My favorite comparison for political change is changing a tire on your car. In order to lift the wheel to change the tire, you need a strong stable spot to plant your jack. It’s an anachronistic Twentieth Century version of the famous Third Century before Christ proposition from the Greek scientist Archimedes: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.”
No place on earth is in more need of political change than Haiti, and you might think $13 billion in international aid over the past 10 years could buy a pretty long lever, but the problem is the fulcrum, the base from which constructive change can start.
In Haiti today, that political pedestal on which to position governance is gone. Institutionally, just 10 of the mandated 30 members remain in the Haitian Senate, the Lower House of the national legislature has none, because no elections to fill those seats have been held. There haven’t been local elections either, but the Haitian president filled those jobs by appointing political cronies. Most courts are closed. The police tend to stay out of the way, especially since the president sent them into a gangland ambush that killed dozens of them.
What happened on June 29 in the Haitian capitol of Port-au-Prince sums up the situation. Two dozen citizens were killed, some randomly, others like two prominent critics of government, human-rights activist Antoinette Duclaire and TV journalist Diego Charles were clearly targeted. Just hours earlier that day Doctors Without Borders had closed one of its busiest emergency rooms and its COVID-19 treatment center because the constant violence put personnel in mortal danger.
Just over a week later, the president, Jovenal Moise, was assassinated and the world, especially the international consultants known in Haiti as The Core suddenly snapped to, and lined up behind, not change, but the Moise ally who was the first guy to claim that he could enforce the “law of the strongest.” He was, the U.S. State Department spokesman said, “the incumbent,” which was good enough for us.
After a little more than two days in power, Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph has taken command of the police and army, declared a “state of siege,” and using a combination of government force and vigilante justice killed three “suspects” and made at least 15 arrests in connection with the assassination. Conveniently, all those arrested — two Americans and 13 Colombians — and it would seem, the three dead suspects are all “foreigners.” No sign of internal discord there. Nothing that might prevent another internationally-supervised “democratic” election. Every political reformer’s favorite fulcrum.
The Nation contributing editor Amy Wilentz, teaches Literary Journalism at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier and Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti, among other books. Her latest piece for The Nation is “Haiti Has Been Abandoned—by the Media, the US, and the World.”
Haiti Is in Peril, and There Are No Simple Options: https://nyti.ms/3yII5T8