Author Archives: Frandley Julien

Ce qu’il faut prendre le temps d’expliquer au Sénateur Steven Benoit et à ses collègues

 

Par Frandley Julien

frandleyjulien@gmail.com

 

Le Sénateur Steven Benoit se trouve, depuis quelques jours, au centre d’une controverse dont il espère s’extirper en creusant davantage le trou dans lequel il s’est foutu, au lieu d’essayer de comprendre pourquoi tant de gens sont déçus de lui. Tout a commencé après que Benoit, qui répond comme un aimant au magnétisme d’un microphone, s’est félicité dans la presse du fait que la loi électorale a rendu plus difficile la participation de la diaspora dans la politique haïtienne. Ce mécanisme qui fait la fierté du sénateur, exige que ceux qui briguent un poste électif aient, pendant le temps de résidence requis par la constitution, payé leurs impôts à l’heure, et non en gros et rétroactivement, comme l’ont fait Lamothe et Conille. Et l’intrépide sénateur, qui ne semble pas avoir compris les conséquences réelles de ses actes au parlement, pense, par cette loi, avoir rendu service au pays. LOL.

Le problème ici va au-delà de Benoit. Le hic est que nous avons confié l’importante tâche de légiférer pour nous à des gens qui n’ont pas lu les Anciens, et qui ne comprennent rien à la philosophie politique. Ces gens-là se sont mis à emprunter paresseusement des lois de l’extérieur sans comprendre les motivations philosophiques derrière ces lois, et sans consentir aucun effort pour les adapter aux besoins d’Haïti. En plus, il n’est un secret pour personne que ceux qui ont vécu dans la diaspora, une fois rentrés au pays, sont parmi les plus farouches promoteurs de l’exclusion des Haïtiens de l’extérieur de la vie politique nationale. Ils ont inauguré cette pratique en 1986, et n’en ont pas démordu depuis. Ces gens pensent que tout le monde essaie d’accéder au pouvoir pour se servir, et non pour servir, et essaient de fermer le p’tit cercle de copains autant que possible.

Ce qu’il faut expliquer au sénateur Benoit, c’est que rien n’empêche aux membres de la diaspora qui ont la folie du pouvoir de se rendre au pays annuellement et de payer régulièrement des impôts qu’ils ne doivent pas à Haïti, jusqu’à ce qu’arrive le moment de se présenter aux élections. Ce que Benoit et ses acolytes ne comprennent pas, c’est  que cette disposition légale qu’ils ont adoptée, en plus d’être inefficace parce que facilement contournable,  envoie un mauvais signal à la diaspora qui se sent de plus en plus exclue d’accès aux sphères de décision.

Ceux qui veulent vraiment servir Haïti ne sont pas obligés de le faire en occupant un poste politique. Cependant, au constat de cette politique systématique à double-verrouillage visant à l’exclusion de la diaspora de la chose publique, beaucoup de compatriotes de l’extérieur qui auraient pu prêter leurs services au pays dans le secteur privé ou l’humanitaire, sont tellement dégoutés par le sentiment d’exclusion qui les tenaille,  qu’ils tendent à tout laisse tomber. La diaspora a le sentiment d’être persona non grata dans son propre pays.

Quelqu’un doit prendre le temps d’expliquer au Sénateur Benoit et à ses collègues, avec les mots les plus simples possible, que 80% de nos compatriotes détenant un diplôme universitaire vivent à l’étranger, et qu’à l’heure actuelle, Haïti a besoin de la participation active de tous ses enfants. Cela ne veut pas dire que les diplômés de la diaspora sont mieux formés que ceux de l’intérieur. Ce que je veux dire c’est que nous avons quatre fois plus de compétences à l’extérieur qu’à l’intérieur du pays, et que vouloir fonctionner seulement avec les 20% de l’intérieur est une démarche digne de notre proverbial  Bouki national.

L’exigence de résidence que ceux qui briguent un poste électif doivent satisfaire dans la majorité des pays, répond à la nécessité qu’un élu connaisse assez l’histoire et la réalité de l’espace qu’il aspire à diriger pour pouvoir remplir la fonction avec compétence. Par exemple, aux Etats-Unis, un candidat à la présidence doit avoir vécu dans le pays pendant 14 ans. Bien que les tribunaux n’aient jamais eu à interpréter cette exigence, certains des plus éminents experts en droit constitutionnel arguent que ces 14 années de résidence n’ont pas à être consécutives, et que si l’individu a vécu dans le pays pendant 14 ans à n’importe quel moment, même par intermittence, il doit en connaitre l’histoire et la réalité assez  pour pouvoir le diriger avec compétence. Mais en Haïti, on a toujours interprété l’exigence de résidence pour obliger les candidats à avoir vécu dans le pays pendant les cinq années précédant leur dépôt de candidature. Donc, si quelqu’un qui a passé 50 ans à vivre dans le pays passe deux ans à poursuivre des études à l’étranger 3 ans avant les élections, cet individu est inéligible aux yeux de ces puristes de l’exclusion. Demandez-leur une bonne raison pour justifier cette réalité qu’ils ont créée, ils ne l’ont pas.

Considérons la question du cumul de nationalités, pendant qu’on y est. Aujourd’hui, un Haïtien qui a acquis la nationalité américaine ne peut être président, sénateur ou député en Haïti. La semaine dernière, un ami qui a acquis la nationalité américaine m’a confié son intention de se présenter au sénat pour l’Artibonite. Je l’en ai dissuadé, parce que ce serait une violation de la constitution. La loi est ridicule, contreproductive et ringarde, mais c’est la loi. Quelqu’un qui veut servir Haïti ne peut pas inaugurer son service par une violation flagrante de la constitution. Cependant, si nous avions plus de bon sens au parlement, il y a longtemps que nous nous serions débarrassés de cette entrave au développement du pays. Acquérir un passeport étranger pour avoir de meilleures opportunités dans un pays d’accueil n’enlève  rien à l’Haïtianité d’un individu. La preuve, nous avons tout à coup oublié que Dany Laferrière était Canadien. Nous sommes tous fiers de lui. Mais s’il s’avisait à vouloir devenir député de son Port-au-Prince natal, halte-là Dany ! Tu n’es pas assez Haïtien pour occuper ce poste. Ridicule. Si le Canada traitait ses citoyens comme nous traitons les nôtres, Michaëlle Jean n’y serait jamais devenue gouverneure.

En somme, il faut que les Haïtiens de l’intérieur comme de l’extérieur commencent à élever la voix contre l’exclusion systématique de la diaspora de la gestion du pays. Haïti a tout à gagner d’une participation massive de la diaspora dans tous les domaines. On devrait être en train de desserrer la vis empêchant cette participation, non la serrer davantage. Et il faut que quelqu’un prenne le temps de le faire comprendre à Benoit et à ses collègues.

Frandley  Julien

Doctorant en Droit.

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Haitian Descendants in Dominican Republic Face Tragedy.

My piece in today’s Miami Herald co-written with Professor Ediberto Roman.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/22/3705305/haitian-descendants-in-dominican.html

Haiti: Different faces, Same Corruption

BY FRANDLEY JULIEN

FRANDLEYJULIEN@GMAIL.COM

If the ouster of President Morsi in Egypt teaches anything to the international community, it is that the mere organization of elections is not a panacea in countries with a long tradition of corruption and dictatorship.

Those who try to understand why not much has changed in Haiti 27 years after the fall of the Duvalier regime are quick to point exclusively at our corrupt, ruthless and incompetent leaders. However, a closer look at the country’s perpetual crisis will show that corruption, incompetence and irresponsibility have always been supported by an important portion of the Haitian population. Why?

 

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The High Cost of Staying Out of Politics in Haiti

Published by the Miami Herald on Novermber 2, 2012

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/02/v-fullstory/3079790/the-high-cost-of-staying-out-of.html

By Frandley Denis Julien

Haiti has never been a better illustration than now of Edmund Burke’s quote that “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” Traditionally, a huge portion of the country’s population has always prided itself in belonging to the “silent majority,” leaving the political scene to vagabonds and the bravest of serious souls. An understandable — albeit, not excusable — reason is the fact that Haiti’s successive dictatorial regimes, particularly the Duvaliers, have raised the killing of political opponents to the level of a national sport. Being in the silent majority was a manifestation of our survival instinct at its best.
However, well-educated citizens of good will should have known that their choice to generally refrain from participating in the political process would lead the country exactly where it is now, with successive incompetent governments and the exponential deterioration of the population’s living conditions. Moreover, the premise that abstention from politics would guarantee longevity could not be farther from the truth today. Quiet, law-abiding citizens are killed, kidnapped, raped on a daily basis in today’s Port-au-Prince; everybody is at the mercy of the all-powerful gangs.
During the past couple of months, there have been more and more protests against President Martelly’s stewardship of the country. Instead of listening to the population’s grievances expressed through numerous street demonstrations, the president, upon returning from the United Nations, countered with a march of his own, leading a crowd of his partisans and state employees through the nine miles separating the international airport from the National Palace.
That says a lot about a man who is used to winning on decibels, not on substance. His government has taken nepotism to a new level, with both his wife and young son heading powerful commissions generously funded at the expense of, and undertaking tasks that already fall in the purview of, existing cabinet ministries, with no accountability whatsoever.
On the other hand, the group that has taken the lead of the popular discontent has no credibility, and cannot offer a viable alternative to the Martelly debacle. It sits at the same table as a senator who has been cited by the Organization of American States (OAS) as a diligent human rights violator during Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s regime and a former congressman who, until recently, was accusing that senator of killing his brother. Furthermore, the latest opposition march held in Cap-Haitien was initiated by Initiative Citoyenne — a civic organization of which several followers were victimized by the Lavalas regime — in collaboration with representatives of that same regime, without any thought of justice for the souls of those who fell, or reparation for those who are still carrying the stigma of their injuries.
Therefore, this type of opposition to Martelly, because it is an amalgam of former human-rights violators and leaders displaying a total lack of political values who are willing to associate themselves with yesterday’s devil to get rid of today’s fiend at the expense of justice and the rule of law, harbingers nothing positive for the country. However, because these opposition leaders have a deficit of credibility does not mean they cannot overthrow the government.
The Haitian people, just like they voted Martelly into office to get rid of the traditional political class — knowing all along that they could not expect much from him aside from an end to the rampant corruption that has been plaguing the country — is very likely to use these same actors to topple Martelly out of buyer’s remorse. The only one who would benefit from Martelly’s premature ouster is former President Aristide — human-rights violator in chief — who, crouched in the shadows, is pulling strings while waiting for the spoils. His longtime allies from the Congressional Black Caucus in the United States have already reported to duty, with two press releases denouncing the Martelly administration in less than two months, ending a long hiatus from Haitian politics.
It is about time that the silent majority both within Haiti and in the diaspora realizes that its abstention strategy is as unpatriotic as it is suicidal. Today, no one is more secure in Haiti because he or she keeps away from politics. The all-powerful gangs are equal-opportunity killers, rapists and thieves. The Haitian people deserve to stop being asked to choose between bad and worse. Haiti is in dire need of a qualitative renewal of its political personnel, and that is only feasible if qualified people start running to become mayors, parliamentarians and president, and if equally qualified people are willing to support and vote for them. That good people remain passive, and silence is all evil needs to triumph.
Frandley Julien studies law at Florida International University. He was coordinator of the Initiative Citoyenne, a civic group in Cap-Haitien, Haiti in 2001-04.

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Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/02/v-fullstory/3079790/the-high-cost-of-staying-out-of.html#storylink=cpy

Haitian Leaders Avoid Root Problems

Published by The Sun Sentinel on September 30, 2012 @: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/fl-haiti-oped0930-20120930,0,7872001.story

 

 

By Frandley JulienSeptember 30, 2012

Those who follow Haitian politics closely have noticed that, for the last 25 years, no government has matched the current team’s ability to come up with innovative ideas, or their eagerness to achieve quick results. However, one’s enthusiasm is quickly dampened upon the realization that no other government has had so little institutional knowledge either.

Therefore, the current government’s entrepreneurial spirit, uplifting at first, may mean more trouble for the country if its innovative drive is unleashed with little respect for the institutions, and without a clear understanding of what it would take to achieve irreversible democratic, economic and social progress.

The current government approaches Haiti’s challenges as if it were a new country, with no history or antecedents. Everybody agrees Haiti has a great potential for tourism, that its hard-working people could constitute the ideal workforce for scores of local and foreign businesses.

But what the government fails to realize is that until Duvalier’s departure, thousands of tourists were visiting Haiti on a weekly basis, that all the jobs we are trying to attract, we had them until then. Why did these enterprises leave? Why did the tourists stop visiting us? The answer is a no-brainer: political instability and insecurity.

How can we expect to attract tourists and jobs again if nothing is being done to tackle the root causes of the problem, and introduce the rule of law in the national lexicon? It would hurt the country more to start attracting foreign investments while it is not ready, and see them leave precipitously in a cloud of negative publicity, than to take the time to put one foot ahead of the other, and establish a clear plan to welcome foreign capital and visitors according to a well-planned timetable.

In a country like Haiti, with a long history of social injustice, the government needs to realize that an equitable distribution of the national wealth cannot be left to happenstance, and that strict guidelines and policies need to be implemented to achieve just that.

So far, the reconstruction has only benefitted the traditional movers and shakers, with major international donors attributing sizable sums of money to already well-established private actors, at the expense of much needed public infrastructures and budding young entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, the government’s business mentality is driven by the urge to quickly “break-even,” consisting in scoring a few quick political points aiming at proving that things are moving in the right direction. However, for Haiti to get out of its abyss, it needs a government that subscribes to the need to implement structural policies, irrespective of their initial unpopularity or the time it takes to achieve results, as long as social programs are implemented to address the punctual needs of the weakest and neediest citizens.

If the current government really embodies the kind of change on which promise it was elected, it should refrain from the traditional tendency to adopt populist decisions that take advantage of the people’s weaknesses while aggravating their living conditions.

After its second carnival in less than 6 months, with the second one — the Carnival of Flowers, a resurrection of the Duvalier era — costing $1.5 million to a country that had to postpone the start of the new school year due to a shortage of funds, it is obvious which path the government has decided to take. Innovation in government is often a positive trait, but when combined with hubris, social amnesia and institutional ignorance, it is nothing short of a formula for disaster.

Frandley Julien studies law at Florida International University.

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Beyond governments: the Haitian people

Published by the Miami Herald on 4/28/2012 at

http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/27/v-fullstory/2771747/beyond-governments-the-haitian.html

 

BY FRANDLEY JULIEN

FRANDLEYJULIEN@GMAIL.COM

After the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, a new layer of emergencies — a devastating cholera outbreak, several hundred thousand families living in makeshift tent cities after having lost their children and/or breadwinners, and the destruction of the country’s already scarce, inadequate and overly centralized infrastructures — grafted onto Haiti’s already thick strata of predicaments.

Instead of stepping up to lead the country in the search and rescue, then recovery efforts after a challenge of such a magnitude, then-President René Préval initially went AWOL. (If there was a Nobel Prize for carelessness he would have earned it 10 years in a row, although, to his credit, he was the only one of the recent presidents to have guaranteed free speech.) Then, in complete disregard for those who were really affected by the quake, Préval complained on international TV that “his” palace had been destroyed.

In such a climate of helplessness, one can easily understand that, shaken by the enormity of the earthquake’s death toll — primarily attributable to the chronic failure of a long line of incompetent and negligent governments to implement and enforce a strong construction code — and by the ineptness manifested by Préval and his government, who could not even provide a landing pad and a berthing place to the humanitarian support coming from abroad in a timely manner, the people decided to make the subsequent presidential election a referendum on the performance of the political class. What is less fathomable, though, is the fact that, to take the helm of a country whose main problems hinge around the weakness of the institutions and the inability to institute and maintain the rule of law, we decided to elect a gentleman who prides himself in being a nihilist, one who, had the institutions been a tad stronger, would have repeatedly faced the wrath of the law at least for indecent exposure and lewd and lascivious behavior.

Today, almost a year after President Martelly’s inauguration, and despite his campaign pledge of a personality overhaul, he has left Sweet Micky — his mercurial musical persona— overshadow his presidency.

Martelly has become hostile to the independent media. He publicly insulted a reporter who dared to ask him a legitimate question, and displayed a behavioral pattern unbecoming of a president in his interaction with parliament, which foreshadows a term marked by recurrent political crises, given that in Haiti’s parliamentary system, he is accountable to that body. If the claims made by Dominican investigative journalist Nuria Piera that both President Martelly and his former rival, Myrlande Manigat, have received substantial amounts of money — $2.5 million for Martelly before and after he was elected, $250,000 for Manigat during the campaign — from Dominican senator and entrepreneur Felix Bautista to protect construction contracts irregularly obtained by the latter’s companies from former Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive are true, Martelly’s credibility and ability to govern will be seriously damaged.

His business diplomacy doctrine, at first an innovative and commendable approach, would automatically lose its appeal as it would be perceived as a mere smokescreen for the team’s shady dealings.

Unfortunately, for the last quarter century, possible investors and international institutions have focused too much attention on our governments, losing sight of Haiti’s hard-working population, youthful workforce and the innate entrepreneurial spirit of its inhabitants. Because of this oversight, Haiti has missed several golden opportunities over the years.

Today, it is important that the international community realize that just like some American presidents have not been a perfect reflection of the United States’ true soul, Haiti cannot be summed up by the unfitness of its decision makers chosen through a young and nascent democratic experience. Those who want to build lasting business ventures in Haiti have to go beyond the ephemeral faces of Haitian statesmen to consider the country’s hidden opportunities, avoid being babysat by covetous government officials, and develop an understanding of what the country has to offer that is deeper than the hasty sketches etched by the media. As one of the world’s major cruise lines can testify, Haitians are very respectful, grateful and protective of foreign investments.

On the other hand, the international financial institutions need to start bankrolling less governmental initiatives, and commit more funds to the tens of thousands of young entrepreneurs who do not lack innovative ideas, but cannot get access to credit because of their modest origin. What Haiti needs today is not another generation of politicians creating an oligarchy by keeping for themselves all the opportunities by either becoming partners in, or receiving kickbacks from, every significant business venture in the country, but, rather, a revival of its impoverished middle class and the humanization and progressive improvement of the conditions of its poorest citizens.

Frandley Julien studied English at Florida International University. From 2001 to 2004, he served as coordinator and spokesperson for Initiative Citoyenne (Citizens’ Initiative) in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.

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The Handicap of Definition

The Handicap of Definition

William Raspberry

Washington Post: 6 January 1982

 

I know all about bad schools, mean politicians, economic deprivation and racism.  Still, it occurs to me that one of the heaviest burdens black Americans—and black children in particular—have to bear is the handicap of definition: the question of what it means to be black.

 

Let me explain quickly what I mean.  If a basketball fan says that the Boston Celtics’ Larry Bird (3-time NBA MVP and 12-time NBA all star) plays “black,” the fan intends it—and Bird probably accepts it—as a compliment.  Tell pop singer Tom Jones (still a fixture in Las Vegas) he moves “black” and he might grin in appreciation.  Say to a Teena Marie (for over two decades she recorded to Motown) or the Average White Band that they sound “black” and they’ll thank you.

 

But name one pursuit, aside from athletics, entertainment, or sexual performance in which a white practitioner will feel complimented to be told he does it “black.”  Tell a white broadcaster he talks black and he’ll sign up for diction lessons.  Tell a white reporter that he writes “black” and he’ll take a writing course.  Tell a white lawyer that he reasons “black” and he might sue you for slander.

 

What we have here is a tragically limited definition of blackness, and it isn’t only white people who buy it.

 

Think of all the ways black children can put one another down with charges of “whiteness.”  For many of these children, hard study and hard work are “white.”  Trying to please a teacher might be criticized as acting “white.”  Speaking correct English is “white.”  Scrimping today in the interest of tomorrow’s goal is “white.”  Educational toys and games are “white.”

 

An incredible array of habits and attitudes that are conducive to success in business, in academia, in the nonentertainment professions are likely thought of as somehow “white.”  Even economic success, unless it involves such “black” undertakings as numbers banking, is defined as “white.”

 

And the results are devastating.  I wouldn’t deny that blacks often are better entertainers and athletes.  My point is the harm that comes from too narrow a definition of what is black.

 

One reason black youngsters tend to do better at basketball, for instance is that they assume they can learn to do it well, and so they practice constantly to prove themselves right.

 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could infect black children with the notion that excellence in math is “black” rather than white, or possibly Chinese?  Wouldn’t it be of enormous value if we could create the myth that morality, strong families, determination, courage and love of learning are traits brought by slaves from Mother Africa and therefore quintessentially black?

 

There is no doubt in my mind that most black youngsters could develop their mathematical reasoning, their elocution and their attitudes the way they develop their jump shots and their dance steps: by the combination of sustained, enthusiastic practice and the unquestioned belief that they can do it.

 

In one sense, what I am talking about is the importance of developing positive ethnic traditions.  Maybe Jews have an innate talent for communication; maybe the Chinese are born with a gift from mathematical reasoning, maybe blacks are naturally blessed with athletic grace, I doubt it.  What is at work, I suspect, is assumption, inculcated early in their lives, that this is a thing our people do well.

 

Unfortunately, many of the things about which blacks make this assumption are things that do not contribute to their career success—except for that handful of the truly gifted who can make it as entertainers and athletes.  And many of the things we concede to whites are things that are essential to economic security.

 

So it is with a number of assumptions black youngsters make about what it is to be a “man”: physical aggressiveness, sexual prowess, the refusal to submit to authority.  The prisons are full of people who, by this perverted definition, are unmistakably men.

 

But the real problem is not so much that the things defined as “black” are negative.  The problem is that the definition is much too narrow.

 

Somehow, we have to make our children understand that they are intelligent, competent people, capable of doing whatever they put their minds to and making it in the American mainstream, not just in a black subculture.

 

What we seem to be doing instead, is raising up yet another generation of young blacks who will be failures—by definition.

How we Haitians Can turn the January 12th Earthquake into an Opportunity

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The outpouring of support bestowed on Haiti by the international community is as comforting in its compassion as the Earthquake was unforgiving in its destructive rage. This disaster has created such an awareness of Haiti’s subhuman misery, that some foreign journalists have reached unprecedented levels of compassionate reporting, while private citizens from all over the world are setting records in donations, at a time of global economic uncertainty, to say the least.

          It is, however, important we all realize that what happened in Haiti on January 12th was not just an earthquake, but rather the foretold encounter between a natural disaster and decades of poor human decisions. Therefore, if the international aid is not matched by a drastic paradigm shift from us Haitians in all aspects pertaining to our social contract, there is no rationale behind rebuilding Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Leogane and Les Cayes. Unfortunately, we have done nothing so far to distill the part of human causation in the catastrophe, thus creating the conditions for similar tragedies to be recurrent. A comparative analysis with the situation in Chile — hit a few days later by an earthquake 500 times stronger than the one that destroyed Port-au-Prince— should be edifying enough in determining the role played by human decisions, or lack thereof, in maximizing the impact of the disaster in Haiti.

The earthquake took all us Haitians by surprise, from our president whose deficit of common sense—among other critical shortages—was displayed on global TV, to our failed elites who had to wake up and smell the coffee for a change, to the masses that have been freely and enthusiastically making poor choices at the ballot for the last two decades, to the diaspora that is unable to find a way back toward total integration in its own country without violating the law of the land, despite being the main source of revenue to the impoverished nation.
Today, Haiti is at a crossroads where we have to make some drastic decisions as to what—from a very heteroclite historical baggage—to jettison and what to bring along with us in the new post January 12th era. While the entire world has been mesmerized by our resilience, we must realize that if this energy is not properly channeled toward a redefinition of the rules of the game, the predicament at hand will get the best of us. The greatness of a nation has more to do with recognizing the defining moments and rising up to them, than with constantly referring to a glorious past when the expectations of the present are not met.

Today, we have to make a decisive choice between a government with not even an evacuation plan for the president, and one that can lead us with confidence through an era of development and prosperity, between a backward-looking mentality and a forward-looking mindset, between individual survival and a collective vista on the future, between corruption and accountability, between self-serving leaders and true public servants, between dependency and self-sustainability.

Neither a well-written plan, nor all the money in the world can solve Haiti’s problems. For a country to achieve sustained development and irreversible democracy, its institutions must rely on a strong conceptual framework, defined by the social contract. The United-States with the “Federalist Papers’, France with the “5th Republic”, Canada with the “Quiet Revolution”, the first quite early, and the two others rather late in their History, have taken the time to shape their institutions in accordance with their values and aspirations. As for us Haitians, soon after our independence, we woke up with a de facto social contract consecrating the survival of the fittest, and a broken social ladder; throughout our History, public corruption, tax evasion, illicit enrichment and drug trafficking have been the factors through which upward mobility is achieved. It is essential that we fix the social ladder by democratizing and improving our educational system, and by starting to enforce our laws. A better educated people will shift from the cult of personality to the valorization of ideas in its political choices.

As Port-au-Prince has been turned into Ground Zero, the government would be well-inspired to show some humility and belated leadership by calling for a political truce, and devoting the remainder of the president’s term to the organization of a National Conference. This event would gather representatives from all sectors and regions of the country along with the diaspora, in an effort to:
- Define a consensual vision for the next 50 years.
- Revise the constitution.
- Perform our autocriticism and identify the cultural and institutional barriers that prevent Haitian citizens from succeeding at home, while they thrive abroad.
- Fix the social ladder that has been broken for some 200 years.
The National Conference would have to produce clear answers to three fundamental questions:
1- How to contain the natural penchant of all governments to strip the citizenry of the exercise of national sovereignty. Addressing this question will allow us to redesign our institutions in a way that prevents authoritative deviances, by establishing an effective system of checks and balances.
2- How, through the definition of a consensual vision, to integrate the interests of all in the determination of the collective interest. It is time that everyone be invited to the table for the long overdue upfront sharing of the national little pie. Once the national vision defined, everyone will be able to envision their own upward mobility and that of their progeny over time, within the bigger picture of a vibrant and developing country.
3- How to instill in each Haitian the sense of belonging without which there is no social link. Once it is determined that everyone had been given a level playing field, all of us will be eager to build the new Haiti, knowing that the fruits of the prosperity to come will be distributed according to the principles of justice and equity.
The National Conference will also provide us with an opportunity to perform the psychoanalysis of ourselves. Our current mentality eloquently expressed through our “popular wisdom” is incompatible with progress and development. Sayings like “pito nou led nou la” (we’d better be ugly than dead) “lower our expectations, whereas those like “depi nan ginen ne gap trayi neg” (Since Africa Negroes have been betraying Negroes) are divisive. We need to boost our national self-esteem and start believing in the likelihood of the Haitian dream. Until we reach this level of collective consciousness, we will not be able to achieve prosperity, irrespective of the amount of money the International Community injects into our economy.

At this defining moment of Haiti’s tumultuous History, those who have experienced the earthquake firsthand are rightly afraid of what the future has in store for the country. By striking us blindly and indistinctly, the earthquake has reminded us that we are sharing the same boat, and that none of us can make it to shore while others are sinking. If we can outgrow our differences and commit to creating a normal country with only normal problems, we can turn January 12th into the long overdue wake up call. If not, the next tragedy will surprise us in our sleep.

Frandley Denis Julien

January 15th, 2010
Fjuli001@fiu.edu

 

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Christopher Columbus Praising Haiti’s Riches, the good nature of its inhabitants in this letter to Lord Sanchez!!!


Christopher Columbus

Letter to Lord Raphael Sanchez

14 March 1493

Letter addressed to the noble Lord Raphael Sanchez, Treasurer to their most invincible Majesties, Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Spain, by Christopher Columbus, to whom our age is greatly indebted, treating of the islands of India secently discovered beyond the Ganges, to explore which he had been sent eight months before under the auspices and at the expense of their said Majesties.

KNOWING that it will afford you pleasure to learn that I have brought my undertaking to a successful termination, I have decided upon writing you this letter to acquaint you with all the events which have occurred in my voyage, and the discoveries which have resulted from it.

Thirty-three days after my departure from Cadiz I reached the Indian sea, where I discovered many islands, thickly peopled, of which I took possession without resistance in the name of our most illustrious Monarch, by public proclamation and with unfurled banners. To the first of these islands, which is called by the Indians Guanahani, I gave the name of the blessed Saviour (San Salvador), relying upon whose protection I had reached this as well as the other islands; to each of these I also gave a name, ordering that one should be called Santa Maria de la Concepcion, another Fernandina, the third Isabella, the fourth Juana, and so with all the rest respectively.

As soon as we arrived at that, which as I have said was named Juana, I proceeded along its coast a short distance westward, and found it to be so large and apparently without termination, that I could not suppose it to be an island, but the continental province of Cathay. Seeing, however, no towns or populous places on the sea coast, but only a few detached houses and cottages, with whose inhabitants I was unable to communicate, because they fled as soon as they saw us, I went further on, thinking that in my progress I should certainly find some city or village. At length, after proceeding a great way and finding that nothing new presented itself, and that the line of coast was leading us northwards (which I wished to avoid, because it was winter, and it was my intention to move southwards; and because moreover the winds were contrary), I resolved not to attempt any further progress, but rather to turn back and retrace my course to a certain bay that I had observed, and from which I afterwards dispatched two of our men to ascertain whether there were a king or any cities in that province. These men reconnoitered the country for three days, and found a most numerous population, and great numbers of houses, though small, and built without any regard to order: with which information they returned to us.

In the mean time I had learned from some Indians whom I had seized, that that country was certainly an island: and therefore I sailed towards the east, coasting to the distance of three hundred and twenty- two miles, which brought us to the extremity of it; from this point I saw lying eastwards another island, fifty-four miles distant from Juana, to which I gave the name of Espanola: I went thither, and steered my course eastward as I had done at Juana, even to the distance of five hundred and sixty-four miles along the north coast.

This said island of Juana is exceedingly fertile, as indeed are all the others; it is surrounded with many bays, spacious, very secure, and surpassing any that I have ever seen; numerous large and healthful rivers intersect it, and it also contains many very lofty mountains. All these islands are very beautiful, and distinguished by a diversity of scenery; they are filled with a great variety of trees of immense height, and which I believe to retain their foliage in all seasons; for when I saw them they were as verdant and luxuriant as they usually are in Spain in the month of May,–some of them were blossoming, some bearing fruit, and all flourishing in the greatest perfection, according to their respective stages of growth, and the nature and quality of each: yet the islands are not so thickly wooded as to be impassable. The nightingale and various birds were singing in countless numbers, and that in November, the month in which I arrived there. There are besides in the same island of Juana seven or eight kinds of palm trees, which, like all the other trees, herbs, and fruits, considerably surpass ours in height and beauty. The pines also are very handsome, and there are very extensive fields and meadows, a variety of birds, different kinds of honey, and many sorts of metals, but no iron.

In that island also which I have before said we named Espanola, there are mountains of very great size and beauty, vast plains, groves, and very fruitful fields, admirably adapted for tillage, pasture, and habitation. The convenience and excellence of the harbours in this island, and the abundance of the rivers, so indispensable to the health of man, surpass anything that would be believed by one who had not seen it. The trees, herbage, and fruits of Espanola are very different from those of Juana, and moreover it abounds in various kinds of spices, gold, and other metals.

The inhabitants of both sexes in this island, and in all the others which I have seen, or of which I have received information, go always naked as they were born, with the exception of some of the women, who use the covering of a leaf, or small bough, or an apron of cotton which they prepare for that purpose. None of them, as I have already said, are possessed of any iron, neither have they weapons, being unacquainted with, and indeed incompetent to use them, not from any deformity of body (for they are well-formed), but because they are timid and full of fear. They carry however in lieu of arms, canes dried in the sun, on the ends of which they fix heads of dried wood sharpened to a point, and even these they dare not use habitually; for it has often occurred when I have sent two or three of my men to any of the villages to speak with the natives, that they have come out in a disorderly troop, and have fled in such haste at the approach of our men, that the fathers forsook their children and the children their fathers. This timidity did not arise from any loss or injury that they had received from us; for, on the contrary, I gave to all I approached whatever articles I had about me, such as cloth and many other things, taking nothing of theirs in return: but they are naturally timid and fearful. As soon however as they see that they are safe, and have laid aside all fear, they are very simple and honest, and exceedingly liberal with all they have; none of them refusing any thing he may possess when he is asked for it, but on the contrary inviting us to ask them. They exhibit great love towards all others in preference to themselves: they also give objects of great value for trifles, and content themselves with very little or nothing in return. I however forbad that these trifles and articles of no value (such as pieces of dishes, plates, and glass, keys, and leather straps) should be given to them, although if they could obtain them, they imagined themselves to be possessed of the most beautiful trinkets in the world.

It even happened that a sailor received for a leather strap as much gold as was worth three golden nobles, and for things of more trifling value offered by our men, especially newly coined blancas, or any gold coins, the Indians would give whatever the seller required; as, for instance, an ounce and a half or two ounces of gold, or thirty or forty pounds of cotton, with which commodity they were already acquainted. Thus they bartered, like idiots,cotton and gold for fragments of bows, glasses, bottles, and jars; which I forbad as being unjust, and myself gave them many beautiful and acceptable articles which I had brought with me, taking nothing from them in return; I did this in order that I might the more easily conciliate them, that they might be led to become Christians, and be inclined to entertain a regard for the King and Queen, our Princes and all Spaniards, and that I might induce them to take an interest in seeking out, and collecting, and delivering to us such things as they possessed in abundance, but which we greatly needed.

They practice no kind of idolatry, but have a firm belief that all strength and power, and indeed all good things, are in heaven, and that I had descended from thence with these ships and sailors, and under this impression was I received after they had thrown aside their fears. Nor are they slow or stupid, but of very clear understanding; and those men who have crossed to the neighbouring islands give an admirable description of everything they observed; but they never saw any people clothed, nor any ships like ours.

On my arrival at that sea, I had taken some Indians by force from the first island that I came to, in order that they might learn our language, and communicate to us what they knew respecting the country; which plan succeeded excellently, and was a great advantage to us, for in a short time, either by gestures and signs, or by words, we were enabled to understand each other. These men are still travelling with me, and although they have been with us now a long time, they continue to entertain the idea that I have descended from heaven; and on our arrival at any new place they published this, crying out immediately with a loud voice to the other Indians, “Come, come and look upon beings of a celestial race”: upon which both women and men, children and adults, young men and old, when they got rid of the fear they at first entertained, would come out in throngs, crowding the roads to see us, some bringing food, others drink, with astonishing affection and kindness.

Each of these islands has a great number of canoes, built of solid wood, narrow and not unlike our double- banked boats in length and shape, but swifter in their motion: they steer them only by the oar. These canoes are of various sizes, but the greater number are constructed with eighteen banks of oars, and with these they cross to the other islands, which are of countless number, to carry on traffic with the people. I saw some of these canoes that held as many as seventy-eight rowers.

In all these islands there is no difference of physiognomy, of manners, or of language, but they all clearly understand each other, a circumstance very propitious for the realization of what I conceive to be the principal wish of our most serene King, namely, the conversion of these people to the holy faith of Christ, to which indeed, as far as I can judge, they are very favourable and well-disposed.

I said before, that I went three hundred and twenty-two miles in a direct line from west to east, along the coast of the island of Juana; Judging by which voyage, and the length of the passage, I can assert that it is larger than England and Scotland united; for independent of the said three hundred and twenty-two miles, there are in the western part of the island two provinces which I did not visit; one of these is called by the Indiane Anam, and its inhabitants are born with tails.

These provinces extend to a hundred and fifty-three miles in length, as I have learnt from the Indians whom I have brought with me, and who are well acquainted with the country. But the extent of Espanola is greater than all Spain from Catalonia to Fontarabia, which is easily proved, because one of its four sides which I myself coasted in a direct line, from west to east, measures five hundred and forty miles. This island is to be regarded with especial interest, and not to be slighted; for although as I have said I took possession of all these islands in the name of our invincible King, and the government of them is unreservedly committed to his said Majesty, yet there was one large town in Espanola of which especially I took possession, situated in a remarkably favourable spot, and in every way convenient for the purposes of gain and commerce.

To this town I gave the name of Navidad del Senor, and ordered a fortress to be built there, which must by this time be completed, in which I left as many men as I thought necessary, with all sorts of arms, and enough provisions for more than a year. I also left them one caravel, and skilful workmen both in ship-building and other arts, and engaged the favor and friendship of the King of the island in their behalf, to a degree that would not be believed, for these people are so amiable and friendly that even the King took a pride in calling me his brother. But supposing their feelings should become changed, and they should wish to injure those who have remained in the fortress, they could not do so, for they have no arms, they go naked, and are moreover too cowardly; ao that those who hold the said fortress, can easily keep the whole island in check, without any pressing danger to themaelves, provided they do not transgress the directions and regulations which I have given them.

As far as I have learned, every man throughout these islands is united to but one wife, with the exception of the kings and princes, who are allowed to have twenty: the women seem to work more than the men. I could not clearly understand whether the people possess any private property, for I observed that one man had the charge of distributing various things to the rest, but especially meat and provisions and the like. I did not find, as some of us had expected, any cannibals amongst them, but on the contrary men of great deference and kindness. Neither are they black, like the Ethiopians: their hair is smooth and straight: for they do not dwell where the rays of the sun strike most vividly,–and the sun has intense power there, the distance from the equinoctial line being, it appears, but six-and-twenty degrees. On the tops of the mountains the cold is very great, but the effect of this upon the Indians is lessened by their being accustomed to the climate, and by their frequently indulging in the use of very hot meats and drinks. Thus, as I have already said, I saw no cannibals, nor did I hear of any, except in a certain island called Charis, which is the second from Espanola on the side towards India, where dwell a people who are considered by the neighbouring islanders as most ferocious: and these feed upon human flesh. The same people have many kinds of canoes, in which they cross to all the surrounding islands and rob and plunder wherever they can; they are not different from the other islanders, except that they wear their hair long, like women, and make use of the bows and javelins of cane, with sharpened spear-points fixed on the thickest end, which I have before described, and therefore they are looked upon as ferocious, and regarded by the other Indians with unbounded fear; but I think no more of them than of the rest. These are the men who form unions with certain women, who dwell alone in the island Matenin, which lies next to Espanola on the side towards India; these latter employ themselves in no labour suitable to their own sex, for they use bows and javelins as I have already described their paramours as doing, and for defensive armour have plates of brass, of which metal they possess great abundance. They assure me that there is another island larger than Espanola, whose inhabitants have no hair, and which abounds in gold more than any of the rest. I bring with me individuals of this island and of the others that I have seen, who are proofs of the facts which I state.

Finally, to compress into few words the entire summary of my voyage and speedy return, and of the advantages derivable therefrom, I promise, that with a little assistance afforded me by our most invincible sovereigns, I will procure them as much gold as they need, as great a quantity of spices, of cotton, and of mastic (which is only found in Chios), and as many men for the service of the navy as their Majesties may require. I promise also rhubarb and other sorts of drugs, which I am persuaded the men whom I have left in the aforesaid fortress have found already and will continue to find; for I myself have tarried no where longer than I was compelled to do by the winds, except in the city of Navidad, while I provided for the building of the fortress, and took the necessary precautions for the perfect security of the men I left there. Although all I have related may appear to be wonderful and unheard of, yet the results of my voyage would have been more astonishing if I had had at my disposal such ships as I required. But these great and marvellous results are not to be attributed to any merit of mine, but to the holy Christian faith, and to the piety and religion of our Sovereigns; for that which the unaided intellect of man could not compass, the spirit of God has granted to human exertions, for God is wont to hear the prayers of his servants who love his precepts even to the performance of apparent impossibilities. Thus it has happened to me in the present instance, who have accomplished a task to which the powers of mortal men had never hitherto attained; for if there have been those who have anywhere written or spoken of these islands, they have done so with doubts and conjectures, and no one has ever asserted that he has seen them, on which account their writings have been looked upon as little else than fables. Therefore let the king and queen, our princes and their most happy kingdoms, and all the other provinces of Christendom, render thanks to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has granted us so great a victory and such prosperity. Let processions be made, and sacred feasts be held, and the temples be adorned with festive boughs. Let Christ rejoice on earth, as he rejoices in heaven in the prospect of the salvation of the souls of so many nations hitherto lost. Let us also rejoice, as well on account of the exaltation of our faith, as on account of the increase of our temporal prosperity, of which not only Spain, but all Christendom will be partakers.

Such are the events which I have briefly described.

Farewell.

Lisbon, the 14th of March.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS,

Admiral of the Fleet of the Ocean.

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