Clinton vows to help Haitians chart destiny

Thursday, June 18, 2009 5:19 AM
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Posted on Tue, Jun. 16, 2009
Clinton vows to help Haitians chart destiny
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
jcharles@MiamiHerald.com

Haiti’s newest envoy made his first pitch on behalf of the impoverished Carribbean nation Monday, outlining an ambitious list of priorities he plans to tackle on behalf of the United Nations.

”I’ll do my best. It’s a formidable task,” former President Bill Clinton said at a U.N. news conference in New York alongside U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Haitian Foreign Minister Alrich Nicolas. “This is the best chance that Haitians have ever had.”

Clinton did not say when he will make his first visit to Haiti as U.N. special envoy but his focus comes as Haitian President René Préval tries to avert yet another political crisis.

A decision last month by Haiti’s parliament to raise the country’s minimum wage from $1.70 to $4.90 a day has triggered weeks of protests by a group that characterizes itself as state university students.

Last week, as Préval attempted to negotiate a compromise between the country’s leading business owners and lawmakers, protesters erected barricades, burned tires and stoned government and private vehicles around the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. They are demanding that Préval sign the legislation — or face whatever comes.

Protesters even attacked Haitian Prime Minister Michèle Pierre-Louis’ student-oriented nongovernmental organization in Port-au-Prince. At least two dozen people have been arrested so far, and police say most are not students.

The issue has become a political football for Préval’s opponents, raising suspicions among foreign diplomats and others that the demonstrations may be less about raising the minimum wage and more an effort to destabilize the government by forcing the resignation of Pierre-Louis, Préval or both.

A study by Haiti’s garment industry argues that the wage increase would immediately cost the country’s ailing assembly industry 14,000 jobs and kill any chances of Haiti benefiting from the U.S. Congress-approved HOPE II legislation that Clinton, Ban and others have been championing as a way to create desperately needed jobs. The legislation, which already has created 11,000 new jobs, gives Haiti duty-free access to the U.S. textile market for woven and knit clothing made in Haiti using fabrics from countries outside the Western Hemisphere.

”This proposal as is would be the death of HOPE,” Georges Sassine, Haiti’s point man on the legislation said Monday soon after leaving another round of negotiations with Préval at the presidential palace.

CLINTON’S AGENDA

Clinton did not address the controversy at his news conference, instead focusing on outlining his goals in the coming months as a special envoy reporting to the U.N. secretary general. He does not intend to personally staff the Haiti office nor involve himself in the U.N.’s or Haiti’s day-to-day operations.

”We will continue to elevate awareness of both the pain and the promise of Haiti in the international community and that there are real genuine economic opportunities there,” he said, dismissing reports in the Haitian media that his $1-a-year job was part of an imperialistic plot to take over Haiti.

“All I want to do is help the Haitians take over control of their own destiny. That’s all I have ever wanted for Haiti. That’s all the secretary general wants.”

To help accomplish this, Clinton said he plans on helping the hurricane-ravaged nation rebuild by attracting private investors and alternative energy sources, encouraging better coordination among thousands of nongovernmental organizations already working on the ground, and getting the international community to ante up the $353 million in pledges it promised at April’s donors conference in Washington.

”We want to encourage the donors to honor the commitments they have already made at the donor’s conference,” Clinton said.
But getting donors to ante up their pledges may be the least of the former president’s or Haiti’s challenges.
”The current upheaval shows how much resentment toward the Préval government still lingers below the surface, driven by the government’s inability to resolve the pressing economic distress facing the country,” said Daniel Erikson, a Caribbean expert with the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

”No one can doubt Bill Clinton‘s ability to mobilize the attention and resources of the international community on behalf of Haiti. The question is whether he can somehow help to create an environment where the Haitians themselves can work together to effect positive change in their country,” he added.
“On the basis of the current upheaval, this is a monumental, and perhaps impossible, task.”

WAGE ISSUES

Observers say while Préval believes Haitians need to make a livable wage, he is concerned about how the minimum-wage increase will take away Haiti’s competitive edge as it tries to lure textile companies to its shores.

In hopes of reaching a compromise, Préval has spent the past week leading all-day negotiations. On Monday, some business leaders said he had come up with a plan that would give an immediate boost to garment workers by raising entry level pay to $2.40 a day with room to earn more for top producers. All other industries would get the $4.90 minimum wage.

But two lawmakers pushing the increase — Deputy Steven Benoit of the lower house, and Senate President Kely Bastien — both told The Miami Herald that after three days of meetings with Préval the issue still is not settled. ”There is no compromise. We are still waiting on the president to send his proposal,” Benoit said.

Special correspondent Stewart Stogel contributed to this report from the United Nations.

© 2009 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

Is Bill Clinton Haiti’s Great White Hope?

Is Bill Clinton Haiti’s Great White Hope?By John MaxwellCreated 05/27/2009 – 01:08

John Maxwell

 

Ban Ki Moon is playing another macabre joke on Haiti. In naming Bill Clinton as his “special envoy” to Haiti, the United Nations Secretary General has chosen a man that has already betrayed Haiti’s people several times over. “President Clinton made several pledges to Aristide and to Haiti, but history does not seem to record that any were kept.” Partly because of Clinton’s depraved policies, “Haitians are still scooping water to drink from potholes in the street and stave off hunger with ‘fritters’ made from earth and cooking fat.”

Is Bill Clinton Haiti’s Great White Hope?

John Maxwell

This article originally appeared in Jamaican Observer [1].

Neither Haitian democracy nor Bill Clinton’s reputation will survive this appointment.”

History is littered with treachery. In the noisome Slough of Dishonor are mired thousands of reputations, most of those who betrayed their own countries, like Pierre Laval, Vidkun Quisling, Jonas Savimbi and Augusto Pinochet. The deepest pits though, the most purulent sinks, are reserved for those who have ranged abroad to betray and sabotage strangers, to inflict unnecessary suffering on people who have never given them cause for complaint. People like Leopold of Belgium, Neville Chamberlain, Hitler, Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush spring readily to mind.

Last week, former President Clinton announced that he would accept an invitation from the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, of South Korea, to become the SG’s personal envoy in Haiti. It is an appointment that will end in disaster.

I mention Ban Ki Moon’s nationality because I believe that the disaster that already exists in Haiti is the result of a culture clash which is entirely incomprehensible to most people outside the Western hemisphere and not easily understood by most people outside the international crime scene that has been created in Haiti.

Ground Zero for Modern Civilization

It is my contention that the modern world was born in Haiti.

When you understand that the modern rotary printing press is a direct descendant of mills made to grind sugar you may begin to get the drift of my argument. Since I am not a historian my arguments will not be subtle and nuanced. I am simply presenting a few crude facts which, however you interpret them, will I believe lead inexorably to the conclusion that modern ideas of liberty and freedom, modern capitalism and globalization of production and exchange, would have spent much longer in gestation had it not been for the black slaves of Haiti who abolished slavery and the slave trade. In the process they defeated the armies of the leading world powers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, destroyed the French empire in the western hemisphere, doubled the size and power of the United States and incidentally promoted the European sugar beet industry and revolutionized European farming.

Nowhere was freedom taken more seriously than by the Haitians.”

The problem with all this, as I have repeatedly pointed out, is that had the Haitians been ethnically European their achievements would now suffuse the world narrative; conversely, had Spartacus been black, he would long ago have faded into the mists of barbarian myth. occupation troops

The Haitians and all the other blacks of the Western hemisphere were uprooted from their native grounds, their civilizations laid waste, and they themselves transported to unknown lands in which they were forced to create unexampled riches and luxury for their rapists and despoilers.

For reasons lost to history, the blacks in Haiti and Jamaica were, for most of their captivity, the most unwilling subjects and continued to fight for their freedom for more than three centuries.

The Enlightenment and its prophets and philosophers popularized the ideas of freedom and liberty, the rights of man. Nowhere was freedom taken more seriously than by the Haitians, who, described as Frenchmen, fought valiantly for American freedom in that nation’s Revolutionary War of Independence. When Revolution convulsed France in turn, the Haitians threw their support to those they thought were fighting for freedom. When that proved a false trail, the Haitians continued to fight, defeating the French, British and Spanish armies sent to re-enslave them.

The fact of Haitian freedom frightened the Americans and other world powers.”

Although the Americans and the French said they believed in freedom, they formed an unholy combination to restrict Haiti’s liberty. The fact of Haitian freedom frightened the Americans and other world powers. Haiti promised freedom to any captive who set foot on her soil and armed, provisioned and supplied trained soldiers to Simon Bolivar for the liberation of South America. Nearly 200 years before the United Nations (and France and the USA), Haiti proclaimed Universal Human Rights, threatening the slave societies in America and the Caribbean.

Haiti’s freedom was compromised by French and American financial blackmail, and as I’ve said before, what the Atlantic powers could not achieve by force of arms they achieved by compound interest. Haiti was the first heavily indebted poor country, and the United States, Canada, France and the multilateral financial organizations, the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank and the IMF have worked hard to keep her in that bondage.

Eventually, 93 years ago, the Americans invaded Haiti, destroyed the constitution, the government and their social system. American Jim Crow segregation and injustice destroyed the Haitian middle-class, enhanced and exacerbated class distinctions and antagonisms and left Haiti a ravaged, dysfunctional mess, ruled by a corrupt American-trained military in the interest of a small corrupt gang of mainly expatriate or white capitalists, ready to support any and every murderous dictator who protected their interests.

What the Atlantic powers could not achieve by force of arms they achieved by compound interest.”

Finally, twenty years ago, the Haitians rose up and overthrew the Duvaliers and the apprentice dictators who followed. In their first free election the Haitians elected a little, black parish priest, the man whose words and spirit had embodied their struggle. But the real rulers of Haiti, the corrupt, bloodthirsty capitalists with their American passports and their bulletproof SUV’s, had no intention of letting Haitians exercise the universal human rights their leaders had proclaimed two centuries before.

When Jean Bertrand Aristide was deposed after a few months in office it was with the help of the CIA, USAID, and other American entities. Then ensued one of the most disgraceful episodes in the long unsavory history of diplomacy. Bill Clinton – elected President promising to treat the Haitian refugees as human beings – elected instead to observe the same barbarous policies as George Bush I, and when the refugees became a flood Clinton’s answer was more illegality. He parked two massive floating slave barracoons in Kingston Harbor where refugees picked up in Jamaican waters were, with the craven connivance of the Patterson government, denied asylum, captured and processed and 22% of them selected for the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp while the rest were returned to their murderers in Haiti.

Eventually, largely due to pressure from black pressure groups in the US and crucially, a fast to the death begun by Randall Robinson, Clinton agreed to restore Aristide while General Colin Powell talked grandly of the soldier’s honor he shared with Haiti’s then murderer in chief, a scamp called Raoul Cedras.

Bill Clinton – elected President promising to treat the Haitian refugees as human beings – elected instead to observe the same barbarous policies as George Bush I.”

President Clinton made several pledges to Aristide and to Haiti, but history does not seem to record that any were kept.

Had even a few been kept, Haiti may have been able to guarantee public security and to install some desperately needed infrastructure. Instead Haitians are still scooping water to drink from potholes in the street and stave off hunger with “fritters” made from earth and cooking fat.

The Haitian Army, the most corrupt and evil public institution in the western hemisphere, was abolished by Aristide, to the displeasure of the North American powers. Now that the Americans have deposed Aristide for the second time, security is in the hands of a motley mercenary army, a UN peacekeeping force.

Security in Haiti is so good that three years ago, the then head of this force, a Brazilian general was found shot to death after a friendly chat with Haitian elites.

The rapes, massacres, disappearances and kidnappings continue unabated and the only popular political force, the Fanmi Lavalas, has been effectively neutered.

President Clinton “will aim to attract private and government investment and aid” for the poor Caribbean island nation, according to Clinton’s office and a senior U.N. official.

“A U.N. official said that Clinton would act as a cheerleader” for the economically distressed country, cajoling government and business leaders into pouring fresh money into a place that is largely dependent on foreign assistance.

It all sounds so nice and cozy, a poor, black “hapless” nation under the tutelage of the rich and civilized of the earth.

I am prepared to bet that neither Haitian democracy nor Bill Clinton’s reputation will survive this appointment. Democracy is impossible without popular participation and decision making.

In Haiti democracy is impossible without Lavalas and Aristide.

If Haiti itself is to survive, the UN General Assembly needs to seize this baton from the spectacularly unqualified and ignorant Security Council and its very nice and affable Secretary General, even less attuned to Haitian reality than the last SG, Kofi Annan and his accomplices, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, P.J. Patterson and Patrick Manning.

John Maxwell a veteran Jamaican journalist. He has covered Caribbean affairs for more than 40 years and is currently a columnist for The Jamaica Observer. He can be contacted at jankunnu@gmail.com