An Ocean Apart

Haitian leader returns black love to sender

Waters, for her part, while supportive of Cummings, remains hostile to Latortue's regime. "There are people who don't want to spend a lot of time on what they think is inevitable," says Waters. "There’s no big rift. We all support Haiti. But some of us are not going to let go of [the coup]. If they can get away with removing the democratically elected president in Haiti, they could do it anywhere."

Yet some supporters of Haitian democracy have been compromised by the fact that they were on Aristide's payroll. In March it was widely reported that Haiti, between 1997 and 2002, had spent over $7 million on lobbying in Washington, D.C. By comparison, The Washington Times noted that the Dominican Republic—Haiti's more populous neighbor—had spent only $1.18 million.

As a congressman, Ron Dellums fought for the rights of Haitians. When he left his seat, the former head of the Congressional Black Caucus turned professional lobbyist, collecting $571,326 from Aristide between 2001 and 2002. Meanwhile, a company headed by Hazel Ross-Robinson, wife of Randall Robinson, received $367,967. There was nothing illegal about either deal, but the money changing hands did lead to questions about how free those black leaders were to criticize Aristide.

Fraught relations between black leadership stateside and abroad is nothing new. Carol Moseley Braun was ousted from the Senate over her questionable relationship with Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. In 1996, Louis Farrakhan, fresh off the triumphant Million Man March, went on a world tour in which he endorsed several African dictators—including Abacha and Sudan's Hassan al-Turabi.

Aristide, whatever his crimes, doesn't sink to the level of those rulers. And despite valid criticism of his time in office, the fact remains that the elected president of Haiti was illegally ousted. "We had our own criticism and differences with Aristide," says Fletcher. "But we support democracy in Haiti. And as such, we believe that the duly elected representative of Haiti should serve."

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