Once upon a time in racially divisive U.S, calling an adult African-American “boy” was a racist code word implying that the Black person has not attained the level of intelligence required of his age. With the Emancipation Proclamation Act (1863) and other statutes, particularly the Civil Rights Act (1964) aimed at consolidating African-Americans status as full citizens of this country, hardcore white racists had to find a way of maintaining psychological control over their former subjects or were simply sentimental about a past that institutionalized their supremacy. Though I never had that experience, I have utter disdain for those African-Americans who never reacted to this racial slight, regardless of the circumstances, and honor anyone who took a stand against it.
Naturally it behooves me that the main component in the relations between the international community and Haiti revolves around the word “corruption.” It is as if the word is purely a Haitian idiosyncrasy, uniquely suited for the kind of political system that the country had known for the last 206 years. How do you explain Sani Abacha (1993-98) of Nigeria, Ferdinand Marcos (1965-86) of the Philippines, Mobutu Sese Seko (1965-97) of Zaire, Omar Bongo (1967-2009) of Gabon, Augusto Pinochet (1973-90) of Chile and Carlos Salinas (1988-94) of Mexico? These luminaries are proof that political corruption, far from being inherently Haitian, is a plague affecting many countries in the underdeveloped world.
Needless to say, this wanton characterization of Haiti’s political system, or rather its leaders, as being hopelessly corrupt is patronizing, untrue, and has repercussions far beyond anyone could imagine for the country and its people. More to the point, it serves as a pretext for the international community to infringe on Haiti’s sovereignty in the name of good governance and on humanitarian ground, which explains the presence of thousands of foreign-controlled NGO’s in the country. To make matters worse, Haitian leaders, like those poor African-Americans who did not protest being called “boys”, remain oblivious to the fact that “corrupt” is euphemism for crooks.
On balance corruption is indeed a serious problem in Haiti. Hundreds of millions of dollars, which could have better serve the country and its people, were diverted into foreign accounts controlled by numerous Haitian leaders and their cronies from the 1960’s to the present, and yet no one has ever been prosecuted for that offense. Why is it that these crooks are allowed to plunder the Haitian treasury and enjoy their ill-gotten funds in the very countries that are rallying against corruption in Haiti? Maybe it is another criminal aspect of the law of supply and demand, like the Colombian drug cartels producing their wares for the craving North American and European markets.
Moreover, one needs to ask how these crooks managed to pull off such feat since the international banking system is tightly regulated. Like the war on drugs targeting both producers and users, combating corruption in countries that lack the proper mechanisms against this scourge of the modern world requires an equal commitment from the other side, meaning foreign governments that turn a blind eye to it for political purposes or otherwise. The ramifications could only widen the mistrust existing between the masses and the political leadership in Haiti.
For example it would be hard to convince the destitute Haitian people that the billions of dollars collected on their behalf following the January 12th disaster did not in fact pass through the hands of government officials whom they know to be, rightly or wrongly, corrupt. Naturally, many are guilty of willful ignorance of the facts, but the great majority of Haitians, it must be said, is simply the victims of a well orchestrated effort to sow discord, which creates the perfect condition for tutelage by the international community. The tentative steps by Jean-Max Bellerive, the Haitian prime minister, to impose local administrative control of the relief effort were met with contempt and subtle remarks that emphasized corruption as the reason why Haitians should not be in charge.
As it should be, there is now a reservoir of goodwill toward the international community, which would turn sour once the people’s expectations are not met and the goals of turning Haiti into a repository of western values become clearer. In truth, Haiti remains, in the eyes of many, an historical abomination, which explains the premeditated invasion of the country on February 29, 2004, in the year of the bicentennial of its heroic victory against injustice and oppression. Though instability was used as rationale for the occupation of Haiti, in which case a disproportionate number of countries would qualify as being threats to international peace and security, the real motive was seething revenge for an unpardonable offense.
Unfortunately for the self-styled promoters of civilization, Haiti’s past will never be erased, since history can only be revisited or re-interpreted but not undone. The unlikely feat by supposedly uncivilized non-white savages at the beginning of the 19th century against the best troops Napoleon Bonaparte had to offer has already been signed, sealed and delivered to history. The U.N Secretary-General recently wrote in The Washington Post “As we move from emergency aid to longer-term reconstruction, let us recognize that we (the international community) cannot accept business as usual,” (meaning corruption). Obviously, whatever is in store for Haiti and its people remains a closely guarded secret between God and the oppressors/saviors who finally have the prefect alibi for complete control.