Published: February 26, 2004
That's why Haitians weren't surprised when the democratic opposition, with no ties to the rebels, this week rejected an American-drafted proposal that would give it more power but also let President Aristide complete his term in office. The only solution, the opposition said, was for Mr. Aristide to go.
There is good reason for this. The world has paid little attention to Haiti for the last few years, but human rights groups here have documented how rapes, kidnappings, political assassinations, arbitrary arrests, the use of tear gas and beatings during peaceful demonstrations, the destruction of private property, and a complete lack of social services have come to characterize Haitians' daily life. That is why the population is applauding the rebels. And that is why Haiti will not be at peace until Mr. Aristide is gone, no matter how much our Caribbean neighbors and the international community talk of the need for an elected president to finish his term.
For Haitians, that support for Mr. Aristide has only made things worse -- just as the United States's automatic backing of the Duvalier dictatorship because it was anti-Communist resulted in terror. The difference is that François and Jean-Claude Duvalier did not pretend to be democratic during their three decades in power. They controlled their administration and their Tontons Macoute with an iron fist. Forced to adopt a democratic stance, the Lavalas regime has simply given greater leeway to its followers to carry out repression. Whether or not the acts are ordered by the government, these followers are assured of impunity. As I write this, thugs in Port-au-Prince are looting stores and extorting money from shopkeepers in the name of protecting the government.
One result of this repression has been the breaking away of disillusioned intellectuals (never in Haiti has a regime so benefited at its beginnings from the support of intellectuals; never has a regime been so criticized by intellectuals at its end), which has forced Mr. Aristide to depend on less qualified supporters. The appointment of a district attorney who did not go to law school is the most cited example. The chaos that has followed has largely contributed to the deterioration of institutions and public administration, worsening what are already the worst living conditions in the Western Hemisphere.
It is very difficult for someone like me to answer the question: are you a member of the opposition? Technically, the answer is no. I do not belong to any political party and do not defend any particular political ideology. But, as a Haitian citizen, I share in the demands of the civil society for the respect of democratic norms.
I still dream of peace, but I think that it is too late to reconcile the Haitian population with Mr. Aristide's regime. Any proposition with such reconciliation as its goal will lead only to more violence.
And that seems to be the view of a wide spectrum of Haitians. For the first time, I am seeing Haitians of all origins united in a common goal. With the exception of Carnival, demonstrations against Mr. Aristide have been the only public events joining all ethnicities and all social groups. This constitutes enormous progress in light of the discrimination that has tarnished our past. I have seen peasants, workers, bosses, educators, women's organizations, credit union associations -- all united around the table, expressing their disagreements and complaints, but also their common hopes and an agreement on the rights and needs of all.
It would be a shame for the international community to finally pay attention to what's going on here just so it could thwart these desires by the imposition of a solution that all reject.
Lyonel Trouillot, secretary of the Haitian Writers' Association, is the author of ''The Street of Lost Footsteps,'' a novel.
Sources : New York Times