1. AN EMBARRASSING PRESENCE
Jean-Claude Bajeux is director of the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and one of the leaders of the political party Konakom. He and his family left Haiti in October 1993 after their house was attacked by members of FRAPH, and he has recently returned.
Haiti, with its seven million people inhabiting 28,000 square kilometers, two hours by plane from Miami, may seem to have taken on disproportionate significance in American public opinion and in the concerns of American leaders. But, of course, that is nothing new. As far back as 1828, when the first Pan-American congress was convened in Panama, pressure from the United States succeeded in barring the participation of Haiti, the world’s first black republic, which had been created in 1804 out of a triumphant slave revolt against Napoleon’s armies. And between 1915 and 1934, Haiti was occupied by American Marines.
Contrary to the recent claims of Ross Perot, the goal of that American occupation was not to import democracy. Rather, it was to defend the interests of the First National City Bank, to gain managerial control over the Haitian budget, and to supplant the German and French interests which were strong in Haiti at the time. All of these aims were achieved, and Haiti in those years became totally dependent on the United States for its imports as well as its exports.
Still more recently, from as early as 1920, after having supplied the sugar industries of Cuba and the Dominican Republic with an army of cane cutters, the Haitian exodus shifted toward wherever work was to be had: the Bahamas, Canada, the French West Indies, French Guyana, and, of course, the United States.
Six months after young Jean-Claude Duvalier, then age nineteen, proclaimed himself—with the State Department’s acceptance—President for Life in 1971, the first “boat people” arrived in Miami; since then, successive waves of Haitians amounting to several hundred thousand people have embarked for the United States. It is the Haitian peasantry that has been taking flight—both the peasantry of the countryside and the peasants who have become the jobless, landless, and homeless of Haiti’s urban areas. Here we have one of the symptoms of a malaise that goes beyond the coup d’état of September 30, 1991, or the question of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s return. When a Haitian peasant sells his land in order to leave his country for good, it is a sign that he’s recognized failure—the failure of Haitian society, the failure of a state that has proved itself incapable of assuring its citizens even a minimum of safety and well-being.
It is impossible to understand the events in Haiti without taking account of this deep failure. One must try to identify the mechanisms behind the crisis that has finally led to a therapeutic military intervention in the affairs of the second independent nation in the hemisphere. It is an intervention desired and demanded by the mass of Haitian people, who have welcomed the soldiers of the US and other forces. The campaign waged in the American press and television to present Haiti as a second Somalia bears no relation to reality, because in the case of Haiti, the former military leaders and their supporters would never find the kind of refuge among the people that would enable them to carry on a guerrilla war.
We can best grasp the current crisis by considering three central aspects of Haiti’s recent history: the interference of the military in politics, the presidencies of the two Duvaliers, and finally, the fiasco of international aid under Jean-Claude Duvalier.
When the US Marines pulled out of Haiti in 1934, they left behind them an institution they had virtually created: the Haitian army, then known as “the Haitian Guard.” They had done the same in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. This armed force, which had helped the Marines hunt down the rebel peasants known as Cacos in the Central Plateau, has always behaved toward the Haitian citizens like an occupying army. For the last fifty years, it has constantly, and routinely, intruded into Haitian political life, thwarting the normal development of political institutions, particularly political parties.
In 1946, the army seized power for six months. It did so by defeating the workers, students, and groups of intellectuals who had organized strikes and demonstrations against President Elie Lescot and who forced him to withdraw from office. In 1950, it drove President Dumarsais Estimé from office and sent him into exile. In his place it installed Colonel Paul E. Magloire, who would remain in power as president for six years. In 1956, it helped to bring to power François Duvalier, who organized the most savage tyranny in Haiti’s history, then used the army to subjugate the Haitian people, ruthlessly crushing all attempts at rebellion. He succeeded thanks to the creation of a parallel militia, the famed Tontons Macoutes, who to this day haunt the streets of Port-au-Prince, collaborating with the army.
After twenty-nine years of dictatorship under Duvalier Senior and Junior (between 1957 and 1986), it was the army—again with the blessings of the American embassy—that, as it had in 1946, inherited power. It fought the transition to democracy at every turn, from 1987 to today. The army’s top leaders—General Henri Namphy, General Williams Regala, General Prosper Avril, General Raoul Cédras—were all schooled in the same methods of governing and holding onto power: the rifle and the truncheon.
In contrast to Chile, the numerous moves by the Haitian armed forces to take political control were never, except perhaps in the case of Paul Magloire, accompanied by any coherent plan for economic modernization. On the contrary, the more the army leaders have intervened in civil life, the more they have acted as—and allied themselves with—corrupt, oppressive political forces. Although François Duvalier opened up higher ranks of the army to popular enlistment, the methods the army used to control the populace only grew more brutal, all the more so during the three-year period following the coup d’état of September 1991, which forced Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile.
Ultimately this tyranny has proved to be wholly irrational, since it has managed to destroy the very state it seized, while its officials busily try to make fortunes through plunder, bribery, smuggling, and drug trafficking. The sector of the Haitian bourgeoisie that supported and financed the 1991 coup d’état has realized it made an error but has been stuck with the ruinous regime it helped create. To safeguard its long-held privileges, the well-to-do elite has, for the last three years, handed the country over to a military mafia incapable of creating the conditions for successfully carrying on business. This gamble on the military has left the state a shambles, and the gulf between state and nation wider than ever.
Some people believed that the Duvaliers’ tyranny had at least strengthened the authority of the state. They were wrong. Some believed the rhetoric of negritude and populism promoted by the pro-Duvalier leaders had changed the bipolar nature of Haitian society, in which a small elite established its own version of apartheid. They were equally wrong. The army’s formal installation of Duvalier in power in 1957 marks the moment when the balance shifted and everything swung out of control. After some attempts at economic modernization under the governments of President Estimé in the late 1940s and President Magloire between 1950 and 1956, the era of the Duvaliers’ tyranny marked a rupture; the society plunged into archaic backwardness and stagnation.
Under military domination Haiti’s population has grown while its resources have diminished. The gravity of our economic situation darkens all plans for the future. As the twenty-first century approaches, Haitian society is sliding backward in every way.
Yet it is worth recalling that when the younger Jean-Claude Duvalier took power in 1971, declaring himself President for Life, an effort was made to modernize the economy by mobilizing international aid. In ten years, more than a billion dollars were invested in Haiti, either by international institutions or by governments. The aim was to build roads and other elements of infrastructure; to encourage an economy by which foreign products would be “transformed,” or processed, by Haitian workers hired by subcontractors; and to “liberalize” the regime by relaxing regulation.
This effort deserves a place in future economic textbooks as a stunning example of international aid that, instead of helping a country to progress, merely hastened its impoverishment and increased the gap between rich and poor. Thus, together with the failure of our institutions through repeated incursions of the military into politics, and through the misrule of the two Duvaliers, which merely reinforced longstanding structures of privilege, we must also cite the failure of international aid that served in the end only to enrich a small minority of Haitians.
The victim of this triple failure has been the poor people of Haiti, the same people who periodically take to the sea to flee a country which denies them safety, daily bread, or a better future—and the same people who elected Aristide, in the hope, at least, of regaining their dignity, and who are still anxiously waiting for his return. The question arises, then, whether it is possible to rectify this situation solely through the internal forces of Haitian society. It would take a very brave soul to claim that it could.
As early as 1963, John F. Kennedy, faced with the disaster of Duvalier’s dictatorship, considered intervention, but wasn’t given time to implement any policy. Since then, things have only gotten worse. Many in the country’s governing classes have emigrated to friendlier places. For all but a very few Haitians, poverty has reached a humiliating level. The actual confiscating of the popular vote by the Haitian military has, for the first time in history, provoked an international response backed by UN resolutions; and this has been followed by the intervention of American armed forces. But this is just a first step.
The return of President Aristide, if it is to succeed, should be supported by a new program of international investment, one that should continue for at least several years under UN guidance. Perhaps Haiti now has an unprecedented chance to reverse the engines of history, to reform its battered institutions, and at least begin to emerge from a state of dehumanizing misery. But in order to set an effective economic development plan in motion and not repeat the errors made between 1971 and 1982, it will clearly be necessary to resolve the problem of an army which for the past fifty years has done nothing but block the development of democratic institutions; and this can be done only by taking away the army’s weapons, and those of the militias allied with it, and by organizing a new police force loyal to the elected government. At the same time, major changes must be made in the justice system: for the past thirty-seven years, criminals have enjoyed almost total impunity.
These are the challenges that confront President Aristide on his return, and along with him the international community and the United States. Above all they face Haitian society itself, now presented with what may be its last chance for decent survival.
—October 6, 1994
—translated by David Jacobson
2. THE HOPE FOR DEMOCRACY
Laënnec Hurbon was born in Jacmel on the southern coast of Haiti. He received degrees of Doctor of Theology from the Institut Catholique in Paris and Doctor of Sociology from the Sorbonne and is the director of research at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris. His books include Dieu dans le vodou haïtien, Culture et dictature en Haïti, and, most recently, Les Mystères du Vaudon.
Is democracy just a decorative feature of modern societies? Or is it the sole form of social organization that allows individuals and groups to rise above a Hobbesian vision of universalized aggression? These are not merely abstract or moral questions for Haiti today. They must be raised if we are to understand both factors that brought about the American-led multinational intervention and the prospects for democracy in the future.
American public opinion was heavily influenced three years ago by the speech Aristide gave just before the military putsch, when he referred to “Père Lebrun,” the code-name for punishing political opponents by putting a burning tire around their necks. People said that Aristide’s gaffe was the main justification for the military takeover, but that was only a superficial view of events. Aristide’s presidency and the military putsch go together, are intimately related, like the two sides of the same coin. The putsch brought the army and the Tontons Macoutes back into political power. But what is much more serious is the ensuing and now almost complete “Macoutization” of the army itself—the process by which the army came to act like Macoutes, without any code or rules of restraint, and with soldiers having unrestricted power to kill and abuse civilians. This has made any peaceful solution to the unresolved crisis extremely unlikely, and it also highlights the way that the democratic experiment shook the very foundations of Haitian society. Whether Aristide is a real democrat or not is beside the point. Formally, his election to the presidency put an end to the thirty-year reign of the Duvalier family and its successors. More deeply, it was the death knell for an archaic society that, throughout its two centuries of independence, has never recognized formal equality between all its citizens and has seemed peculiarly determined to eradicate the memory of its origins in the struggle against slavery.
For the Haitian masses Aristide represents the return of an unfulfilled dream, the dream of liberty and dignity for all. When he proclaims that “every man is a man,” for example, he is asserting simply the equal right of all Haitians to be treated as human beings; he is not preaching social equality in any Marxist sense. Equal rights mean equality before the law: but in Haiti, until the Constitution of 1987, peasants had a special status that was not equal to all: they were entirely subject to the chef de section rurale (a sort of village headman) who, as local despot, personally exercised full administrative, judicial, and military power over them. So Aristide’s accession to the presidency in an election in which the vote of every Haitian was counted, irrespective of status, wealth, or education, sent shock waves through the military and middle classes, who saw it as the end of their world. To ensure the survival of that world, that is to say, the ancien régime or the reign of arbitrary power, they had to use every imaginable form of violence against ever larger numbers of the Haitian poor.
It may have seemed realistic to the traditional political classes to have the army reclaim power rather than to try to change the old regime and make it less arbitrary. But the coup also served to highlight Aristide’s role as a defender of the poor and as the promoter of the human dignity that had never previously been granted to all Haitians. That is why, despite the piles of corpses on public display, the mass of Haitians never lost hope. The election of Aristide brought about a great sea-change in Haitian society. Although the Macoutes returned to the political scene through the army after its putsch, the arbitrary order of Macoute power had already become obsolete.
One may well wonder how the military junta managed to stay in power for so long—all of three years. The indecisiveness and unwillingness of the international community to take strong action was in effect the generals’ most valuable resource. Their use of internal terror was obviously important, too; but that the junta felt it had to continuously use terror also showed its failure to establish its rule definitively. It was outflanked by the change in public attitudes inside Haiti itself, just as the international community that has sponsored the military intervention has also been constantly running behind rather than ahead of events. It is as if the powerful nations of the world had been taken by surprise, and caught short, by an effective universalizing of the idea of democracy.
Now that the international community has replaced threats with action and has intervened with force to restore democracy, that community may be entering, however unwillingly, into a new age. The United States, with no strategic or economic interests at stake in Haiti, was under no clear obligation to put American lives at risk solely in order to assist a people in danger and to restore democracy to a country that has no such tradition. The intervention therefore makes it seem that the Kantian idea of a human universal has begun to emerge as a concrete reality in the geopolitical sphere. In other words: American military intervention has no compelling grounds outside the requirement for democracy; it was the only possible means of opening the path to democracy in a country in the grip of an army no longer distinguishable from the Tontons Macoutes. As a result, new contradictions are arising both inside Haitian society and within the international community. To think about the prospects for democracy in Haiti may come to include considering the future of democracy in the world today.
The real nub of the current political crisis in Haiti is to be found in the search for ways to give legitimacy to political authority after many years of rule that had no legitimacy. In this respect the Haitian crisis is characteristic of much that is happening in the third world and in the former Soviet republics now attempting, or claiming, to become democracies. Nationalism, racism, and religious fundamentalism, however regressive they may be, are, as it were, symptoms of adolescence in cultures struggling toward adulthood and becoming a modern society: they are the final stages of resistance of specific traditions that are hostile to the imperatives of natural rights and to the idea that universal standards guaranteeing those rights should be accepted. In Haiti, the challenges to democratic processes remain formidable, and I can only suggest some of the principal ones here.
The problem of political authority is particularly urgent in Haitian society because it is starting over from a kind of year zero in its history and has to find a new foundation for the social compact. The main effect of the gangsterized society that the coup d’état of 1991 reimposed was to dissolve virtually all social values. Staying alive in Haiti became a favor granted by the whim of the men with guns. To move from being governed by men to being governed by laws, Haitians must acquire some critical distance from the Haitian cultural traditions on which despots have relied repeatedly to keep themselves in power. In concrete terms, individuals must stop putting their personal interests above the general interest, and they must be prepared to pursue their own interests through debate and conciliation. To abandon the traditional modes of resolving conflicts in Haitian society—i.e., silencing the adversary by murder or terror—will require establishing public forums for discussion and debate with rules accepted and understood by all; and it will require as well a new system of justice in which private vengeance is replaced by the rule of law. Such a development would inevitably transform Haiti into a modern society. But it can only be done gradually, and must be based on a reshaping of virtually all the country’s educational, religious, and political institutions.
Simultaneously, the local and national groups—associations, trade unions, and so on—must be revived, for a democratic political process is never just a copy of family or community life, with rules that cannot be questioned. (Local groups supporting Aristide were particular targets of the military dictatorship.) The US military intervention has begun to unblock Haitian society; it has created a space for free speech and public demonstrations. But its effect still falls far short of installing a democratic regime in the full sense of the word. The current moment of euphoria makes politics seem magical. But the magical phase will not outlast the need to deal with all the many demands—for, among other things, housing, health care, and jobs—that will arise from every corner of society. Aristide’s return to power can be understood as a fresh investiture of power, but his government will have to create rational and lasting conditions in which these demands can be expressed. Nor will his or any other government be able to respond to the demands themselves in the short term.
The election of Aristide was not the victory of one group over another within the normal frame of an already democratic society. It was a refounding of an entire society on the principle of natural rights, of the right to have rights, which had never before been granted to all Haitians. In other words, the task made possible and imperative by the American military intervention on Aristide’s return is to consolidate democratic institutions. If this turns out to be feasible, we can ask what will be the larger meaning for the international community—particularly for the United States—and for Haiti itself of the forcible return to the stage where democracy was brought to a halt by the military coup of 1991.
The division of American public opinion “for” and “against” military intervention in Haiti already offers an illustration of the contradictions that the Haitian political crisis has brought into the open. Whatever particular national interests may have been connected with the invasion, we can doubt whether the countries that approved of it have as yet really grasped its implications. Accustomed as they are to seeing international relations conducted principally on the basis of the interests of specific nations, or of the pragmatic need to maintain a balance of forces between them, they have not considered the possibility that it is not differences between nations that need to be protected, but the idea of universal humanity, or of a human universal. One often encounters the view in the United States that democracy is good and essential for American society but only a relative good for other nations. But this view is quite out of kilter with a military action dubbed “Restore Democracy”; and this action was only possible because Aristide is not just a prophet of the poor, or just a president overthrown illegally; he is also a symbolic agent for the Haitian masses of the transition from a society based on privilege and personal favor to one ruled by law, in which the Haitian people will, at last, have the status and the rights of citizens of their own country.
This prospect is very far removed from the Haitian nationalism that has historically been no more than the favored ideological instrument of dictatorial regimes. The implication of what is now happening may be that the success of the democratic process in Haiti could come to stand for the success of democracy itself. If the army, the police, the militias, and their civilian supporters can be displaced by the invading force, and if on Aristide’s return, democratic processes can be put in motion, including preparations for peaceful elections, Haiti’s experience could be used as a compass to point toward a thoroughgoing reconsideration of the role of military force in the world. It could also be used by both governments and international organizations to rethink ways of responding to nations in danger or taken hostage by tyrannical regimes. In today’s global society the protection of elementary rights is more than ever required as the regulating principle of each society in itself and of relations between peoples. Is it too much to hope that the current Haitian crisis could suggest ways by which the experience of oppressive institutions can be transformed, as universal principles actually become a reality?
—October 6, 1994
—translated by David Bellos
3. ARISTIDE’S CHALLENGE
Michel-Rolph Trouillot grew up in Port-au-Prince. He is Krieger-Eisenhower Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Institute for Global Studies in Culture, Power, and History at Johns Hopkins. His books include Peasants and Capital: Dominica in the World Economy, Haiti: State Against Nation, The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism, and Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, to be published in the spring of 1996.
The lady of the house lost her jewels and suspected the hired help. She was not well connected with the government, but the neighbor’s chauffeur picked out the man whose name the lady had suggested, a short dark fellow recently arrived from one of the peasant villages in the provinces. The chauffeur and his friends tied the man to a tree and beat him until pieces of his flesh peeled off. He died five hours later. The lady commented sadly on the savagery practiced by the lower-class goons connected with the regime: “They should not have beaten him so hard.”
That such a scene was not typical of daily life in Haiti is beside the point. More significant is that participants and witnesses to this horrifying spectacle, which occurred in the 1980s, thought of it, and of similar ones, as no more than unfortunate deviations from a normal way of life. Many members of the Haitian elite expressed their abhorrence of some aspects of the state’s autocratic rule. Many more deplored the loss of human life under such conditions. Few, however, would question the two-centuries-old system that made such aberrations possible.
The Haiti that Jean-Bertrand Aristide inherited with the presidency is one in which the cleavage between classes is wide enough to be called social apartheid. Notwithstanding the superficial analyses one often finds in the American press, skin color is not the central element of that system of domination. Color is a significant social fact in Haiti, but not always more important than, say, coming from a family that has long spoken excellent French or one that has a prominent name—characteristics that do not always match with light skin. If many elite Haitians are light, a good many dark-skinned families have longer pedigrees and more political influence than their mulatto friends.
Central to the Haitian system of domination is the functioning of the neo-colonial state, both as a mechanism to extract wealth in the interest of the elites and as a mechanism of repression of the very producers on whose labor it depends. Most of these producers are independent peasants working small plots that they own or control. Haiti is still 70 percent rural, in spite of a huge surge in the population of Port-au-Prince since the 1970s. Traditionally, the state has been financed primarily by the labor of the lower classes who produced crops and hand-crafted objects both for the local market and for the export trade. The state took its cut through a system of licensing fees and indirect levies. The elites rarely invested in capital equipment or other factors of production, unless such production was protected by a state-enforced monopoly. They benefited from lucrative state concessions to enrich themselves in the import-export trade or were able to take money directly from the Treasury. The middle classes fed on the state as civil employees or as clients of the commercial and political elites. None of these people ever paid taxes. In short, the state profited from the peasants, while the elites enriched themselves by draining the resources of the state and selling the agricultural and other products of the peasants and urban laborers, returning absolutely nothing—not even a pretense of investment—to most of the people who worked in the economy.
Both political repression and social elitism were necessary to this system: the laborers and artisans in the city and especially the people who worked on the farms were subsidizing the state but had no say in running it. Up to 1986, Haiti could be seen as a colony run for the benefit of its urban elites by a repressive government. The system came close to collapsing under its own weight in the 1950s, but the dictatorships of the two Duvaliers gave it time to breathe by creating a more efficient method for the state apparatus both to extract wealth and to repress dissent. The Duvaliers’ Tontons Macoutes and their lucrative state monopolies were excesses within the system, just as the occasional death of a peasant was an unfortunate accident. But by pushing the system to its limits, Duvalierism both retarded its fall and also ensured that the collapse would be devastating when it came. 1
The brutality that erupted in the streets of Haiti after the fall of JeanClaude Duvalier and the verbal and physical violence that persists even after the recent landing of the US forces are thus much more than unruly expressions of political partisanship. Middle-class citizens who supported Aristide in 1991 are nevertheless worried that violent reactions by poorer Haitians may now affect them. Brutal as they were, partisan politics in Haiti were hardly ever expressions of blind rage or inhumanity such as we are now witnessing in some parts of the country. The closest parallels to the current unrest are to be found not in Somalia or even in El Salvador, but in Rhodesia or South Africa of recent years. What is now occurring is the explosion of pent-up fear and resentment accumulated on both sides of a social divide during a history of repression that is no less brutal than that in southern Africa, even if it has been less visible. Aristide’s challenge is that he is both the product of that explosion and the man called on to peacefully channel the energies it released.
Popular as he is, Aristide did not create the movement that brought him into the presidential palace. That movement created him. More precisely, the local activists who took part in an amorphous and largely leaderless movement anointed him as their icon. He was seen as an outsider who had stayed apart from the ruling class, a prophet foreign to the ways of the world, a man who was untainted by, yet critical of, the very process through which Haitian leaders have been chosen for two centuries. Once he announced his candidacy, Haitian citizens registered to vote in unprecedented numbers. His devastating majority was an unpleasant surprise to the powerful people both in France and in the United States who were used to influencing Haitian events.
Both Aristide and his supporters, and their main opponents, concentrated on the presidency and neglected the campaigns for the legislature, with the result that the parliament is divided—a continuing source of conflict. The vote, however, was not only a rejection of Duvalierism but a landslide for representation. I do not mean simply a plurality of votes for a duly elected regime: someone else could have achieved that without the benefit of such popular enthusiasm.2 I mean that with this election a majority of Haitians entered into politics for the first time. US analysts miss the point when they say that one election does not make a democracy—a view that is of course true but misunderstands the Haitian situation. This election was not simply a formal step toward democracy by clearly organized and identifiable political parties. Rather, the people who took part in the democratic explosion at the grass roots used the Aristide candidacy to give formal expression to the unprecedented energies that they had released.
An expectation of the popular groups who took part in the election was, of course, that the repressive role of the state would come to an end. But removing the weapons of the army and the other repressive forces is not enough to fulfill that expectation without an explicit social contract—the first such contract in a country where the majority was routinely dubbed “mounn andero,” literally, the outsiders.3 Obviously, a new social contract will have to go beyond political pluralism. It will require the use of state power by successive governments to do at least two things: first, to persuade and influence the Haitian elites to change their perspective and restrict their historic capacity for social repression and, second, to contain the anger of the urban poor. This double challenge can be met if US policymakers understand the stakes, if Aristide’s entourage has matured during his years in exile, and if Aristide himself uses his extraordinary popular appeal to calm down and reassure most Haitians.
But the democratic promise of a social contract implies that the state will create a “level playing field”—i.e., a fair chance of access to power—not only in politics but also in economic life. In Haiti such a level playing field cannot mean simply a noninterventionist economic policy, an extreme version of laissez-faire economics—not in view of Haiti’s past and not, especially, in view of its current situation.
Yet Aristide is going back to Haiti with an economic program that goes beyond the expectations even of the IMF. It calls, to cite only one example, for the removal of all import tariffs—except on a few cereals. It is tilted in favor of the traditional elites who will themselves dominate the trade in imported products. It is not believable that they would learn overnight to behave as fair competitors once the state suddenly removed itself from economic life. The Aristide program neglects the capacities and interests of thousands of small urban entrepreneurs and artisans as well as millions of peasants—in short the very people who have made possible the miracle of mere survival in a country as desperate as Haiti. In particular, for example, removing tariffs on handcrafted products may quickly put out of business a considerable number of the artisans who have supported Aristide. And the unrestricted importation of food may further diminish peasant revenues and encourage both rural exodus and urban unrest.
To be fair to the economists most responsible for that program, Leslie Delatour and Leslie Voltaire, it must be said that they asked for the critical views of many Haitians not from Aristide’s entourage—including those of this writer. Such openness may signal an extraordinary departure in Haitian politics. But one waits to see what will come of such criticisms. Will the revamped Aristide regime extend its openness to include in the debate over its economic programs not only international agencies, not only Haitian expatriates, not only political parties—most of which have no legitimacy—but the very people whose future is at stake?
Aristide’s most arduous democratic challenge after October 15 will not only be that of encouraging political pluralism in the formal sense, already a difficult yet indispensable task. More important, he will also have to decide whether the economic plans that have become one of the main fixtures of his program—and that have brought him foreign support—will be imposed on the Haitian people or whether the Haitian state will finally start to listen to the voices of the nation.
—October 6, 1994
November 3, 1994
See Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Haiti: State against Nation, The Origins and Legacies of Duvalierism (Monthly Review Press, 1990). ↩
Other candidates with more traditional backgrounds were coming close to such a plurality in the bloody “elections” that led to the Manigat presidency between February and June 1988. ↩
See Michel-Rolph Trouillot, “Haiti’s Nightmare and the Lessons of History,” NACLA Report on the Americas, Volume 27, No. 4 (January—February 1994), pp. 46–51. ↩