Andy Apaid is the man who came closest in Haiti’s modern history to putting that country on its upward path. His peaceful movement of 2003-2004 created the kind of opportunity that, in Goethe’s phrase, “once missed, Eternity will not give back.”

It’s laughable that Canada, having just shirked the modest task of sending a contingent to aid the police, should presume to sanction such a prodigious achiever.

Part of Apaid’s achievement in 2003-2004 was negotiating with gangs to lay down their arms. He says he did not pay them to do that, and since he is an honorable man, that is probably true. But in a negotiation you’ve got to give to get, so what might he have offered them? We can dangle one clue: at the time, he called the Haiti

Apaid summons, 2003

Democracy Project and asked us to invite the most notorious gang leader, whom he had diverted to the straight and narrow, on a delegation to Washington. That would assuage his amour propre and keep him on the peaceful path. Our invitation was needed in order to apply for the U.S. visa. The visa application came to the desk of Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, who expressed consternation that we would invite such a miscreant. The United States does not admit criminals and murderers, he informed us. In Ambassador Noriega’s outrage, only to be expected from a responsible official, may lie a clue to Canada’s sanction. In order to run Haiti’s largest modern industries and at the same time develop virgin land in the Central Plateau, you’ve got to somehow fend off the gangs. Since he does not pay them, what else could he have offered up? Some sort of blandishments, as our experience suggests. This may have caught the Canadian eye, especially if that Canadian is unacquainted with Haiti’s modern history.

The difficulty is that Canada does not publish the research behind its sanctions. Most of the twenty-two it sanctioned before Apaid were well known to Haiti-watchers as criminals, so its choices appeared to be well-founded. But a literal application of criteria, bereft of a knowledge of history and context, can be very misleading.

Witness for example the Wikipedia Encyclopedia entry: “André Apaid, Jr. is a businessman in Haiti known for leading the Group of 184, a coalition which forced Jean-Bertrand Aristide from power in 2004 through a coup d’état in collaboration with the United States.” This entry manages to compress three falsehoods into one phrase. The Group of 184 did not literally force him from power: that was the approach of former armymen unresisted by the police. It was not a coup d’état; he resigned. And the United States, via an emphatic personal call from Secretary of State Colin Powell to Andy Apaid, tried hard to keep Aristide in power. How did Wikipedia get it so wrong? The raw material comes from contributions by readers, and the majority of them would have voiced the Aristide cult prevalent at the time. The editor looked at the Group of 184’s opposition to Aristide, the fact that the resignation was forced, and the fact that the United States sent an airplane for him, and put it together as above. Are the Wikipedia entry and the Canadian sanctions the same type of cognitive disorder? Apparently so. It may even be that the Canadian researcher read the Wikipedia entry – it is the first thing Google returns for “Andy Apaid” – and found in it further “evidence”!

The pity is that until now the Canadian sanctions were performing a great service for Haiti, exposing the corrupt political class and potentially laying the groundwork for their replacement by more progressive forces. Mixing a saint among sinners has undermined the credibility of the Canadian list and given the sinners a perfect get-out-of-jail card. They will play it; of that you can be sure.