Interview with Gerard R. Latortue
Speaking at the recent Florida International Trade and Cultural Expo in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, former Prime Minister of Haiti Gerard R. Latortue sat down with the National Weekly to discuss elections and Haiti’s economic future.
What would you say is the general state of democracy in Haiti?
I would say it’s a joke, but at the same time I have to recognize our progress in freedom of the press. Among the Caribbean, we have the most radio stations and newspapers. And journalists today can say whatever they want. It’s a long way from 2004, since Aristide. As I noted in my presentation, all the murdered journalists were killed prior to 2004, like Jean Dominique and Brignol Lindor. Then, nobody could get the truth about who killed them. So if we look a democracy only in terms of freedom of the press, we pass with flying colors.
But democracy is not only freedom of the press. We need free elections. Unfortunately in Haiti we haven’t reached that point. Whether we’re organizing a book club or carnival, everybody wants to dominate the process, to select their choice.
How important is the Haitian Diaspora to the democratic process?
Well, I was the first from the Diaspora to return to Haiti as Prime Minister, so I can’t say Haiti ignores the Diaspora. But they can play politics also, look for favors. When I was Prime Minister, I knew many from the Diaspora who came to see me, and nine out of 10 were looking for quick money. I’m not for that.
But the Diaspora can make very good contributions to Haiti, from direct aid to their families, to support for education and housing. And I hope we soon can give the vote to the Diaspora. They know how to select the best candidate, perhaps better that those living in Haiti, because they are not looking out for their own interests, but for the best person.
There have been questions about the allocations of Red Cross and other institutional funds after the 2010 earthquake. Where do you think the money went?
I want to know too! We talk about corruption in our country, but corruption at the international level is much worse. For example, the U.S. or EU gives some money to the region, but they pretend the Haitians – or Jamaicans, or Guyanese – are corrupt and don’t want them to manage their funds, so they give them to UNDP (United Nations Development Program). The UNDP takes 13 percent commission, and because the commission depends on whatever is spent, whatever locally cost $10, they pay $100, because it’s better to get 20 percent of $100. And they will send us “experts” – I don’t know what “experts” mean in their jargon – and pay them thousands of dollars. I call them the “Lords of Poverty,” because they use the poverty of our countries to make money. So the money that was given to Haiti did not go to Haiti. In CARICOM we have to start raising questions about these practices. Aid is killing all the local initiatives, and it is local initiatives that will make the big difference.