Monday, January 24, 2011

Politics, schmolitics. It's too confusing.

These are really interesting times to be in Haiti. I have always been a current events junkie and being in Haiti is a very nice front row seat to everything that is going on. "What is going on?" You ask. Oh, let's recap.

There is still no resolution to the election disputes. The OAS has made it's recommendations and the electoral council has thumbed it's nose at them. The current president's term is up on 7 Feb and the US, France and Great Britain are suggesting that they will suspend aid to Haiti if a plan to resolve the elections is not in place by then. No matter what happens there will be demonstrations.

In fact, Sunday, Katie and I were driving to the store and traffic was really bad. We realized that there was a small peaceful demonstration coming down the mountain as we were going up. I was clued into the fact that something significant was happening because there were 3 foreign photographers jogging down hill to keep in front of the mass of people. A quick turn and we avoided the masses and made it to the market. Nothing can stop the Izzo!

Also, a week ago Haiti's former dictator Baby Doc came back. Why? Yeah, no one knows. He might be the second most polarizing figure in Haitian politics after Aristide. Baby Doc's status is nebulose. Is he going to be prosecuted for his crimes? Is he a free man? Is he going to rejoin national politics? No one knows. And if anyone tells you they do know ask them about the real estate they are selling... I bet it is on a lovely swamp.

All of this is interesting because of how it effects my students. One day last week my government class shared their thoughts about Baby Doc's return. It was very interesting how different their experience with him have been, even though these students were not alive when he ruled Haiti he has made a strong impact on them.

One of my student's family is very close to Baby Doc. They have visited him many times since he has returned. Listening to a student describe eating caviar with a former dictator like it was dining with royalty can make your hair stand on end and your stomach fall to your knees. In the same class two other students shared how under his government their family suffered; ones dad was imprisoned for opposing his government and another lost an uncle to the feared Tonton Macoute. Many of the students shared all of this very matter-of-factly. Like they had read it in their textbooks the night before; including another student who shared with us that her uncle was a Tonton Macoute. Like it wasn't anything. Don't you talk to someone everyday who has a relative who was part of a former secret police? Stasi, KGB, Gestapo, Kempeitai. Sure.

I do not write about Haitian politics because I am an outsider, a blan. Politics is not why I am here, I am not a reporter. I am here to teach. I am here to mentor. However I feel passionate about communicating to my students that democracy is good and their voice matters and if it is not then they should make sure that it does matter. Sometimes I feel like I am trying to whisper over an orchestra of lies. We are talking about serious fraud, the likes we have not seen in American since Rutherford B. Hayes and infamous dictators who have the kind of impunity all Latin American strongmen dream of. The implications of being passionate about democracy are much different here than in the States.

1 comment:

  1. I'm clearly not a political expert on Haiti, but I'll accept pretty common knowledge that Baby Doc (and his dad Papa) were thugs. A dictator eating caviar while his country is in such poverty pretty much tells it all. Glad to be living in a country where transfer of power's biggest recent problem was hanging chads. Stay safe, keep up the good fight.



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