Haiti's Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy

By Fatton Jr., Robert; Thomas, Roy | International Journal, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

Haiti's Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy


Fatton Jr., Robert, Thomas, Roy, International Journal


Robert Fatton Jr.

Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2002, 256pp, US$55.00 cloth, ISBN 1-58826-060-7, US$19.95 paper, ISBN 1-58826-085-2

The evidence of the involvement of the Canadian Forces in Haiti since the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, reads like a religious litany, with the following Operations: Bandit, Heritage, Forward Action, Pivot, Cadence, Standard, Stable, Faucon, Constable, Complement, and Humble. The list does not, however, include the Department of National Defence's plans that never reached the implementation stage. It also does not include the non-defence contingents--Canadian police, human rights workers and electoral monitors--nor the infusion of Canadian assistance through relief and development programs. Canada, for better or worse, has been a player in Haiti since Baby Doc's departure and, although any analysis of Haitian politics since 1986 cannot entirely avoid the footprint of foreigners, those looking for an analysis of what Canadian intervention has meant to Haitians will not find it in Robert Fatton's book.

Fatton is an American professor "born into the Haitian elite," who has "deep personal ties of affection to" the people of Haiti. His study of the impact of regime change on the process of democratization could not have come at a more fortuitous time, as the international community struggles to create more democratic societies in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also does not make for happy reading. His conclusions on Haiti's progress can be found in his preface: "The hopes that the events of February 1986 and February 1991 engendered have become so faint that intellectual honesty requires an acknowledgement of defeat."

For Fatton, the mass movement that led to Duvalier's exit from power was an anomaly; normally, the daily grind of carving out an existence takes most of the population out of the political arena. Also, the dominance of the "Possessing Class" in Haiti makes transformation of the Haitian state into anything but a "Predatory Democracy" impossible. Redistribution of limited resources within Haiti would, in Fatton's opinion, only generalize poverty.

Outside assistance, it would seem, is vital (for economic reasons, at the very least) if the international community is serious about planting democracy in Haiti. There is a danger, however, associated with outside help. Fatton joins others in applying the label "Republique des Organisations Nongouvernmentales" to describe Haiti's dependence on external sources of power and finance. Indeed, such "grand manquers" and their temporary alliances can remain intransigent in the face of the offers of power-sharing needed to effect the necessary compromises. Paradoxically, outside intervention, which may appear indispensable in the face of systemic challenges, may make the desperately needed transformation of the state impossible. …

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