By Max A. Joseph Jr.
On February 7, 2016, a new president will be inaugurated in Haiti. However not much is expected to change given that the president — Jude Celestin or Jovenel Moise, as per the results of the first round presidential election released by the CEP on Nov. 5 — may not be willing to tackle the primary challenge to the country’s future, namely its unbalanced relationship with the international community. Presently a comprehensive re-evaluation of our commitment to the international treaties which are irrelevant, if not detrimental, to our continued existence as a nation, is needed. Otherwise Haiti will remain an attractive target for ridicule and exceptional punishment.
With the steep cutback in earthquake-related foreign assistance and uncertainty surrounding the fate of Petrocaribe (the 2005 agreement of many Caribbean states with Venezuela to purchase that country’s oil on conditions of preferential and deferred payment), the next president will have his work cut out for him. He can either dedicate himself to building a functioning state that would be the envy of its neighbors or embrace the culture of dependency that causes Haiti to lose its sovereignty to power-hungry predators. Extricating the country from the iron grip of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other neo-colonial institutions must be a national project that starts by having a moratorium on signing any treaty for the next decade, while finding our way out of the existing ones.
At this juncture, toeing the line to the unsolicited and ill-intentioned advice of the international community poses an existential threat to Haiti and its people. As the 2007 rice riots made abundantly clear, it is irresponsible, if not immoral, for any country to rely on imports for its basic food supplies. The welfare of the Haitian people cannot be left at the mercy of foreign monopolies, local speculators, man-made crises or natural disasters. We need to be proactive in securing our food supplies upon which the viability of the state depends. The IMF directive that calls for lowering or removing tariffs on imported goods and eliminating subsidies for local industries in exchange for promises of loans and investments is cynical at best. It deprives the government of the revenues needed for infrastructure building and social funding and, most importantly, creates the dependency system that robs Haiti of its raison d’être. The time has come for the faceless IMF bureaucrats and their allies in Haiti (the cosmopolitan elite) to plainly understand that local production is the essence of economic development, not imposed consumerism.
A functioning state must not rely on foreign assistance to fulfill the basic needs of its citizens. Reversing the policies of the IMF, which somewhat created the present state of affairs in Haiti, though fraught with political risks, is a moral obligation for any full-blooded Haitian. Historically, intimidation and the use of force, the weapons of choice of the international community in its dealing with defenseless and poor countries, have never been known to have a transformative and lasting effect on the victims.
Seeing that our grievances, no matter their worth, will never get a hearing in these international organizations that purportedly promote good neighborliness while engaging in neo-colonialism, what is the point of belonging to them? By now, it has become clear to a great majority of Haitians that the IMF economic model for Haiti, touted as the only path to a better future, will never work because it is defective from the start and based on deceit. It helps explain the military coups of the 1990s and the heavy-handed involvement of the international community in the country’s electoral process, because having the right sycophant in charge of implementing the illogical ideas of the IMF is indispensable to the success of the policy.
Any treaty that does not balance the interests of all signatories is theoretically invalid. Unfortunately, Haitian politicians have never met an international treaty they did not like. One of them, the infamous Gérard Latortue, boldly claimed that he did not have his spectacles on when he signed over jurisdictional control of Haiti National Police to the United Nations, a week after the country elected a president to take over his illegitimate regime (2004-06). The man was never elected by the Haitian people; did not have the backing of a parliament, yet was considered his country’s lawful representative by the international community, which apparently operates on the premise of “inviolability of the law of the jungle.” Must Haiti, which came into being as an implacable foe of the law of the jungle, adhere to this nonsense because of its present state of affairs? The answer is a resounding no.
It is not a coincidence that everything about Haiti gets mythologized in the foreign media. From its poverty being portrayed as unlike anything seen anywhere in this world to its leaders disparaged as incompetent scoundrels, Haiti, under this narrative, makes the perfect prey for the interventionist policies of the international community. The end, after all, justifies the means. Haiti is at a crossroads, where mindful and clever leadership, not empty promises and demagoguery, is urgently needed to set it on the path to economic development, self-sufficiency and political stability, as the alternative is too frightening to ignore. The political class must muster the courage to jettison its philosophy of “self-preservation” that has transformed proud Haiti from a nation of endless possibilities to an insignificant and pathetic entity.