Spirits are soaring among Haiti’s popular organizations, marking the end of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s seven-year, U.S.-imposed exile. Aristide is a “voice that can be rallied around to challenge the eventual winner of the selection process between two U.S. backed right wing candidates.” Here in the U.S., our duty is to build “a solidarity movement that says ‘Hands off Haiti!’”
Aristide’s Return Will Bring Haiti’s Popular Organizations to the Front
by Kamau K. Franklin
“Aristide’s return brings a clear (and beloved) voice who can speak directly to the Haitian masses.”
Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return to Haiti is a game changer for Haiti’s public discourse, the reentrance of someone with the power to lift the spirits of the Haiti masses and move them forward in pressing their demands.
At the center of any movement in Haiti are the popular organizations that have twice survived the overthrows of Aristide and thousands of Lavalas elected officials, US/UN occupations, the banning of Lavalas and the imprisonment and murder of many activist and supporters. In addition, they have survived the devastation of an earthquake that exposed, more than anything else, what the long term effects are of plundering by private interests: that the willful negligence of cruel dictators and semi-elected stooges representing western neo-liberal economic interest does absolutely nothing for building a nation. Haiti’s infrastructure was so weak, with no discernible building codes or standards, that concrete structures snuffed out over a quarter of a million lives. Since then the government has been unable to muster the will and resources to rebuild literally anything.
“The willful negligence of cruel dictators and semi-elected stooges representing western neo-liberal economic interest does absolutely nothing for building a nation.”
Billions of dollars have been collected or pledged, but the vast majority of the monies have not reached the Haitian people. Instead, the Haitian people have self-organized in dozens of camps to provide some protection against violence and rape, sought out resources for the hungry and created makeshift schools for the young. The popular organizations have worked to rebuild schools and colleges, women’s groups, micro-lending organizations, organizations dedicated to freeing Haitian political prisoners and aid sites that provide mental health and other material services and more.
The indigenous popular organizations have been challenged by the counterweight of the international NGO’s, most of which have become parasites on the Haitian body. They have enriched various executive directors, financial directors, directors of programming, directors of outreach, directors of marketing, directors of profiteering, director of larceny, and so on. These NGO’s primary mission is to use this “aid” to prevent a strong national government (particularly one infused with the ideas of Lavalas) from directing resources and implementing standards that may be for the national good, in spite of elite opinion.
The proliferation of thousands of NGOs in Haiti is reminiscent of the strategy the U.S. government employed in the 1970s to kill off the black power movement by opening up resources to non-profits that can operate in various black communities, providing funding and jobs to various white do-gooders, offering services without the politics.
“NGO have become parasites on the Haitian body.”
Can we say “poverty pimps” boys and girls? In both African communities (US and Haiti) this strategy is a way to stop the poor and working classes of black people from developing and implementing ideas toward economic justice and accountability, and preventing the flow of resources to black-controlled institutions, in Haiti’s case, the central government.
However, Aristide’s return brings a clear (and beloved) voice who can speak directly to the Haitian masses. A man who helped lead a nation from the grip of a decades-long dictatorship and survived numerous assassination attempts and coups, is not so easily defeated. He will again become a focal point for the Haitian masses to rally around. He will not have the immediate burden of having to be the president and put in a position to “balance” his principles of creating economic justice for the masses who brought him to power versus those bent on keeping the wealth in the hands of less than 1% of the population. I’m speaking of the powerful and murderous white/mulatto economic elite, their black sycophants who are willing to kill for access to money and short term power and, of course, the so-called “international community.”
This international community of western nations seeks to control Haitian politics and economics to prevent a self-determining Haiti from becoming a “good example” to other small nations. The Haitian people, who freed themselves from enslavement, will have the chance to reject the neo-liberal economic order and instead seek out creative ways to run a national economy that brings more benefits to the larger population.
“We have to provide the international space that Aristide needs.”
Without holding elected office Aristide can be his true poetic militant voice. A voice that can be rallied around to challenge the eventual winner of the selection process between two U.S. backed right wing candidates: former first lady Mirlande Manigat, and kompas music singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, both of whom are in favor of re-establishing the reviled Haitian Army. Combined, these two “front runners” received about 11% of the eligible vote in Haiti in the first round of elections, in November. While 72% boycotted the entire farce, this is the free and fair election Obama and his State Department are bragging about.
The Haitian popular organizations will need all the help possible during this difficult transition process where the right-wing and their supporters are looking to cement their gains since the ouster of Aristide and the Lavalas party in 2004. Here in the United States the best support we can give in this important period is to also provide a clear, militant voice and solidarity movement that says Hands off Haiti. Bush, Clinton, Obama, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, France and Canada, and the United Nations have done enough to keep the old Haitian order propped up and ready to kill. We have to provide the international space that Aristide needs for the continued mobilization of the popular movements.
I remember once having a conversation with a fellow activist on why should we support Aristide, he is not perfect. My response was that neither was Patrice Lumumba, from the Congo, but many of us now hold Lumumba up as a sign post for leadership. I am sure that many would contend that if they lived during those times when Lumumba was captured by Mobutu, with the direct support of Belgium, the United States and the United Nations, they would have stood with Lumumba through all the lies of the western media and governments. Well, now we all have that opportunity to stand with a giant of African and world history.
Aristide’s return will keep everyday Haitians in the struggle for a true democracy, economic justice and the right to self-determination.