How the Haitian/Caribbean vote spells trouble for President Trump in Florida

How the Haitian/Caribbean vote spells trouble for President Trump in Florida

  • HAPPENINGS By Raymond Alcide Joseph

The big buzz in the Haitian community, since last Friday (August 21), is a posting on Facebook by Bernard Sansaricq, a former Haitian senator and fighter against the Duvalier dictatorship, who was instrumental in helping Candidate Donald Trump in his narrow victory over Hillary Clinton in Florida, in 2016. His forceful denunciation of now President Trump, who failed to keep “promises” made to the Haitian community, on top of his support for political Haitian leaders who dragged the country down, can’t but hurt the 2020 Candidate Trump in Florida, perhaps elsewhere as well. Apparently, the Republican torch bearer is about to lose, not only the Haitian vote, but that of the Jamaicans and of other Caribbean-Americans, excited by the choice of Kamala Harris as vice-president, accompanying former Vice-President Joseph “Joe” Biden at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Mr. Sansaricq was a sensation for the Republicans in 2016 and became a national voice, with his taped messages used by the Republican National Committee in the campaign against Mrs. Clinton for her wrongs and those of her husband Bill, the former president, toward Haiti. The most egregious, he said, was their fostering the rise of a “drug addict, Michel Martelly, [to Haiti’s presidency], who stole over 3 billion dollars from a PetroCaribe Fund destined to help the Haitian people.”

What riles Mr. Sansaricq the most is the complicity of the United States in coddling that man who calls himself “Legal Bandit.” Here, in his own words: “This well-known Drug trafficker (sic) and addict is living comfortably with his millions in Orlando, Florida, in a mansion with money stolen from the poor people of Haiti, under the protection of the US Government.”

Bernard Sansaricq has more reasons to be incensed because his support of Candidate Trump in 2016 has been costly for him and his wife. Read on: “I worked very hard and tirelessly for candidate Trump and my wife and I suffered heavy consequences because of our position, and we paid heavy prices politically and economically. It is fine and [as part] of being in politics. I would not change what we did for nothing in the world and would do it again.”

But what has President Trump done since? “During the past 3 ½ years,” he said, “now President Trump has done absolutely NOTHING (sic) for the 10 million suffering martyrs in Haiti.” On top of that, he has called “Haiti a S***H***for him.” And Mr. Sansaricq adds, “I owe my life to the Haitian People, and they once voted me First Senator of their Republic. I owe them that much.”

Therefore, the break with the Trump campaign is irrevocable. Here, in his own words: “I received a call last Saturday [August 15], from the Committee for reelection of President Trump to ask me to participate in the meeting. I made it clear to them that it would be impossible for me to participate again, because of the President[’s] complete lack of consideration for the plight of the Haitian people.”

Mr. Sansaricq is categorical on this point. After signing the posting, he adds an “NB,” to reinforce what he had written, providing much detail. He states: “Plea see, no one is authorized to put my name in any list as a participant of any meeting with President Trump. As I said, I have Pride-Honor-Respect (sic). I have seen the sufferings of millions of human beings and will never stop fighting for them. Thank you.” (Read, next week, a more expansive article to HO by Bernard Sansaricq.)

For some context, about the 2016 visit to Little Haiti, it was the brainchild of former New York Mayor Rudolph “Rudy” Giuliani, who is one of President Trump’s lawyers. Mr. Giuliani owed his 1993 victory over New York’s first Black Mayor David Dinkins, who made the mistake of minimizing the influence of the Haiti-Observateur (H-O) and embraced then popular Jean-Bertrand Arisitide, the Haitian president who was living in golden exile in Washington, D.C. Since HO was critical of Aristide, the Dinkins camp eschewed the weekly. The mayor’s representative, who previously maintained good relations with the paper, would not even return my calls. Meanwhile, Mr. Giuliani called HO and asked for an interview. Other than the interview, we ran an editorial in which we wrote: “Of the two candidates, only one thought Haitians had a say in this election. His name is Rudolph Giuliani. May the better one win!”

Giuliani won in his second match with Dinkins, scoring 4,000 more votes. A week after the election, on a visit to Brooklyn Borough Hall, Mr. Giuliani had his office call to invite me to a press conference he was holding there, adding, “Bring your photographer.” Thanking me for all lowing him to address HO’s constituency, he added, “Preliminary results show that the Haitians voted for me overwhelmingly.” Tacitly, he did not acknowledge it, but it was the Haitian vote that put him over the top. And he said, “The doors of City Hall are open to you.”

The first major trouble of the mayor with the Haitian community occurred when Abner Louima was arrested at the Rendez-Vous restaurant in Brooklyn and underwent violent treatment by the Police, even being sodomized with a stick. Mayor Giuliani named me to the commission of notable New Yorkers on Police reform. One of my suggestions was that Police recruits should live within city limits, as much as possible, not from the suburbs from where the majority came.

Mr. Giuliani maintained contact with the Haitian community through his weekly column in the HO throughout his mayoralty. On the 25th anniversary of the paper, he declared “Friday, November 15, 1996, “Haiti-Observateur Day” and presented the proclamation to me and my brother Leo, “co-founders of the newspaper,” at a gala held at elegant Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn, staying for dinner. We had to choreograph the evening in a way to welcome Ruth Messinger, the Democrat candidate for mayor, who came also to pay her respect, would not bump into the Mayor’s caravan.

To be pointed out, Mr. Giuliani did keep his promises by defending immigrants in New York. He even joined mayors of several major cities in suing the federal government in the famous case of “Sanctuary cities.” No wonder, from winning with only 4,000 votes in 1993, in 1997 he scored 57% against Ms. Messinger’s 41%. In 2001, after his performance as “Emergency Mayor,” following the attack on the World Trade Center, he could have been re-elected, were it not for term limits. That is when Michael “Mike” Bloomberg, wrapped in a Republican mantle, went to win three terms in office, having modified the City charter for the third run. Concerning HO, he followed in the footsteps of Mr. Giuliani and published his weekly column in the newspaper.

Back to what is happening in Florida which portends bad times for President Trump. The choice of Kamala Harris, this daughter of immigrant parents, has energized the Caribbean community, especially in Florida. Her Jamaican roots from her father, a retired economics professor from Stanford University in California, make her attractive to American citizens of Jamaican ancestry in Florida, who number 336,000, according to 2018 statistics. Some 91,000 are registered to vote.

Haitians have also caught the Harris fever. Of the 528,000 American citizens of Haitian descent in Florida, 115,000 were on the voting rolls in 2018. Counting voters of these two countries alone, we are at 206,000. That is without counting the citizens from the smaller islands of the Caribbean, such as the 56,000 immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago and 7,000 from Barbados. In 2016, Candidate Trump’s narrow victory of 112,000, or 49.02% of the 9,122,862 votes cast, cannot be replicated this coming November. Voters of Haitian ancestry and the Jamaican-Americans alone are sufficient to block Mr. Trump’s path to victory this year in the state he adopted as home earlier this year. RAJ, August 26, 2020

Cet article est publié par l’hebdomadaire Haïti-Observateur, New York. Édition du 26 août 2020, VOL. L No. 33 et se trouve en P.1, 7 à :