By Catherine Charlemagne, Haiti Liberté, May 15, 2019
We imagine that many people read and reread agronomist Jean André Victor’s text entitled “What is a self-proclaimed President?” published in the newspaper Le Nouvelliste of Wed., May 8, 2019. It was a presentation of the radical opposition’s intention to name a self-appointed President to replace current head of state Jovenel Moïse in the National Palace on Sat., May 18, Haitian Flag Day. Although absurd, this curious idea has still provoked a bit of debate and controversy in the Haitian political milieu and press.
It all began, in fact, on Mon., May 5, 2019 during a press conference in which Jean André Victor, the leader of MOPODH (The Haitian Patriotic Dessalinien Movement), unveiled his project to create a People’s Parliament and appoint a new President of Haiti. We presume that this body’s “parliamentarians” would also be self-elected. Although this announcement made many of the journalists present laugh, it was received as a very bad joke by the political class, even by some opposition members who described Victor’s announcement as a political aberration.
It must be said that for some time now, the Haitian opposition, in particular the so-called radical opposition, has been losing ground in terms of innovative ideas to revive the mobilization against President Jovenel Moïse. Stalled since the stinging defeat of the latest popular uprising in April against the Tèt Kale power (PHTK), members of this opposition branch have had the idea to create a new small group inside this so-called radical opposition, called the Progressive Opposition Forces (FOP). This sort of a sub-brand, or sub-product, is not of much use to the other opposition branch called the Democratic and Popular Sector (SDP) of André Michel, Marjorie Michel, and Nènèl Cassy.
In truth, nobody has taken too seriously this opposition current pompously called “Forces,” which is in fact an empty shell lacking much usefulness in the fight against Jovenel Moïse, who is more concerned about the ratification and installation of his new Prime Minister and ministerial cabinet. Totally silent of late, whether on the ground or in the press, the radical opposition leaders who did not take part in the negotiations leading to the appointment of the new prime minister were looking for something to get back into the headlines. Hence May 5th’s famous press conference announcing the “events of May 18, 2019,” the highlight of which would be to name a second “Juan Guaido” on the American continent. The latter has tried to usurp power from President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. He committed treason on Jan. 23, 2019, punishable by imprisonment, for self-proclaiming himself President not even of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, but of Venezuela. Clearly, this opposition leader, deputy, and speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly is flagrantly violating his country’s Constitution.
Yet, despite the active support and unreserved encouragement of the White House and most other U.S. allies for this unconstitutional act, Juan Guaido is struggling to exist even domestically. Moreover, his attempted coup, obviously mounted with Washington’s financial, logistical and political support, ended in a bitter failure. Guaido’s latest event, held on Sat., May 11, 2019, was a total fiasco, even in comparison to his previous failures. President Nicolas Maduro seems to hold the reins of power in Caracas without trying to silence his worst political opponent. He is presenting a model and an exception for Latin America. In other countries, even democratic ones, this opposition leader would have long ago been silenced, either by assassination or by imprisonment for the crime of high treason.
But, back to those in Haiti who want to imitate him in Port-au-Prince even if they have no the means to carry out their project nor legitimacy, since, after all, Guaido is the National Assembly’s president. Furthermore, the Venezuelan opposition is united against Maduro, which already makes all the difference compared to the Haitian opposition, which is splintered. In Venezuela, there is no war among leaders to take power. Juan Guaido is the boss, period. Can we say as much for Haiti’s opposition? So it is difficult for this opposition to want to transpose to Port-au-Prince what happens in Caracas. Even if Jean André Victor and his “forces” of the progressive opposition dream of power with a self-proclaimed president, it will not work. There is too much antagonism and rivalry within this extremely balkanized opposition in which every leader only sees at the top of the pyramid. They all have only one goal: to put themselves in the place of their common enemy, Jovenel Moïse.
Moreover, it is this suicidal attitude that is the strength of the Haitian president. Jovenel Moïse has no popular support in the country unlike President Nicolas Maduro, who obviously has a majority in his country in support of his Chavista Party, and especially the Venezuelan army, which is the ultimate defender of Venezuela’s interests and the revolution initiated by the late Commander Hugo Chavez. We saw last week the dismal failure of Juan Guaido’s attempted coup, which clearly had Washington’s full support. So, when the FOP is planning to embark on this perilous venture with this hilarious idea of a self-proclaimed President, it elicited a reaction from former Prime Minister Evans Paul (K-Plim). For this former opposition leader against almost all Haitian governments since Jean-Claude Duvalier until he became prime minister of President Michel Martelly, there is definitely a problem in the current opposition.
K-Plim is convinced that the opposition, as well as those in power, are definitely out of ideas. Speaking bluntly, Evans Paul believes that “this project is a regression for Haitian democracy” insofar as it fits into a logic that has nothing to do with democracy. Indeed, how can one speak of democracy when one wants to ignore its basic principle of standing before the people to obtain their votes? Jean André Victor evoked the examples of Julius Caesar in the year 44 BC and the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, historical figures who are not models of democracy, to convince us of the justice of his idea of a self-proclaimed President, but his historical presentation was nonetheless without merit. On the contrary, he defeats himself when he states that “Haiti is among the countries that have ipso facto recognized the self-proclaimed President of Venezuela, Juan Guaido.”
First of all, it is in no way “Haiti” that recognizes Juan Guaido’s fake presidency. That is only the position of a President whom Victor calls “a renegade,” whom Victor’s party fights precisely for non-respect of democracy. In no way can one rely on an illegal act to accomplish another illegal act. Responding to Evans Paul, Jean André Victor suggests that “it is not for lack of inspiration that the FOP acted but rather out of political realism.”
How absurd! That’s a funny conception of political reality. If it were necessary to copy history’s bad examples, the world’s peoples would never live in peace and democracy. He says that “Haiti’s history is full of examples of self-proclaimed Presidents.” It is true. Is this a reason to continue in this way? This is exactly why K-Plim says that the opposition is out of ideas. According to Evans Paul, “we are seeing a process of self-destruction in the country. We do not want to give a chance to values, because people are exhibiting cruelty. It may be because of this self-destruction that we are headed for a self-proclaimed President.”
Since the opposition is in a political stalemate, the only way out is to reproduce what is worst for society and the youth. Otherwise, we do not understand why Jean André Victor seeks to confuse the population by citing the most negative cases of world history, and that of Haiti, to prove his thesis. Should we commit a crime to correct the crimes of history? He quoted François Duvalier and even the Precursor of Haitian independence, the immortal Toussaint Louverture, who, according to Victor, supposedly came to power inappropriately. Intellectually, it is dishonest on the part of the agronomist to take as an example those cases that have nothing in common with his plan to appoint a “President” at the head of the country because his supporters do not have enough courage nor popularity to overthrow the regime in place. In the case of François Duvalier, the dictator was first elected in 1957. There was no coup d’etat or self-proclamation. Then he had at least organized a 1964 referendum (disputed, of course) to be elected President for Life.
Concerning Toussaint Louverture, we think that the MOPODH leader is completely confused by comparing this revolutionary’s rise to power, in order to bring down the cruel system of slavery, with the absurd step of the FOP. Toussaint did not proclaim himself. He was the natural leader in a context where oppressed slaves sought a guide that could lead them to liberation and abolish the slave system. So, it is natural that he took the lead of the rebels to lead them to victory. It was a goal he could not reach completely during his lifetime given that he was defeated by his enemies. But his work was completed by one of his most glorious and brave lieutenants, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a few months later. But the Progressive Opposition Forces’ project of installing a self-proclaimed President is, in truth, a sign of weakness. It has no chance of succeeding, since it will have nobody’s support, starting with the opposition’s main leaders.
All the great politicians of history quoted by Jean André Victor in his Le Nouvelliste article, who, according to him, had proclaimed themselves dictators for life or President, had at least the support of their comrades and their friends. In the case of the FOP project, it is hard to believe that “the happy self-proclaimed” president will have the support of all the leaders of this multifaceted movement. When one sees the ideological distance that separates the different branches of this opposition, one is entitled to question the success of this project. The Haiti Liberté lead story last week explained that the opposition was split in three branches, each following its own strategy. Between May 4 and 6, 2019, the opposition, in fact, led three diametrically opposed tracks. On one hand, the branch called the Democratic and Popular Sector (SDP) was traveling in the U.S. to curry favor with and get a read from U.S. authorities on the Haitian political situation. The delegation was made up of Senators Evalière Beauplan and Nènèl Cassy, Simon Dieusel Desras, Marjorie Michel, Printemps Belizaire, and the journalist Jean Morin.
Meanwhile, Moïse Jean-Charles, the leader of the Pitit Dessalines party and a FOP member, flew to South America at the invitation of some progressive organizations in Uruguay.
Finally, in Port-au-Prince, Jean Andre Victor announced the creation of a FOP sub-group called “Sove Pèp” (Save the People), whose purpose is none other than to overthrow President Jovenel Moïse with his self-proclaimed president. We are almost certain that all these initiatives have nothing in common and that each group operates according to its own objectives, agenda, and address book. With these three initiatives in the same week, no one needs to guess if there is full-blown division. Hence, the question posed in the title of Haiti Liberté’s lead story was: “who will be the Haitian Guaido?”
Interesting, indeed, to know who would be the future “Gérard Gourgue,” since Jean André Victor himself referred to this tragi-comic character without naming him when he wrote: “Closer to us, a few years ago, the opposition parties had chosen a self-appointed President in place of the so-called elected President .” (K-Plim, by the way, supported that “regression”). Indeed, the opposition of the 2000s, famous for its implacable hostility towards the Lavalas president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and known under the names of “Democratic Convergence” then the “Group of 184″ had designated in Pont Morin lawyer Gérard Gourgue “President” of the Republic on Feb. 7, 2001 in place of the legitimate and constitutional President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It was a stunt that made all of Haiti laugh at the time. Then, at least, professor Gourgue had the support of all the opposition, which was less split than today.
The last question to ask concerning this self-proclaimed President of May 18: what role will the former North senator and FOP member, Moïse Jean-Charles, play? He is a great supporter of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and defends in Haiti Venezuela’s legitimate President, Nicolas Maduro. Will Moïse Jean-Charles condone this infamy of taking power without going through the polls or a genuine revolution, as in 1804? We are waiting for the answer of the Pitit Dessalines leader to either reassure or surprise us.
Posted May 19, 2019