March 18, 2001

False Prophet

Jean-Claude Bajeux, director of the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights

In these difficult days we are living through, as our shared hopes dwindle toward zero, we are forced to think. Towards what disaster is our fight headed?  Towards what quarrel of heirs over every last scrap of the inheritance? And we are still pursued by those faces that put us in permanent mourning. As Patrick Lemoine stated in the epilogue of the English version of his book, “Did they die for nothing at all?”

Those young people whose names we will never know shot at the corner of Grand Rue in July of 1987. Yves Volel, whom I saw in the morgue with a bullet in the middle of his skull. Serge Villard, lying on the floor of the emergency room at the Canape-Vert Hospital. Louis-Eugène Athis, nursing his political ambition during his twenty-three years of exile in Santo Domingo, lynched by a section chief of Leogane. Lafontant Joseph, found dead at the wheel of his red car. And many others, anonymous or not, even the indestructible and flamboyant Jean Dominique. Everyone with their defianceof the Macoutes carried the idea of a country where humanity would be respected.

The fight has been long. However, we now realize that it is not over, even if the heroes seem tired, even if they are pushed to their limits. Now is not the time for a critical examination, it would be unwise to launch into a critique of their errors. True, these heroes had no manners, they were dirty, covered with the dust or the mud of the road, each one with their share of mistakes, their limits, their inabilities and their appetites, marked by a life of fighting, of screams and of secret meetings. Yet at Vertieres, the army of the “va-nus pieds” did not even have a way out, had no uniforms or shoes, had nothing but mismatched or improvised weapons. But that army, at that moment, on that historic occurrence, was the army that overcame the divisions to create the face of a new nation affirming the equality of all.

Therefore, in history, it is the moments where the cause exceeds the individuals, in which the voice of the country comes through, in their speeches and in their demands.  It’s a murmur that comes from afar and to which we must listen carefully before it is too late. We must cease to scrutinize the immediate and pay attention to what comes from behind, which overcomes the poverty of its initiatives and the miserable state of its weapons.  Behind it, amidst their claims and protests, others voices come from the depths of a nation in distress, voices coming together to reclaim simplicity and demand justice, to reclaim respect, to demand truth, to recall the promises made and the confidence given without asking questions, to finally evaluate the intensity of the betrayals, and to discover the reasons for all the lies.

There was a mandate. And those responsible for this mandate, now excluded from the circle of power, are the ones who are asking for an explanation, who demand, ten years later, an accounting.

At the moment when the democratic troops realigned themselves, in October of 1990, to finally take part in these famous “elections” which since October 1987 have been presented as the only way out, or better, as the point of departure of a new social contract, the threat from Roger Lafontant arose and the order of the day was the broadest possible unity, which would reshuffle the cards in a dramatic way.  One day it will be necessary to tell, in detail, the history of this operation.  In any case, a few days before the end of the candidate-enrollment period, a candidate was nominated and the legal platform and program carefully put in place over six months was utilized to register him, under the name of the FNCD.

This nomination raised his profile, allowing him to assume leadership of the democratic movement and open the road of development, raising the hopes of the whole country and after his resounding mandate on December 16, 1990 drawing the curiosity, emotion and support of international opinion.

Why then ten years later this strange movement of discontent, this unending crisis that, again, overtakes the key institutions, that puts the country in parentheses and that brings us back to the shameful helplessness of misery, to the daily lies of official spokespeople, to this paralysis of public services, to the abuses that no one would have believed possible of the old Macoutism? Dozens of articles have appeared in the worldwide press on this subject. The report of the American Department of State on the position of human rights in the year 2000 is overwhelming. And, in some weeks, will appear the report of Amnesty International.  These accumulating questions and problems are only met with embarrassment, if not arrogance, by secretiveness, special commissions with semi-secret decisions, leading to impotence and futility according the old Haitian tradition of roguishness in government.

What is necessary to understand above all is the crime that began with a split within the democratic movement and grew into what we see today, a splitting away from the entire people, a people which is only beginning to understand the nature of this betrayal. What remains of the mandate so generously bestowed in October 1990? To begin with there needed to be the role of a teacher joining together the different groups of the democratic movement in the task of creating a democratic state, in an enormous mobilization for development. To assume this role required vision, far-sightedness, a vision of the future, a vision of a nation excluding manipulation of the truth and sordid schemes of personal enrichment.

Unfortunately from the start the president chosen by the democratic movement showed an obstinate desire not only to dispense with this sponsorship and support but to ignore and eliminate it.

This had the result that in the second round of elections in January 1991 certain candidates for the lower house found themselves left in the lurch. On inauguration day, February 7, no political leader was invited to the inaugural address and a delegation from the leadership of the Socialist International including Peña Gomez could not be received by the new president on February 8, despite waiting for four hours. Received the day after, Ecuadorian ambassador Horacio Sevilla passed on the message from the Socialist International to include all sectors in his government. In vain: the process of elimination had already begun.

The situation deteriorated into physical attacks against the deputies of the lower house by the precursors of today's "ghosts" or street gangs to stop a vote against Prime Minister Préval. This was a month before the coup d'état. The process of elimination continued in the following years: a campaign of lies blaming some groups for support of the coup, systematic disposal of these groups, and finally the systematic elimination of the opposition in fraudulent and fabricated elections, applauded by those who did not tolerate the existence of parties or "particles," tiny political parties.

But to have everything for oneself and oneself only, to surround oneself with a clan of the faithful, transformed into a gang of accomplices, means to descend into a spiral of isolation. Isolation not only from the organizations that bore the battle and blazed the trail, but also, and this was extremely serious, complicity with those against whom we fought. This about-face placed the Lavalas Family in a position of manipulation of and soon direct opposition to the constitution and finally conflict with the international community. So it came that ten years later the Lavalas Family, grabbing by well-known means all the "elected" posts in the country, found the legality of these positions questioned, and was implicated in a web of private interests, in an anti-democratic policy, in doubtful alliances with former Macoutes, in a discourse having nothing to do with the terms of the 1990 mandate.

Such is the situation today: a government in plain crisis, powerless to restart a moribund economy after four ruined elections, more and more loudly questioned over personal enrichment, the sterility of justice, the absence of a structured work plan, while investment vanishes and the institutions of government every day become more bankrupt and illegitimate. The question of the elections, the fairness of voting and reflecting the vote of the citizens becomes the focal point of this crisis which cannot be resolved simply by mechanical appeals to launch a "dialogue" while a policy of "all for me" continues to be conducted, all the time reciting with fervor, yet mechanically, articles of the constitution transformed into Buddhist mantras. Then we have face to face the patriarch, head of the human-rights movement and in 1987 chosen as candidate in the elections and on the other side the young "prophet," chosen in the name of the Evangelist in October 1990, elected on December 16, 1990 by the whole people, who today finds himself confined in his domain, captive of a maze of contradictory personal interests, at the head of a crime-ridden and further criminalizing government.

Who can be the arbiter of this confrontation if not the Haitian people themselves? They are the only ones who can restore the constitution of 1987. They are the sole guardians of the heritage of 1986, the plan for a democratic Haiti for which so many paid with their lives.


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