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First published in The Daily Nation, a Barbadian newspaper.
June 17, 2001
Haiti: What Now?
Head of the OAS electoral observation 
mission in Haiti, 2000

I have always recognized Haiti's paramount role in the political liberation of the hemisphere. The overthrow of the French in that country marked a turning point in the history of African enslavement in the hemisphere; Simon Bolivar learned his craft there, before proceeding with the liberation of most of the South American continent.

For one glorious moment in time, it seemed that the downtrodden had risen to take on their rightful roles as free men. But the powerful nations surrounding Haiti would let that happen.                                                                                      Today, we are faced with a phenomenon that in itself grew out of that Haiti, as if it turned upon itself and found not only its artistic and cultural flowering of the past, but also the darker side, bred of the brutality of slavery under the French.

This is not recognized by some of our leaders, who mistakenly believe that the president of that country is a messiah who comes to leads his country out of the   

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Domestic observers receiving training in preparation for the May 2000 elections. (Photo/National Democratic Institute)
wilderness. Their vision is clouded by sentiments sprung from what that country has done for us, rather than from the reality of present-day Haiti.
Haiti, under Aristide I was a democracy. Haiti under Aristide II is anything but a democracy and we cannot be facetious about it, or the lot of the common Haitian will never change. The present government is the result of an election, which was manipulated in a way that none of us would accept as normal in our own country. It became a farce after a day when ordinary Haitians had gone out in their millions to vote. In spite of the difficulties surrounding an election in such a poor country, unaccustomed to proper elections, the population went out in earnest to make voices heard. Most recently, Aristide has promised the Organization of American States Secretary-General, Dr. Gaviria and former Dominican Prime Minister Dame Eugenia Charles that he would re-run the eight senate seats contested (I believe the number was nine) would be well again.
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Local community groups meet to find solutions to old problems. (National Democratic Institute Photo)
"The poor village priest, who had risen to save the masses, had amassed a
fortune for himself.  Yet no one dared to ask how the poor priest now
owned all of this.  There was one man who questioned this.   His name was
Jean Dominique.  He is no more."

His spokesperson in the Senate indicated that the population was being squeezed as a result of an international blockade of aid to Haiti. Interestingly, Aristide was informed that this would happen if he did not observe the propriety of having a run-off in a number of elections where, after the vote count, his minions had changed the numbers first and then miscalculated the numbers so as to gain a 50 per cent plus one majority for his chosen.                                                                                                                                                                                                 In all probability, Aristide's party, Fanmi Lavalas, would have won that election, if there had been no fraud and deliberate miscalculation of the vote. The fact  is that the opposition was not much of an opposition, even though they were numerous. Indeed, they form more of a serious opposition now as the so-called convergence than they did during the elections, when they were little more than a large number of splintered parties.                                                                                                                                                                                              Why should anyone believe that Aristide or, for that matter his spokesperson Yvon Neptune, is any more serious now about a fair rerun of that part of the election? What about other elements of the election clearly fraudulently won, like the Marie of Petion-Ville? Are we prepared to let that slide?                                                                                                                                                                                               And how will he obtain an independent electoral council? Will it be like the last one where one member ran to the president to brief him on each and every word said in the council or elsewhere in the society for that matter?                                                                                                                                                                                                  That is not all. The United States had poured millions into the country to improve the justice system. Not much improvement or even change resulted from this input, which was generally inept. Prisoners still languished in prisons waiting for their cases to be heard for year after year.                                                                                                                                                                                                In the midst of this, the poor village priest, who had risen to save the masses, had amassed a fortune for himself and lived on his estate near the airport. He was surrounded by security and he received visitors in his anteroom. which was decorated by photos of Presidents Clinton, Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela and Preval, his own lackey.                                                                                                                                                                                                 The room was also adorned by a splendid collection of Haiti's best painters. It was a lavish setting. Yet no one dared to ask how the poor priest now owned all of this. No one even know how the poor priest now owned all of this. No one even suspected that Father Aristide had got into bed with a large United States telephone company to increase his wealth. The poor priest had been converted to a money-grabber.                                                                                                                                                                                               There were indeed one man who questioned this. His name was Jean Dominique. He is no more. Jean Dominique was an unapologetic leftist, who genuinely care for Haiti's masses. Like everyone else of his political leaning, as well as a great deal of the Haitian middle class, he supported Aristide.                                                                                                                                                                                              Indeed, he was forced into exile by the military soon after they deposed Aristide. He was a superb journalist. His command of French, Creole and English were exemplary and he could influence a crowd almost as easily as the charismatic Aristide could. His radio programmes kept alive some hope that there would be justice for Haiti's poor. He was, for a long time, in constant touch with Aristide. Then things changed.                                                                                                                                                                                                     I met Jean Dominique less than a month before he was gunned down outside the gate of his radio station. That was over a year ago. His murderer has not yet been identified, even though the assassination took place in broad daylight. He openly spoke about his dislike of the French and his love for Haiti.                                                                                                                                                                                                  He also spoke about Aristide and the last occasion on which the former president had visited his radio station. On that occasion, Jean Dominique had questioned him about several millions of dollars that had been subverted for someone's personal use. Aristide had replied in one of his usual parables, saying he was only the driver of the truck and that sometimes things happened on the back of the truck without the driver knowing. Aristide never returned to Jean Dominique's.                                                                                                                                                                                           Orlando Marville is a retired diplomat and an expert in African affairs.

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