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In his February 12th column, Vincent Marissal, chronicler for La Presse in Montreal, called for an imposed tutelage for five years in Haiti. He proposed it should be made up of unnamed well-known Haitian personalities, members of the diaspora and the international community. According to him, the failed relief effort in Haiti is to be blamed entirely on the Préval administration, which has lost all legitimacy in Haiti and should thereby be replaced from the outside. Below is a response I have written to Mr. Marissal. I encourage you to draft your own, in English or French. He can be reached at email@example.com
Here is a link to his original article: (http://www.cyberpresse.ca/opinions/chroniqueurs/vincent-marissal/201002/12/01-948858-le-temps-dagir.php)
Montreal, February 14th, 2010
Dear Mr. Marissal,
In your February 12th article, “Le temps d’agir,’ you make suggestions for the future of Haiti which defy historical experience and the expressed wishes of the Haitian people. For example, you ridicule the World Bank for suggesting that the government of Haiti needs to be strengthened. However, since the collapse of the post-earthquake aid effort, the people of Haiti have been consistently condemning the weakness of their government and demanding a robust presence of the Haitian state. You have reported this yourself. What’s more, your criticism of the Préval administration whitewashes the criminal involvement of foreign countries in the creation of his dysfunctional regime. This is your responsibility as a journalist whose country has directly contributed to this state of affairs. The overthrow of Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas regime in 2004, in which Canada was involved, and the subsequent murder and imprisonment of thousands of his supporters left the governmental apparatus in a shambles. Préval later aggravated this situation in 2009 by banning Fanmi Lavalas from senatorial and proposed legislative elections. Surely this is the lack of legitimacy of Préval to which you refer?
Foreign intervention for centuries has left Haiti with a state so weak it depends on foreign NGOs to run its schools and health care system. Canada participated in the overthrow of democracy and its NGOs benefit greatly from the Haitian government’s weakness, but you have never once reported this. You would do well to heed the warnings of Haitian presidential advisor Patrick Elie, who when I interviewed him in 2008, said: “Everything that should be in the hands of the state has been taken away by business interests or by the plague of NGOs. NGOs are being used to slowly remove all the flesh from the state. Unless we react to this invasion, it could be the thing that finally vanquishes us.” Surely, Mr. Marissal, you agree that the uncoordinated aid effort is in part a consequence of a country too dependent on foreign NGOs?
You go on to promote an imposed government in Haiti. Which Haitians have requested this and what right do you have to propose it? Who are you to recommend anything other than that the democratic wishes of the Haitian people be respected? Let’s assume, however, that your idea is enacted. Which “respected personalities” do you suggest belong to this government? At the top of your list must surely be Jean-Bertrand Aristide, still the most popular political figure in Haiti even after 6 years of illegal US-imposed exile. Or does his popularity in the eyes of Haitians not matter?
You suggest members of the diaspora be included in such a government. This has already been tried. Our government, Canada, helped impose a member of the Haitian diaspora, Gérald Latortue, on Haiti in 2004, with disastrous consequences: thousands murdered, tens of thousands of women raped, hundreds of political prisoners, the abandonment of progressive legislation, the installing of corrupt judges throughout the country, and the enactment of destructive economic policies.
Finally, you suggest members of the international community should govern. Would such people be drawn from Canada, France and the US, the greatest of the “friends of Haiti”? With friends such as these, who needs enemies? Canada helped overthrow the Haitian government in 2004, a crime you have not once mentioned in your reporting. The US overthrew the government twice, armed Haitian dictators and destroyed the indigenous economy. France helped overthrow the government in 2004, created Haiti’s poverty via the debt of independence and ran the slave trade. So which members of the international community do you suggest should tell Haiti how to run its affairs?
With all due respect, Mr. Marissal, your suggestions are colonial, anti-democratic and display a lack of knowledge both of the history of Haiti and of colonialism in general. It little behooves Western journalists to be recommending to vulnerable nations policies that they themselves would never accept in their own country.
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