Haiti's politicians in the lower chamber are paid close to $125,000 to act as guard dogs for the ruling elites' interests
The French original of Franck Seguy's article "Près de cinq millions pour un chien de garde" is translated by Stanley Lathan for HLLN, with the permission of Mr. Seguy. When you read it, you'll understand why Ezili's HLLN considered it important to translate this essay for our English speakers. For the literal meaning, consult the French original.
Close to $125,000 to act as guard dog for the ruling elites' interest by Franck Seguy
[Près de cinq millions pour un chien de garde by Franck Seguy]
Barely a day goes by with Haiti not being mentioned in the world media. Invariably, especially in the European and North American press, Haiti is branded as “one of the poorest countries in the world” or “the poorest country of this hemisphere.”
And yet! Of the money extracted from the toil of the Haitian laborer, the bourgeois- bigshots are able to pay handsome salaries to the members of the Chamber of Deputies (House of Congress), whose fundamental job is to act as the guard dog of their interests. See the table below:
The cost of one Haitian deputy in Parliament to the Haitian workers (in US dollars)
First installation stipend - $ 2,750Not included in this table is the $US200 to 250 thousand dollars (8 to 10 million gourdes) that each member of the Chamber administrates in their respective districts, used mostly as pork barrel to enhance their political fortunes. This, in a country where the industrial salary of the Haitian worker is a mere 70 gourdes (22 cents an hour) or US$1.70 per day.
Car purchase - $15,750
Monthly salary - $2,750
Monthly stipen - $925
Telephone stipend - $250
Car fuel stipend - $250
Allocation for a second residence - $6,250
Office expenses allocation (in province) - $3,750/per year
Personal office expenses allocation - $1,875
Agent of security and driver - $625
Stipend for Departmental celebrations - $875
Fourteenth month - $2,750
Expense allocation for Hurricane season 2008 - $2,250
As can be seen in the table above, it would take a Haitian worker over a century of working 12 hours a day to make as much money as that allocated in one year to just one of these 99 guard dogs (the Haitian legislature comprises 99 deputies and 30 senators). That is the status quo reality being perpetrated on Haiti by the ruling elite.
And then a curious event of historical proportion happened: a bourgeois of Petionville, himself a guard dog in that chamber of dogs, realized in 2007 that this salary of 70 gourdes was simply indecent and scandalous. He introduced a bill in which he proposed to his colleagues to raise the minimum salary to 200 gourdes or the equivalent of US $5.00 a day (about .63 U.S. cents an hour.)
It took nearly two years of epic struggle for a bill to finally be voted upon in the Chamber and passed in May of 2009 fixing the minimum salary at 200 gourdes per day. But by the 13th of that same month, one of the powerful associations of the elite, the Association of Haitian Industrialists (ADIH), of whom the Chamber of Guard Dogs is meant to be a wholly owned subsidiary, declared its outrage against this insolent mutiny and warned that it would order its alpha guard dog-in-chief, who resides in the national palace, and is also the resident veterinarian-in-charge of the proper behavior of the lesser 99 guard dogs, to immediately vaccinate them against this rabies-like dangerous disease (otherwise known as decency) that would have them bite the hand that feeds them.
President Rene Preval (guard dog in chief)) immediately took it upon himself to cajole and threaten his lesser dogs back into their proper role. That is how on the 4th of August they amended their own bill to readjust the minimum salary at 150 gourdes per day. (*Ezili Dantò's Note - Haiti's Parliament re-adjusted again, in September 2009 and lowered the minimum salary to Preval's demand of just 125 gourdes per day (or, $3 per day/ .38 cents an hour.)
The lesson to be learned from this masquerade is that the proletariat can never count on the goodwill of any bourgeois institution to satisfy their just expectations for a decent living wage. This is class warfare and is as old as humanity. Unlike regular warfare between two armies where eventual cessation of hostilities and peace can be achieved, the relationship between the proletariat and the capitalist owners will remain strictly antagonistic.
That is why the bourgeoisie mobilizes every means at its disposal to suppress the just aspirations of the working class: the law and its dispensers, all instruments of authority (president, parliament, judges, police, and occupation forces), and most important the institutions in charge of disseminating bourgeois ideology such as schools, universities, churches and, not least, the press. Indoctrination and manipulation of perceptions are an essential component in maintaining repressive control. All this, of course, on top of the inherent oppressive control that its position as employer allows it to maintain and ruthlessly use against the worker.
When students demonstrate in solidarity with workers against the established order, it is qualified as violence by the press while the daily violence perpetrated on the working class of the country by paying them wages that do not allow them to feed or shelter their families is qualified as benevolence. The Delmas police commissioner, Carl-Henri Boucher, swiftly arrested two young men who tried to show solidarity with striking workers on August 10, 2009. The two, Guerchang Bastia, 21 years old, a student in Sociology and member of a revolutionary student association ASID, and Patrick Joseph, 36 years old, of Komite pou Relèvman Divivye (KRD). They have been detained without charge and denied their fundamental right to counsel as required by law. No visitors, either family or human rights groups, have been allowed.
These two young men brought the revolutionary spirit of Boukman to the 21st century. Since the beginning of June, the students of the Universite D’Etat D’ Haiti, have made common front with the Haitian proletariat and have regularly taken to the streets to support the increase of the minimum wage to 200 gourdes. They understand the reality of this great social struggle and their dedicated involvement has awaken many citizens of good will to the magnitude of this social upheaval. The occupation forces, given the deceptive acronym MINUSTHA, along with the National Police have reacted with brutal repression to the extent of gassing the teaching hospital of the university without regard for the sick who had to flee the facility or suffocate.
Is this the Haiti that Bill Clinton has given his blessings to? He has been given the official title of “Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations to Haiti.” But it could very well have been Plenipotentiary Pro-Consul of the New World Order to promote the hegemony of multi-national corporations over Haiti. This, in effect, is the new colonialism of centuries past in a barely more palatable packaging.
Upon further meditation, I could not help wonder what fate the likes of Bill Clinton have in store for these two young militants, especially Patrick who has gone on a hunger strike. After all, the national police or the occupation forces are merely the enforcers of this new world order of which Bill Clinton is a paragon. And while they talk of Haiti being the poorest nation in the hemisphere whose people’s labor is not worth more than 70 gourdes/day, they pay one of their minor subservient guard dogs in the Chamber of Deputies US$9,250.00 (or, 370,000 gourdes) per month.
It was exactly 218 years ago, on August 14th 1791, that Boukman, one of our valiant rebel for Liberty, spoke these words at the revolutionary political congress he assembled in Bwa Kayiman: “…The God of the Whites demands barbarities for offerings, ours demands good deeds. Our God who craves justice demands vengeance. He will guide our arms and help us. Throw away the images of the God of the whites that thrives on our tears and suffering and listen to Liberty that speaks to our hearts…”
In the time of Boukman, the colonial institutions, Catholic Church foremost, taught our people to accept their miserable faith in exchange for a place in heaven, while the slave masters were acquiring enormous fortunes off of slave labor. Such riches that Haiti was called “the Pearl of the Antilles” while its main population languished in bestial slavery.
Just as these conditions created men like Boukman, the new form of neo-colonial bondage through debt and below subsistence level salaries enforced with barbaric brutality will create thousands of new Boukman and Dessalines in 2009. The spirit of Boukman is alive and well.
Let me now pay a final homage to Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) author of the celebrated “Wretched of the Earth” and “Black Skin, White Mask” among others who reminded us with eloquent words what our valiant barefoot ancestor warriors taught us with their deeds: “Violence bows only to a greater violence.”
The time has come for our battle cry of LIVE FREE OR DIE to once again resonate.