Commentary: Venezuela, Haiti and the United States

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Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at jeanhcharles@aol.com

By Jean H Charles

The Organization of American States (OAS) voted on a resolution this week to apply the warning given at the Lima Summit of the Americas on April 17, 2018, to Venezuela. The United States is looking to have Venezuela kicked out of the OAS. But it needs the yes votes of two-thirds of the 34 members or 22 members.

It got only 19 members that go along with the proposition of excluding Venezuela from the international institution. There were four no votes: Venezuela, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Bolivia. Haiti abstained from voting. It still falls within the list of enemies of the United States for not fully supporting the American position. As such, Haiti was not invited to the cocktail reception held recently at the White House by Vice President Mike Pence.

Haiti these days has to make some significant choices. Should it stick to supporting the Bolivarian Revolution of Chavez, continued by Nicholas Maduro? Should it revert to China like its neighbor the Dominican Republic that asked Taiwan to recall its ambassador so the Chinese Ambassador can take residence in Santo Domingo?

In addition to the so called Friends of Haiti that include the United States, France, Spain and Canada, the island nation has developed a special relationship with Cuba and Venezuela.

Cuba is significant in helping Haiti to deal with its health issues. This year commemorates 20 years of collaboration of the Cuban medical corps in manning some 54 hospitals in the cities and the countryside of Haiti. But for this medical assistance, the health indices in Haiti would have been much lower and much more catastrophic for its population stricken by cholera brought into the country by the United Nations.

Cuba has some 1,500 medical staff on duty in Haiti, including 344 doctors providing some 14 million medical consultations in its statistics for 2010, 207,000 surgical operations, 45,000 vision recoveries and providing literacy skills to some 165,000 Haitian people.

In the energy field, the assistance of Venezuela has been determinant. Through the PetroCaribe funds, Haiti receives gasoline at a preferential rate, with part of the payments for monthly shipment of gasoline to be repaid in 25 years at a very low rate of interest. In fact, the remittance from PetroCaribe is today in Haiti the object of a special scrutiny because these funds may have been used by past governments as a piggy bank for political or personal use instead of nation building projects.

In addition, cities like Cape Haitian, Gonaives and many others receive direct assistance from Venezuela in funding and manning the energy plants in these metropolitan areas.

The Jovenel Moise government is taking the position that the support of Venezuela in the past is pre-eminent enough to disagree with Uncle Sam in terms of its international position vis a vis the government of Venezuela.

The admiration of Haiti for Venezuela is reciprocal. The Bolivarian government of Venezuela at the occasion of the 214th year of independence said of Haiti: “Haiti has always been an example of libertarian principles and advocacy and equality. The perseverance and the revolutionary character of its people continue to be a model and an example for America and for the world.”

What are the issues? Is the Maduro government so bad, that it rightfully deserves the whipping of the international community? The spectacle of thousands of Venezuelan citizens trying to leave their country for Columbia, Guyana or the Dominican Republic is an indication that the hospitality mat in Venezuela is not comfortable. It is a divided country, with the partisans of Maduro accusing the opposition of disloyalty in trying to kill the economy of the country.

I have not visited Venezuela yet. But I am always intrigued by the superficial nature of the citizens of Venezuela, in particular the women of Venezuela, who have the highest rate of cosmetic surgery in the region. This practice denotes a lack of self assurance in their own self. Is Venezuela a country or a nation?

Is Chavez and by extension Maduro trying to build a nation out of Venezuela in spite of the opposition and the ire of the government of the United States. As a citizen of Haiti, I know enough about those so called revolutionaries that promise a better future for their people and end up putting them in an abyss much deeper than the position ante.

Francois Duvalier and his son Jean Claude Duvalier spent 30 years destroying the economy, the culture and the ethos of the Haitian people in the name of the Duvalier Revolution.

When they left, Haiti endured another 30 years of the so called Democratic Revolution led by Jean Bertrand Aristide, Rene Preval, Michel Martelly and the present government, with not much to show for results in terms of hospitality for the Haitian people. The young ones as well the old ones are leaving en masse for a better future to Chile, Brazil, the United States, Canada, the Dominican Republic and The Bahamas.

As such, I am suspicious of a revolution where the citizens are leaving in droves out of their country. The people, as the birds, stay where they can build their nests in peace and in security. I remember some ten years ago when the PetroCaribe program came along, the United States was against such a project. I wondered then why the American government should be so inimical to a project that promises so much for the benefit of the citizens of the countries that go along with the Chavez project.

It may have been good for some countries, but for Haiti it was a gold mine, misused by those in power for their benefit to the detriment of the people of the country. Maduro has been re-elected for another five years in an election that the international community has declared fraudulent and undemocratic. Is the election fraudulent or is it the lack of coordination of the opposition to present a candidate that would engage the voters to leave the Bolivarian Revolution for a better political scheme?

The negotiation in the Dominican Republic between the opposition and the government did not bring expected results of conciliation for a coalition government. Haiti, which started the true Bolivarian revolution in December 1816 in helping Bolivar to receive arms, support and funds to lead the struggle to free the countries of Latin America, including Venezuela from Spanish rule and from slavery, should take over where the talks have failed in Santo Domingo.

The Jovenel Moise/Lafontant government being the chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has the unique opportunity to lead the way with Haiti’s emancipator mission by proposing to use Port au Prince and its welcome mat in re-inviting the antagonists to meet and discuss in Haiti. They will do so at Haiti’s expense until they can agree on a coalition government that would reassemble the people of Venezuela in a nation building project that will use the immense natural and human resources of Venezuela for the benefit of its people.

As such, Haiti will regain its mighty role of nation as the light on the hill for all people in this world; this, I propose, should be the position of the Haitian government.

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