The problem with politics in Haiti
By Ilio Durandis
I have had some time to think and analyze Haitian politics, especially since the Fall of Duvalier. And one theme that keeps coming up is that of a pyramid scheme. In such scenario, it is all but impossible for those at the bottom to progress, whereas the few at the top seems to get wealthier, and more powerful.
An obvious question about this scheme is who belongs to the top, and who to the bottom?
To fully grasp where I am coming from, it is important to contextualize this article with regard to fairly recent events in Haiti.
After the earthquake of 2010, the phrase “build Haiti back better” became cool.
It was a theme that was championed by former United States president Bill Clinton.
The idea was simple.
Haiti ought to emerge from its rubble better than it was pre-quake. A key emphasis was placed on “build,” without much specification as to what or whom would be built back.
Many in Haiti ran with the theme, and even the most intelligent and skeptical wanted to give “build back better” a chance. No one dared to have the audacity to ask the hard questions or to impose the most urgent needs of the country as to what should have been the top priorities, such as building respectable institutions, conditions for job creation and the Haitian individual among other things.
Unfortunately for Haiti and its people, the quake did more than destroy homes and take hundreds of thousands of lives. It rendered clear that Haitian politics is functioning as a pyramid scheme.
At the very top of this scheme, we find the international community and all the great international institutions that seek to impose the policies of a few rich countries on those considered too poor to be democratic or more commonly referred to as the third world. Haiti, by all accounts, has been at the very bottom of every well-being index.
In 2010, Haitians seemingly could not freely elect their own president — and by that I mean the votes could not be counted and guaranteed without the approbation of the Organization of American States and big foreign embassies.
In any case, we are where we are.
But this is not a place of moving forward. Rather, it is more like flying in reverse at the speed of light, as if the country has a date with the abyss of a black hole.
Right below the international community and its powerful embassies and institutions, currently called the “Core Group,” we find willing Haitian politicians.
Yes, for any scheme to work, whether it is a pyramid or a Ponzi scheme, there must be willing participants. Those at the top who control all the moving pieces on the chess board can often buy, at a discounted price, willing participants to help them achieve their goals.
Many people who are involved in Haitian politics are corrupt to the core. They often get into politics not because of their great vision to build a great society and nation, but rather to say good bye to their misery and misfortune of being born in a poor country.
It is their calling to amass wealth and have access to power at the detriment of their own fellow compatriots.
And with such mentality, it is often a bargain for those at the top of the pyramid to recruit Haitians to destroy Haiti.
Money and power often engender greed, and greedy politicians could never be true patriots or honest democrats.
This, then, is the fuel that makes the pyramid work. This dream is being sold not only to unfortunate Haitians, but to people all over the Third World.
They deprive the youth of those countries access to quality and affordable education, meaningful employment, reliable healthcare, and, above all, the sense of belonging to a nation. As a result, it does not take much to turn an ambitious young leader who had the potential to be a change agent to become a willing participant in the scam.
First, they complete the recruitment of the brightest young leaders, with their place assured at the bottom of the pyramid.
Instead of becoming change agents for their community, they are now agents of maintaining the status quo. This is why few people get shocked to see the rapidity with which people in Haiti switch political sides. Haitian politicians are like streaming water, moving with the current towards the path of least resistance.
A society like Haiti, which is in such a bad shape, will never develop until Haitians realize the effect of this political pyramid scheme.
Whether it is the core group, seasoned Haitian politicians and a few well-spoken youth, Haitians must understand that change, like freedom, is not free, and these core people and institutions who are running the pyramid scheme are not in it to see Haiti develop nor becoming a sovereign state as was intended in the independence declaration by the nation’s founde, Jean Jacques Dessalines.
Haiti’s ongoing political impasse and all of the current political theater is a clear signal that that Haiti is far from being a democratic state, far from being a place where the rule of law reigns and everyone, regardless of his or her rung in society, can enjoy the same unalienable rights as all individuals on the face of this earth, such as the rights to live free without the interference or domination of foreign powers, the maintenance of one’s dignity by positively contributing to society, and to engage in durable change and development of one’s own country. These rights were inherited from the Haitian founding fathers, and the leaders of the pyramid scheme will stop at nothing to make sure they never become reality for most Haitians.
If we ought to hope, it must be in the spirit of the brave men and women who gave it all so that we could all be identified as Haitians, no matter where we go.
We have a golden opportunity in front of us as we face probably the greatest challenge of our young democracy. This generation can be the one that stirs the pot to make real change happen.
This is the moment to break with the pyramid scheme and the time to enter an era of modernity and self-dependency.
Haitians must realize that we are all we have.
Our strength is in our unity to defend the value of a sovereign Haiti. Anything else just keeps the pyramid alive.
Ilio Durandis, a Caribbean Journal contributor, studied political science at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He holds a masters in molecular biology. He currently serves as the Vice-Dean for the Medical Biology and Director of the Mckenna Biosciences programs at Universite Notre Dame Haiti- UDERS Hinche.