Some comments on world politics, generally speaking

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The Independent Online
I AM very glad to welcome today none other than General Cedras, who has recently relinquished his exciting post as Haitian leader and is now free for other engagements. We are delighted that he chose to take the chance to speak to the world through this column, and to deal with your inquiries about world politics. Welcome to the Independent, mon General.

Gen Cedras: Merci, mon ami. Let us have the first question.

Are you sorry to be leaving Haiti, General? - PJ of Aberystwyth.

Gen Cedras: It is always sad to leave a country where you have been so happy and to leave all your friends behind. There were many friends, believe me, who begged me, even offered me money, to take them away with me. Such devotion is a rare commodity, mon ami, and it brings tears to my eyes to see such devotion. Alas, I could not help them as my plane was already full of my luggage and personal effects. But to tell you the truth, I shall welcome the freedom of Panama. In Haiti I was a prisoner of my own success. I could not go for a stroll by myself. Have you ever tried popping down to the shops for a baguette and a bottle of wine with several helicopters overhead and a squad of security men round you? Believe me, that is no way to have to live.

What have you achieved in Haiti? - NB of Dartmouth.

Gen Cedras: A great deal. When I took office, the place was in a mess. By the time I left, the trade unions had been tamed, crime figures had gone down, traffic congestion had vanished and everyone was safely home in bed by nine.

Isn't that the sort of thing Margaret said when she left power? - HC of Oxford.

Gen Cedras: It is what we all say when we leave office.

Are you a very rich man now that you have left Haiti? If so, do you not think it would be right to give some of that money back to the people? - IM of Bristol.

Gen Cedras: Ecoutez-moi, mon ami. In England, when a man leaves his post, does he not get a present? The office boy gets a, how you say, whip-round, n'est-ce pas? And the chairman gets a golden handshake of millions of pounds? Yes, even in your so-

called democracy you all get the pay-off. And you begrudge this to me? Where is your famous sense of British justice? Am I to be the only boy at the party who did not get a going-home present? Ce n'est pas juste, ca.

So you are not giving the money back? - IM of Bristol.

Gen Cedras: No, my friend. I do not wish to hurt the Haitian people's feelings.

But to leave with so much . . .

Gen Cedras: Where is the unusualness in this? Your Mrs Thatcher is an extremely wealthy woman. Has she been told to give the money back?

But there is a reason for her having money. She has a wealthy husband.

Gen Cedras: And I have a wealthy wife. All world leaders have wealthy spouses. Strange coincidence, hein? Mark you, there is one difference between me and Mrs Thatcher. I do not have a wealthy son who was involved in arms deals.

As a fellow world leader, how do you explain Boris Yeltsin's failure to emerge from his plane in Ireland? Do you really think he was drunk in there? - JS of Bath.

Gen Cedras: I do not think he was in the plane at all. I used this trick very often to test loyalty to me - pretend to fly abroad and tempt people to show their true colours, then come out shooting from behind them.

Ah, so you admit that you shoot your own people? - RS of Kent.

Gen Cedras: I admit nothing. Like your Mr Michael Howard, I approve of the short sharp shock. With him the effect is temporary. With me, the effect is permanent. I am a Michael Howard who has the courage of his convictions, voila tout.

You speak French very well, General - BL of Manchester

Gen Cedras: And so I should. It is my native language. It was also my secret strength against the Americans. You see, the Americans cannot speak foreign languages, and the one they speak worst of all is French. As the American writer Dave Barry has said, an American can spend his whole life trying, and failing, to pronounce the word 'fauteuil' properly, and it scars his soul. Here in Haiti we are black and poor - two more things the Americans find it hard to forgive - and yet we speak French fluently. It takes less than this to confuse an American.

The General will be back soon. Keep those questions rolling in]