Originally: Name your price, Mr. Kurzban!

By Leonce F. Thelusma*

 I recently read in the December 22nd., 2003 issue of Miami Herald a text written by Mr. Ira Kurzban  which seemed willing to rewrite in his own way the history of Haiti, but unfortunately did bring no additional information to the average American on the current Haitian political situation. On the contrary, in all influential circles (universities, labor unions and churches), people are more and more convinced of the waste made of their tax money in Haiti in 1994 (2 billion dollars) for repositioning Mr. Jean Bertrand  Aristide into the presidency he had lost in 1991 following a military coup. Instead of the reestablishment of democracy, as it was argued at that time, the Haitian people have seen the institutionalization of  corruption,  a state of impunity never witnessed in the country, a substantial increase in drug exports to the United States and a malignant growth of Mr. Aristide?s personal power. In other words, Haiti is currently living under a dictatorship, which does not spell its name.

     The article claims that democracy is flourishing in Haiti. No one else can objectively prove what is stated in that text except those who develop political myopia for substantial rewards.  Let us suppose for one moment that President Bush decided to silence the opponents to his policies in Iraq by hiring thugs to kill or harass them by stealing their cars at gunpoint, to murder inquisitive journalists, by having some Republican Senators or Congressmen  publicly threatening to have all those who dare asking for more jobs instead of war jailed or killed, would someone call that scenario a flourishing democracy? Or can somebody imagine the President of the United States sending federal marshals and unemployed Republicans to university campuses around Washington to burn, destroy and, if possible, maim institution?s officials for not agreeing to his policies? It is exactly what is taking place now in Haiti. There are no ?backyard?and ?living room?democracies. Only Mr. Kurzban and maybe some members of the Congressional Black Caucus who  historically have had nothing in common with the Haitian people but the skin color would think differently. They are rich, Haitians are poor. At an early age, they are attracted to money making which is not necessarily  a forbidden  attitude, while Haitians, constrained by their scanty economic environment, are forced to live with what they have. Moreover, they are culturally different. While the former are in majority Protestants, the latter are Roman Catholics or Vodoo practitioners. If the prevailing thought here is that Haiti can afford a ?backyard? democracy à la Jean Bertrand Aristide, it is grossly insulting to the Haitian people.  It is sometimes paradoxical and deceiving to see some people whose forebears have valiantly fought against oppression put their talents to defend the ?undefendable?. O tempora! o mores! would exclaim once again the Roman politician Cicero.

    Aristide is a mad man obsessed only with keeping political power for the sake of plundering the public treasury setting a precedent never observed in the history of the country, ransoming shamelessly industrious and honest people in the private sector who provide employment to the poor workers he claims to love and he is unable to help. By his villainous practices, he has discouraged any type of productive investment in the country, a situation which has led it to produce zero growth for the years 2001 and 2002. The same results are expected in 2003. The only profitable business in the country is drug trafficking which has made him and some of his associates extremely rich. He willingly ignores all principles of modern governance and manages the country as a grocery store, often confusing business volume and net profit.

     Unprincipled President Aristide usually prone to violence and corruption will always find staunch defenders to whom he pays extremely well. The U.S. Justice Department will tell us the  whole story. The meager financial resources of the country are used to pay lobbyists who fight mercilessly to keep him in power without helping the country get the necessary  means to develop. That deserves to be perceived as an international conspiracy against the Haitian people. There is no U.S.government-imposed embargo against Haiti, a pure Lavalassian chorus. Mr. Aristide has created what has come to be known as the phenomenon of poverty-induced industry, allowing some influential people in the U.S. to become rich at the expense of an impoverished nation. Once again, the poor as the rich Haitians need to know in advance the enormous sum of money the lawyer will charge the country for his so-called intervention by telling what everybody already knew. Name your price, Mr. Kurzban!


*Leonce F. Thelusma, a senior Economist, was Haiti?s Minister of Economics and Finance in 1988 and 1989. He currently teaches Economics at a University in the Miami area.