ARISTIDE – PREVAL DEATH SQUADS REVISITED ON EVE OF DOMINIQUE COURT APPEARANCES-Added COMMENTARY By Haitian-Truth
SEPTEMBER 29, 1997
Island of Disenchantment
Credit: NEW REPUBLIC
BY CHARLES LANE
The Haitian police who stumbled upon Eddy Arbrouet one night last May thought he was a dangerous bank robber, but they probably didn’t know just how dangerous until Eddy and his gang opened fire. Amid the hail of heavy-caliber bullets, one cop dove for cover under a pile of banana leaves; another radioed for reinforcements. Help arrived and, miraculously, the police escaped. But Eddy Arbrouet remains at large and–at least for now–the police dare not tackle him again.
This obscure underworld episode would be of no interest outside Haiti except for one fact: Eddy Arbrouet is also wanted for the August 1996 murder of Antoine Leroy and Jacques Fleurival, two right-wing opponents of the U.S.-backed Haitian government. A pile of evidence links Arbrouet to the murders–and other evidence suggests that he was acting in collaboration with senior officers of Haiti’s Presidential Security Unit, the American-trained and -financed corps of official bodyguards who protect Haiti’s president, Rene Preval. Haitian officials deny that any such conspiracy existed. But U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the incident say the killing was one in a series carried out by political hit men who appear to have been operating from within the National Palace.
The mere existence of such a systematic campaign would of course raise new questions not only about Preval, but also about his predecessor, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who remains Haiti’s most influential leader behind the scenes. It would therefore also represent a significant failure in the Clinton administration’s Haiti policy, which the administration has been touting as a foreign policy triumph. Three years ago, when the U.S. dispatched 23,000 troops to expel the brutal Haitian Army, the fadh, from the power it had usurped from Aristide in a 1991 coup, the objective was not merely to restore a president but to build democracy as well. Aristide, who had seemingly endorsed mob violence against some political foes during his seven-month presidency before the coup, promised the U.S. that “national reconciliation,” not vengeance, would follow his return to office. But with Arbrouet still at large, and twenty-six political murders since 1995 still officially unsolved, that promise–and hence the promise of democratic rule–seems unfulfilled.
For two centuries, Haiti has been the poorest and most violent society in the Americas. In that context, $2 billion in U.S. aid, plus contributions from Canada and the European Union, has purchased some development–most palpably illustrated by the fact that the flow of Haitian boat people to the U.S. has largely ceased. Preval’s succession of Aristide was the first time that one elected Haitian civilian had finished his term and peacefully transferred power to another. An elected, boisterous parliament is in place. A new U.S.-trained Haitian National Police has begun to tackle crime. (See “Copland,” page 23.) New roads have been built and more are planned. The U.S. has shown the world it will not permit a successful military coup in this hemisphere.
But the Clinton administration has achieved less than it might have, and almost nothing irreversible. Not even the withdrawal of U.S. forces is total; some 500 soldiers and Marines remain, ostensibly to build roads and dig wells, but also to prevent a coup or other major threat to stability. The withdrawal of the last 1,300 U.N. peacekeepers from Canada and Pakistan, first set for March 31, has been twice postponed. The new date is November 30, but since the new National Police still cannot keep order, American officials are scrambling to preserve a foreign security presence after that.
While most Haitians still live in dire poverty, the government has moved slowly on critical economic reforms such as privatizing corrupt and inefficient state companies–reforms upon which foreign aid largely hinges. Prime Minister Rosny Smarth resigned on June 9, fed up with resistance to the reforms from Aristide’s party, which controls the lower house of parliament. No successor has been approved by parliament, so the government is at a standstill. It cannot even conduct new business with foreign lenders or investors.
The Haitian electoral process has also collapsed. Turnout was less than 10 percent in elections to choose new local governments and one-third of the twenty-seven-member national Senate on April 6. While in Haiti for nine days, I did not meet a single Haitian who voted, except for politicians themselves. What voting took place was tainted by massive irregularities. The Aristide-leaning Provisional Election Council, for example, tried to guarantee victory for pro-Aristide Senate candidates by excluding blank ballots from the vote count, a maneuver the Organization of American States declared illegal. Aristide’s Senate candidates also benefited from highly visible–and highly intimidating–armed protection from presidential bodyguards. All parties except Aristide’s refuse to recognize the April 6 results or to participate in runoffs, which have been indefinitely postponed. On August 19, the United Nations announced it would provide no further aid to elections in Haiti “until the credibility and transparency of the electoral process are re-established.”
And then there are the political murders, for which no one has yet been convicted, or even formally charged, and which remain a source of quiet tension between the United States and Haiti. The Clinton administration has informed Preval that the Leroy-Fleurival investigation is a test case of Haiti’s commitment to the rule of law; it has done so largely because Republicans in Congress have made clear they see Haiti’s response to the murders as a test of the Clinton administration’s policy. And so it is. Haiti has always been a country where the powerful and the wellconnected are unaccountable–where they can literally get away with murder. If that has not changed, then nothing really has.
The trail of blood that leads to Eddy Arbrouet’s hideout began at 3:45 in the afternoon of March 28, 1995, on a busy street in Port-au-Prince. Mireille Durocher Bertin and a client, Eugene Baillergeau Jr., were sitting in their car, stuck in a traffic jam, when two assailants opened fire on them with a 9 mm pistol and a 5.56 mm machine gun. Both died on the spot. (This account of the murders in Haiti, and the subsequent investigations, is based on interviews with Haitian and U.S. government sources, law enforcement sources in both countries, congressional hearing records and internal U.S. government documents.)
Coming soon after Aristide’s restoration to power, the murder of Bertin and her associate sent a chill through Haiti: Bertin, an attorney for members of the traditional elite, was one of Aristide’s leading critics. Shortly before her death, she had sent a letter to U.S. military authorities, who were in control of the island at the time. Written on behalf of the right-wing Mobilization for National Development Party (MDN), the letter accused an Aristide government intelligence operative named Patric Moise of being involved in a plot to kill 100 members of the right-wing elite.
Her letter was one reason U.S. military officials were not entirely surprised by her murder. Another was that nine days before the killing, a Haitian employee of the U.S. forces had made a startling statement to his American boss: Moise had asked him to assist in a plan to kill Bertin. Mondesir Beaubrun, then Aristide’s minister of interior, had purportedly offered Moise $5,000 to carry out the hit. The U.S. Army immediately arrested five suspects, including Moise, catching four of the alleged conspirators in an Isuzu Trooper owned by the Ministry of Interior, a car Moise said Minister Beaubrun had lent to him. (Beaubrun denies plotting; he now lives in the Dominican Republic.)
But then U.S. officials made a strange decision. Rather than warn Bertin about the plots directly, they asked Aristide and his Minister of Justice, Jean-Joseph Exume, to warn Bertin. (Some U.S. embassy officials had argued that U.S. officials should warn Bertin directly, but they were overruled by the U.S. Ambassador, William Swing, according to a General Accounting Office report about the affair.) Exume claims he did warn her, but she didn’t heed him. Bertin’s family says Exume merely told her she might be arrested, and said nothing of the murder plot.
Whatever the case, U.S. officials were palpably alarmed when Bertin showed up dead despite what they thought was a good-faith understanding that Aristide and his justice minister would protect her. With President Clinton set to arrive for a triumphal visit to Haiti on April 1, Ambassador Swing asked Aristide to invite FBI agents to help crack the case. Aristide, evincing great dismay at Bertin’s death, agreed. By dawn of the day after the murders, the first FBI agents were picking up bullet fragments at the scene of the crime.
The FBI quickly discounted theories that the murders had been related to a robbery, drug trafficking or a family dispute. Instead, the investigators said, the most likely scenario was that a second group of government hit men had taken over after the U.S. nipped the Beaubrun-Moise plot in the bud. Among the leads were radio conversations intercepted by the U.S. military the day of the killing, in which two men appeared to be talking about following Bertin’s car. The two men were Joseph Medard, then the deputy chief of Aristide’s bodyguards, and Lieutenant Pierre Lubin of the Interim Public Security Force (ipsf), the police force that Aristide selected–and financed with U.S. money–to help American troops keep order during the transition. The FBI began trying to question Medard, Lubin and several other officials of the ipsf and the National Palace.
Suddenly, FBI agents found themselves in the position of having to investigate the very government officials who were supposed to help them solve the case. The Haitians were not accommodating. Haitian officials told the FBI agents they could not investigate the Bertin case unless they also agreed to investigate twenty killings by the ousted military regime. In May, FBI agents saw Haitian government vehicles parked menacingly near the home of a key witness. Witnesses told of threats from the ipsf. ⁏n June 7, the FBI interrogation of one ipsf agent was disrupted by a heavily armed group of other ipsf agents. Ambassador Swing sent the State Department a cable saying that “the FBI investigation of the Bertin assassination is at a standstill due to lack of [Haitian government] cooperation.”
The FBI called for a high-level meeting between American officials and Aristide. At the meeting, on July 3, 1995, the Haitian president implied that he shared American concerns, promising that the FBI would have unfettered access to anyone it wished to interview. Aristide’s sole and seemingly reasonable condition: that those interviewed by the FBI have access to attorneys. The American officials agreed. Through Ira Kurzban, his Miami-based American lawyer, Aristide arranged for fifteen ipsf and National Palace officials to be represented by two Miami defense lawyers, at a cost of $120,000 to the Haitian taxpayer.
The result was more frustration for the FBI. The Miami lawyers said the FBI could only interview the Haitians if the lawyers could make and keep verbatim transcripts. The FBI refused: it almost never permits persons it questions in the U.S. to keep a transcript, for the obvious reason that this could compromise the confidentiality of their preliminary investigations. This was a particular concern in the Bertin case, where the FBI felt it was seeking to interview a group of possible co-conspirators. Feeling double-crossed by its supposed Haitian partners, the FBI withdrew from Haiti on October 13, 1995.
After the FBI quit, the Bertin case was assigned to the Haitian police force’s new Special Investigations Unit. The unit consists of a small U.S.-funded team of Haitians working under the direction of an American adviser with forensic support from the FBI. At Haitian insistence, the unit is also looking into killings by the ousted military regime; but it has had plenty of new business. Indeed, the suspicious killings continued while the FBI was still in town.
Michel Gonzales, a prominent Haitian airline executive, lived with his horses on forty acres in the Port-au-Prince exurb of Tabarre. He rented the property from the wealthy, conservative Debrosse family. Gonzales’s next-door neighbor was a powerful Haitian, too: Aristide. On two occasions around the time of Aristide’s return to Haiti, Aristide’s advisers, Jean-Marie Cherestal and Leslie Voltaire, asked U.S. officials to obtain the land for Aristide’s use, according to two U.S. sources familiar with the events. The request was refused. (Voltaire denies this; Cherestal could not be reached.) At that point, Gonzales’s friends say, visitors began arriving and telling Gonzales pointedly to get out. He didn’t. On May 22, 1995, two men on a motorbike shot Gonzales dead in front of Aristide’s place, while Gonzales’s wife and daughter–both American citizens–looked on in horror. No one in Haiti is quite sure now who owns the property, but it appears to be vacant.
Two days after the cops found Gonzales dead, Michel-Ange Hermann, a former colonel in the fadh, was gunned down. And in the run-up to the national elections, assassins felled two minor Senate candidates: Leslie Grimar, an auto parts dealer, and Max Mayard, a former general with the fadh. An FBI inspection of shell casings found at the Bertin, Hermann, Mayard and Grimar murder scenes has established that the bullets were all fired from the same gun. They also match shell casings found at the Leroy-Fleurival homicide scene. Which brings us back to the case that made Eddy Arbrouet the most wanted man in Haiti.
The summer of 1996 was a politically tense period in Port-au-Prince. U.S. intelligence developed reliable information that Haitian rightists and ex-fadh officers were arming for a coup against President Preval. Shots were fired at the National Palace. On August 17, Preval’s police tackled the threat by rounding up nineteen former fadh members at the headquarters of the same party with which Bertin had been associated, the MDN. Three days after that, Leroy and Fleurival were killed.
Within hours of the shooting, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince had convincing evidence that several presidential bodyguards had been present at the crime. (The Los Angeles Times has reported that the evidence consisted of intercepted radio conversations among the bodyguards.) Police found a Taurus 9 mm pistol next to Leroy’s body. The serial number on the Taurus identified it as property of the presidential bodyguards.
Even more damning evidence about Arbrouet’s ties to the National Palace has emerged since then. Arbrouet was a paid informant for the presidential bodyguards, working directly for the top officer, Joseph Moise. Arbrouet had both an entry pass to the National Palace and a government-issued gun. On August 5, 1996, the National Police arrested Arbrouet after he attempted to rob an armored truck in Cap-Haitien. But, according to a non-U.S. diplomat in Port-au-Prince familiar with the case, Arbrouet was released from jail after one of the presidential bodyguards called the National Police in Cap-Haitien and ordered his release. Fifteen days later, Leroy and Fleurival were dead. Bullet shells gathered at the murder scene matched shells from the Glock 9 mm pistol Arbrouet used in the failed holdup.
Ambassador Swing did not yet know all of this when the bodies of Leroy and Fleurival showed up on August 20, 1996. But what he did know caused him to rush to Preval and urge him to take action against the killers in his midst. Preval balked. Ambassador Swing summoned National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who–upon arriving in Port-au-Prince on August 30, 1996–told Preval he could lose American support unless he purged his bodyguards. Only then did the true reason for Preval’s hesitation become clear: according to senior U.S. officials, he feared he would be killed himself if he took on the bodyguards, most of whom were selected by, and primarily loyal to, Aristide. (Preval has since publicly denied this.)
The highly unstable situation posed a threat not only to the physical survival of the president of Haiti, but also to the political survival of the president of the United States, who was running for re-election at the time. The Clintonites tried to handle the dilemma by dispatching forty-six American bodyguards to watch Preval’s back while he began the delicate process of removing the ten bodyguards who were suspected of having knowledge of, or a role in, the killings. Moise, the top officer, was one of the first to be suspended at U.S. insistence. But Preval dragged his feet about firing the men, and delays cropped up in the Haitian investigation.
Leroy’s body was in handcuffs when police discovered it; those handcuffs have now disappeared from the custody of the Haitian judicial authorities. At one point, the State Department heard a rumor that senior Haitian officials had tried to coach eyewitnesses to the killings. That prompted Clinton to send Preval a letter on December 12, 1996, warning that U.S. aid to Haiti was at risk. By then, the Clinton administration was also responding to pressure from New York Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman and other Republican critics on Capitol Hill. After months of Republican threats to cut off aid, and several more administration demarches to Preval, the last of Preval and Aristide’s bodyguards suspected of involvement in the case were finally kicked off the government payroll by July 30 of this year. Not that they were treated too harshly: each walked away with a severance package equal to four months’ salary.
Today, a security detail from the State Department still watches Preval. Arbrouet is a fugitive, though his whereabouts are an open secret: he’s in Leogane, an hour’s drive from Port-au-Prince. He has been spotted driving around Port-au-Prince in a new Fiat. Arbrouet has even gone on the radio to claim that anything he did was on the orders of Pierre Denize, chief of the National Police. Though probably untrue, the claim shows Arbrouet understands his best protection from arrest is the fear Haitian officials have of what he might say if he’s ever captured alive.
U.S. officials say the National Police swat team now has weapons heavy enough to match Arbrouet’s arsenal, and that a new attempt to bust him will be made. But just how eager are the Haitian authorities to take on Arbrouet? I asked Ambassador Swing when we could expect an arrest. “The wanted posters are up in the police stations,” he replied. I didn’t see any–not even at National Police headquarters. In Jacmel, just down the road from Leogane, a detective told me he’d never heard of Arbrouet. Really? I asked. Oh yes, he suddenly recalled, there had been a poster in his station for a while, “but it mysteriously disappeared.”
Since the Leroy-Fleurival killings, Aristide and Preval’s traditional right-wing enemies have been, in the words of one U.S. official, “quiescent.” Yet the Aristide forces still face opposition from some of their former allies, and it is Aristide’s determination to triumph over these opponents–rather than bargain with them–that has precipitated the current electoral crisis.
Lavalas, the loose popular coalition Aristide first rode to electoral victory back in 1990, has fractured into two separate political parties. The Lavalas Political Organization (OPL) is, as its name suggests, an organized, internally democratic political party. OPL wants to get ahead by playing ball with Haiti’s international patrons: supporting economic reform and privatization, strengthening the role of the parliament and the courts. The OPL’s leaders broke with Aristide in late 1995, when he maneuvered, unsuccessfully, to extend his term, in violation of the Haitian Constitution. OPL controls the Haitian Senate.
As its name suggests, Aristide’s party, Fanmi Lavalas–Creole for “the Lavalas family”–is organized around Aristide as the personalistic leader who decides all major questions, in consultation with a small inner circle. Though Aristide and his supporters denounce U.S.-backed economic reforms as unfair to the poor, it’s not clear what they support–except their own access to traditional sources of power and patronage. The tainted April 6 elections were, in part, a bid by Aristide to get control over the Senate by hook or by crook. Among the “winning” candidates was Jean-Marie Fourel Celestin, an Aristide crony whose reputation for corruption reportedly contributed to the Haitian Senate’s decision to reject him when Aristide tried to nominate him as police chief in 1995.
All the key issues in Haitian politics–the future of the economic reforms, the prime ministership, control of the Senate, the credibility of elections themselves–hinge on the struggle between OPL and Fanmi Lavalas. “The hour is late in Haiti,” concluded a June 26 House International Affairs Committee report on the situation that was signed not only by Gilman, the Republican chairman, but also by ranking Democrat Lee Hamilton of Indiana. Stung by rising bipartisan concern, the administration has dispatched a parade of high-level emissaries, including former National Security Adviser Lake, to urge Aristide to cut a deal.
But the effort is not going well. Aristide has little incentive to negotiate. After all, he “won” the April 6 vote; and, with U.S. acquiescence, the installation of local governments, of which he controls a plurality, is moving forward. On August 26, the Fanmi Lavalas-dominated lower house of parliament rejected Preval’s U.S.-supported choice for prime minister, a political unknown named Ericq Pierre. Preval barely lifted a finger to help Pierre; he seems cowed by Aristide, whom he served as a loyal subordinate throughout his entire previous career in politics.
Perhaps the Clinton administration will orchestrate some face-saving solution. Even if it does, a short-term political arrangement is no substitute for institutional development. Aristide is committed to a politics of personalistic leadership and haphazard “mass action.” In deference to his de facto power, U.S. officials still deal with him almost as a head of state. When U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson visited Port-au-Prince in July to cement local support for an extension of the U.N. troop presence, his key meeting was with Aristide. It had to be: “popular” organizations linked to the former president were staging violent demonstrations against the very foreign troops that had reinstated Aristide. Anti-U.N., anti-American graffiti remain daubed in red on the whitewashed walls of Port-au-Prince and its surrounding slums, reminders that nothing important can be decided without Aristide and his forces.
Perhaps the writing on the wall is also a sign that Clinton administration policy in Haiti needs a review, beginning with a reassessment of the U.S. relationship–past, present and future–with Aristide. Aristide’s image has been defined by polarized perceptions ever since he burst on the scene as the fiery priest-tribune of Haiti’s poor and oppressed after the 1986 collapse of the Duvalier regime. To the Haitian poor and liberal Democrats in the United States, especially the Congressional Black Caucus, he was gentle Titid– “little Aristide”–a prophet, a Caribbean Martin Luther King. To the Haitian elite and many conservative American Republicans, he was an unhinged communist rabble-rouser.
A more realistic view of Aristide begins with a journey down the finest paved highway in Haiti, the new 15th of October Boulevard. Named for the date in 1994 on which U.S. troops brought Aristide back in triumph, the road runs seven miles from the elite enclave of Petion-Ville to the heavily guarded compound in Tabarre where Aristide, defrocked by his longtime foes in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, now lives with his American wife and their child. I was not invited in. But Michele Karshan, a leftist American journalist who works as a spokesperson for Aristide and Preval in Port-au-Prince, told me chez Aristide is a modest abode. “The pool is not that big,” she said.
Along the road, you pass the headquarters of Aristide’s Foundation for Democracy and a giant stoneand-metal monument (in the shape of a rickety sail boat) to the Haitian refugees whose travail had so much to do with Aristide’s return to power. You also pass luxury housing developments, car dealerships and factories. Aristide’s 15th of October Boulevard has made rural Tabarre into a burgeoning exurb–and someone is making a handsome real-estate fortune as a result. Neither Aristide nor the government ever explained where the funds for the road came from, though it was built not long after Taiwan, grateful for the diplomatic recognition it received from Aristide’s government, gave Haiti $20 million to rebuild the congested, rutted main road in the slum of Carrefour. The Carrefour project has barely been started.
What the trip down the Tabarre road suggests is that for Aristide, the child of obscure lower-middle-class parents from the Haitian outback, the ten years since the fall of the Duvalier dynasty have been an improbable, very nearly fatal, journey from the margins of Haitian society to its very pinnacle, from outcast to powerbroker. To rise, he employed neither the nonviolence of King nor the conspiratorialism of Lenin. Rather, his were the traditional instruments of Caribbean politics. His true political antecessors are such figures as Eric Gairy of Grenada, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, and even “Papa Doc” himself, who also began his career as an apostle of black pride among the Haitian poor.
Like them, Aristide’s greatest asset is his ability to keep his true intentions hidden amid the rapture of his supporters and the rage of his opponents. Aristide is a master orator in the proletarian Creole tongue–barely comprehensible to Americans and Haiti’s French-speaking elite–using its subtle, sarcastic poetry to inspire the hopes and inflame the passions of the man in the street, and to weave a web of mystery and charisma around his own persona. He understood the centrality of religion and fanmi in Haitian culture, and thus organized his followers, whether orphaned street kids, parishioners or disgruntled soldiers, into a series of interconnected “families,” all of them headed by Father Aristide.
He also understood, and accepted, the inevitability and the necessity of violence in Haitian politics. But in contrast to his brutish military opponents, Aristide has deployed violence selectively–and always with plausible deniability–whether he’s assembling a shadowy coterie of bodyguards around himself, or using Creole double entendres to incite his supporters to throw burning tires around the necks of his enemies.
And finally, Aristide has known how to handle the U.S. He understands that the bottom-line American concern in Haiti is political and economic instability, and the attendant prospect of a mass migration of poor black people to the shores of Florida. It was this fear, tinged with genuine American pity for the most miserable land in the hemisphere, that Aristide, helped by well-intentioned American liberals, exploited to maneuver Bill Clinton into using the mightiest military in the world to restore him to power. Today, Aristide still manipulates that pity-tinged fear to get the Clintonites to deal with him.
Or to bluff them. Though Aristide is still the likeliest winner in the presidential election planned for 2000–even if the election is clean–I was struck by the degree to which his popular appeal has faded in the seven long years since the 1990 election, in which he polled 67 percent. In part, he has been brought down to earth by defrocking and marriage. In part, he partakes of Haiti’s general political apathy. But also, Aristide is less loved because of the evidence that he is enmeshed in a profoundly violent and corrupt political culture.
I spent an afternoon in Carrefour with a former employee of his government, a well-educated social worker in her thirties. Her whole family supported Aristide before and during the coup period, at considerable risk. But now her elderly father never speaks Aristide’s name. Her brother, a shopkeeper, still defends Aristide, but even he didn’t vote on April 6. For her part, the social worker found she “could not accept” what she saw within the Aristide administration. “Before the people believed in Titid because he had the name of `Father,’” she told me, her voice dipping to a whisper. “But now they perceive that in a different way, like a mafioso–like a godfather.”
On my last full day in Haiti, I visited Cite Soleil, the notorious Port-au-Prince slum where some 200,000 horribly poor people live crammed into five square miles between an industrial park and the Caribbean Sea. As expected, I saw raw sewage running through the cratered streets; tin-roof shacks full of hungry children; sullen, disaffected people, all of whom once supported Aristide, none of whom told me they still vote. “The cost of living is so high right now, plus we have children to feed, and things are getting harder and harder every day,” said Wesley Jean, a 26-year-old non-voter who earns $33 a month repairing clothes on a beat-up Singer sewing machine.
I noted, though, that the worst signs of squalor–the garbage; the open sewers; the rampant gang battles on unlit, poorly policed streets–are traceable to governmental failure. The signs of hope and life, by contrast, sprang from two sources. One was the U.S. military: with minimal Haitian government involvement, the American Marines, Navy and Air Force troops have built a school and provide visiting medical services. They have dug freshwater wells and a new road. The benefits are of the kind Haiti’s poor can see and feel. “It used to take me all day to go downtown to look for a job,” said 33-year-old Lut Fenellon. On the American road, it takes three hours.
The other source of hope is the hard work and creativity of ordinary people themselves: Wesley Jean pumping away at his Singer; shacks converted, brick by individually purchased brick, into more substantial homes; front-stoop snack bars that supply families with untaxed income. It is obvious why so many Haitians prosper as immigrants in the U.S. It is equally obvious they could prosper if their own country had the rule of law.
The story of the Haitian slums, in short, is an old one: good people, bad government. That is still the case after three years of the Clinton administration’s politico-military stewardship. Unless the Haitian people and their American patrons find a way to develop Haiti that does not involve paying tribute to corrupt, violent and incompetent elites, the fate of this long-suffering land will probably always be tied, in some form, to the fate of people like Eddy Arbrouet.