Monday, May 15, 2006
Haiti's new leftist president
Haiti swears in a new president today, Rene Preval, an ally of ousted former leader Arsitide. I must confess to being no expert on the incredibly complex world of Haitian politics, but another left leader elected in the Caribean can only be a good thing.
Haiti seems to have divided the left internationally more than almost any issue I remember. With some (much of the US left, SWP(US) etc, ) stressing the essentially progressive nature of Aristide, redistribution to the poor, official language recognition of Creole for the first time and making Voodoo an officially recognised religion alongside Catholicism, etc.
Others have stressed Aristide's alleged capitulation to globalisation (promising privatisation – although crucially he never did privatise anything) and corruption (Chris Harman's position and the USFI)), a more balanced view comes from the American ISO of critical support for Aristide, but with no illusions in him. And there is a marvellous article from the CWI calling for a mass workers party in Haiti - it is a "one size fits all" theory that requires no adaptation for specific circumstances!
Interesting, that when Venezuela launched Telesur (their attempt to create a latino Al Jazeera), the very first programme was a documentary condemning Lula's imperialist intervention in Haiti, and how the Brazilian army are doing the dirty work for French, US and Canadian multinationals. Certainly one of the motivators behind the imperial intervention by UN troops seems to have been the demand by Aristide that France pay reparations to Haiti for Slavery.
So what will happen now? President Preval’s election is certainly an expression of the enduring power of Aristide’s movement among the poor. The US had originally sought to prevent any pro-Aristide candidate standing, which had resulted in several delays to the elections. President Chavez takes a strong personal interest in Haiti, and often refers to the copy of the “Black Jacobins” that was presented to him by Selma James, widow of the author C.L.R. James, and a strong supporter of the Bolivarian revolution.
Haiti has been punished for two centuries by the imperial powers for daring to overthrow the yoke of slavery under Toussaint L'Ouverture. Can the Venezuelan and Cuban governments combine to provide Haiti with the aid they need to turn back the tide of illiteracy, grinding poverty and lack of health care?