The least noticed yet most enduring legacy of the Boniface-Latortue regime (2004-06) was the systematic elimination of the grassroots organizations that sprung up throughout Haiti after the fall of Jean Claude Duvalier “Baby Doc” in February of 1986. In those years the traditional spectrum of Haitian society (the intellectuals, the politicians and the economic elite) contended with another constituency (the poor) staking a claim in the future of the country. These civic groups’ organizational proficiency was such that in 1987 a new Constitution finally recognized Kréyol (the homegrown language spoken by the majority) along with French as Haiti’s two official languages. By 1990, a mere 4 years after the end the Duvalier Era (1957-86), the country experienced the first and only true democratic election in its troubled history. That year, Jean Bertrand Aristide, a firebrand priest and vocal opponent of the status quo, was elected president with the overwhelming support of Haiti’s poor and disenfranchised majority. Not surprisingly, these organizations came to be associated by the powers-that-be with the popular movement that brought Aristide to power and were therefore slated for elimination upon the arrival of the occupation forces in 2004.
Gérard Latortue, an expatriate living in Boca Raton, Florida, was brought in as the High Lord executioner of that policy (2004-06). A bona fide member of the intelligentsia, which for centuries considered the impoverished masses a latent threat that must be kept in check, Latortue implemented the policy with unsurpassed zeal. Any Haitian protesting the occupation (2004-?) was branded incorrigible and uncontainable bandit, rioter, enemy of stability and democracy, terrorist, drug lord or a member of Lavalas street gangs. Conversely, the MINUSTAH was portrayed as a peacekeeping force dedicated to bringing peace and stability to Haiti, as decided by the UN Security Council under a number of resolutions. Based on these criteria, our valiant ancestors who fought for a cause similar to the one being waged by millions of Haitians, albeit with different tactics, would be branded incorrigible and uncontainable bandits, terrorists and enemies of peace and stability. This deliberate and erroneous portrayal of the reality explains the recurring use of deadly force against unarmed protesters and the daily humiliations that Haitians are forced to endure under the occupation.
Yet, despite the setbacks wrought by the Boniface-Latortue regime at the behest of the elite and international finance, the incremental changes that occurred in the post-Duvalier period are profound and lasting. The genie is out of the bottle and no amount of propaganda, repression and intimidation can turn back the clock. Case in point: the Michel Martelly presidency, which ironically might be a carbon copy of the Boniface-Latortue regime, would not have been possible under the rigid old system. The masses’ rejection of Mirlande Manigat, an authenticated representative of the old order, must be put in perspectives. Her defeat is an ominous sign that the old system, which endured for centuries, is cracking, even though the international community remains committed to its preservation. Aptly, the new international order in Haiti (managing change) remains fundamentally flawed since it relies on foreign-administered NGOs rather than local organizations that can help rebuild the decaying institutions of the state.
Latortue’s policy was particularly felt in the aftermath of January 12th earthquake when the functions of the institutions of the collapsed state were taken over by a myriad of foreign-controlled NGOs. In hindsight, the civic organizations that were systematically persecuted and, in some instances, eradicated could have helped cushion the collapse of the Haitian state and prevent its takeover by the foreign NGOs. Undoubtedly, the nation will withstand this onslaught and emerge stronger than it has ever been because the mistakes that facilitated its subjugation over two centuries will be corrected. In every cloud there is sliver lining. The spate of calamities befallen Haiti since 2004, particularly the cholera episode, which brings to light the international community’s utter disdain for the welfare of a besieged people by its refusal to repatriate the Nepalese, will eventually reawaken the Dessalinian spirit that lays dormant in the last 205 years.
Haiti predated the United Nations by 141 years and, during that period, been the victim of extortion, economic sabotage and embargoes, threats and military occupations, piracy and political persecutions; yet, it never relinquished its identity because of a sheer sense of destiny. Because its occupation has no legal or moral basis whatsoever, Haiti must withdraw from the U.N once its sovereignty is recovered, as membership in that organization is not mandatory and no Article in its Charter prevents a member-state from relinquishing it. The same closed-door policy should also apply to the Organization of the American States (OAS), the junior partner in the endeavor, as the indignity of being patronized or treated as outcast by these organizations is simply unacceptable.
Only a fool would give any importance to July 14, 1789 and October 17, 1917, the respective dates of the French and Russian Revolutions. Both instances were the culmination of incremental political and social changes in these countries that remained oblivious to those in power until it was too late. Though, the pathway to Haiti recovering its dignity and freedom is fraught with obstacles, as the forces of repression stand ready to defend their privileges, the Tower of Babel being erected in Haiti to sow confusion and despair will inevitably crumble and a proud new country will emerge.