted by Dostoevsky in the tale of
the Grand Inquisitor.
Here is the bitter lesson of the last ten years: a
missed rendezvous, a lost chance. With the return of
the demons of the past the nation has no choice. It
must return to the promises of 1986. The time that has
passed and been lost has generated ever more urgent
needs. Since 1986 life is indisputably harder in almost
all respects whether personal security, production,
the infrastructure, etc. We are marching backwards and
the national mood is confused, divided and helpless.
We know that in such situations we must have the power
to mobilize the whole nation, we must have a collective
impulse that recalls the founders of the nation. This
the time to examine one's conscience. The time to reflect
on the future and its demands. The time of values, the
simple values of honesty and sincerity. The time of
coming together, necessary as the democratic transition
has been blocked and subverted by the "Fanmi."
It is also the time for clear and decisive action.
Faced with the blackmail of a handful of gang members
called "ghosts" who are financed and protected, faced
with the power of money that has bought conscience,
loyalty and applause and has permeated the clique with
a contemptible arrogance, a new majority must organize
and move forward to stop this disastrous course and
resume the path of development, jettisoning the demogogy
of "self-sufficiency" and the temptations of predatory