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CSMS Magazine Staff Writers

Politic has never been an effortless, uninvolved business. It has always been a complex undertaking that, at times, requires gut-wrenching decisions in order to reach the height of the golden mean. Having said that, to bring a holy agenda to bear and take with it faithful followers in ecstasy and crimson delight, the path to success MUST be paved with and fore-grounded in revolutionary principles. To do otherwise is to create a hollow show, hazardous and precarious, that will certainly threaten if not undo all together the set-out agenda. Too often, famous leaders are turned into little more than generals without soldiers after being perceived of deviating from their original tracks.

      In reactionary politics, all paths lead to Rome, as they say in Haiti. This is a shameful, eccentric and even bizarre justification for erratic, political behaviors that will unequivocally lead to the shrine of disaster. And if success is achieved, it can only be short-lived, for its opportunistic nature—unsecure, compromised and thoroughly infected—will never allow it to solidify.

     Traditional politicians, opportunists and dangerous, freckle the entire Haiti’s political landscape. Their insecurity and opportunisms constitute a major hindrance for the Haitian masses, longing for freedom and economic salvation. Their scheme, as bourgeois politicians, is to promise Jesus in Paradise, and once popular backing is achieved, the conquered masses are quickly used as bargaining ships in the middle of an endless ocean only to be forced overboard and left, alone, to grope their way, if they can, swimming ashore. Leslie Manigat, despite his personal accomplishments, is no different as a politician from the rest of the traditional pack.           

Leslie Manigat was no altar boy

Despite all the noise and the haste to rush to Manigat’s defense—crying his innocence in the Punta Del Este gathering—it would not have been a misjudgment à priori to say that Manigat—“our political science Professor”— would have approved the Punta Del Este resolution and perhaps executed the order from Papa Doc if he were the one heading the Haitian delegation—although years later as an act of contrition and in a attempted to salvage this embarrassing period at the spring of his political career, he timidly expressed his disapproval regarding  “political witch-hunts in Latin America,” including what happened to Cuba in 1962 , he wrote in Conflict Between Latin American Nation.

       The issue of Manigat’s connection to the Duvalier’s vote for the expulsion of Cuba in 1962 surfaced for the first time in 1986 when the late René Theodore, then General Secretary of PUCH (Unified Haitian Communist Party) made the claim. The news spread like a wild fire, a political storm hitting the Haitian media. Manigat then was resolute in clarifying his absence not only in Punta Del Este, but also within the rank of the Duvalier regime in 1962. He may have been right all along, for according several historical accounts that we were able to verify, including his profile posted on several websites, he was no longer a functionary for the regime in 1961. By then, he had already gone underground when his estranged friends threatened to sell him to the Papa Doc political butchery.     

       One fact remains certain: his political debut came to light at the ascendance of the Papa Doc regime, altruism that, perhaps, our Professor may wish it were not true. But as a “respectable” historian in his own right with an “acute” grasp of history with irrefutable factual recounts, rewriting his own history by blotting out this embarrassing period may be an awesome wish for the Professor, now at the twilight of his political career. It is a wish that will forever remain as such: Dream. But this would be a preconceived judgment, a political disservice with intellectual dishonesty to try to interpret or misinterpret what is now going on in the heart and mind of Leslie Manigat.

       In this magazine, we are not historians, and we never carry such pretense. But we can read and interpret historical facts. By 1960, Francois Duvalier had already consolidated his power, crushed the military hierarchy and silenced every voice from the traditional opposition. He was well on his way to amending the Haitian constitution and declaring himself president for life. Our Professor was still there as the Director of Institute of Higher Learning that he himself founded in 1958 at the request of Papa Doc, who saw in Manigat a skillful noirist ideologue who could brilliantly articulate noirism, a reverse form of racism directed against 50 years of mulatto dominance—politically and economically in Haiti.          

      So, Manigat was far from being an altar boy blindly submissive on the altar of Papa Doc. He, Serge Beaulieu and others were part of an elite group of noirist intellectuals bent on supporting the regime out of a firm conviction of creating a bourgeoisie beaurocratique at the expense of the status quo, using pigmentation as their creed in the quest for legitimacy in the eyes of a population overwhelmingly black. The Professor remained Director of the School until his personal life was threatened, falling victim of internal contradictions within a regime that wanted to use intellectuals to build cadres to secure its future but feared their political skills could go back to hunt it. It would be quite pathetic to believe by not being in Puntal Del Este is holistically sufficed to grant our Professor a clean bill of political health. His absence in the expulsion of Cuba can hardly be an exoneration, as some of the readers suggested. 

      In his many years in exile, Leslie Manigat held firm on his political conviction, never crossed over to the united front against the Port-au-Prince regime proposed by the exiled opposition. He roamed the world asking for one thing and one thing only: Let me be president of Haiti, for I and I alone have the grasp, the prestige and the political savvy to bring Haiti to the right path of democracy. His “shrewdness”—although fired up his political base—grounded on political brinksmanship eloquently described in four separate documents released in motion following the creation of his Rassemblement Des Démocrates Nationaux Progressistes (RDNP) in 1979 in Venezuela. “About the Political Moment,” “Grasping the Moment,” “The imperatives of the Moment” and “The Alternatives of the Moment” are the four documents that constitute for RDNP a kind of manifesto that the Professor required his followers to know by heart because to know them—by heart—is to know why opportunism is the quintessential paradigm in Haitian politics.    

      About a quarter of century later, the Professor clumsily tried to bring to bear this political philosophy when in January of1988, he emerged as the undisputed victor in an election that everyone called a charade. Only 10 percent of eligible voters took part, according to local and international observers. That happened in the aftermath of a massacre committed by the military junta on innocent voters just 2 months earlier during the real election set for November 29th 1987. Robert Futton in Haiti’s Predatory Republic brought a compelling argument. “Manigat agreed to participate in the election only when he was assured that the election was his….The Junta, feeling its back against the wall, saw in Leslie Manigat—a man with international credentials—the right person to help assuage their actions.”  And Futton went on to say that even those on the right who shared Manigat’s political views declined to participate in something they classified as a masquerade designed to provide legitimacy for Generals Henri Namphy and Williams Regala whose hands were clotted in blood following the massacre. Louis Dejoie, Gerard Gourgue, Sylvio Claude and Marc Bazin all declined to take part.

        If the Generals had their own hidden agenda, Manigat also had his own—rewriting the Papa Doc script of 1957 by playing the generals and outmaneuvering him. On the eve of the masqueraded election (January 17th ), suspicion grew, and on January 25th 1988, a week after the election, Manigat emphatically denied the assertion in an article written by New York Times jounalist, Joseph Treaster. Questioning him on the 1957 repeat, Manigat was blunt. ”Impossible,” he says. ”I am a democrat. I think the Haitian people need and deserve democracy. I’m not going to be in any case an instrument for the re-establishment of dictatorship in Haiti.” But Treaster did not seem buy it for he went to qualify the Professor as “ambitious, unpredictable and Machiavellian.”

       Four months later, Manigat attempted to do just that. “On Friday, June 17, 1988, President Manigat “retired” Lt. General Henri Namphy for having ordered the transfer of certain officers on June 14 in violation of “constitutional norms,” and placed him under house arrest.  President Manigat name Col. Morton Gousse the acting Commander-in-chief and promoted him to brigadier general.  General Carl Michel Nicolas, Army Chief of Staff, and General Wilthan Lherisson of the General Staff, were retired for “insubordination” because they had begun to implement certain measures that had been annulled by President Manigat, such as the transfer to Army Headquarters of Col. Jean-Claude Paul.” This comes from a report released by a UN commission on human rights in the late 1988.

       Manigat tried to justify his maneuverings in testimony presented to the Commission. According to the professor himself, “Lt. General Namphy had been preparing a coup against me, which had been planned to take place at a later date, and that it was not sufficient for me to place Namphy under house arrest….” He had to take other measures. So, “on Sunday, June 19 198 General Morton Gousse, with the approval of President Manigat, reassigned more than 30 officers in the Haitian police and armed forces.  Col. Grégoire Figaro, the Chief of Police was ordered into retirement and replaced by a moderate within the army who was formerly in charge of the traffic department.  Capt. Ernest Ravix, port director of St. Marc, was reassigned to a post in the remote Southern end of Haiti.  Col. Prosper Avril, who was inspector of the Presidential Guard and former member of the provisional government that replaced Jean-Claude Duvalier, was appointed Chief of the Haitian Army General Headquarters Office of Military Attaches.”  

      As we all know by now that Manigat’s failed badly. He took a gamble that did not work. Of course, all paths lead to Rome, but some paths prove to be more perilous than others. Had he succeeded, he would have claimed gleefully that he had to do what was necessary to retrieve the country form the brink. Politic is a risky business, and the end always justifies the needs.

       We understand the damage a possible Manigat connection with Punta Del Este could create at a time the Professor is trying to recreate history through his wife Mirlande Manigat, a “serious” contender in the next presidential election. This is also the time when Latin America is veering to the left. The last thing Manigat wants is to fall out of step with the new regional, political mood.

       But a change of regime is by no means a change of state, and what Haiti needs is a fundamental break with its last 100 years, clotted in shame, disaster and outright humiliation. Only then, we as Haitians can claim to be on the road to restoring our past glory and bringing salvation to our vast majority of the population living in hellish poverty.  More than 2 million Haitians scattered across the globe, and many of them with no hope of returning home, thousands were dead in shack infested waters trying to flee Duvalier brutal repression and economic starvation and millions more were internally displaced. Restoring the honor and dignity of past victims—Jacques Stephen Alexis and others—can only be done through a complete reversal of this current state of affairs, not by betting on traditional politicians competing among themselves in order to see who is best suitable to represent imperial powers’ strategic interests.

Note: As far as CSMS Magazine is concerned, this case is closed. We will no longer devote our precious time on senseless issues that have nothing to do with alleviating the plight of the Haitian masses.   

Also see Leslie Manigat and the ancillary findings (Part I) 

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