The High Cost of Staying Out of Politics in Haiti
Published by the Miami Herald on Novermber 2, 2012
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.