Haiti: The Failure of Politics

By Brian Weinstein; Aaron Segal | Go to book overview

7
Prospects for Democracy

Since 1986 and the exile of the Duvaliers, Haiti has sought to move from a 29-year dictatorship to a more open and democratic political system. The passage has been agonizing and treacherous, marked with military coups and repression, an aborted election, a staged election, a successful election, and violence. At the same time there has been an extraordinary emergence of national and local organizations and numerous manifestations of dissent on the radio, in the press, and on the streets, all the expression of a thirst for freedom. Haiti is in crisis but it is a crisis of search for change. There has been more mass violence and insecurity from 1986 to the end of 1990 than from 1971 to 1986, the Jean-Claude Duvalier period. Haiti has regained its public voice at the expense of much bloodshed. One tyranny has fallen, but the end of tyranny is not assured. Political freedom has not yet led to the institutionalization of democracy.

There is no single or standard definition of democracy, especially when the term is applied to Haiti. Following Robert Rothstein's important study, we use the term in three distinct ways. 1 The first is in the maintenance of the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and civil liberties including freedom of speech, press, and fair trial. These are goals of CHADEL (Centre Haïtien des Droits et Libertés), headed by Jean-Jacques Honorat. We regard civil liberties, human rights, and the rule of law as interdependent. While it is conceivable that an authoritarian regime could voluntarily allow these rights to be respected, in practice this seldom occurs. Weak democracies lacking in legitimacy and security also are often unable to guarantee civil liberties. Throughout Haitian history the rule of law has been undermined by presidentially and militarily sanctioned arrests, torture, and executions often endorsed by a supine appointed judiciary.

Second, procedural democracy refers to the sharing and dispersing of power within and outside the government. It is usually defined in a national constitution

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