Earlier this week, Raul Castro transferred power to a young leader who promises to continue steadfastly on the path set by the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
If Dessalines were able to do likewise, where would Haiti stand today?
What factors made this outcome impossible for Haiti’s founding father Jean Jacques Dessalines?
In 1957, two years ahead of the Cuban Revolution’s ultimate victory, a medical doctor took office as “elected” President of Haiti. François Duvalier proceeded to lead a vicious dictatorship, where opposition was systematically crushed either by the barbaric regime of his infamous Tonton Macoutes or by his equally barbaric U.S. allies.
The CIA was known to help Duvalier assassinate his opponents from their mother’s very womb. With support from the Vatican, Duvalier and his powerful U.S. allies effectively terrorized into submission a large segment of the Haitian population. This was accomplished to such a degree that, by 1964, Duvalier felt totally at ease to self-appoint “President-for-life”. As François Duvalier neared death in 1971, he obtained the support of the CIA to appoint his own idiotic 19 year old son, Jean-Claude, successor dictator – for life.
As one considers the accomplishments of Cuban society over the decades of political stability they’ve lived under the Castro brothers – in spite of a debilitating U.S. embargo;
As one considers what Haitian society inherited over the decades of political stability they’ve lived under the two Duvaliers – while the CIA supported both despots;
The objective facts point to this one indisputable conclusion: The net influence of U.S. institutions on the lives of Haitians and Cubans, alike, has been absolutely negative.
In the end, what made the difference in terms of observed outcomes, is the type of leaders each island nation had and their ability to stand up for and with their people to defend higher ideals of nationhood and common good.
In July 2016, with no fear or concern, my octogenarian mother and I were walking the streets of Havana, as late as way past 11 pm. I recall conversations with young Cubans who expressed a desire to engage in more entrepreneurial activities, to study and travel abroad, but they were also proud and quick to add that their ideal and ultimate goal is to remain permanent residents of Cuba, eager to contribute to the social and economic strength of their beloved homeland.
My mother was so glad to see with her own eyes the impressive accomplishments of Fidel Castro and his revolutionary comrades. Back in 2004, in her native town of Port-de-Paix, we had both seen the wondrous work of Cuban brigade doctors who started going to Haiti since Presidents Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Fidel Castro had renewed diplomatic relations in 1995. We are also well aware of strong genetic ties that bind many Cuban and Haitian families, ours included (a topic we shall explore in a future post).
Truth be told, we both experienced wonderful, friendly and proud Cuba with a heavy heart. My mom’s thoughts often travel back to the 1957 elections, when she was a young and hopeful black woman with great dreams for her country. For my part, I grew up under both Duvalier despots, a witness to the forced exodus which led to the current reality whereby Haiti’s strength, brilliance and passion seem to benefit every other nation but Haiti.
Like the young Cubans I met that summer afternoon in Havana, I wish so much to live for and among my people.
Much respect Comandante Castro! May you rot in hell Duvalier !