By Garry Pierre-Pierre
I know it is fraught with peril to compare Haiti with the United States. But please allow me to do so. For more than 30 years, Haiti has embarked upon a democratic journey that was by and large based on the American model. We’ve held elections and elected officials have more or less handed power relatively smoothly.
However, Haiti appears to be unsure of the role of the opposition, and our zero sum mentality into everything has been the hallmark of the country’s politics. Last Tuesday’s elections in the U.S can be used as a roadmap by Haitian politicians on how to be a member of the opposition party.
Two years after Donald Trump shocked the world by winning the presidency of the United States, democrats assumed the fetal position for a few days and then quickly picked themselves up and started strategizing on how to combat what we all know to be Trumpism. In fact, just two days after that fateful vote, thousands of people took to the streets across the country to protest peacefully the divisiveness and craziness that we’ve all seen from Trump.
Civil society groups mobilized, and women in this country organized one of the largest marches in city after city to send a message to Donald Trump. A resistance movement began on Twitter and other social media platforms, to share ideas and grievance. A real community emerged from that.
On the political spectrum, the Democratic Party began recruiting strong candidates or concerned politicians threw their hats into the ring. Many of my Haitian friends wondered why don’t we throw Trump out of office. I tried to explain to them that this is not the way it’s done here. We have to respect the people’s choice; after all, he did win within the rule, even though he lost the popular vote.
The result of this two-year struggle is now clearly seen as democrats unleashed the so-called Blue Wave, winning back control of Congress while flipping governorships, state legislatures and local races.
This kind of patience and the respect for the rule of law is sorely lacking in Haiti’s politics. In Haiti, hours after a person is sworn in as president, the opposition is asking for his resignation and eventually resorts to all kinds of shenanigans to disrupt the democratic order.
They pay people to take to the streets, and most of the time, the protests turn violent while lives are lost and properties are destroyed, further plunging the country into perpetual chaos. This scene is repeated over and over. Then they wonder why Haiti’s image and reputation is tarnished.
You would think that after using the same playbook, that has resulted in the same result over and over again, they would try a new approach. But they haven’t. We continue the same cycle to our detriment. That ladies and gentlemen is the classic definition of insanity.
So now, I urge Haitian society to follow the U.S.’s playbook on opposition politics. From music to fashion, American pop culture has interwoven itself in Haitian society. You hear more Hip-Hop in the airwaves than Konpa. American fashion is Haitian fashion. Young men wear their pants like their American counterparts.
Right now, Haiti faces an existential crisis. The Petrocaribe protest is a seminal moment for the Caribbean nation to organize a robust movement to hold all leaders – public and private – to account. There have been protests and more are planned this month and in the future. First, protestors need to refrain from violence because it detracts from the positive message and is counterproductive.
Officials need to account for the more than $2 billion in loan from Venezuela, which future generations will have to repay. Politicians in Haiti, like those in the US did, should stand for something and not against someone.
They should show true leadership and work with the administration when they do the right thing and oppose when they go off the rails. Haiti is a nation of drifters with no hope of a better life if they remain in their homeland. We’re developing a Diaspora to the detriment of the nation.
Good people are leaving the political theatre to miscreants and hucksters. Scores of candidates emerge during the presidential election season. Those who make the cut – usually 50 or so – take public funding only to mount a skeleton campaign and then pocket the rest of the money. This scenario is repeated again and again. Again to the detriment of the country.
It is high time that civil society leaders take control of the situation and present an alternative roadmap that ultimately will usher in a new way of thinking and doing thing. If they don’t. We are doomed to remain the “poorest country in the Western Hemisphere” forever dreaming of the time long ago when Haiti was the “Pearl of the Antilles.”
Are we ready for that challenge?