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17762: radtimes: Haiti in Danger (fwd)

From: radtimes <resist@best.com>

Haiti in Danger


      Opinion of Le Monde
      Thursday 18 December 2003

      A country in agony, a country in rebellion; a bankrupt state, and, at
its head, a despised president. Is there a Haitian curse? A bad fate that
stalks this part of the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola, while the other
part, the Dominican Republic, does rather well? From an airplane, the
contrast is stark: on the Haitian side, the misery of an arid country which
deforestation continues to ravage; on the other, rice paddies, forests,
market gardens, etc. January 1st, Haiti will celebrate its bicentennial.
That ought to be a holiday, a celebration of the first independent black
republic in the world. It's an anniversary in the form of mourning,
mourning for hope continually disappointed and betrayed.

      On that day, Haiti will have practically only bad news to
"celebrate": a country of nearly eight million people that is the poorest
nation in the Americas, if not in the world; a country ravaged by AIDS;
where what remains of an economy is organized around cocaine traffic; a
country where dictatorship and corruption at the state's summit are such
that the international community has suspended its aid. One name symbolizes
this fiasco, the martyrdom the Haitian populace suffers, and even more,
that of hope trampled underfoot: Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He is the head of

      Closed up in his palace, today, he undergoes the combined assaults of
a population in open revolt against his regime. Unions, bosses, groups
representing "civil society", opposition parties (what's left of them), the
free press (to the extent there is any); there's not a sector that doesn't
demand "Titide"'s departure. Peaceful strikes and demonstrations follow one
another. They are suppressed in blood by gangster bands- the "Chimeras"-
operating on behalf of the party in power, called the "Fanmi Lavalas"
("Avalanche family" in Creole). But disaffection seems to be such that
defections are occurring even among the Lavalas.

      Everything was supposed to happen differently. After the end of the
dictatorial reign of the Duvalier family (1956-1986) and four years of a
military regime, an immense hope was born with the election of a young
progressive priest, the "parish priest of the slums", Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. He incarnated the struggle of the poor; his condition, his
priesthood, seemed a gage of morality in a country regularly looted by its
leaders. Driven out by a military coup in 1991, he found asylum in the
United States.

      American Democrats adopted him- from Ted Kennedy to Jesse Jackson,
and all of Congress' Black Caucus. But the man whom Washington restored to
the presidency in 1994 was no longer the same- unless he had completely
fooled the whole world before. Authoritarian and egomaniacal, defrocked and
married, he governed from then on through violence, depending on his armed
gangs to create a reign of terror in the neighborhoods, to hunt down the
opposition and courageous journalists.

      Haiti is sinking again into chaos made of destitution. The
international community inherits a state that has collapsed. Haiti has
never ceased to experience the humiliation of misery and violence. Today it
experiences the humiliation of despair, of betrayed hope. Consequently,
France, the world, and the U.N. cannot remain indifferent. There is an
obligation to help a population in danger.

      Translation: Truthout French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.