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Aristide and youth

2 March 2011

The news came the other night, as i finished up: Aristide was finally granted a passport renewal. After 7 years in exile in South Africa, Jean-Bertrand Aristide is looking homeward again.

On February 4th, the World Federation of Democratic Youth, an anti-imperialist movement that has been active since 1947, sent a delegate to hand deliver a petition to the UN general headquarters in New York with signatures from 825 youth requesting not only the removal of the MINUSTAH troops from Haiti, but also reparations for importing cholera.

The World Federation of Democratic Youth meets once every four years. This year, they met under the heading, Let’s Defeat Imperialism for a World of Peace, Solidarity and Social Transformation in South Africa. On their website, they have several statements of support for the revolutions that are taking place across North Africa and the Middle East, along with several other condemnations of coups d’etat, occupations, and other imperialist moves across the globe.

But not everyone is eager for Aristide to return – at least not until he is tried by the International Criminal Court for human rights violations. A recent editorial in the Mail and Guardian Online by Miachel Deibert, American journalist and visiting fellow at Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies at Coventry University (and the author of Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti) points to a very different view from the veneration of Aristide that we see across the West – one that points to violence.

I’ve often stopped to wonder how much any of us could possibly know. As researchers, we tend to read what agrees with us and what we agree with, but as i watched the documentary (Aristide and the Endless Revolution) again for the fifth time yesterday, i realized that people on the other side of the argument believe just as strongly, with conviction, and with their frames of supporting evidence to the contrary. I was particularly struck by Roger Noriega’s (who some blame for the removal of Aristide) conviction and certainty at Aristide’s incompetence – a conviction that blurred his ability to speak in supporting evidence. His evidence was simply the evidential nature of Aristide’s very existence of being. I would fail a student for using that kind of supporting evidence. Well – not fail, but make stern remarks in the margins at least.

We are creatures of our understanding of the world, but there are moments that are obvious, like the fact that Lavalas, Aristide’s political party has won every election they’ve been allowed to participate in since 1990 – and further, that the threat that Lavalas poses has led to the arbitrary exclusion of the party from elections since 2004 – including the elections in November. And although several members of the American Congress pushed for a recognition of this and 11 other excluded parties in the electoral process, their demands went unheeded.

In the meantime, Haitians are peacefully taking to the streets, calling for the return of Aristide. Many worry that diplomatic pressures (particularly US, French and Brazilian) are stemming his return. The worry is that Aristide may disrupt the upcoming March 20 election run-off.

Whether Aristide is a brutal human rights violator or a peaceful grassroots activists / priest / president  or some combination of the two, is something that none of us can really understand from out here or even if we get there. Haiti is not our country. Haitians are not our people. But what is evident is where the money goes and where its power undermines political processes. What is evident is the power of power…that’s not a tautological statement. I mean it exactly as it sounds.

The Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission (IHRC) has economic and policy power over Haiti until August 2012 (for now), yet Haiti is faced with strong condemnations for not “building back better” fast enough for anyone. What has happened? It’s in these moments of following flows of power that i become less convinced of arguments against Aristide.

I suppose, as i look to the revolutions across North Africa and the Middle East, watch our students slowly awaken to the necessity of solidarity and action on and across campuses, watch my colleagues in Wisconsin put everything on the line to retain their bargaining rights – i’m struck by the enormity of the power of the youth and young adults in this country and across the world.

Clive Barnett does a particularly delightful job of dissecting the different theoretical frames for events across the world right now. Maybe sometimes we just need a sense of humor about it all?

And we wait.

I bumped into this delightful short video today, so i’ll leave off here:

 

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