HSG reporting from Washington DC, 13-09-2011
To the Simon Bolivar room for a “special meeting” of the Organization of American States Permanent Council. When the agenda is Haiti, one cannot set foot in its marbled halls without recalling Che’s assertion that it’s Washington’s Department of Colonial Affairs. With Cuba still “suspended” for membership 50 years on, he’d be encouraged by some internal colonalisation – witness the impeccably platted pigtail of the indigenous Bolivian ambassador. Indeed, de-colonization, and the definition of freedom and human rights that Haiti in 1804, rather than the US in 1776, gave the world, is the theme of the day from the charismatic Michaelle Jean, the Haitian-born former Governor General of Canada, now UNESCO Special Envoy to Haiti. It’s Angelina Jolie’s visit to Congress all over again: Jean arrives mobbed by middle-aged overweight men, who turn out to be a clutch of OAS ambassadors. The speech is a tour de force, passionate, resonate, compelling. You owe Haiti everything she says with a detailed history lesson about how the newly-independent Haiti armed and funded Simon Bolivar, the continent’s liberator, not once, but twice. She doesn’t mention how the debt was never repaid in terms of the conditions set for that support: recognition of Haiti and the freeing of all slaves, but says it should be now. Above all, she repeats and embellishes what she said in Haiti in February 2010. “Haiti can no longer be a laboratory for experiments that have never produced results elsewhere.” Indeed. As the neo-liberal experiment force-fed Haiti for the past 30 years collapses all around us in Europe, the UK and the US, Haiti sorely and surely needs a second declaration of independence. Seems like Michaelle Jean could raise an army, any time. Here, at least, they look like they’d follow her anywhere.