The Farewell Speech of [U.S.]Ambassador Brian Dean Curran at HAMCHAM [the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce]

Contradictions, Ambiguities, Inconsistencies and Bad Faith

On Wednesday, July 9, 2003, the Haitian American Chamber of Commerce [in Haiti] offered a dinner forum in honor of the Ambassador of the United States of America, Mr. Brian Dean Curran, at the end of his mission. On this occasion, Mr. Curran made a memorable speech which was published in its entirety in the Nouvelliste of Thursday, July 10. The text cries out for commentary. I thank the Nouvelliste for accomodating mine in its columns.

The key words that I retained are “ethics” and “morality.” But let us not anticipate. Let us follow the text paragraph by paragraph since it is, from this point of view, very well structured.

After the customary tip of the hat to the host organization came an opening gambit with a joking and ironic tone concerning the succession of four presidents of HAMCHAM in two and a half years, comparing [favorably] to the number of Directors of the [Haitian National] Police during the same period. Humor, flippancy, on a subject of such seriousness and gravity?

After coquettishly acknowledging “that after two years and half, he did not know much, and that he still had much to learn”, Mr. Curran immediately proceeded to engage the political, economic, humanitarian and moral crises upon which he would hold forth at length, with advice which?had it not been for the humility of this introduction?might well have been mistaken for arrogance.

The Ambassador continued by referring to [OAS Permanent Council] Resolution 822, which is the international community?s “road-map,” and [lamenting the fact] that the government had not seized this opportunity to implement “profound reforms? nonetheless indicated that there were signs of a [some] “change” [in this quarter]. I translate: A bargain-basement democracy for an underdeveloped country!

Mr. Curran continues: “A Haitian solution is the only one which will endure? I want to take advantage of this occasion to remind the political opposition and civil society that we continue to hope that they actively and publicly commit themselves to the process in a constructive manner and that, once the concrete steps demanded by the high-level delegation [of the OAS] are taken, that they will participate in the formation of a C.E.P. [Provisional Electoral Council].? The Ambassador, who admits to “not knowing Haiti,” insists that Haitians must accommodate themselves to imperfect security and “reasonable measures.”

high level crossed, that they will take part in the formation of a C.E.P. “. The Ambassador, who acknowledges “not to know Haiti”, insists that HaVtiens should put up with an imperfect safety and “reasonable measurements”.

Since the Ambassador has so “much to learn,” he ignores the fact that the solution cannot be uniquely Haitian, since the problem isn?t. Since 1915, the United States of America has been a key player in Haitian life, and their power, married to their confidence, has had a decisive influence on our political, economic, humanitarian and moral crises.

Then comes the allusion to the “chimPres of Washington.? Those of the regime, the opposition, of civil society? The Ambassador does not elaborate on this, although it should be familiar terrain for him.

The following paragraph is one of most revealing, laced with contradictions, ambiguities and inconsistencies. Whereas it starts with “Enable me to be clear and coherent concerning the American policy in Haiti”. [To paraphrase:] The President of November 26, 2000 will be the constitutional President until 2006.

Let us recall the course of the events. May 2000, the legislative and local elections were sullied with errors; which?the Ambassador failed to point out?resulted in the self-imposed exile of the President of the C.E.P. and the withdrawal of the international community form the process.

The powers that be, without missing a beat, patch up the C.E.P. as they see fit, organize the presidential elections on their own, like bigshots, in spite of the withdrawal of the opposition and the electorate. These elections with a C.E.P. having no credibility and without the participation of the electorate?the highest estimates [of voter turnout] are 10%?give birth to a “constitutional president.” Ethics? Morality? Why all this din today, then, about a credible C.E.P. in which the opposition and the civil society should take part? Why 822? Why high-level OAS/CARICOM delegation? Why a Haitian solution whose terms are dictated by the international community? Ethics! Morality! Interests! Contempt! Or just simple sleight-of-hand to maintain the status quo. Nothing surprising about the deafening silence of the regime following this speech of a senior diplomat.

Further: “We are waiting for the opposition and civil society to take part in the formation and the operations of the C.E.P. The United States ? will support such a C.E.P., as well as the organization of free and fair elections “. What of the support of the United States for the C.E.P. in 2000, particularly for its president, who couldn’t bring himself to authorize the elections of May 21, 2000? What became of the support of the United States for the Director of the Police, Mr. Faveur, chosen by consensus between the regime and the OAS Mission? If one wants to talk about coherence and credibility, a credible C.E.P. does not seem to be enough. More will be required and, above all, a united and credible international community whose assurances were worth something!

There follows a warning against any attacks against the Constitution and, for good measure, an allusion to Duvalierism. “The pages of history cannot be turned backwards! But doesn’t the history often repeat itself if it serves the interests of the powerful?

And to conclude on the political crisis, Mr. Curran recommends that we entrust our future to the graduates of Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, Georgetown, the Sorbonne, HEC, McGill, Laval? Tip of the hat to the diaspora, to modern western culture, to the one right way?

On the economic crisis, Mr. Curran is reassuring, because the same regime that has not managed to resolve the political crisis has signed an agreement with the IMF and is negotiating with the IDB for the release of funds. On the basis of these “guarantees,” the “private sector” should invest?even though justice is for sale, and even American companies would complain to the Embassy that court decisions in their favor were not executed. It is useless to dwell upon the inconsistency and bad faith of these remarks: [after all,] the Ambassador does not know Haiti!

The humanitarian crisis is evoked by the Ambassador to display the substantial efforts of the international community and to justify the release of assistance, all the while increasing our national debt, which our children will never finish paying, even if they don?t see the results of the programs that this debt should have financed. But no matter. Let?s make believe that the crisis is already resolved!

We come to the moral crisis. Mr. Curran initially shields himself behind a declaration of the Episcopal Conference of Catholic Bishops, with whom he [apparently] agrees, permitting him to light into the regime, the opposition and civil society. The Ambassador advances figures which I do not have any reason to question: 30% of secondary students have access to drugs, and drug use have increased by 30% in one year. Yet another capital reason to reach a political compromise, to accept a bargain-basement democracy, in order to safeguard our children and ensure their futures. Insurance by whom, and why? Two hundred years of history has made us skeptical.

And to close, the drug traffickers are known, and we Haitians do business with them. Mr. Curran recommends that we refuse to sell goods or services to citizens alleged to be drug traffickers, whereas the regime tolerates them, or at least does present evidence of their delinquency, while the United States, which makes a priority of it, does not take a clear and public position on the matter, in spite of the recent arrests?effected under a cloak of total opacity.

And the clincher! “You educate their children.” I want to believe that this was a lapse, because La Fontaine?s wicked wolf has already used a similar alibi to devour the lamb.

Our responsibility as Haitians in our circumstances is our business. I denounce those among us who have neither a sense of the collectivity nor a culture of patriotic solidarity, and who shocked the Nation with the resounding applause that punctuated and greeted Mr. Curran?s remarks. I was ready to say?following an illustrious historical figure?”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” But my stomach churned, and the prayer stuck in my throat? because they know what they are doing.

Smark MICHEL, le Nouvelliste, Friday, July 18, 2003

Translator?s note: Smarck Michel briefly served as then-president Aristide?s first Prime Minister upon the so-called “return of constitutional order” to Haiti in 1994. He resigned his post in good conscience when it became evident to him that demagoguery had replaced democracy as Aristide?s preferred mode of governance.