Originally: All U.S. Is Offering Haiti Is ‘Haiti Fatigue’ and Near-Total Media Silence
Misfortune is nothing new in troubled Haiti, but recent weeks have seen an alarming crescendo of woes in the island republic. ?Haiti fatigue? marks much of the policy and media worlds; unfortunately Haitians do not have such an option, and the problems fester ninety minutes by air from U.S. shores.
Since September, twenty Haitians have been killed, victims of political clashes. In an acrid atmosphere of dissent and crackdown, a severed head was left November 25 in a Port-au-Prince street, with a note threatening seventy opposition figures and journalists with similar fates. At an initially peaceful anti-Aristide demonstration December 5, armed gangs loyal to the regime wounded thrity students and bystanders. Pierre-Marie Pacquiot, mathematician and rector of the public university, was attacked by pro-Aristide gangs, kneecapped, and may never walk again. The demonstrations continue almost daily. Gonaives, Petit-Goave, Grand-Goave, Saint-Marc and Jacmel are virtually closed cities.
The Haiti Open Society Institute says they witnessed Haitian police using walkie-talkies December 5 to direct and focus the violence against dissenters, deploying armed juveniles to attack students. The Haiti Democracy Project showed a videotape of the maneuver in the U.S. Congress on December 9 to the offices of Reps. Ballenger (R-NC), Hyde (R-IL), Conyers (D-MI), Delahunt (D-MA), Meeks (D-NY), and Menendez (D-NJ), but drew no comment from them.
Dismayed by these events, Marie-Carmel Paule Austin, Minister of Education, resigned December 11. This was followed by resignations of Public Health Minister Pierre Emile Charles, and Guy Alexandre, the Haitian ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Alexandre cited the police crackdown as ?simply intolerable.? December 20, interim Electoral Council Vice President Volvick Remy Joseph resigned, ?because I don?t approve of the means utilized by the government to repress the legitimate demonstrations of almost every sector of Haitian society.? Environment Minister Webster Pierre quit the same day, ?to regain my freedom of speech.?
Lavalas party loyalist Senator Dany Toussaint has resigned, and Sen. Prince Pierre Sanson has denounced the party?s ?barbaric practices.? The Episcopal Conference has called for a reconfiguring of the dysfunctional Haitian executive.
On December 14, Lavalas leaders Nawoum Marcellus and Wilner Content called on party loyalists to ready their weapons for assault on dissidents. On December 15, the Haitian police again dispersed crowds of dissenters, this time with canisters of pepper gas allegedly imported from South Africa.
Death threats and arson have shut down media sources temporarily or permanently, including Radio Caraibe, Radio Metropole, Vision 2000 and Radio Kiskeya. On December 17, Radio Maxima in Cap-Haitien was raided and silenced by Haitian police.
In its editorial on December 17, Le Monde called the Haitian state politically ?bankrupt,? and its president ?an egomaniac?in disgrace?governing through violence,? and its people ?betrayed.? On December 19, Haitian National Radio announced the likely suspension of the lame-duck parliament in January, to be replaced by a nine-member council to take over when the parliamentary session expires in January. On December 22, according to the Associated Press ten thousand people demonstrated against the regime; police shot into the crowds and killed an unknown number.
Haiti?s woes cannot easily be attributed to a single source. Fifty-percent illiteracy, 70-percent unemployment, environmental destruction, high HIV/AIDS rates evade the good intentions of individuals and governments. Factions differ over whose fault it is; most agree that a debacle threatens soon to devastate the country and send waves of boat people to U.S. shores.
Christmas and New Year are historically sad holidays in Haiti, because most families lack the means to celebrate them. This year, the sadness is exceptionally palpable. Haitians are made of durable stuff, able to deal with misfortunes that fate has thrown their way. They have often looked to the United States ? perhaps naively ? for their salvation. To find only Haiti fatigue in return is discouraging for them. To find almost total silence from U.S. media about their current plight must be demoralizing beyond measure.