Wednesday, July 4, 2007

On the recent upheavals in Haiti

Listen to the interview on WNYC last year with Michael Deibert who is the author of what,I believe, is the definite English book on the Aristide presidency, Notes from the Last Testament.

It is a really good read even if you aren't trying to figure out just why it is that so many Americans and Canadians keep referring to him as the "democratically elected president of Haiti" and most Haitians.....

well ok I can't speak for most Haitians. The ones who post in French and English on the Internet are obviously not part of the poor majority.

But if you are really interested in Haiti - this is the one book to read.

When I got down here, three years ago, I was still a great fan of President Aristide. I had read a couple of his books. I listened to Amy Goodman on Pacifica Radio. I am probably more willing than most Americans to believe that the US is on the wrong side. We have historically been on the wrong side in most of Latin America.

So I get down here with my standard progressive "wasn't it terrible what happened to Aristide" and I encounter a wall of contradictory opinions - from Haitians, from NGO workers who had been there, from Haitian web pages. One NGO head who had been in Haiti for 6 years started giving me books, saying that he had the same opinion on Aristide as I did when he arrived there but changed. Why?"Because no one whom I respected had any respect for him."

I despair a bit in changing all of the progressive opinion on Aristide, who has a strong and loyal following - at least in the United States and Canada.

Fortunately for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Aristide has just received a doctorate in South Africa and will perhaps find a wonderful home there. Even during his supposedly wildly popular presidency, he needed private armed guards from the United States to protect him in his own country.

If you listen to the interview with Deibert, you will here an update from last year. The good news is that - under pressure, admittedly from the United States - Preval did order the MINUSTAH troops into Cite Soleil in the beginning of the year and the kidnappings are way down, security is way up.

Haitians whom I know who have been back there have said it is a country transformed.

Ojala.....which is Spanish for "from your mouth to God's ear.'


Michael Deibert said...

Thanks very much for the shout-out, Elizabeth. As someone once said, it's very easy for activists who live in the United States and Canada (and often don't even speak Kreyol) to lecture Haitians about what life is like (or should be like, in the idealized vision of the radical bourgeois deluxe) in Haiti, quite another thing to travel the country and listen to the stories of thousands of people whose everyday struggles of survival are more awe-inspiring and worthy of respect than the posturings of any cynical politician.

Babette said...

The word in the first sentence should be "definitive" rather than "definite" although both are correct. For some reason, I am unable to edit. I hope that you will come back down here next year and give us some more good reporting!