Perspective and interpretation
Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Anyone using or allowing the use of violence and intimidation to achieve political ends is a terrorist. It does not matter whether their motivation is religious or secular. Since Bin Laden brought to the fore the use of religious fanaticism as a motivation for terror, some seem to be ignoring the fact that there are others who use terror without any such labels or references. It is wrong for loss of life to be excused with the aim of achieving political ends. Those who do this have no right to be in power and to hold office. Being in power and holding office carries the responsibility of knowing when the greater good of a people overrides personal political stature, fame and even fortune.
Few support the Canadian interpretation of Aristide's "resignation". Foreign Ministe
r Bill Graham said in the Canadian parliament: "Of course, his decision was the result of the deteriorating security situation in his country and he was motivated, as he said in his resignation letter, by a desire to avoid a potentially bloody civil war. That letter clearly indicates that it was his decision to leave and, to his credit, it was a decision that spared his nation worse violence, indeed, the possibility of a humanitarian catastrophe."
The point of Aristide's departure is that the killings have decreased, although through an artificial method - the presence of an organised, foreign army.
There has been no army in Haiti for the past eight years. The current method by which the violence has been reduced in Haiti is considered by some as being violently incorrect. The same could be said about interim prime minister, Latortue, getting on a platform with convicts and drug smugglers, praising them as freedom fighters while not ordering their arrest. On the other hand, supporters of Aristi
de are being arrested.
Democracy is about meeting the people's needs, not the desires of leaders. Haiti's condition is explained because this tenet has been consistently disregarded. Already Prime Minister Latortue is shaping up to be more of the same - in fast forward mode because of the comfort he has from US backing, that is conveniently ignoring his early and outrageous indiscretions. This is where international pressure must be exerted. An election that reinstates the voice of the people must be held quickly. It must adhere to the constitution and be held in the 90 days stipulated by the constitution.
It is a tragic but somewhat laughable irony that on Monday, Colin Powell, who had consistently argued for early Haitian elections, stood beside Latortue and agreed that Haiti's elections will be in 2005. It does not matter what the constitution says. If the only factor delaying elections was Aristide, why not now obey the constitution?
Powell's visit will be interpreted by some as g
iving legitimacy to Latortue and, by extension, to the thugs and drug runners with whom he has publicly aligned himself.
Aristide's choices just over a month ago were resignation and departure or assassination. If that was the reality, then Aristide should count his blessings. Unfortunately for him, he is finished politically. If he goes back to Haiti, and is not killed, the constitution prevents him from standing for a consecutive term. However, his Fanmi Lavalas party can win subsequent elections. Would the US allow this obvious embarrassment?
Opportunities appear to abound for political opportunists.
Haiti's political party landscape is confused by the absence of a coherent opposition. Convergence Democratique, the 15-party coalition that refused to take part in any activity until Aristide left, is fractious. It agrees on only one thing - that Aristide should go. Now that he is gone, there is no core.
It is not surprising, therefore, that in the days before Aristide's departure,
the "voice" of the opposition was a small group led by well-known Haitians that had one agenda - maintaining their control of the country's parlous economy. Numerically, they would not stand a chance in an election.
Would it be too far-fetched, then, to suggest that delay in the election, backed by Powell, is to ensure the "correct" result - one that does not embarrassingly indicate Aristide's latent influence? If the voice of the majority rang out for Fanmi Lavalas once before, given the opportunity it can do the same again.
The economically depressed people of Haiti have one real weapon - the vote. Anyone with an interest in Haiti should be working to ensure that this process takes place, rather than overseeing the removal or installation of a leader not determined by the people.
Some readers interpreted last week's column as an attack on Aristide and Caricom. My argument, however, is simply this: the quality of life, and rights of people, are fundamental to any form of politics. If
it is not, then it becomes something else. Sadly, for 200 years Haiti has been an example of politics going wrong, and Caricom is yet to really prove itself helpful to the process and people.
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