English translation by Haiti Democracy Project?a haitipolicy.org exclusive

Every day that passes with Lavalas at the head of the state institutions the country slides further into chaos. Every day with Monsieur Jean-Bertrand Aristide in power the country slips further away from democracy, a state of law, a way out of our extreme misery in economic and social development. The resignation of the de-facto president is called for by more than one person and is something much to be desired. However, it should not stop there. To simultaneously prepare for the after-Aristide is equally important, in order to be ready for a successful transition when the time arrives.

The value and limits of the existing Democratic Convergence

Let?s not fool ourselves. The Democratic Convergence is most of all valued for its resistance, for its role in constraining Lavalas as it tries to impose its anarcho-populist dictatorship. Yet among those who recognize the importance, value and role of this grouping of parties many reproach it for not presenting a compelling alternative. How to remedy this?

Modifying a culture of resistance

Permit a digression. Have you noticed that in Haiti our spirit and energies are largely if not almost exclusively focused on resisting the daily ills of all sorts which assail us? A hostile environment, almost unbearable, imposes on the men and women of this country, just to live or survive, harsh tests which must be borne daily. The life of a Haitian is like an obstacle course, a veritable Stations of the Cross. In this sense the Haitians of all classes are true heroes.

Just to satisfy your basic needs (to eat, drink, sleep, dress), to have electricity, water, a telephone that works, trash collection, manageable traffic, or entertainment, you had better get up early. Most of the time we resort to palliatives.  These multiple aggressions coming from our environment, even if dealt with in different ways, are the common lot of  the peasant and the businessman, the professional, the official, the artisan, and the unemployed.

The same holds true in politics. There the first preoccupation is to resist in order to continue to exist, because the main goal of the power-holders is to marginalize and eliminate. My father, the historian of our ?exterminating republic,? repeated to me that in difficult moments such as we are now traversing ?the main political task is to stay alive!?

Equating resistance with transformation of reality

In these conditions a survival mentality is handed down over the years and generations. Our brain has memorized the models of resistance adapted to various kinds of aggression, models that our intelligence uses every time the need is felt. To every aggression the conditioned reaction is to oppose it. This response becomes a strategy of resistance having the sole goal of immediate relief, however limited.  Unfortunately, and it must be recognized, this act of self-preservation does not bring about a real transformation in the surrounding environment because it does not eliminate the causes of the various aggressions. And as the causes remain, the aggressions resume.

Reflexes, behaviors and attitudes are created (for the political man as well as others). Resistance replaces transformation of the environment. Inquire and you will see that refusal to accept reality is considered transformation of the society. True transformation is set to the side. It is spoken of, but it is not in fact the leading concern. It is postponed, involuntarily or consciously, until after a hypothetical liberation from some dark period, in our current case until after the ?deliverance? of the country from Monsieur Jean-Bertrand Aristide?and the sooner the better! In the process, however, resistance becomes equated with transformation.

For a double strategy: resistance and transformation of the environment

Aware of the limits of our main tool of liberation, which is resistance, it is necessary to modify our political behavior (as well as social, although that?s another matter) toward a ?strategy of transformation.? This means a capacity to conceive with others an alternative to this hostile environment, flesh it out, and present it for adoption to the different domestic communities and the diaspora so that it can be implemented democratically. This also gives us an opportunity to dismiss the criticism that equates the victims (in particular, the Democratic Convergence) with the usurpers who are in the saddle (Lavalas).

So it would be right for the different organizations, whether partisan or neutral, who are struggling for democracy to set up a division of labor between those who campaign against Lavalas and those who are striving to assure that the after-Aristide is not the same as the after-Duvalier: a transition that does not finish, a failure of the great national cause.

A new strategy for a new political situation

Why not seize the opportunity offered by the current situation? After two years of involvement of the Organization of American States in the negotiations for an agreement between the Democratic Convergence and Lavalas, it is evident that the hemispheric organization has turned the page and given up the attempt to get the protagonists to sign a consensus document.

The political situation has changed in two ways. On the one hand, the nation is increasingly discontent with Jean-Bertrand Aristide?s occupation of the presidential chair, which he usurped on November 26, 2000. On the other hand, the OAS has given up its persistent attempt to impose on the Convergence an unacceptable accord with Lavalas. It is up to us, Haitians, to make sure that the new prerogatives granted to the Special Mission of the OAS in the areas of democratization, particularly governance, security, justice and human rights, are in fact implemented.

Let?s use our intelligence and take advantage of all the opportunities that are offered.

An accord among Haitians, with or without Lavalas

Now more than ever, it behooves us, as Haitians, with or without Lavalas, (1) to start a true dialogue between all the sectors (political and nonpolitical) of Haitian society, in order to find solutions to the problems that our country currently faces. It should be noted that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been repeating, with good reason, that “the lack of a dialogue between the main sectors of society is a serious obstacle to solving the problems, and represents the fundamental weakness in establishing a State of Law, according the terms of the American Convention and the Inter-American Democratic Charter1.”

Facing those serious problems, we, as Haitians, must deliberately do what it takes to avoid any patching job, half-baked, or superficial solution to the great challenge put before us by this seriously ill patient, which is Haiti today. Elections by themselves, considered by some as the solution to all our problems, cannot be the solution, especially if they are organized under the Lavalas dictatorship.

We must instead, as our ancestors did at the beginning of the eighteenth century, meet this challenge head on, by (2) putting on the table a new social contract among the citizens of this country; this can only happen through (3) the restructuring of this Nation (4) starting, of course, with the basic problems faced by the majority of our fellow citizens, (5) guided by republican values whose essence seems to have been forgotten by the youth and the less young of our citizens. In order to introduce this strategy of “construction” successfully in our culture, (6) the Democratic Convergence must be willing and ready to form alliances with “modern” participants from different social groups. It will be up to this “motor group” to translate, at the political level, the democratic, social, and economic demands of the different majorities in this country.

We will return to these six points. They cannot be avoided, if we want to pave the way for a democratic, republican, and progressive State of law, where all men and women will feel at home.