Haiti: The Failure of Politics

By Brian Weinstein; Aaron Segal | Go to book overview
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Electoral Council and the 1990 Council of State. Since 1986 Protestants have been taking part in politics at every level as individuals. Their radio station, Radio Lumière, has become one of the chief critics of the government, as have some of their publications in Creole.

The older "establishment" churches like the Methodists have mostly urban, middle- and upper-class congregations. Their private schools are highly regarded and their activities benefit from contacts with overseas churches. It is from the older churches that skilled organizers, managers, and communicators are being drawn.

The Evangelical and Pentecostal churches have theologically shunned politics, reflecting the views of their mother churches on whom they often depend for resources and direction. They offer to their members material and religious self- help and recruit mainly among the urban and rural poor. One of their assets is evangelizing Creole. The split between the establishment and Evangelical churches is one of social class, history, and theology. It has blocked joint action but it does not prevent the emergence of the Evangelicals as a potential voting block.

Protestant churches represent some of the more effective organizing and self- help resources in the country. Their seminaries, schools, and other projects, while often benefiting from external aid, are testimonies to Haitian skills and abilities. Haitian Protestants are generally "this-worldly" in their undertaking of material, self-help projects even if their own orientation toward the state is "other-worldly." Whatever form it takes, individual or collective, increased political involvement by Haitian Protestants strengthens the society.

Assessing Haiti's political prospects is a complex task. The institutionalization of democratic civilian rule is not impossible but it is difficult. Freedom in 1990 does not mean democracy in 1992. The pluralist forces in Haitian society-- Catholics, Protestants, local councils, trade unions, the media, political parties, certain interest groups such as the National Association of Haitian Educators (which comprises teachers from preschool to university)--can provide a structure for democracy. They can check and balance military and civilian political power eventually. They also build a civil society that can constrain but not eliminate future dictatorships.

Robert L. Rothstein, "Weak democracy and the Prospects for Peace and Prosperity in the Third World" (unpublished paper presented at U.S. Institute of Peace Conference, Washington, D.C., October 3-5, 1990).
Simon Fass, Political Economy in Haiti ( New Brunswick NJ: Transaction, 1988), p. 305.
Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Haiti: State against Nation ( New York: Monthly Review, 1990), p. 229.
Rothstein, "Weak Democracy," pp. 8-16 contains a discussion of various concepts of democracy.


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