By Michael Morton
On a block of Linden Boulevard in Cambria Heights, the owner of the Creole Bake Shop, an older man who identified himself only as Anneus, said he did not fully understand the conflict.
“I can't tell you who's right, who's wrong,” said Anneus, who left the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere 10 years ago. “People in Haiti don't want to dialogue the situation. It's a bad situation for the country.”
Anneus said he has family in Jacmel, a town on Haiti's southern coast, and that while fighting has not affected that area of the country, he still has not been able to reach them by phone for more than a week.
“My family's never in politics, but once you have a bad situation everyone feels bad,” he said.
The unrest began several weeks ago as armed members of groups opposed to elected President Jean-Bernard Aristide attacked police stations and clashed with armed gangs previously formed by the president to support his rule. The rebels now control the northern half of the country and were expected to march on the capital.
Aristide was elected to the presidency in 1990 as the country rejoiced that the days of suffering under dictator “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his son “Baby Doc” Duvalier appeared over. The following year, however, an army coup displaced Aristide, but he was returned to power in 1994 with an American military intervention.
U.S. and European diplomats have been working around the clock to reach a compromise under which Aristide would share power with the opposition, which would prefer him to resign. Some 50 U.S. Marines and in Haiti earlier this week.
Haitian-Americans shopping on Linden Boulevard or tending to their stores tried to make sense of the situation Monday, although the insurrection seemed to be a sensitive topic of conversation.
“It's too high for me,” a barber at a shop across from the bakery said. But he added, “I say to America give my country a chance for survival.”
While most people said they did not support one side or the other or declined to comment, Herold Dasque at his office on the corner said he wants to see Aristide finish his elected term. Nevertheless, he said he would not vote for him if the president sought re-election.
“We wasted 200 years of our history by kicking out our leaders at the whim of the elites,” said Dasque, the executive director of Haitian-Americans United for Progress, a group that helps its countrymen living in the tri-state area. “We feel there may be greater consequences if he steps down because of violence.”
As he spoke, Radio Soleil, a Haitian Creole station out of Brooklyn, played in the background.
Due to his work, Dasque said he tried not to take sides in the conflict, but people in the community felt a need to categorize and would look for clues.
“Ah, he is for the government,” he said such people often conclude. “You are affected by whatever goes on in Haiti.”
He said he did not have much hope for a negotiated solution: “Right now they're trying to get a quick fix – it's not going to work.”
Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.