Haiti's Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy

Haiti's Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy

Haiti's Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy

Haiti's Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy

Excerpt

This book is an analysis of Haiti's politics, from the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship on February 6, 1986, to Jean-Bertrand Aristide's second inauguration as president of the republic on February 7, 2001, to the attempted coup on December 17, 2001. It is the story of the gradual demise of a moment of utopia that had seemingly liberated a people from decades of oppression, squalor, and poverty and given them the conviction that "everything was possible." It is thus an exhilarating and yet depressing account.

It appeared that with the forced departure of Jean-Claude Duvalier the country would start a new history freed from its long legacy of despotism. Invigorated by the surge of popular power, Haitians of all social backgrounds hoped to embark on a democratic journey leading to economic development, political renewal, and social peace. A wave of national optimism and euphoria buried temporarily the conflicts between antagonistic actors, institutions, and social classes. These conflicts, however, quickly exploded in a series of confrontations between the army, which had inherited power from the dictator, and an increasingly assertive popular movement bent on both the déchoukaj (uprooting) of Duvalierists and the installation of a democratic regime. Ultimately, the military resorted to repression, violently aborting the elections of 1987 and organizing farcical ones in 1988 only to seize power again in a coup a few months later.

The army was, however, a profoundly divided institution; internecine struggles soon generated a series of coups and countercoups. Under massive domestic and international pressures, the men in uniform were compelled to exit the National Palace and facilitate the electoral return of civilians. The utopian vision, which had been blinded by the cynicism and repression of the military, reappeared again in the defiant eyes of the masses. Led by the charismatic and prophetic messianism of Father JeanBertrand Aristide, the huge majority of poor Haitians became Lavalas (the flood)—an unstoppable deluge. Elected in a landslide, Aristide assumed the . . .

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