Friday, February 03, 2006

What I've been saying about Haiti elsewhere...

Antonia Zerbisias is absolutely right -- it's shameful that Canada's peacekeepingmaking role in Haiti (and Afghanistan) was virtually ignored in our recent election. The biggest discussion about our soldiers was about where they weren't actually stationed. (With guns. In our cities. We ain't playing. Don't be a playa hater.)

But while A.Z. is correct that we haven't read enough about what's going on in Haiti in the (English) Canadian press, I'm more than a little skeptical of this story she's bought into that there was some sort of Canada-France-U.S.-led coup to oust president Aristide because he wasn't neo-liberal enough. And just because the rebel forces include some very unsavoury characters doesn't mean that Aristide was a saintly leader. Zerbisias actually writes that he was "democratically elected (with a whopping 91.8 per cent mandate)" without irony. Presidents don't get elected with over 90% of the vote in a free and fair election...

Anyway, here's the rest what I posted over there in her comments:
May I suggest that you read Human Rights Watch's backgrounder on Aristide's return to power.

(I'd also recommend "The Agronomist", Jonathan Demme's excellent document[ary] on Haiti's courageous slain radio journalist Jean Dominique, who stood up to the Duvaliers and then to his one-time hero Aristide.)

Now, you don't have to think Aristide was a saint or a paragon of democracy to believe that his resignation/removal wasn't extremely bizarre and suspicious and may have made a bad situation worse. And I'm not saying the rebels haven't behaved equally bad or worse. But the situation is much more complicated than you presented in your column...

The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti we are participating in hasn't been a rousing success, but it has the right intentions -- make things safe so proper elections can be held... Hopefully, MINUSTAH will keep the elections on Tuesday as peaceful as possible. If you want to feel proud of Canadians, consider this: We're sending the biggest contigent of observers.

By the way, when you say that the Canadian media coverage of the mess in Haiti has been scarce, I think you mean the English Canadian coverage... Though Sue Montgomery at the Gazette, who you mention, has done a lot of excellent reporting from Haiti and on the Haitian community in Montreal. (Yves Engler, on the other hand, is an activist, often a misguided and shrill one, not a journalist.)

Kudos for broaching this subject at least. But I'd caution against an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend view of the situation in Haiti...
Good luck to all the Canadian election observers off in Haiti. Let's hope it runs smoothly.

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