- Peter Hallward is a UK Middlesex University Professor
of Modern European Philosophy. He's written many articles; authored several
books; edited, contributed to and translated others; and has research interests
in a broad range of areas, including recent and contemporary French Philosophy;
contemporary critical theory; political philosophy and contemporary politics;
and globalization and postcolonial theory. He also edits the Radical Philosophy
journal of critical and continental philosophy.
- Hallward's newest book, "Damming the Flood: Haiti,
Aristide, and the Politics of Containment," is the subject of this
review, and here's what critics are saying. Physician and Haiti expert
Paul Farmer calls it "the best study of its kind (offering) the first
accurate analysis of recent Haitian history." Noam Chomsky says it's
a "riveting and deeply-informed account (of) Haiti's tragic history."
Others have also praised Hallward's book as well-sourced, thorough, accurate
and invaluable. This reviewer agrees and covers this superb book in-depth.
- First, a brief snapshot of Haiti. The country shares
the western third of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with the Dominican
Republic. It lies east of Cuba, west of Puerto Rico, and is about midway
between south Florida and Venezuela. Haiti is small, around the size of
Maryland in square miles, and has a population of about 8.8 million according
to World Bank figures. It's two-thirds mountainous, with the remainder
consisting of great valleys, extensive plateaus and small plains. Port-au-Prince
is the capital and largest city. The country has some oil, natural gas
and other mineral wealth, but it's main value is its human resource that
corporate giants covet in an offshore cheap labor paradise for Wal-Mart's
"Always Low Prices." The nation's official name is the Republique
- Few people in all history have suffered as much as Haitians,
and it began when Columbus arrived. From then to now, they've endured enslavement,
genocidal slaughter as well as brutal exploitation and predation. Hope
for change arose with Jean-Bertrand Aristide's 1990 election, but it wasn't
to be. On February 29, 2004, a US-led coup d'etat shattered the dream for
the second time. In the middle of the night, US Marines abducted Haiti's
President and flew him against his will to the Central African Republic.
Today, Aristide remains in exile in South Africa, vows to return, and in
an interview with the author says he'll serve his people "from outside
the structure of the state." Haitians still overwhelmingly support
him and want him back in any capacity.
- Hallward recounts his story and the rise of his Lavalas
movement. The book's title is derived from its meaning - "avalanche"
or "flood" as well as "the mass of the people" or "everyone
together." Aristide remains larger than life as its symbol and leader,
but consider what he was up against - Haiti's "rigid and highly polarized
social structure (separating) a small and very concentrated elite from
the rest of the population" and a good deal more. No independent Haitian
government has a chance against it when allied with "neo-imperial
intervention (power), elite and foreign manipulation of the media, the
judiciary, (co-opted) non-governmental organizations," and traditional
Haitian politics in this impoverished land that's totally dependent on
outside aid for support.
- Yet, a "remarkable political movement" arose
in the mid-1980s to challenge the Duvalierist dictatorship. It drove its
leader into exile, returned the country to military rule, and inspired
a broad progressive coalition to challenge it for democratic reform. It
made Jean-Bertrand Aristide Haiti's President in February 1991, but only
briefly. Seven months later, an army-led coup deposed him. It was widely
condemned, and in 1994, he returned as President. He was then overwhelmingly
reelected in 2000, removed again in 2004 but with a difference. Beyond
his popular support, there was "widespread resignation or indifference,
if not approval."
- What changed? Little more than perceptions and extreme
manipulation to achieve them. Once again, Haiti's elite and its Franco-American
sponsors scored a major victory, while the vast majority of Haitians lost
out. Hallward's book recounts the story. He explains how Lavalas created
a coalition of urban poor and peasants along with influential liberal elites:
"cosmopolitan political dissidents, journalists, academics,"
and even some business leaders seeking stability.
- What happened between 1991 and 2004? Hallward portrays
it as class conflict, as the age old struggle between concentrated wealth
and the vast majority of Haiti's poor. It "crystallized around control
of the army and police," because that's where power lies. Aristide
challenged the status quo and posed an intolerable threat to wealth and
privilege - but not because he sought radical or quick reform. His ideas
were "modest" and "practical" for "popular political
empowerment" that made sense to most Haitians. He governed within
the existing constitutional structure. He organized a dominant, united
and effective political party for all Haitians. Most importantly, he did
it after abolishing the nation's main repressive instrument - the army.
- Key to understanding 2004 is that real progressive change
was possible after Aristide's 2000 reelection with no "extra-political
mechanism" (the army) to stop it. For Haiti's ruling class (a tiny
fraction of the population), that was intolerable. Aristide had to be removed,
Lavalas crushed, and it set off a chain of events that culminated in 2004
in "one of the most violent and disastrous periods in recent Haitian
history." Ever since, repression has been intense in the face of persistent
resilience against it.
- Hallward recounts how Lavalas became weakened through
"division and disintegration" - marked by "the multiplication
of disjointed NGOs, evangelical churches, political parties, media outlets,
private security forces" and relentless vilification of Haiti's central
figure, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. No one else had the charisma or ability
to mobilize popular sentiment and by so doing "antagonize the rich."
Aristide wasn't perfect. He wasn't a saint, but he was sincerely dedicated
to helping the poor and representing all Haitians fairly and equitably.
It's why his support remains strong and why powerful internal and external
forces brought him down and are determined never to allow him back. As
a symbol of Lavalas, he remains an ever-present threat.
- 1791 - 1991: From the First Independence to the Second
- According to Aristide, Haiti is the hemisphere's poorest
country "because of the rich (and its) 200 year plot." Consider
- -- throughout its colonial and post-colonial history,
Haiti's tiny ruling class has had dominant social and economic control;
- -- the country's distribution of wealth is "the
most unequal in a region (that's) the most unequal in the world;"
- -- 1% of Haitians control half the country's wealth;
- -- in contrast, the vast majority (over 80%) "endure
- -- three-fourths of the population live on less than
$2 a day and over half (56%) less than $1 a day;
- -- 5% of the population owns 75% of the arable land;
- -- a tiny 5% of elites control the economy, media, universities,
professions and what passes for Haiti's polity; six powerful families dominate
the nation's industrial production and international trade; they split
along two lines: deeply conservative rural landowners (the grandons) and
their military allies and the more differentiated "importers, exporters,
merchants, industrialists, professionals, intellectuals, academics, jounalists"
and others like them; in solidarity, they have contempt for the masses
and hold onto privilege through exploitation and violence in a country
where class exerts the most powerful influence and workers have no rights.
- Under this type dominance and America's iron grip, Haiti
has been strip-mined for profits and its people neoliberally crushed. For
decades, and especially since the mid-1980s, the country has undergone
successive IMF-imposed structural adjustments. They cut wages and the size
of the public sector workforce, eliminated tariffs to facilitate imports,
directed agriculture to cash crops for exports, privatized public utilities
and other state assets, and made Haiti "one of the most liberal trade
regimes in the world," according to Oxfam.
- These "reforms" slashed Haiti's per capita
GDP from $750 in the 1960s to $617 in 1990, $470 in 1994, $468 in 2000,
and down to $425 in 2004 - not counting the effects of inflation. In addition,
agricultural production was halved by the late 1990s, and wages (even after
inflation) dropped from $ 3 - 4 a day in the early 1980s to $1 - 2 a day
by 2000. Haiti's official minimum wage at most is $1.80 a day, but even
people getting it "survive on the brink of destitution." According
to the IMF, that's most of them with 55% of Haitians receiving a daily
income of only 44 cents, an impossible amount to survive on.
- Other country statistics are just as challenging and
show how, without outside aid, the government can't meet its peoples' basic
- -- unemployment and underemployment are rampant, and
two-thirds or more of workers are without reliable jobs;
- -- structural adjustments decimated the rural economy
and forced displaced peasants to cities for non-existent jobs;
- -- public sector employment is the lowest in the region
at less than .7%;
- -- life expectancy is only 53 years; the death rate the
highest in the hemisphere; and the infant mortality rate double the regional
average at 76 per 1000;
- -- the World Bank places Haiti in its bottom rankings
based on deficient sanitation, poor nutrition, high malnutrition, and inadequate
- -- the country is the poorest in the hemisphere with
80% or more of the population below the poverty line; it's also the least
developed and plagued by a lack of infrastructure, severe deforestation
and heavy soil erosion; a 2006 IMF report estimates Haiti's GDP at 70%
of its meager 1980 level;
- -- the country's national debt quadrupled since 1980
to about $1.2 billion; half or more of it is odious; and debt service consumes
about 20% of the country's inadequate budget;
- -- half its population is "food insecure" and
half its children undersized from malnutrition;
- -- more than half the population has no access to clean
- -- Hatii ranks last in the hemisphere in health care
spending with only 25 doctors and 11 nurses per 100,000 population and
most rural areas have no health care access;
- -- it has the highest HIV-AIDS incidence outside sub-Sararan
- -- sweatshop wages are around 11 - 12 cents an hour for
Haitians lucky enough to have work;
- -- UNICEF estimates between 250,000 to 300,000 Haitian
children are victims of the country's forced bondage or "restavec"
system; it means they're "slaves;"
- -- post-February 2004, repression is severe under a UN
paramilitary (Blue Helmet) MINUSTAH occupation masquerading as peacekeepers;
they were illegally sent for the first time ever to support a coup d'etat
against a democratically elected president (with 92% of the vote); political
killings, kidnappings, disappearances, torture and unlawful arrests and
incarcerations are common forms of repression with more on that below;
four years after the 2004 coup, the extent of human misery is overwhelming
by all measures, yet the dominant media is silent and international community
- Nonetheless, while he remained in office, Aristide had
remarkable accomplishments in spite of facing overwhelming obstacles. More
on that below as well.
- A free and independent Haiti is as threatening to the
dominant social order now as on January 1, 1804 when French colonialism
was defeated. It explains why crushing it is essential to preserve the
country's exploitive "legacy" with its "spectacularly unjust
distribution of labor, wealth and power (characteristic of) the whole of
the island's post-Columbian history."
- Revolution provoked counter-revolution, and Hallward
- -- economic isolation from which Haiti never recovered;
- -- French-imposed compensation (in 1825) of 150 million
francs for loss of its slaves; it shackled the new nation and ended any
hope for the country's autonomy even though France later reduced the amount;
- -- debt repayment dependent on borrowing at extortionate
rates; by 1900, payments took 80% of the nation's budget until it was paid
in full in 1947 - after nearly 125 years of debt slavery; a new form has
now replaced it;
- -- after Haiti's colonial race war ended, its post-colonial
class conflict began; its 19th century ruling class became what it is today:
"a parasitic clique of medium-sized and authoritarian landowners....importers,
merchants and professionals;"
- -- imperialism victimized Haiti and continued into the
new century; most consequential was Woodrow Wilson's 1915 occupation that
lasted until Franklin Roosevelt ended it in 1934; during the period, atrocities
and war crimes were routine; the most infamous was the 1929 Les Cayes slaughter
of 264 protesting peasants; US Marines killed them mercilessly, and when
the occupation ended as many as 30,000 Haitians had died;
- -- at its end, a repressive Haitian army took over; generals
ran the country, and "coup followed upon coup;"
- -- Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier then took power from
a rigged 1957 election and during his tenure murdered 50,000 or more Haitians
and terrorized the population;
- -- when he died in 1971, his son, Jean-Claude (Baby Doc)
took over, maintained the family tradition, and did his father one better
- he improved the country's investment climate for its foreign patrons
with punishing effects on the people;
- -- by the mid-1980s, even the international community
no longer could tolerate his "undiluted brutality and venality;"
protests began, he became a liability, was sent to a comfortable exile
and (in 1986) replaced by the military;
- -- then came five repressive years under rule of the
generals - Namphy (1986 - 88), Avril (1988 - 90) plus a few months under
Leslie Manigat in 1988; later it was Cedras after the first Aristide coup;
Haiti's only female (provisional) president served for 11 months immediately
preceding Aristide's election; Ertha Pascal-Trouillot was the country's
chief justice and a wealthy member of its ruling class;
- -- the 1986 - 1990 period was so tumultuous that, temporarily,
Haitian elites aligned themselves with charismatic priests like Jean-Bertrand
Aristide; they didn't crave reform; they wanted stability for a good business
- -- Aristide, above others, embodied Haitians' demands
for social transformation; he combined "a concrete strategy for acquiring
practical political power with the uncompromising inspiration of liberation
theology" and was dedicated to the "active self-liberation of
the oppressed;" yet he's not a politician; he's a dedicated to the
poor organizer, activist and parish priest;
- -- in point of fact, liberation theology terrifies the
ruling class even more than Marxist-Leninism or organized labor; under
Lavalas, it's the greatest threat to Haitian elites and US dominance;
- -- for Aristide, the "deadly economic infection
called capitalism" represents profound social harm if not "mortal
sin;" only social revolution can expunge it, yet Aristide renounces
violence and only condones self-defense;
- -- repression under military rule was even harsher than
earlier; after one year in office, Namphy and the generals "gunned
down more civilians than Jean-Claude Duvalier's government had done in
- -- by mid-1990, a new strategy was needed, something
"less abrasive;" the year became "the single most important
date in modern Haitian history;" preserving the status quo was key;
Washington chose former World Bank official Marc Bazin to run in the December
election; Lavalas candidate Aristide opposed him after intense pressure
from fellow priests and supporters convinced him to run;
- -- with no organized party or campaign, Aristide won
overwhelmingly with 67% of the vote in a heavy turnout of 80%; for the
first time in Haiti's history, the people chose the President, not the
army or imperial powers; Washington was shocked by the result;
- -- Aristide took office in February, 1991 and proceeded
cautiously; international lenders promised him aid; he enforced import
fee collections and raised taxes on the rich; he minimized conflict with
the military but purged its top commanders; political violence and state-sanctioned
repression abruptly halted; and he went further but in small steps;
- -- he appointed a presidential commission to investigate
extra-judicial killings; redistributed some fallow land; began a literacy
program; cracked down on drugs trafficking; lowered food prices; and modestly
increased the minimum wage;
- -- even moderation antagonized vested interests, including
the church; it made Aristide "an intolerable challenge to the status
quo;" more importantly, what he represented (not so much himself)
- -- by fall, a coup was inevitable, and by late September
his enemies were ready to act; they represented domestic and imperial opposition;
on the night of September 30, 1991, Aristide was deposed.
- 1991 - 1999: The First Coup and its Consequences
- By September 1991, the military understood that to contain
Lavalas it had to terrorize its base in the slums. Late in the month as
trouble was brewing, crowds gathered to defend the government, the army
attacked them, and "shot everything in sight." On the night of
the coup, general Cedras took power, and at least 300 people were killed.
It was the beginning of a three year reign of terror that would take about
5000 Lavalas lives.
- The real power in Haiti at the time was Michel Francois,
a longtime CIA asset, as well as the notorious "Anti-Gang" attache,
Marcel Morissaint. A new "Haitian Resistance League" emerged
as well to "balance the Aristide movement" and conduct "intelligence
work against it." Emmanuel "Toto" Constant was part of it,
the notorious founder of FRAPH (in 1993) that terrorized Lavalas supporters.
- The repression was so intense, the movement never fully
recovered after the 1991 coup. Thousands were killed and many thousands
more forced into exile or hiding for their safety, including the most visible
- Yet, post-coup conditions enabled Aristide to return
to power in October 1994, but his critics say he compromised too much to
do it. The evidence, however, shows otherwise even though, on return, Aristide
was more diplomatic than confrontational.
- Key to understanding his position was his dependence
on America for help. Only Washington could end the military dictatorship,
restore a democratically elected leader, and provide the kind of aid Haiti
needed and/or allow international lending agencies to supply it. It meant
sacrificing plenty in preference to getting nothing at all.
- Here's what Aristide agreed to:
- -- accepting the coup regime as co-equal and a "legitimate
party" to negotiations,
- -- according its leaders an unconditional amnesty, --
and replacing (Prime Minister) Preval with an (elitist) acceptable alternative.
- On July 3, 1993, Aristide signed the so-called Governors
Island Accord that gave Cedras nearly everything he wanted. Nonetheless,
he ignored the deal, conditions through mid-1994 worsened, and Washington
proposed a new arrangement.
- Lavalas was in tatters, Haiti's military wasn't needed,
and the Clinton administration agreed to bring Aristide back but keep a
tight grip on him. Why do it? As long as he needed US aid, he offered hope
for a more stable business climate. He also agreed to US demands to share
power, grant amnesty to coup-plotters, and let Washington develop, train
and control a new police force. Most important, he agreed to structural
adjustment terms and to be no deterrent to the country's elite and international
- Aristide returned on October 12, 1994, took over as President,
and served out his term until February 7, 1996. About 20,000 Marines came
with him, cooperated closely with pro-coup families, protected FRAPH paramilitaries,
and contained Haiti's popular movement. The occupation's damage was considerable,
yet Aristide had no choice. Accomplishing anything was preferable to nothing
- Nonetheless, on April 28, 1995, he took a major step.
He dissolved the hated army altogether. Its significance was considerable
and was done despite determined US and elite opposition. In all other respects,
Aristide's position was weaker than in 1991. Haiti's administrative structures
were in ruins and would take at least months to repair. In addition, his
enemies "were neither marginalized nor disarmed....divisions had emerged
among some of his supporters," US troops had total control of the
country's security, and he had to administer neoliberal measures forced
on him that were sure to provoke popular resentment.
- Aristide's only choice was to unconditionally agree to
harsh economic measures or "insist on a combination of compliance
and compensation." He and Fanmi Lavalas (FL) chose the second option.
His prime minister and others around him took the first. It showed Aristide
acted as independently as possible, stood up for his people, yet, nonetheless,
made painful concessions forced on him.
- In exchange for $770 million in promised aid, he agreed
to drastic tariff cuts, freeze wages, lay off about half (22,000) the civil
service, and privatize all nine remaining public utilities. At the same
time, he got concessions:
- -- new "rice sector support package" investment
to improve water management, drainage, provision of fertilizers, pesticides,
tools, financial services, and more;
- -- laid off civil employees would get a generous severance
package, and in the end only 7000 layoffs occurred;
- -- utilities were to be sold but under a "democratization"
of public assets plan stipulating their sale "must be implemented
in a way (to) prevent increased concentration of wealth within the country;"
- -- part of the $770 million in donor aid would be for
"social safety net" priorities: education for the poor, an adult
literacy program, and special attention to young women's schooling;
- -- provisions also empowered labor unions, grassroots
organizations, cooperatives, community groups and they "demilitarize(d)
- In short, Aristide agreed to painful concessions, but
not unconditional surrender. He stumbled, however, by being too trusting.
Although he negotiated in good faith, the other side didn't. Washington
and IFIs (international financial institutions) pressured him to abandon
social provisions and threatened to halt aid entirely unless privatizations
were done unconditionally.
- Aristide resisted, threatened his officials with jail
if they agreed to these terms, and all outside aid was suspended with devastating
consequences. He was committed to his people, refused to privatize any
state enterprise, and his successor Preval privatized only a couple in
his first term.
- By the June 1995 parliamentary elections and after the
second-round September run-offs, conditions became complicated. A group
associated with Lavalas won (the Plateforme Politique Lavalas - PPL), but
its largest faction (Organisation Politique Lavalas - OPL) no longer supported
Aristide. With Washington turning hostile, neither did the IFIs, USAID,
the National Endowment of Democracy (NED), the International Republican
Institute (IRI), liberally funded technocrats, compliant NGOs, and it amounted
to a combustive mixture. All these agencies were authorized to bypass the
government, direct aid to elite interests, and undermine all Aristide initiatives.
- Still, he pursued parts of his social program, including
a compromise minimum wage increase that was still far below a livable amount.
And even with it, the Campaign for Labor Rights noted that in 1998 "more
than half (Haiti's) 50 assembly plants (paid) less than the legal minimum"
- Aristide's term expired in February 1996, his former
prime minister Rene Preval was elected to succeed him, and he tried to
steer a middle course between Aristide loyalists and the increasingly anti-Aristide
OPL. It proved impossible with his pro-privatization prime minister, Rosny
Smarth. Tensions between the two developed and headed for a split between
committed and opportunistic Lavalassians. It came to a head later in the
year when Aristide and his loyalists created an alternative political organization
- Fanmi Lavalas (FL). Its purpose was to reestablish links between local
Lavalas branches and its parliamentary representatives.
- When 1997 legislative elections were held, several Aristide-allied
candidates won decisively, the OPL rejected the outcome, Preval's prime
minister resigned, further privatizations were halted, but his government
was left in limbo. The OPL obstructed his efforts and effectively paralyzed
Preval for 18 months - until their terms expired in January 1999. New elections
were then delayed until May 2000, and Preval was forced to govern by decree
until Aristide was reelected to a second term in February 2001.
- Until he abolished it in 1995, the army was the dominant
apparatus for protecting elite privilege from open rebellion against it.
Thereafter, a new Haitian National Police (PNH) force replaced it with
Aristide battling elite and former army members for control. The latter
prevailed since funding depended on US aid, and American troops, on arriving
in Haiti, took great pains to preserve key FAdH (Haitian army) and FRAPH
assets. The State Department and CIA also oversaw initial PNH recruitment
and trained many police units at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. More than half
of top police commissioners were recycled FAdH personal running a 6500-strength
security force. In addition, its most powerful units (the 500-strong Presidential
Guard and two 60 - 80 member SWAT-type units) were largely staffed by former
- For his part, Aristide had no control of the process.
Nor could he prevent US efforts from keeping paramilitaries armed and dangerous,
and it showed up in random street crime and violence that became very socially
disruptive. Post-1994, these developments aided the elite and led to the
second 2004 coup.
- Before his 2000 reelection, however, the country was
deeply polarized. Most members of the political class were aligned against
FL, including ex-Duvalierists, ex-putchists and OPL members. They formed
a pro-US, pro-army coalition of 200 political organizations called the
Democratic Convergence (CD). Headed by former Port-au-Prince major Evans
Paul, their ranks were from Haiti's civil society - industrialists, bankers,
importers, the media, intellectuals and co-opted NGOs. They, in turn, became
part of another US-funded group - the Group of 184 (G-184), headed by industrialist
- For its part, Fanmi Lavalas (FL) was relatively disciplined,
had mass public support, and was very able to win and retain political
power at all government levels. Its first test came in December 2000.
- 2000 - 2001: Aristide and the Crisis of Democracy
- Aristide was twice elected Haiti's President decisively
- in 1990 with 67% of the vote and in 2000 with an overwhelming 92%. However,
the circumstances around each one were quite different. In 1990, he won
with an informal and eclectic coalition of peasant organizations, an urban
poor-liberal elite alliance, and progressive church members. In 2000, FL
was disciplined, united and won an overwhelming mandate with a (first time
ever) working parliamentary majority.
- For the elite, it was calamitous, and it let Aristide
launch a significant social change initiative. His opponents, in contrast,
needed a new destabilization and counter-mobilization strategy. It followed
along familiar lines:
- -- paramilitary intervention much like the Nicaraguan
- -- intense economic pressure to bankrupt the government
and halt its social programs;
- -- a legitimately-looking opposition, drawn from Haiti's
business and civil society; and
- -- a media disinformation campaign to portray the government
as corrupt, authoritarian and undemocratic - much the way Hugo Chavez is
- All of it was designed to provoke government responses
that could plausibly be called brutal and dictatorial, hope things might
spin out of control, and give the opposition a chance to "step in
and save the day." FL didn't oblige and kept them waiting four years.
- Hallward calls the May 2000 legislative elections "arguably
the most remarkable exercise in representative democracy in Haiti to date."
Unprecedented numbers registered and turned out to vote, and a comprehensive
post-election assessment concluded "free, fair and peaceful elections
(were held after) months of struggle and intimidation." Turnout matched
1990 at around 65%. Fanmi Lavalas won overwhelmingly (locally and nationally)
and swamped the anti-Aristide opposition. FL won:
- -- 89 of 115 mayoral positions;
- -- 72 of 83 (lower house) Chamber of Deputy seats; and
- -- 16 of 17 Senate seats and control of all but one of
the Senate's 27 positions.
- It was no surprise why and a signal that no opposition
could stand against Aristide in free, fair and open elections. FL had the
only "coherent political program" offering improvements in health,
education, infrastructure, peasant cooperatives, micro-financing, and a
dedication to lift impoverished Haitians' lives. Equally clear was a CD
spokesman's comment: "We will never, ever accept the results of these
elections." Neither would the US or France or the dominant echo-chamber
media trumpeting how Haiti "failed to hold credible elections"
- because the wrong party won. With truth nowhere in sight, the world heard
a consistent theme - that "massive electoral fraud" tainted Haiti's
- The presidential contest in November followed the same
pattern, and "the dictator in question" won overwhelmingly with
92% of the vote. Fraud and violence were minimal, turnout was around 60%,
FL now had three consecutive landslide (presidential) victories, and a
defeated opposition determined they'd be no fourth one. They failed. More
on that below.
- Aristide's victory was glorious but costly. Washington
greeted it with "a crippling embargo on all further foreign aid."
Promised Inter-American Development Bank loans were also blocked - $145
million already agreed on plus another $470 million in succeeding years.
The effect was so devastating that the UN Development Programme said the
severity of mass destitution would take Haiti "two generations"
to recover from "if the process....start(ed) now." Other NGOs
called year end 2003 conditions in the country "without precedent."
- Aristide had a choice, but it didn't help. He agreed
to negotiate, made concessions, yet the embargo was never lifted. Complicit
with Washington, the CD extracted all they could but remained firm on their
"essential" goal - ousting the Aristide government "by any
means necessary." Throughout his second term and its lead-up months,
the CD rejected "every FL offer of new elections and of new forms
of power-sharing." One of its leading members summed up the mood -
CD would only negotiate "the door through which Aristide (would) leave
the palace, the front door or the back door." Its post-January 2001
strategy was "option zero," and these were its terms:
- -- be able to choose its own prime minister;
- -- authorize him to govern by decree; and
- -- neutralize Aristide, effectively force him to stand
down, and have a three-member presidential council act as head of state
in his place.
- To highlight its position, the day Aristide was sworn
in, the CD inaugurated its own parallel government. The world community
barely blinked nor did the dominant media, as always blaming Aristide for
- 2000 - 2003: Investing in Pluralism
- From the time he gained prominence in the late 1980s,
Aristide was roughly treated. The Clinton administration was "profoundly
hostile" to him, but George Bush neocons felt "genuine hatred"
and showed it. One initiative was the "Democracy and Governance Program"
to counter the "failure of democratic governance in Haiti." Its
strategy - "developing political parties, helping non-governmental
organizations resist Haiti's growing trend toward authoritarian rule, and
strengthening the independent media." In other words - back all efforts
to crush Aristide and FL.
- The extremist hard right International Republican Institute
(IRI) was part of the scheme with its own special viciousness - "backing
the most regressive, elitist, pro-military" Haitian factions plus
allying with the CD and G-184 against Aristide and FL.
- One of IRI's strategic partners was the so-called 2002-formed,
Washington-based Haiti Democracy Project (HDP). Its members represent a
who's who of American and Haitian elites, united with a singular aim -
crushing Haiti's "popular democracy" and returning the country
to its pre-Aristide condition.
- Haiti's anti-goverment or "independent" media
also had its role, especially radio because of the country's high illiteracy
rate. Throughout the 1990s and ahead of Aristide's 2000 reelection, anti-Lavalas
propaganda was sustained and vicious. It was so hostile that in late 2003,
the National Association of Haitian Media (ANMH) banned Aristide from its
member stations' airwaves to prevent him from answering his critics.
- The campaign against him was also helped when one of
Haiti's few independent journalists, Jean Dominique, was mysteriously murdered
in April 2000, just weeks before the decisive May legislative elections.
Dominique rankled the opposition for years, was the country's most widely
respected and influential radio voice, and strongly supported Lavalas and
the poor. It's no surprise he was silenced or any doubt who did it.
- Without a countervailing voice, the dominant media's
specialty was unchallenged - round-the-clock anti-Lavalas propaganda all
the time. So when small anti-Aristide demonstrations are held, like the
one on May 28, 1999, they're reported as a "tide of dissent."
In contrast, huge pro-Lavalas gatherings are downplayed or ignored.
- At the same time, Haiti Progres (the country's largest
weekly publication) reported "a media campaign was also launched in
the United States to split the Haitian community and undermine the support
of the Congressional Black Caucus" and other pro-Lavalas advocacy
groups. Its themes were familiar and consistent - FL government corruption,
autocracy and complicity in human rights abuses. Earlier in the 1990s,
the US media called Aristide "flaky, volatile, confrontational, demagogic,
unpredictable, radical, tyrannical, a psychopath, Anti-American, anti-democratic,"
and more. Then it got worse in his second term.
- 2001 - 2003: The Return of the Army
- Economic pressure paralyzed Aristide's government, yet
it took brute force to unseat him, and the scheme advanced along familiar
lines. While USAID, NED, IRI and others funded the CD and G-184, covert
training and equipping a rebel army (called the FLRN) went on in neighboring
Dominican Republic (DR). This, of course, is a CIA specialty, although
no smoking-gun evidence reveals what, in fact, went on - so far.