As Amy Wilentz put it in her flawed but important book The Rainy Season: Haiti since Duvalier, in Haiti a people's victory is often not what it seems, and if you wait a while things look different. (She said it more eloquently than that, but I don't have her exact words to hand.) I awoke Monday to the news that former president Rene Preval, who through the weekend seemed to have won nearly two-thirds of the vote in Haiti's February 7 election, is now below the 50% he needs to avoid a runoff, with 75% of the votes allegedly counted.
"13 February - In results that critics slammed as fraudulent, René Préval, a former president and champion of the poor who is the front-runner in key presidential elections here, appeared last night to have lost the majority he needs to avoid a runoff with his closest rival. Thousands of enraged, slum-dwelling Préval supporters took to the streets of this capital city to blow horns and bang drums in protest as they shouted, 'Préval on the first round!' Two members of the provisional electoral council overseeing the count from Tuesday's vote said they believed the results were being manipulated."
In her book and throughout her long involvement with Haiti, Amy Wilentz wrestled with her own leftist political faith: there should be popular democracy, so therefore there will be. This dilemma is not unique to Haiti; in Haiti it's only uniquely stark and in your face. I and many others - such as David Horowitz (see my Feb. 12 review of his book The End of Time) - have tried to square the same circle in the world at large.
Regarding Haiti in particular, as I consider the book Reed Lindsay and I are planning to write, I find myself reaching for a vocabulary that will frame the Big Questions that are universal but, as always, most starkly posed in Haiti, in some way that's not utterly stale. I suppose the best m.o. will be to remain as close to the ground as possible, to narrate what we know or believe to be facts, and let them tell the story. Meanwhile, it's too easy to say things are murky and complex in Haiti. In some important ways, the issue is very simple and clear indeed: there is a chronic, low-level war between the rich and the poor (and not only in Haiti). No writer has articulated this better than Brian Moore, in his prescient 1993 novel No Other Life:
It is now ten years since that day when Jeannot [the character based on Jean-Bertrand Aristide] seemed to disappear from this earth. There has been no revolution but, to the dismay of the elite and the Army, an ungovernable rage and resentment consumes the daily lives of the poor. Nothing has changed. The system is, as always, totally corrupt. The poor are its victims. His name is never mentioned among the elite but the mystery of his disappearance sits under the arrogance and privilege of their lives, like a dangerous earthquake fault.