Originally: Haiti’s Obscene Nightmare

Perhaps by now the rebels, led by former death squad leader Louis-Jodel Chamblain and coup plotter Jean-Baptiste Joseph, operating under the umbrella of the so-called opposition, will have taken Port au Prince and President Aristide will have left Haiti.

In retrospect, it was bound to happen.
Mr Aristide must have been exceedingly naive, at the resumption of his presidency after his first overthrow, if he harboured a view that he would have been allowed to maintain his leadership with any degree of certainty. And the rest of us were gullible to expect that the opposition would have entertained a political and constitutional solution to Haiti’s current crisis.

It is hardly coincidental that yesterday’s capture, by the gunmen of Cap Hatien, and the new push for Port au Prince, comes hard on the heels of Mr Aristide’s second public embrace of a set of initiatives of which the United States has appropriated authorship, but which in fact was developed by Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders at a meeting in Kingston last month.

In fact, it was the Jamaican prime minister, Mr Patterson, who outlined the broad range of the Kingston Accord on January 31 and to whom Mr Aristide publicly responded in announcing his acceptance at Jamaica House.

Not unexpectedly, in the immediate aftermath of Mr Aristide’s acceptance of that Caricom-brokered initiative, which was to lead to the selection of a new prime minister and government and other confidence-building undertakings, the violence in Haiti escalated. As did the crescendo of the opposition demands that Mr Aristide had to step down, notwithstanding the widely accepted view that he was the legitimately-elected president of Haiti.

We do not believe that Mr Aristide has been embracing or as proactive as he might have been in building Haiti’s institutions and advancing the country’s democracy. But neither do we hold that this is either the fundamental reason, or a legitimate cause, for this coup d’etat against him.

Yet we understand now that the process was inevitable. Mr Aristide and his Lavalas represented a potential for a paradigm shift in Haiti for the removal of power and influence from those who have traditionally benefited from the rightist dictatorships of the recent past.

Indeed, many of those who helped to overthrow Mr Aristide in the early 1990s continued to lurk in the shadows during his second coming, biding their time, waiting for the appropriate occasion. The fig leaf of their talk of democracy has been pealed away, and the vulgarity of their position laid bare, with their easy embrace of the sordid bunch who in the past murdered hundreds.

That it has come to this is in part the fault of the international community, who focused only the shortcomings, real and otherwise, of Mr Aristide rather the broad reality of Haiti. Sanctions were bound to break the country and lay the basis for today’s instability which has been so cynically exploited by those who claim democracy as their agenda.

But it need not have come to this had there been clear and definitive declarations by those who have the muscle to make their voices really count – the United States, Canada, the European Union – that there will be no rewards for violence and undemocratic actions to achieve political ends.

They at times, mostly late in the day, admonished against violence as a political tool. But there was always a sense that these statements were delivered in a language full of double-speak that left the impression that the remarks also contained something of a nod and a wink. It was a policy based on personality rather than what is right and what is moral.
It might not have been so bad if we were assured that Mr Aristide’s departure was the route to stability in Haiti. It is more likely, though, to be just the start of a new turn through a new cycle of violence and instability. Unless we assume that Mr Aristide has no support in Haiti.