More than a couple of Irish Times readers I have met are familiar with The Skibbereen Eagle’s claim to be “keeping an eye on the Czar of Russia” and congratulate themselves at such bygone provincialism – a far remove from their own cosmopolitan omniscience. Freud called this condition ‘the narcissism of minor differences’.
Government failure has compounded the lack of resources and outgoing president Rene Preval, barred by term limits from running again, is seen by many NGOs as part of the problem. His successor, and there is no front-runner among the five nominees, will be key to restoring frayed relations with the aid community and rebuilding a barely functioning state apparatus.
“I would like to tell President Barack Obama that the US has Obama and Haiti has Wyclef Jean,” the three-time Grammy winner told cheering supporters. Unlike Obama, however, the founder of the high-profile Yele Haiti charity which has to date raised $16 million for earthquake relief, has real problems conforming to the citizenship/residency requirement for office – he has been living in New Jersey for over 20 years. The electoral council still has to rule on the issue.
Some of his critics, like the banned party of deposed president Bertrand Aristide, see Jean as a stooge of the US, and among his sharpest critics is actor Sean Penn who runs a tent city for the homeless in Port-au-Prince. “He has been virtually silent, for those of us in Haiti he has been a non-presence,” Penn told CNN last Wednesday, pointing to allegations Jean misused funds donated to his charity. True to Haiti form, this is likely to be a no-holds-barred election campaign.
Yes, Haitian election campaigns in Haiti are a bit like wrestling bouts. What fun.
Wrestling bouts in which the people backing the losing side overthrow the government and unleash a reign of terror on the country.
If the Irish Times wanted to provide an informative leader about Haiti, it could have included the voice of another Haitian, apart from Wyclef Jean, and that other well-known Haitian public figure, Sean Penn.
Of both, and the roles they play, there is an excellent analysis on Ezili Dantò’s blog on Salon:
There are forces behind each of these people – Penn and Wyclef Jean, with political interests that may not be similar to what the masses in Haiti see for themselves. Forces perhaps that neither Penn nor Jean are fully aware of, and may not understand who pull the strings and manipulated them into both being stooges for empire.
For one, recall how, before the earthquake Wyclef Jean was a media darling and a US/UN/Clinton favorite in Haiti. He was Ambassador-at- Large with a security detail and VIP treatment at the airport. When the earthquake hit that favor was transferred to clueless, first-time-doing Haiti-charity-work, Sean Penn! Not the security detail, but his crew had access to the airport when regular Haitians and more veteran search and rescue and first responders were being denied; access to military logistics while Wyclef Jean’s crew had to come in through the Dominican Republic! At one point in the early days, when Wyclef Jean went to the airport with a crowd of Haitians to pick up the mounds of food, water, medicines that was just piling up there, he was denied, the crowd of eager-to-help Haiti youths who had followed him witnessed this treatment of Wyclef, embarrassed and shamed and force to leave empty handed.
Meanwhile Sean Penn’s star in Haiti was rising, in his safe compound on a golf resort area fully protected by the military. Nevermind that most Haitians in Kafou Fey and elsewhere outside this “green zone,” had no access to medicine, water, blood transfusions, no safety or that in general, and notwithstanding Sean Penn’s well run camp, many of the World Relief organizations and various other NGOS are, in the main, using aid monies for paying their high-end salaries, traveling, for shipping fees to their own companies, for attending meetings ad nausea, some buying prostitutes and living the high life in Haiti.
Now, there are some issues with how Wyclef Jean’s charity conducted its business in the past, but Ezili Dantò puts these into perspective.
World Vision, among other NGOs are leasing homes in the Haiti mountains of upper Petionville for from $6,000 to 12,000 per month paying for electricity and everything else plus renting huge SUVs from the Haitian Oligarchy. While the Haitian elite are taking this opportunity to leave Haiti and rent their plush homes for big money raised for earthquake victim relief. The new ROTATIONS from the World Relief organizations and the extra UN/US deployed personnel since the earthquake have comfortably replaced those flown out as the “new foreign elite moving in.”
All this is going on. But none of the top Haiti charity moneymakers’ tax returns were publicly exposed by the IRS or were dressed down by the media for their misuse of Haiti funds. NGO businesses like Red Cross, World Vision, Care International, Catholic Relief Services, UN world food programs, known charities that have been collecting on Haiti’s poverty and pillaging Haiti for decades after decades, none of them were dressed down for their misuse of dollars collected in Haiti. But soon after the earthquake, ONLY Wyclef Jean’s Yele foundation was singled out and uncovered to have IRS problems and a more than $410,000 questionable handling issue in his management of Yele Haiti foundation funds.
Before the earthquake, these problems were not made public or cited anywhere that we know about. Wyclef was needed then to put a smiley Haitian face to US imperialism. But he’s being reigned in now and there is a reason. A black messiah who save earthquake victims, has Hollywood cache, a tent city, and who was not stopped from competing with Red Cross for donation dollars probably isn’t controllable enough for the US Kingmakers in Haiti. It’s no surprise to us at Ezili’s HLLN that today the actor Sean Penn, the new carefully cultivated Haiti “expert,” suddenly is the one ‘suspicious’ of Wyclef Jean’s bid for Haiti president and getting a huge mainstream platform to say so. Notice, in the USA Today article photo, Sean Penn is wearing his Haiti medal. He’s our new white expert on “all things Haitian!”
We’ve gone into cartoon land. The sideshow eclipses the living, breathing, suffering Haiti people enduring over 6-nightmarish years of US/US occupation and slaughters and NGO pillage never covered by the mainstream media. The election carnival is just beginning and has reduced, for the moment, the worst disaster in recorded human history to what actor Sean Penn has to say about hip hop rapper Wyclef Jean’s run to sit at the crumbled National Palace in Haiti! Elections under occupation? Neither are saying – krik, not a word, about that!
And, on what Penn is saying:
If Wyclef is going to be criticized on this because he’s hobnobbing with Wall Street corporate interests to the detriment, in Sean Penn’s opinion, of Haiti’s people and promoting the H.O.P.E. “sweatshop” legislations, then, how much more should Penn’s media firepower be aimed, on the actual POLICYMAKERS, the architects, who push sweatshop, by force, upon Haiti’s poor while fleecing the countries riches, behind UN guns?
The “corporate interests and individuals enamored with Wyclef” to quote Sean Penn, are, in our view, the very same folks Sean Penn hangs daily with for his organization’s works in Haiti. That is, those promoting and pursuing the failed wage slavery plan today, include: USAID, the Obama Adminstration at Hillary Clinton’s State Department, the UN’s Ban Ki Moon, Susan Rice, US Special Envoy Bill Clinton, the Haiti Oligarchy, the US Congress who passed the two H.O.P.E “sweatshop” legislations, along with mostly the entire Congressional Black Caucus as collaborators. Low-wage assembly plant duty free jobs are Washington’s vision for Haiti reconstruction. It’s been their vision and failed Haiti policy for over 30-years.
One might also note at this point, for the local interest angle, that local billionaire done good Denis O’Brien’s role alongside Bill Clinton at Davos was to tout for investment in textile sweatshops, and that GOAL, the charity of local charitymonger John O’Shea -who ‘called for a formal end to Haiti’s sovereignty and its
transformation into a US protectorate‘ receives millions of Euro each year from USAID, which is its biggest state donor with the exception of Ireland, accounting for about one-seventh of total grant income in 2007. Let us wait to see which one endorses which messiah first. My money is on O’Brien endorsing Wyclef Jean, since Georges Sassine, sweatshop baron and president of the Haitian Industrialists Association (Association des Industries d’Haïti – ADIH), of which Digicel is a member, looks to be backing Wyclef:
For others, he draws comparisons to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
— but only so far. Aristide, a priest-turned-president ousted in 2004,
enjoyed popular support but also fomented class hatred.
“I believe, like Aristide he will carry a groundswell because of his youth,
because of his success, because of the hope he represents,” said
Georges Sassine, a Haitian businessman and president of the Haitian
Industrialists Association. “But unlike Aristide, this is a man who
knows how things work, having lived in the United States. . . . Most
important, I do not detect any envy or hatred from him and this is most
Anyway, although the Irish Times ignores all this, if it wanted to say something about government failure, it could have mentioned the fact that Haiti presently has no functioning legislature.
It could have mentioned that Fanmi Lavalas, which is the country’s most popular political party, has been banned from taking part in the upcoming legislative elections by Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council (CEP).
A report by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti reports that
The CEP’s exclusion of FL [for April 2009 Senate elections] was not justified under Haitian law. The CEP’s mandate does not give it authority to exclude legally recognized political parties, such as FL
and that subsequently:
the CEP effectively silenced Haiti’s largest political party that was critical of President Préval’s government. FL has won every election it has contested, including 90% of the seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections.
The consequences of this for the April 2009 elections were that:
Voters boycotted the election due to the exclusion of FL, resulting in a low voter turnout. The CEP claimed 11% voter participation, but virtually every
independent observer, including journalists and an unofficial election observer delegation, cited substantially lower percentages, with most estimating a turnout of less than 5%.
Then, in February 2010:
Again, FL complied with election requirements under Haitian law.6 President Aristide sent a mandate to the CEP authorizing an FL representative, Dr. Maryse Narcisse, to take all necessary actions to register the party. Dr. Narcisse complied with all legal requirements for registration. The authorization was faxed to the CEP on November 19, and the original letter was received November 23, enclosed with a certificate from a Haitian Notary certifying that President Aristide’s signature was valid. President Aristide confirmed on local Radio Solidarity on November 25 that he had given authority to FL representative Dr. Maryse Narcisse to register the party.
The CEP switched gears, abandoned its request for President Aristide’s original signature, and instead cited FL for failing to submit an original party authorization for the April 2009 elections. CEP President Gaillot Dorsainvil told local radio stations, “The Lavalas Family party will not be allowed to participate in the next election because the electoral council’s legal counsel said the party did not meet all legal requirements.”
How did the ‘international community’ respond to this? Despite ‘principled statements in favor of fair and inclusive elections’
when the CEP refused to correct the exclusion of FL, the international community, including the United States, abandoned the principles and provided generous support to the elections. International donors supplied Haiti with $12.5 million, or 72% of the election’s cost. All of the actors that had criticized the exclusion when it was made, praised the elections when they were held without the participation of FL or over 90% of Haitian voters. The international community again turned a blind eye when the CEP excluded FL in November 2009 and pledged $18 million for the February 2010 voting. By dropping their principled objections to the April election’s flaws and the November exclusion, the international community gave the CEP a green light to keep excluding the government’s political rivals. The international community missed valuable opportunities to pressure the Haitian government to be held accountable to the Haitian people.
Shades of Honduras coup laundry, though there are shades of what was done to Haiti in Honduras.
How this all escaped the attention of that eagle-eyed sentinel of democracy the Irish Times, whose dedication to detail meant it had no problem devoting space to denouncing sneering at Denis O’Brien for his bottom-billion corporate social responsibility rodomontades, I have no idea.