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Remembering Gerald Mathurin

Tuesday, 13 March 2018
Rosa M Tristan

The former Minister, Haitian activist Geral Mathurin died on March 3 at his home in Jacmel, Southeast of Haiti. Creator of the Regional coordination of organizations of the Southeast (CROSE), organization that collaborates with Alliance for solidarity for years. Gerald was a symbol of commitment to his people and his disappearance leaves a gap that will not be easy to meet.


Just before a presidential election and a serious institutional crisis do analyses of the situation? How it has come so far, in one of the poorest countries in the world?

The country is living a particularly difficult time. There is a recent political crisis which has its roots anchored in the past. It can be said that the country is in a situation of free fall and that there is a serious institutional crisis, State. Today there is no relationship between the State and the people of Haiti, political parties do not represent the people. And we are trying to see how we can get out of this situation. Almost everyone expected that with the upcoming elections [which led in January of 2017 to brace the Presidency] a little of this impasse is will leave, but is a mere hope. We actually have in Haiti are political groups only looking for their own interests.

Any new party that can reverse this situation is not seen on the horizon?

The issue is that the problem is old. You could analyze you what happened throughout our history or what has just happened in the last five years. And it will always be complex. But I'm going to start with the post-Duvalier period, since the dictator left power in 1986 [known as 'Baby Doc', Jean-Claude Duvalie is attributed the deaths of more than 20,000 Haitians]. After that we had to organize a transition, which should have led to a stable government. However, instead of generating institutions that stabilize the situation, between 1986 and 1990, there was a period of great political turbulence, which was dominated by the army and the Catholic hierarchy. During this period there were three different political currents. One that didn't, or want to still no change, but keep the status quo; another says to want democracy and elections and representing the middle class; and a third power which is that of the people, which began in organizations that were then clandestine, leftist. The confrontation between them complicated the situation, generated great instability and had important effects on the economy. All the fundamental economic structures were destroyed. Became a structural adjustment, to demand of the World Bank, and opened the local market for staple commodities. The strategy was simple: were low and people could buy rice, milk, sugar... but then they were gradually rising. They were imported from the United States. On the façade, seemed that everything worked, but was a 'I postureo', was not real.

Was that adjustment the main cause of the economic debacle?

Not only. This is a country mainly agricultural and after the Duvalier era, agricultural production fell to lows, until you have 35% deficit of staples. It was also that it increased cyclones and severe drought due to climate change, which soliviantó to a peasantry who felt abandoned as he watched the market products outside flooded. And the social fabric, broke while the markets did a direct intervention. It could be said that in Haiti, we have taken several periods of loss of national sovereignty. If there was a moment in which the Americans were more hidden and seemed that the Government had the power of decision. But then, the United States became so strong that they directly dictated laws. And it followed a third stage which were already stuffed into our territory with its troops, managing its operations. And I would almost say so continue to the present. Here are still being and to be governed by its laws.

How does the international community respond to this situation?

I think that the international community is playing with Haiti. And we see how to Brazil give Minursa (United Nations Haiti mission) management for the imperialist needs because Brazil is an emerging country and want to be larger, have more international presence, taking the surrounding countries. In that game, they negotiate with United States its place in the world and countries like this are used to do this. And all this has to do also with the period of political struggle between the three trends mentioned earlier. Those who do not want to change the 'status quo' are the ones most linked they are to the United States, but so are the so-called Democrats. In fact, are the Americans who control the elections. Obviously, they are not directly, but used institutions to do so: Washington, the OAS, the State Department or even France, which tells us what to do.

All of this generates wounds, breaks left-wing organizations and also separates them from the village. From left we fought because they comply and apply the Constitution of 1987, which represents a compromise between the three currents, but we have not succeeded. Closest to the former President Aristide [leader of the left] left-wing current has lost much after its poor management and his flight. Now live the era post Aristide, almost without political organization and with very weak civil society organizations, which explains the great crisis that we see. There are no referees.

How do you see the economic situation now? It always seems that Haiti does not raise head...

El dinero se ha hecho invisible. Los que lo tienen se lo han llevado a otros países o sencillamente lo han retirado del mercado, no invierten, y sin dinero el mercado no funciona. Lo segundo más grave es que la tasa de cambio se ha disparado: nuestra moneda local, el gourda, no vale nada. Y lo tercero es que las empresas no compran aquí la materia prima, todo es importado. A eso se suman los problemas con los vecinos dominicanos, pues nuestro Gobierno ha prohibido importar 25 productos básicos de República Dominicana, tras las expulsiones de haitianos a la frontera. Sume a ello sequías que duran ocho meses. Así que tenemos salidas en masa de los jóvenes haitianos hacia nuevas tierras como Brasil, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador… Todo el que puede se va. Y por último, la corrupción ha sido gravísima en los últimos 5 años. Los que estaban en el Gobierno han robado 7.000 millones de dólares. Una barbaridad para este país. Y pongo un ejemplo: gracias a un acuerdo con Venezuela de tiempos de Chávez, Petrocaribe envió durante tres años petróleo y gas gratuitamente. El acuerdo decía que a partir de esos tres años, Haití lo pagaría con intereses muy bajos. Se generó una deuda importante que había que abonar. En esos tres años, el Gobierno vendía el gas y la petróleo, pero no pagaba. Ahora, acabados los tres años de carencia. ¿Dónde está el dinero? Pues se lo han quedado y ya no podemos pagar la deuda con Venezuela. Ahora, Venezuela no quiere contratos con nosotros mientras no paguemos.

As it is the case in other areas are foreign companies in search of hand reaching Haiti cheap labour?

No, there has been some attempt to investment in the North, but it did not work for several reasons. The main is that it is a small country. And then there is the relationship with foreigners, because the Haitian people have a notion of resilience which comes from the outside which makes it easy to settle here. If it is true that some textile mills are installed, but there are permanent friction between owners and workers. And some mining concessions are being taken, but as there is a social minimum people should receive and did not receive, a company it is difficult to work here because conflicts arise.

Let's say that everything works by pure subsistence economy

Effectively. And the question is how to transform Haiti to make it work. I think that we do not need much to make changes, but this transformation passes through better education of the Haitians. Things so obvious as to be able to send children to school, make them eat, take care of the health, or have something as basic as a decent House. Then, on that basis, you can discuss and generate other social changes.

But would focus on economy in a country that has so many threats to where?

Evidentemente no somos España, ni Francia, ni Estados Unidos. Somos Haití, un pequeño país de 21.000 kilómetros cuadrados que arrastra una historia, una cultura. Lo que he aprendido es que entendiendo el pasado al explicar el presente podemos proyectarnos hacia delante. Si no miramos el pasado como debemos, ni sabemos cómo hemos llegado así, no podremos avanzar. Comer cada día en Haití no es más complicado que eso. Yo estoy poniendo en marcha algunas experiencias y es cierto que vivo ahora en una casa grande, pero todos podemos vivir de otra forma. Estoy convencido de que Haití posee lo suficiente para vivir todos, pero no lo haremos como un español. Podemos comer mazorcas de maíz, caña de azúcar…. El problema ahora es que la gente no tiene dinero ni para acceder a los productos que si podemos cultivar en Haití. Los que viven en el campo todavía pueden encontrar cereales y verduras para comer, pero no en las ciudades. Y luego está el tema de la energía, que nos debería venir del sol. Yo aquí, en casa, tengo placas solares. Habría que fabricarlas aquí, que fueran accesibles a todos. Haití de es un país tropical y la capa vegetal puede recuperarse. Lo que hay que debemos hacer es reflexionar sobre nuestra adaptación a una forma de vida sencilla, más cercana a las naturaleza, que es lo que nos garantizará un mejor mañana. En el fondo, se trata de reorganizarnos.

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