At Harris Bricken, we keep close tabs on what is happening around the world, and we know that our friends and clients do, as well. We are happy to provide this podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench, where we look at the world by talking with business leaders, innovators, service providers, manufacturers, and government leaders around the world.
In Episode #70, we are joined by Robert Fatton Jr., the Julia A. Cooper Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs in the Department of Politics at the University of Virginia and one of the foremost experts on Haiti.
- Prof. Fatton’s path from Port-au-Prince to Charlottesville
- Our guest’s experience as a sportscaster during Haiti’s 1974 World Cup appearance and how he became a Real Madrid fan
- Why the Haitian Revolution is a fundamental event in world history, which shapes Haiti to this day
- The 1915-1934 U.S. occupation of Haiti
- The mysteries surrounding the recent assassination of President Jovenel Moïse
- Haiti’s challenges ahead
- Listening, and watching recommendations from:
- The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution by C. L. R. James
- Avengers of the New World by Laurent Dubois
- Exterminate All the Brutes, a documentary series by acclaimed filmmaker Raoul Peck
- Rhum Barbancourt
- The Side of Haiti You’ve Never Seen
- Barbancourt over ice cream (H/T Joe Callahan)
We’ll see you next week for another exciting and informative episode when we sit down with Zoe Lee, Taiwan’s pioneering cannabis lawyer!
This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.
Fred Rocafort 0:07
Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other. The importance on the global stage of developing and developed nations waxes and wanes, while consumption and interconnectedness steadily increase all the while laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. But how do we make sense of it all? Welcome to Global Law and Business hosted by Harris Bricken International Business attorneys. I’m Fred Rocafort.
Jonathan Bench 0:37
and I’m Jonathan Bench. Every week, we take a targeted look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of international experts. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We cover the important, the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.
Fred Rocafort 1:02
We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.
Today we are delighted to welcome Robert Fatton Jr, the Julia a Cooper professor of government and foreign affairs into the Department of politics of the University of Virginia. Professor Fatton is a native of Port-au-Prince Haiti, and today’s podcast will focus on this Caribbean nation. Professor Fatton, welcome to the show.
Robert Fatton Jr 1:40
Well, thank you for having me for pleasure.
Fred Rocafort 1:42
To get things started, please tell us more about yourself. I’m particularly intrigued as to the path that took you from Port-au-Prince to Charlottesville in Virginia.
Robert Fatton Jr 1:52
Well, it’s a rather complicated story. Obviously, I was born in Haiti, my whole family is from Haiti. We have roots from different groups in Haiti, slavery is part of my heritage, but at the same time, I’m also a descendant of what used to be called during the colonial period. There’s African Shi That is to say, free people of color. And that is basically people of my color light skin in Haiti, we call them and we still call them new leaders. So I have French blood, African blood, you name it, I have it. When François Duvalier came to power in 1957, my family decided to exit the country. Because of the dictatorship. My father was a businessman. So we left for a few years, we were we went to live, actually, for a year in Paris and four years in Spain. But then, I came back to Haiti, finish my studies in Haiti High School studies, I got my baccalaureate. Actually, I was at the so called Lisa francais in Haiti. And after Dubai Galleria, I went to Paris to the University of Paris. I started studying economics, but then for all kinds of personal reasons, I moved to the United States, got my degree in Political Science and eventually a PhD. And once I got the PhD, the question was whether I was going to go back to the country or whether I was going to stay in the United States. And given the political situation around that time. The decision was that that would stay. And then I applied for a job. And then I got one at the University of Virginia. So I started teaching DVS in 1981, the fall of 1981. So I’ve been here for 40 years, actually.
Fred Rocafort 4:01
Was it during your time in Spain as a young man, but you became a Real Madrid fan? Or or did that? Did that happen later?
Robert Fatton Jr 4:08
Oh, I was a controller. Yeah. And so I was living in Barcelona. So I just for the heck of it. I decided I was going to be as really a maniac when it comes to to football, I mean, soccer. And when I was young, you know, when Haiti qualified for the World Cup, and that’s the only time we qualified for a World Cup. I was actually a sportscaster. And I remember being in the stadium, and the hysteria that crystallize when Haiti finally made it to the World Cup. So that is something I mean, if you know anything about Haiti football is absolutely passion. And I’m very much passionate about football I want to oh I have my Madrid.
Fred Rocafort 5:04
I’m a big fan so that jumped at me not just today I saw one of your interviews while I was doing my research and I and I did notice that it’s been with me since but um hey we welcome we welcome everyone to the podcast.
Robert Fatton Jr 5:19
You must be a big Barcelona fan.
Fred Rocafort 5:22
I am a big Barcelona fan so so it is it’s painful to see the scarf but.
Robert Fatton Jr 5:27
You had a very bad day today with Messi God. Without that’s okay. I did go to the Barca games. And I was very young. And they accepted me in a very weird way because I would go to the stadium, and I would wear white jersey, you can imagine so, and they called me a loco, the Crazy boy. But that’s a long time ago.
Jonathan Bench 5:55
Now Haiti was tragically in the news recently following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. We certainly want to get to that. But we would like to set the stage by looking back at haiti’s history. While there may or may not be much of a connection between contemporary events and the Haitian Revolution, the latter was truly remarkable event for the Americas and indeed the world. What do you think everyone should know about the revolution? And does it impact really reverberate to today?
Robert Fatton Jr 6:20
Yes, it’s a fundamental event actually, in world history. Haiti was the first and only slave society if you wish, where the slaves revolted and successfully did so they establish, you know, a nation Haiti. And the revolution started around the late. Well, 1791 is the date we Haitians think is the important date because there is a ceremony where people are involved in Voodoo, and they decide that they are going to revolt against French colonialism. But it was a very complicated history before we got our independence, because there were many strange alliances. I mean, you have to realize that Santo Mang, as it was called them was the richest colony of the French Empire. It was basically a country dominated by slaves, you had about close to 500,000 slaves, about 30,000. Also, white colonists and about something like 30,000 for sheep, and therefore she is not just people of my love of mice, skin color, you add, actually, blacks were previously slaves who were part of the philosophy and one of the bar, dogmatic figure is one of the key leaders of the Haitian Revolution Toussaint Louverture, who was born as a slave. Got his freedom became an actually became a slave owner. And then he became the main leader of the revolution till is captured by French troops in 1802. And Toussaint, is about a dogmatic figure because you have all of the contradictions, if you wish, of the colonial society, slaves, free colored people, so called, and within the white society to you had the hierarchy or the so called grumbler, and pretty blonde, the gobbler was really the plantation owner with vast plantations and a lot of slaves, and the T blah, may have had a plot of land, he may have had a few slaves, but that was really the bottom of the white society. So when the slaves decided to revolve there to get into alliances with the British, with the Spaniards, but then, as a result of the French Revolution, slavery was abolished in 1794, I think. And at that point, the Haitians were revolting, decided, well, the French side is the better side, precisely because there is no longer any slavery. And that required a fight against the white colonists, who were not prepared to surrender, slavery, and eventually, by the late 1700s, the slaves of the upper end Toussaint declares himself in 1801 as the governor of Saint Domingue, but Toussaint still French, and then also in his mind is still French. He’s a French General, that’s one of the contradictions. And you end when Napoleon comes to power, initially to say once deal with Napoleon. And by that, I mean to say right through Napoleon that he wants, essentially, full autonomy of Haiti or Saint Domingue at that time, it was called, but at the same time that he wanted full autonomy, you wanted to be part of the French community, as it were, and Napoleon would have none of it. And Napolean ultimately decided that he was going to restore slavery. So that led to a series of events, he would neutralize to capture him, and then send him to friends, or to default the room in the northeast of France near the city of Busan. So Toussaint would die there in 1803. But the intention of Napoli Oh, was that if you captured Toussaint, well, the revolution would be decapitated. And the French would take over again, Haiti and slavery would be reestablished. And one of the interesting things is that that idea of Napolean to use Haiti as a base was quite important in what became known as the Louisiana Purchase. And many Americans don’t know much about it. But the Louisiana Purchase was, to large degree a consequence of what was going on in Haiti, because the idea of Napoleon was that we’ll stop in Haiti, we established slavery, and then we are going to move to Louisiana. And clearly that didn’t work. The French were defeated, the army was decimated, and the United States under Jefferson, that got the Louisiana Purchase, which essentially doubled the territory of the United States. So one of the consequences of the Haitian Revolution is really the expansion of the territorial continent, if you wish of the United States. But to go back now to Haiti, when to send was captured and sent to friends, new leaders emerge, they were already there, but they really became the key figures of the Haitian Revolution. And there are three of them. The main one is Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who’s the founder of Haiti, and then you had Pétion. And you had Christophe, Dessalines, called himself an emperor. And that also gives you some understanding of the kind of authoritarian feature that we find in Asian politics, more safely, Haitian leaders have had that kind of Messianic vision of themselves. And that is from the very beginning Toussaint was governor for life when he did his constitutional weight, you know, one, and Dessalines was an emperor. And the constitution allowed him as it were, to, to pick his successor. So you have a tradition of authoritarianism. At the same time, you have the tradition of freedom, because clearly, the revolution was about freedom. It was about the abolition of slavery. And that is a significant event in world history, because as I’ve said, this is the only country that managed to establish a black nation in a white supremacist order. So that is very important. It’s really probably the most radical revolution of the times in so far as race was no longer going to be the category that would allow people to be enslaved. And that’s a significant departure from what existed at the time, because they will order was basically a white supremacist order. And Haiti suffered as a consequence of that clearly because he was from the very beginning to power your nation. In other words, the major powers did not particularly enjoy the idea that you will have a black nation. Let alone that slaves could have been successful at the revolution, given that slavery was fundamental to the world economy at the time, and fundamental to the United States, and in particular, the southern part of the United States. So that was a major challenge to white supremacy major challenge to some of the structures of that world order at the time. And the response basically, was to treat Haiti as a nation. And it wasn’t always the case. And if you look at Jefferson, for instance, very interesting dealings with Haiti, Jefferson, at one point during the revolution for his own strategic interest, sent weapons to the Haitian revolutionaries, because he wanted the weakening of the French. But once Haiti became an independent nation, he was no longer really to be treated with that kind of gestures, if you wish. And there was basically kind of an embargo imposed on Haiti, those there were certain economic active activities that persisted. And it sounds like this alleen actually wanted good relations with the United States, even road to Jefferson, telling him well, I can understand essentially, that you’re afraid of Haiti, because the revolution could spread. And that could affect your interest. But don’t worry, we are not going to spread any revolution. Well, Jefferson never answered that. And the United States basically treated Haiti as a power your nation. And the United States recognizes, hey, the only and link all and I think that was in 1862. So what what we may get from the Haitian Revolution is that it was extremely radical for the time, it abolished slavery. It was the first and only slave revolution that was successful. And it operated once he became independent in a very hostile environment. And it created certain key opportunities for the United States like the Louisiana Purchase, and the decline of French power in the Americas.
Jonathan Bench 17:34
And so what does this history mean for a contemporary Haitian? Let’s say, how do they view history? How do they view themselves through the lens of history through what they’ve accomplished in terms of national identity, and also relationships with with the rest of the world?
Robert Fatton Jr 17:52
Well, Haitians are obviously quite proud of the revolution, as you know, for his mythical element in if you wish, Haitian culture is key to understanding the Haitian psyche. Haitians are extremely nationalistic and proud. Now, on the other hand, there are things that undermine that kind of nationalism, because Haitian leaders have always had kind of peculiar interests to develop relationship with foreign powers. And this is something that has persisted up to this day. And what I mean by that is that Haitian society was not egalitarian. In spite of the fact that the revolution abolish slavery, you clearly had fundamental class and color divisions. The class divisions were fairly obvious. The top military officers after the revolution, they received the best land and in a disproportionate amount. So there was a fundamental division between the rulers, if you wish the military, generals and officers and the rest of the population, that division as remained in the division was, to some extent, a product not only of the Haitian leaders, corporate interests, but also because of the world economy if he was to survive economically, at the time it needed to reestablish the plantation economy. Now, at the time, the plantation economy required forced labor or even slave labor All of the Haitian leaders, whether it be Toussaint, Dessalines, or Pétion or Christophe, they wanted to establish what was called in Haiti or called. And that’s basically very coercive form of compelling the newly freed slaves to stay on the plantation to produce sugar and to cut, you know, sugar cane. And not surprisingly, the newly frayed freed slaves would have none of it. So what happened is that they attempt to re establish the plantation economy was a failure, because the paisans decided that they would withdraw from that economy, that they would have their own plot of land. And they wouldn’t have anything to do with the state, because the state was a coercive predatory structure in their view, and rightfully so. So you’ve had that tension between the rulers. And at the time, what you might call the peasantry, the vast majority of Haitians, and you’ve had that division. But then you also have divisions in terms of color, between, you know, light skin, Haitians, who are in a minority, and the majority, which is black, although black in the Constitution of Haiti is everyone who was in Haiti. But the color issue was important and remained so because the light skin, Haitians have ended, even under the colonial period, to have more privileges and advantages than the blacks. So up to this day, the light skinned tend to dominate the private sector and the commercial sector. Now that this is not to say that you don’t have if you wish, a black bourgeoisie, you do have it. But for political purposes, especially when you have elections, they call it a question can be reasserted for the benefit of certain politicians. So you can isolate the minority, and force them if you wish, outside of the political system. But the color question is important. I think it’s personally, it is a cover to mask other things. Because if you look at I mean, it points as if you were to look at the Duvalier regime, it was a black regime, it was one of the most exploitive regime in Haiti. So for me, the color question is a mask, hiding other things, and serving the interests of certain political actors? The class questions remain a fundamental one in Haiti, the wealth is very unevenly divided, about 5% of the population essentially controls 90% of the wealth in Haiti. And you have a very small, if you wish to call it that the middle class, and the rest is rather poor. And you also have extreme poverty.
Fred Rocafort 23:26
Unfortunately, the time constraints of the podcast like this, do not allow us to go into all the detail, frankly, that the history of a country like Haiti merits, there is just so much there. But before we turn to recent events, there, there’s one facet of the history that I that I would like to ask you about, and more than anything to help inform our listeners who might not be aware of this. But what about us interventions in Haiti? I know during your last answer, you alluded to these relationships that Asian leaders have developed at times, right, this this interest in developing relationships with outside powers, I wonder if that’s part of the story. But in any case, I would love to hear more about the US interventions in Asian political life and the consequences that those interventions have had.
Robert Fatton Jr 24:19
Well, the major intervention, the first major intervention really occurred in the early part of the 20th century, the United States occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. That was not just a matter of, to put it crudely, the United States meddling into its own quote, unquote, backyard. And you had the Monroe Doctrine, which was quite important in justifying that intervention because to some extent, the US was fearful that German Not all French interest would be preponderant in Haiti. And they wanted to keep the Caribbean in their own zone of influence. That’s one element, the United States that become really a major power at that time. The second element is that they wanted stability. And this is a word that we hear continuously on the part of the international community and the United States. And Haiti had had severe political instability at that time. It was partly caused by the debt that he had accumulated and into debt that was, to some extent connected to an earlier debt. And we haven’t talked about it, but I’ll just mention it because you hear a lot about it. That’s the so called French indemnity. And the French indemnity was the debt that he incurred towards the French, in 1825. The French sent gunboats in the era of, of Bo bass, threatening the government of Ye, and if ye was not to repay the debt, then the likelihood would have been a new form of direct French control a new colonial establishment. So why he was compelled to a large degree, to accept to pay that indemnity, which was kind of a weird thing you defeat someone comes back and tells you, I’m going to defeat you. And you have to pay for afford any damages to slave owners. But besides that, it was a very important amount of money, it’s considered to be now the equivalent of something like $25 billion. Now, this is where the interesting part comes. It’s not just French threat to the regime. It’s also the corporate interests of ye and the rulers in Haiti, the dominant actors in Haiti, because why was fearful, and he was not the only one, it started around 1810, they were fearful that if the French came back, then the property of the dominant groups in Haiti would be seized again by the French colonialists. And this is something that you know what, so paying the debt was very opportunistic, it was very harmful to Haiti. But on the other hand, it secured the property of those groups. So you have that kind of opportunistic convergence of interest between those ancient rulers and the French. Now, when the United States come in 1915, there is the debt and it’s part of repaying the indemnity. And it’s also bought, as I’ve said, of the growing power of the United States, and before the occupation, per se, the US and said Marines, they seized the Central Bank of Haiti took whatever was left there, it’s, it’s calculated something like half a million dollars, they took it and brought it to Citibank in New York. So that was clearly a way to assert American power that the Haitians would have to repay their debt to the United States. By 1915. The situation Haiti is really very unstable, partly because of that event, but also because of different regional revolts in the country.
And the event that serves as an excuse for the occupation is the killing in 1915 of the president Guillaume Sam and Guillaume Sam was essentially taken by a mob and killed that set all kinds of political blots among the Haitian political police political class, but the United States intervener said enough of that we are going to intervene, and the United States became a de facto colonial power. There was a government, several governments but they were truly in the hands of the United States. And that occupation, was also very instrumental in the establishment of centralized power in bow press. Prior to the arrival of the US, the country was divided into two provinces, obviously pull requests was still dominant, but it wasn’t, as we call it now. Larry public double press and you The politicians coming from the north from the south with their own militias actually, to claim power in boltless. With the arrival of United States that stops, the resistance to American to the American occupation was also brutally ended by the Marines. And there was a significant amount of not surprisingly, so the time racism in the way the American Marines treated the Haitians. Most of them actually came from the south. And Wilson was the president at the time was sovereign. So that kind of relationship was one that truly characterize relations between the American occupiers and the Haitians. And it provoked resistance. But it also generated patterns of accumulation. Because the people who became the presidents and the senators, many of them were essentially picked by the United States. And they were given power and some privileges by virtue of aligning themselves with the with the US.
Fred Rocafort 31:16
Definitely a lot of a lot of threads that we could pull there. But let’s turn to more recent events, specifically, the assassination of President Moyes. What is the context? Because we’re really talking about an event that occurred a few weeks ago, what is the context in which this estimation took place? To the extent that we know what were the proximate causes of the assassination? And sort of turning back a little bit? Do we see a connecting thread to some of Haiti’s previous history? I some of the things you mentioned, right assassinations taking place, right before the US occupation, these autocratic tendencies of some of the leaders, there would seem to be some connections but but that might be more optics than anything else would really appreciate your thoughts on this assassination. And again, the context in which it took place.
Robert Fatton Jr 32:13
While the assassination was really rather unique in the sense that the last assassination was the assassination that precipitated if you wish, the American occupation. So that’s more than a century ago. Haitian leaders who have been deposed are not deposed, or at least recently, through assassinations, they are given the opportunity if you wish to put it in those terms, to go to the airport, and get into a plane and fly into exile that happened, for instance, to Aristide twice, Iran, obviously to Robert Duvalier. And to some extent, when leisure is no longer popular, killing is not as not been a part of the recent history. So it’s a rather unique event. And it’s even more unique, because it took place under very mysterious circumstances. I mean, this is the president of Haiti. He is in his own private residence. It’s supposed to be secured. It’s supposed to have at least three perimeters of security. And the President is killed in his own bedroom. The security is nowhere to be seen, or if it was there, it clearly didn’t oppose the assailants. And then you have the rather peculiar combination of foreign meddling, if you wish, with Colombian mercenaries, with Haitian Americans in Miami, with a pastor of Asian American living in Miami, the funding apparently to place also true financial cooperation in Miami and the security agency that recruited supposedly those those mercenaries was in Miami. But most Haitians don’t believe actually, that the pastor fellow by the name of Christian Sano was not really the main failure behind the assassination. He was probably used by those who committed the crime and paid for the crime. And you have different stories circulating in Haiti. One is that the mercenaries got in the house. Who killed him? Now, if you read the Colombian press it actually now the Haitian press. The dominant narrative is that the Colombians didn’t kill the president. They arrived after the assassination of the President. And not only did they arrive after the assassination, but the left immediately they didn’t even pay attention to Jovenel Moïse was dead, and his wife who was injured, and it’s only a Haitian, police, individual by the name of Vladimir Legagneur arrived alone in the house, saw the wife of the President. She was injured her kids were taking care of her, and Legagneur says that he assumed that the President was dead, but he wasn’t sure. So he went to the bedroom and saw the president dead in a very nasty condition. So there are mysteries about who committed the crime. There are mysteries about who financed the crime. And finally, there’s a mystery as to who who would be benefiting from the assassination of Jovenel Moïse. And personally, I don’t see you benefit from it. Now, Jovenel Moïse was quite unpopular. He had many enemies. And his rule was very controversial in Haiti, he had been accused of embezzlement. There were massive protests two years ago, that essentially locked down the country that’s prior to the lock downs of COVID. And in the last year, he was running the country by decree, and there had been no elections.
The parliament was no longer existed. There were 10 senators left out of 30, who had been elected, but the Senate was also dismissed. So you add, as we call them in as a de facto president, because the vast majority of Haitians did not recognize him as a legitimate president. They argue that he was he had prolonged his stay in the presidency for a year. And that he was running the country by decree that he wanted also to change the constitution. Constitution illegally, there was supposed to be a referendum. And then it was supposed to be an election in September. And the election was seen as an illegitimate process by the Hatian opposition and by Hatian civil society. The argument here is that the electoral Council was handpicked by Jovenel Moïse. So it was going to essentially conduct fraudulent elections, and someone from Moise’s own party would be reelected. And the constitution was violated. So this is the context within which you understand the assassination of as I’ve said, it’s not at all clear to me that anyone would benefit from it. Now Moise had created enemies, and you hear now from his wife, for instance, and from his supporters, that he was killed by oligarchs, wealthy people, and essentially, what they call the Syrian Lebanese, a financial elite. And that, to me is also something that is rather paradoxical, because many of those people were actually supporters of juvenile movies when he was elected. And the main name that has been mentioned is a fellow by the name of blas, Dr. And if you were to watch the electoral campaign of Jovenel Moïse, in many instances, boo loss was next to him. So it’s not as if Jovenel Moïse movies was a poor guy. He came from very humble beginnings. But he was a wealthy fellow. He had been the president of the Chamber of Commerce in the north, and he was handpicked by the previous president martelly. So the idea that oligarchs would do it, it’s not impossible, but I don’t see what they would have gained from it. The only God still likes to ability to conduct their business, but there might have been contracts that were not signed, there might have been challenges to their their financial dominance with others in the oligarchy. So it’s a murky kind of environment. But at the moment, it’s very clear that it’s very unclear whether anyone could benefit from it. And the final twist is clearly that Moïse had said that last February, there was an attempted coup. And he had picked some of the members of the Supreme Court and send them into jail. They were eventually released at the time, most people assume that this was really some sort of fake kind of assassination attempt to put his adversaries in jail. But it may well be that he has a connection between that attempted assassination, which failed clearly. And the one that occurred on July 7. And one of the important persons in that kind of plot is a woman by the name of caulk, and she’s a Supreme Court member. And she had been mentioned in February. And now she’s one of the figures who is apparently in hiding. And the police want to arrestor because many of the Colombians and the Haitian Americans have declared that she was supposed to have become the president. And this is another twist to because there seems to have been two plots in one plot. The first plot, the one whereby that Supreme Court Justice, by the name of Kaku would have been president and apparently implied the kidnapping or the arrest of juvenile movies, but not his killing. And he would have been brought to the National Palace, you will have signed his resignation. And Madam Clerk, the Supreme justice would have become president. Now they clearly that didn’t happen. And clearly, the idea of kidnapping or arresting the President did not materialize, they killed them. And some people in the law, as it were, have said that it is only at the last moment that the decision to assassinate drove net movies is only at the last moment that that decision was taken to it’s a very mysterious and complicated story, and rather bizarre.
Jonathan Bench 42:50
So looking ahead, where do you see Haiti going from here clearly has enormous potential for tourism. What are some of the economic pathways available for the country? How do we make foreign companies that want to do business with Haiti feel secure in in what’s going on? Right? How long will it take to get the governance back? secure in a way that business leaders feel like Haiti is, is once again safe to do business?
Robert Fatton Jr 43:16
Well, the political crisis is really very significant. The government now is very weak, and it’s perceived by civil society and clearly by the opposition as illegitimate and they perceive it as a legitimate not only because there is no constitution functioning, there is no polyamid. But because the current prime minister was designated by Janelle muise, and initially he was marginalized by the international community. Because the current Foreign Minister of NY the name of pro Joseph had been picked by the international community to be the leader, and very solidly, the international community changed its mind and they said, No, it’s our yellow V will be designated by the president who should be prime minister. Now the designation of our RV even prior to his assassination was very controversial because there was no polymet and the President was running the country by decree. So now, while he is a de facto Prime Minister, he lacks legitimacy and civil society and the opposition are trying to find what they call a Haitian solution to Haitian problems. But that is a complicated business because the opposition is divided. and civil society is also divided. But there is an attempt to create an alternative structure. We To provisional president who would have a provisional Prime Minister, and that government would in turn establish the conditions for an election. But not immediately, they are talking about the transition, some of them AutoCAD transition of two years or a year. And on the other hand, you have our yellow, he says there is not going to be a transitional president, that I am the Prime Minister. And I am going to have elections fairly soon. Those two claims are not, we’re concealable. So you have that kind of tension. And then you have the international community, which so far as being very much behind our yellow. But it is not clear that this is going to continue, because that will depend on the internal situation in Haiti, on whether the opposition is going to be able to coalesce and compel or need to have a transitional government and a transitional president and a transitional Prime Minister who might not be lonely. So the situation is very complicated. But you need clearly conditions for elections. And at the moment, I just don’t see that those conditions are really there, you have a serious problem of security, you have gangs controlling you huge chunks of bold West and in some of the provinces too. And if you look at those gangs, they are in the business, of kidnapping of fighting each other, although there is an alliance, but they still fight each other for control over turf, in particular in the slums of Budapest, and you have about 2 million people there. So I think elections in boldness is really virtually impossible. It’s not only that the logistics, to have those elections are not in place. And thirdly, you have an electoral Council, that is completely legitimate in the eyes of most Haitians. So you will need a new electoral Council. But too often your electoral council would require very long negotiation between the different parties, the civil society, the government. So in spite of the fact that he has promised elections soon, I don’t see that happening. And if they were to happen, I think they would not resolve anything, I think they would exacerbate the current crisis, because whoever would be elected, would be immediately perceived as legitimate. So the crisis would continue to exist. So we have a very complicated transition to something that we have yet to really understand. And then you have, obviously, the the political and legal consequences of the investigations that are ongoing, related to the assassination of the President. And that is another explosive issue, whether we are going to really get to the bottom of of that assassination. Well, the the people who killed him are going to be found, and clearly whomever financed the assassination, whether that person or that group of person will be identified. So all of that is extremely complicated. In the last few days, there was an attempt to find a judge who would actually preside over the investigation. In other words, investigation is moving from us moved from the police, to the judicial system. And it’s only yesterday that they found a judge willing to do it, because the other judge said, Well, she’s too dangerous, basically. And that judge is a controversial judge because many people in Haiti seem as the judge of the party in power. Now, whether that’s true or not, is another question, but he’s in charge any other is very limited. Time according to the judicial system in Haiti, the investigation can last only for about three months. We’ve had already a month of investigation. And the situation is still very mysterious. And I don’t know if that is going to change. But it’s an explosive dossier. And that might exacerbate the current crisis, whether we find or we don’t find those who were behind the assassination.
Fred Rocafort 50:36
Such a fascinating conversation, just covering Haiti, we could go on. And unfortunately, again, the time doesn’t allow us to go into other areas, we would have loved to talk a little bit more about your work and including work that that’s not focused on Haiti. But before we sign off, we’d like to ask you for recommendations that you might have, for our listeners, they can be related to Haiti, but they don’t have to be.
Robert Fatton Jr 51:01
Yeah, well, though, a few books that are very important. If you want to understand the revolution, there is a classic, which is by CLR, James, who just called the Black shark, Uber, there are more recent books, there is a book by a colleague of mine, his name is Logan Dubois. It’s called The Avengers of the New World, which is also a more recent history of that revolution. There is on Netflix, actually something by Haitian seatsing cinematographer. And I forget the name, but it’s really the history of colonialism. It has been recently on Netflix, I think it’s still on Netflix, and I have seen your movie, but no, which is very embarrassing. But this is a very interesting story about what colonialism entailed, and the consequences of colonialism, not just for the economy of the colonial areas, but also about the structure of the world system, and the issue of race and racism. So it’s a very powerful, to some extent, very moving at the same time depressing story about that facet of world history.
Fred Rocafort 52:43
Excellent. Jonathan, what about you?
Jonathan Bench 52:46
I’m still in Olympics mode. And so I read an article, probably in the last week, and it’s about transgender Olympic athletes competing in women’s sports. It’s a desert news article from end of July. And it was interesting, because I’ve been curious about this, you know, I consider myself fairly athletic. And so I wanted to kind of get into the bedrock principles of what’s being argued about, and why and who’s arguing what is a great article, not a super long read, but very interesting. And I think the title was male to female transgender Olympic athletes impact women’s sports. So highly recommend that if you’re curious on on that topic. Fred, what do you have for us?
Fred Rocafort 53:31
So sticking to do the topic at hand, there’s a video on YouTube called the site of Haiti you’ve never seen this is basically a travel vlog, you know, by by a guy called by by two guys called Oscar with a K. And Dan shouldn’t be too hard to find on YouTube. But what I really enjoyed about it was the stunning images. You know, these guys, this is actually the second of their videos, the first video is more documenting their initial impressions, their their arrival. And it also does have some some pretty amazing visuals. But as they start to discover what the country has to offer, right, they go up into the mountains, surrounding Puerto Prince and the bees were just stunning. I, you know, I’m from the Caribbean myself, I’m from Puerto Rico. So I, I it didn’t surprise me that there is such beauty in Haiti, in principle, but to actually see, I mean, I just, I just had no idea. So it was it was fantastic, really, really stunning images. And then in that second episode, they are that second video, they, they, they go further into into the countryside and just amazing, amazing, beautiful images. So if you’re curious as to what Haiti looks like, and you’re looking for something relatively casual to look at, that would be a good starting point, and then hopefully move on to the more serious recommendations made by Professor Fatone. So, on that note, I’d like to thank you for this conversation. It’s been fascinating. I would have enjoyed it at any time. But especially in this moment when obviously Haiti has been in the news, it was it was very timely. So thank you. And hopefully we can have you back on the podcast before too long. And we can talk about some other topics and explore what has happened in Haiti in the interim.
Robert Fatton Jr 55:19
Well, thank you so much. And thank you for saying that. The country is absolutely a beautiful country with a very fascinating culture. And the tragedy is that when we talk about Haiti, we tend to concentrate on the kind of events that occurred in July, but the country itself is beautiful. And Haitians have kept that very good habit of laughing, even in horrible situations, we laugh. And when I talk about it in very depressing terms, I sometimes laugh, and people are very puzzled. And it’s kind of something that Haitians understand. If you don’t laugh, you’re going to be so depressed to see that beauty really destroyed by a terrible economy and a terrible political system. So we have to keep our sense of humor. And if you were to follow the Haitian radios, on YouTube, the humor is always there even when they are talking about an assassination which is very peculiar, but it is there and Creole is a very powerful language to express that humor. So there is a very different side. And I like to think also to finish that we have the best one in the world but that others might disagree.
Fred Rocafort 56:56
My experiences with Haitian room have been very positive. So limited us they are but they have been very, very positive. You are prompting me to do some further research into that area.
Robert Fatton Jr 57:08
You should be able to ball ball cool five star ball ball. Cool. That’s my recommendation.
Jonathan Bench 57:16
Thank you Professor Fatton, It’s been wonderful.
Robert Fatton Jr 57:18
Thank you so much. Bye bye.
Jonathan Bench 57:19
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