Still Up Against the Death
Plan in Haiti
The Aristide government is
straitjacketed by U.S. low-intensity warfare and neoliberal economic
by Tom Reeves
Dollars and Sense magazine,
This March I visited Haiti for the first
time since 1997. I expected the worst. In publications across
the political spectrum, North American analysts condemn the government
of President Jean Bertrand Aristide. Haiti, they say, faces worse
poverty and repression than ever. A corrupt and devious Aristide
is portrayed as a far cry from the lowly priest the people overwhelmingly
chose in 1991. Recently I asked a prominent Canadian journalist
why in a recent article he called Aristide a tyrant. He replied,
"Everybody knows that."
But on the street in Haiti, the picture
was much more complicated. In terms of violence and public order,
for example, the situation has improved dramatically. "Baby
Doc" Duvalier (1971-1986) governed through an obvious and
paralyzing fear, engendered by the army and Macoute presence in
every neighborhood. (The Tontons Macoute were a paramilitary secret
police force that supported the Duvalier regimes.) During the
coup period, from 1991 to 1994, the military junta under Cedras
did not even pretend to govern Haiti. It simply exploited and
terrorized the country. Huge mounds of trash piled on every corner,
even downtown and in elite business areas; dead bodies lay rotting
in the streets; gunfire peppered the night air. Everywhere, the
hopeless poor pressed on visitors under the watchful eyes of military
and Macoute, who stopped them if they actually threatened a "blanc,"
the revealing term for foreigners of any color.
Today, although the joyful street scenes
that accompanied Aristide's post-coup return in 1994 are gone,
so too are the omnipresent military and police. There is more
calm and less panic. Most of the garbage is cleared from the streets-and
the streets are even washed at night in many neighborhoods. People
are sprucing up homes and businesses. The country's improved sense
of security was evident at this spring's Carnival, which attracted
nearly a million people with not a single death and only a few
On the other hand, the standard of living
in the country has not improved. Most Haitians continue to live
in abject misery, facing spiraling inflation for basic items like
rice and gas, an ever-devalued gourde (the national currency),
an unemployment rate of about 70%, and an average wage of around
$1 a day for those few who can find work. On this visit I saw
countless men and women with missing or stunted limbs, almost
naked, filthy, pulling themselves up steep hills by scooting over
rough ground, or if they were lucky on splintered boards. I saw
hoards of children as young as five or six running dangerously
after cars to get a gourde (about 2 cents).
None of this was much different from what
I'd seen in 1986,1993 or 1997. The numbing reality of the majority
in this oppressed society has not changed, nor has the smirking,
self-righteous superiority and obvious affluence of the tiny group
at the top.
Aristide admitted he could not erase the
effects of centuries of oppression in a few years. This was especially
so after he was entrapped in the neoliberal box the United States
imposed when it restored him after the brutal 1991 coup that it
had covertly sponsored in the first place. Aristide promised that
even the poor in Haiti would live in dignity under his administration.
If his program for the people failed, he pledged, he would never
again seek political office. North American media, the tiny Haitian
opposition, and quite a few Haitian intellectuals say he has failed
and must keep his promise: he must go, now. Many ordinary Haitians
THE AMERICAN DEATH PLAN: NEW AND "IMPROVED"
Aristide, however poor a president, is
not to blame for Haiti's ongoing plight. The lion's share of the
fault, instead, lies with what internationally-acclaimed public
health expert Paul Farmer has called "the structure of poverty
and oppression," imposed on Haiti by the United States and
other imperialist powers since its independence two hundred years
ago. The current version is "structural adjustment,"
the typical package of policies the U.S. government and international
financial institutions (IFIs) demand of Third World nations: free
trade, privatization, strict adherence to debt repayment schedules,
and so on.
Marie Kennedy and Chris Tilly described
the effects of structural adjustment on Haiti in these pages in
"The economy has gone from bad to
worse. The resulting struggle for survival undermines the possibilities
for democracy. And the economic program [the United States and
international institutions] are imposing threatens to further
devastate the country. Haitians have a variety of names for the
program: "the neoliberal plan," "the American plan."
But the most vivid name was offered by a peasant who said simply,
"We call it the 'death plan'.""
Aristide was unfortunate to be elected
(for the second time) in 2000, the same year as George W. Bush.
Elitane Atelis, a member of Fanm des Martyrs Ayibobo Brav (Women
Victims of Military Violence), put it bluntly: today, her country
faces "what every Haitian baby knows is Bush's game."
The game is low-intensity warfare, a policy mix long familiar
to observers of U.S. policy toward "undesirable" regimes
in Latin America and elsewhere. The mix includes disinformation
campaigns in the media; pressure on international institutions
and other governments to weaken their support of the "target"
government; and overt and covert support for rightist opposition
groups, including those prepared to attempt a violent overthrow.
Haitians are well aware of the U.S. government's gambit. Haiti
Progress, an independent leftist weekly often critical of Aristide,
last spring outlined what the writer called "a multi-front
strategy" the United States is carrying out for regime change
Progressives, at least, should have been
suspicious about the team Bush put in place to manage his Haiti
policy. Otto Reich at the National Security Council and Roger
Noriega in the State Department are among those directing Bush's
Haiti policy; joining them in orchestrating U.S. foreign policy
as a whole are Elliot Abrams, John Poindexter (until his departure
under fire in July) and John Negroponte. All of these men were
deeply involved in the Reagan administration's dirty war against
the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Iran-Contra scandal. "The
resurfacing of the Iran-Contra culprits has been nothing short
of Orwellian in this administration," opined Peter Kornbluh,
senior analyst at the National Security Archive, in News
Shortly after Bush's own tainted election,
his administration questioned the outcome of some of the 2000
Haitian parliamentary elections, then used these allegations to
block the release of Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) loans
already approved for Haiti. The administration pressed the World
Bank, the IMF and the European Union to reduce other planned assistance.
The IDB loans alone total $512 million.
The U.S. rationale for withholding the
aid has been repeated uncritically in virtually all international
media, including the liberal press. For example, a March 2003
piece in the New York Review of Books deplores "gross electoral
fraud by the ruling party." Yet at the time of the elections,
not even the U.S. government asserted fraud, and the elections
for president and most legislative seats were declared free and
fair by the Organization of American States (OAS). All sides concede
that Aristide won the presidential ballot with 92% of the vote
(with varying reports of voter turnout). The sole disagreement
is over run-off elections for seven senators from Aristide's party
(Fanmi Lavalas, or FL) who obtained pluralities but not majorities
in the first round. The seven senators eventually resigned, making
way for new elections. Compared to the U.S. presidential election
that year, the Haitian elections can scarcely be called fraudulent.
A Domino's restaurant in Port-au-Prince
is closed in observance of a general strike called by the Coalition
of 184 Civic Institutions, January 24, 2003. Businesses that cater
largely to Haiti's small upper and middle classes were the only
ones that observed the strike.
In any case, the aid embargo has had severe
consequences for Aristide's ability to govern. Needless to say,
without these resources, Aristide was unlikely to be able to keep
many of his promises to Haiti's poor. Another result is that the
Haitian government has been under tremendous pressure to comply
with U.S. and IFI requirements in order to get the aid restarted.
These requirements included paying the country's debt service
arrears. The Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development
(PAPDA) and other organizations on the left have proposed a moratorium
on debt repayment. But Prime Minister Yvon Neptune laments, "Until
we have a clear alternative for investment, we simply cannot go
it alone. The embargoed aid is desperately needed by the Haitian
people." Paul Farmer agrees: "[Without the aid] the
misery will just increase, and thousands will die of AIDS, malaria
and other diseases without any hope of treatment. Those who say
the aid is not worth what Haiti has to do to get it do not live
daily with the reality of poverty and suffering."
In mid-July, Haiti paid $32 million of
its debt service arrears, using virtually all its capital reserves.
The United States then announced that $34 million would go at
once to Haiti for health care, water, and roads (although virtually
all of this amount will go directly to mostly U.S.-based "contractors").
In late July, the IDB finally announced the release of $143 million
of the nearly $500 million pledged.
Although aid may now begin to arrive,
Aristide's government is still operating under severe constraints
on what it can conceivably accomplish. On the political front,
the United States has been working hard since the elder Bush's
presidency to forge an opposition that could depose Aristide or
at least prevent his administration from governing effectively.
The Convergence, as it's called, consists mostly of what Haitians
call particules, tiny political parties, from Maoists to freemarket
liberals and ultra-right wing Duvalierists. Perhaps the only opposition
faction with a genuine base is that of Chavannes Jean-Baptiste,
founder and leader of the progressive and successful Mouvman Paysan
Papay (MPP) in the Central Plateau, who has actually shifted his
allegiance away from the Convergence. With all these factions,
support for the Convergence, even according to U.S. government-sponsored
polls, has never registered more than 12%.
The Convergence was a product of "Democracy
Enhancement," a project of the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID), which has been an arm of both low-intensity
warfare and neoliberal restructuring in many countries (including
Iraq today). Noam Chomsky cites Haiti expert Amy Wilentz, who
characterized the State Department's "democracy enhancement"
project as "specifically designed to fund those sectors of
the Haitian political spectrum where opposition to the Aristide
government could be encouraged." Today, the International
Republican Institute (IRI), affiliated with the U.S. government-funded
National Endowment for Democracy, provides the Convergence with
significant support. The IRI has received an average of $3 million
annually from Congress since it established a permanent base in
Haiti, as well as millions more from private Haitian and U.S.
sources. The organization insists it is independent of the Republican
Party, but a look at its board members suggests otherwise: nearly
all are current or former Republican Party officials, Republican
officeholders, or members of Republican administrations.
This July, even the departing U.S. Ambassador
to Haiti, Brian Curran, lashed out against some U.S. political
operatives, calling them the "Chimeres of Washington"
(a Haitian term for political criminals). The most recent of these
Chimeres have been associated with the Haiti Democracy Project
(HDP), headed by former State Department official James Morrell
and funded by the right-wing Haitian Boulos family. In December
2002, the HDP literally created from whole cloth a new public
relations face for the official opposition, the "Coalition
of 184 Civic Institutions," a laundry list of Haitian NGOs
funded by USAID and/or the IRI, as well as by the Haitian-American
Chamber of Commerce and other groups.
During the coup and since, USAID-sponsored
"democracy enhancement" has done its job: whole segments
of the popular movement were chilled or co-opted. Popular leaders
were at first killed off or encouraged to emigrate; later, many
of the rest were bought off. What was once among the most mobilized
populations in the hemisphere has become severely demobilized.
Aristide's ability to govern has not only
been limited by the political activities of an opposition forged
and financed from abroad. Convergence parties-and so, too, their
U.S. backers-have been implicated in a series of violent attacks
on the Haitian government and its supporters. The Council on Hemispheric
Affairs (COHA), an independent research group, has sounded the
alarm. In early 2002, COHA wrote: "Aristide has lived with
the continued threat of a military coup since his initial election....
The [Aristide] government weathered two violent coup attempts
in July and December 2001." The December 2001 armed attack
on the National Palace has been downplayed by Aristide's critics.
Yet there is evidence that this was a genuine attempt to destabilize
Haiti in order to prove Aristide inept. Ernest Edouard, a Haitian
radio commentator in Miami, predicted the attack in advance. He
said he had attended a Miami meeting that included Haitians from
the Dominican Republic, as well as two Americans, who were well-funded
and planning to carry out such an attack.
More generally, COHA's reports itemize
violent demonstrations and attacks on both sides, but they emphasize
the violence of some Convergence leaders and blame the United
States for supporting them. Throughout 2003, FL leaders and government
officials have been murdered by men in Duvalier-era army uniforms
or wearing the emblems of the "San Manman" (Motherless)
army. In late July, a car with five government officials was ambushed
near the Dominican border in the Central Plateau, killing four.
Observers said the attackers were clearly identified as part of
the San Manman army.
On May 6, Dominican police arrested five
Haitians, including the official Convergence representative in
the Dominican Republic, Arcelin Paul, at a meeting near the Dominican
border, which they say was a recruitment session for a planned
attempt to overthrow the Haitian government. Soon afterward, armed
men attacked and disabled the largest electrical plant in the
country. Ben Dupuy, general secretary of the left-wing party PPN,
which is generally critical of Aristide, was quoted in Haiti Progres,
"There is no doubt these guys are true terrorists working
with the CIA under Dominican protection." All sides have
noted the U.S. buildup along the Dominican border, where 900 U.S.
soldiers patrol jointly with the Dominican army, whom they have
armed with 20,000 M16s.
All of this seems to add up to what documentary
filmmaker Kevin Pina, who has been covering Haiti for over a decade,
calls the "U.S. funding of the Haitian 'Contras'." Whatever
we call them, there is an organized and well-funded armed group
with ties to the Convergence, based in the Dominican Republic,
which aims to overthrow the Aristide government. The Bush administration's
support for the Convergence and its refusal to denounce this violence,
as well as the U.S. military presence along the border through
which the "Manman" army easily travels, clearly implicates
the United States in this aim.
The Bush administration's effort to oust
Aristide is complemented by misinformed and biased media coverage
in both the United States and Haiti. The CIA's flagrant campaign
in the mid-1990s to discredit Aristide as mentally ill was proven
totally false. A more recent example involves numbers of anti-
and pro-Aristide demonstrators. Everyone agrees that the largest
Convergence rally to date was the one last November 17 in Cap-Haitien.
According to Kevin Pina, some Haitian radio stations reported
60,000 demonstrators, and this figure made it into several North
American newspapers. Local officials put the number at 4,000,
and independent observers claimed no more than 15,000. Pina also
notes that the pro-Lavalas rally of November 2S had as many as
30,000 participants, according to independent observers, yet the
highest number quoted in mainstream media is 2,000.
Brian Concannon, an attorney with the
Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), a group of international
and Haitian lawyers sponsored by the Haitian government to assist
the judiciary with human rights cases, gives an even starker example
of the double standard the media (and human rights groups) employ.
"In December, 2001, an FL supporter, Joseph Duverger, was
attacked by a machete-wielding, proConvergence mob near Petit
Goave and left for dead. His enraged friends found Brignol Lindor
in the street. Lindor was a Convergence supporter with a weekly
radio show. The FL group killed him. Lindor is in every human
rights report (as one of the murdered journalists). Duverger is
almost never mentioned."
When the Haitian government has limited
but clear successes in some areas, the international media are
virtually silent. Kevin Pina has said that every time he has drawn
the attention of foreign journalists at Reuters or the Associated
Press to successes in the Haitian government's literacy campaign,
the reporters have ignored him. One reporter finally told him
to stop giving him such stories. "We are not going to report
on positive programs in Haiti," Pina says he was told.
Although claims are made that journalists
are unable to function freely in Haiti, there are far more daily
and weekly newspapers and strident, popular radio stations there
than one could imagine in the United States or Canada. Many of
them are shrill critics of Aristide. In media financed by elite
business interests, there are constant cries for the overthrow
of the government. None of this fits the image of a country where
opposition journalists face severe repression.
But the 2000 murder of Jean Dominique
has been very damning to Aristide's cause. Dominique was a crusading
journalist of impeccable integrity who angered most powerful groups
in Haiti. Although four alleged trigger-men were arrested in 2001,
Dominique's widow, Michelle Montas, has expressed outrage that
the real culprits behind the murder have not been named. But despite
what she calls pressure from international groups, she refuses
to blame Aristide directly, though she does point to suspects
within his party. The Dominique case remains the most troubling
human rights stain on Aristide's reputation and has disillusioned
countless former supporters both in Haiti and abroad.
This case and a handful of others show
that justice is very slow in Haiti. Human rights activists, especially
those who say they have received threatening calls, deserve support
and protection, as do journalists who criticize the government.
Yet all of this must be put in perspective. The number of killings
pinned on Aristide's supporters pales in comparison with the more
than 5,000 murders of Lavalas supporters that took place during
the three years of military rule in the 1990s.
This is the environment in which the Aristide
government must function: attempts to overthrow him; calls from
Washington lobby groups for outright regime change; an embargo
on virtually all international aid. Yet one hears the same cry
from leftists, moderates and the right wing: it is Aristide who
has failed and must go. Leftists damn Aristide in particular for
neoliberal economic policies that they claim go beyond just complying
with the already draconian requirements of the United States and
the IFIs. They say he has abandoned his original populist and
socialist ideas about justice in order to hang on to power at
any cost-and to please his greedy cronies.
The record does suggest a weak government
with a President who is often absent and invisible at crucial
moments, yet who can be seen to interfere directly in minute details
when it shores up his image or protects his close allies. But
the record does not support the view that Aristide's government
has entirely abandoned its goals or compromised its values. Rather,
it shows modest but clear gains in a few areas, defensive moves
with regard to key public works and agriculture, and, in certain
crucial areas, a refusal to budge that explains the extreme antipathy
of the U.S. government.
During his first term, which began in
January 1991, Aristide began to make good on his populist platform.
He revised the tax code, which had taxed the middle class heavily,
put a severe burden on the peasants, and required virtually no
taxes of the elite. Within months, income taxes collected from
the rich had already begun to generate significant income, and
import fees were being enforced for the first time. At the same
time, Aristide pressed for an increase in the minimum wage and
new price controls on oil and basic foodstuffs.
By the summer, he was under pressure from
the IFIs, USAID, and other potential donors to reverse these proposals.
Aristide compromised on some points, such as subsidies for oil,
but continued to press for tax reform and raising the minimum
wage. A few months later, he was overthrown by forces some of
whom were trained and funded by U.S. military and intelligence
In 1994, in return for the Clinton administration
restoring him to office, Aristide made huge compromises. His representative
met with IFI and other donor representatives in Paris and accepted
virtually the whole neoliberal program for Haiti, including holding
down wages, lowering tariffs, and privatizing government-owned
enterprises. Members of the Haitian diaspora and the solidarity
movement were highly critical; many argued that Aristide should
have held firm against the neoliberal economic program, even if
it meant that the military government in Haiti would continue
in power. When Aristide spoke to an audience of Haitians and solidarity
activists in Boston in May 1994, he met fierce resistance to his
return under the conditions he eventually accepted. Aristide responded
clearly: "We may take some steps backward in order to go
forward, but we cannot do anything positive until we are in Haiti.
It is not only the mighty U.S. who can play a double game."
Members of Aristide's administration defend
his decision to accept the Paris agreement, in part on the basis
that once back in office, they would not necessarily implement
all of the concessions they'd made on paper. Lesley Voltaire,
Aristide's former Chief of Staff and currently Minister of Haitians
Living Abroad, explains: "But you see that his real policies
have not been to follow their bidding even on economic issues,
and that is why they are opposing him. Despite all the pressure,
Haiti has not abolished tariffs-only lowered them. On privatization,
both Preval and Aristide dragged their feet so that only the two
least profitable public enterprises have been privatized all these
years later-concrete and flour."
The BAI's Concannon confirms the Haitian
government's dilemma, and its strategy: Small, poor countries
do not say 'get lost' to the IFIs and the U.S. They do occasionally,
very politely, and pay for it: Arbenz, Allende, Aristide in 1991.
Small countries do say 'sure, we'll do that,' then do the opposite
or at least drag their feet. The best example is the privatizations.
The announced government policy has been, since 1994, to privatize.
But the enacted government policy is very different."
The Aristide government's free trade zone
agreements with the Dominican Republic have come under particularly
harsh criticism from progressives. This year, Haiti has gone ahead
with the first free trade zone project in Maribaroux, and in June
announced a second project in Ouanaminthe, despite bitter protests
by local peasants, among others. It's hard to defend the free
trade zones, but Prime Minister Neptune does: "Those who
criticize us, where would they find jobs that could put even a
few poor Haitians to work? Surely, even low-paying jobs and a
small increase in the minimum wage are better than nothing. It
is also part of our policy to spread the jobs outside Port-au-Prince,
to keep people living in the countryside." PAPDA head Camille
Chalmers disagrees, calling the job creation rhetoric "propaganda."
PAPDA and others urge alternative, regional
economic initiatives for Haiti. They propose a much closer alliance
with Cuba, using money under a debt moratorium to fund joint projects
for agrarian reform and the support of Haitian agriculture. In
fact, the Haitian government does have cooperative projects with
Cuba and with the Chavez government in Venezuela as well-both
regimes on the U.S. government's hit list. The Venezuelan government
has offered to provide regular shipments of oil at very reduced
prices, which should help to stem Haiti's rampant inflation. Under
treaties between Haiti and Cuba, more than 800 Cuban medical workers
are currently in Haiti. Haiti also works with the CARICOM (Caribbean
Community) nations on crafting a regional economy which can partially
curb U.S. dominance. "CARICOM is an alternative economic
and political initiative," according to the BAI's Concannon.
"The organization does not talk a lot about opposing imperialism,
but it is working towards a trade bloc that may be a bulwark against
the FTAA and other initiatives." Haiti's ambassador to Cuba,
Andrine Constant, told me she regularly meets informally with
her Cuban and other Latin American counterparts to discuss regional
strategy to offset U.S. hegemony. That alone must drive the Bush
WHAT THE HAITIAN PEOPLE WANT
Most people I talked to-workers, peasants,
intellectuals, activists-criticized the government severely for
inaction at best and rampant corruption at worst. Most were disappointed
in "Titid" (as the peasants call Aristide) and complained
bitterly of a lack of direction for the country. "Aristide
is absent-we just don't know where he is," Wesner, a young
former FL supporter in Cap-Haitien, told me. One of the country's
foremost poets-for years a staunch champion of Aristide-went further.
"Aristide is the smallest man I've met," he said, "the
most ignorant president we have had. Nobody is running the country."
But at the same time, most Haitians appear
to want Aristide to continue in office. In spite of his criticism,
the poet continued, "Aristide must stay and finish his term.
We got rid of a real tyrant, Duvalier, but it took us four years
to get even minimal stability. Now the opposition says, 'Let's
do it again!' By bringing back the military whom the U.S. created
for the express purpose of oppressing the Haitian people? No!"
Twenty-eight of thirty people who responded when I polled them
in a crowded Port-au-Prince market agreed. People are dissatisfied
with the disastrous economy, and they hold the government partly
responsible. Yet virtually everyone I met, including strident
critics of Aristide, wants to see the democratic process respected.
The Convergence and the "184 Institutions"
appear to have little or no support. PAPDA's Chalmers is very
critical of Aristide. But he is even more critical of the official
opposition. "Aristide's first administration made a good
beginning, and they had the right program," he said in an
interview. "I would say the international pressures and the
pressure of trying to govern without the ability to really reform
have robbed the government completely of its credibility. But
the official opposition is worse-it would be a joke if it were
not so serious with its U.S. backers."
Wesner, the Cap-Haitien youth, says, "It's
the army I really despise. At least now I can sit here with my
friends and complain. Under the military, I would be shot. When
I saw Himmler leading the demonstration by the Convergence last
November, I was really scared." The aptly named Himmler is
Himmler Rebu, a former army officer who has been involved in several
THE LEFT AND HAITI
Roger Noriega, speaking at the April 28
conference of the Council of the Americas in Washington, linked
U.S. policies in Haiti to those in Venezuela and Cuba. He congratulated
the OAS for overcoming its irrelevance in past years" by
adopting the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Article 20, he
said, lays out a series of actions to be taken ... in the event
that a member state should fail to uphold the essential elements
of democratic life." Noriega sees Article 20 as a formula
for intervention. He added, "President Chavez and President
Aristide have ... contributed willfully to a polarized and confrontational
environment. It is my fervent hope that the good people of Cuba
are studying the Democratic Charter."
How could U.S. Ieftists fail to see the
link between U.S. policies in Cuba, Venezuela, and elsewhere,
and those in Haiti? Why are so many progressive voices raised
much more loudly against Aristide than against U.S. policy in
the region? As one drawn into the energizing battle to support
Aristide, I think I understand. Twelve years ago, Haiti under
Aristide-a genuinely home-grown radical with a clear program for
social change seemed so promising. How disappointing is his record
since being elected overwhelmingly in 1991. He is not the intellectual
giant and moral hero most progressives-and Haitians-hoped for.
Progressives also underestimated how difficult it would be to
make real headway against U.S. imperatives in the region. Nor
had we bargained for such a sharp turn to the right in U.S. policies.
It is easy from the outside to bemoan
Aristide's failures and to focus solidarity work on that failure.
But progressives should balance our critique of Aristide with
a determination to shine a light on how U.S. policy maintains
the "structure of poverty and
violence." Paul Farmer sums up this view: "Conditions
in Haiti today are akin to a battlefield in an undeclared war
on the poor.... How can you rebuild Haiti without massive resources...?
Until that happens, there will be misery and hunger and inequality....
Such 'structural violence, "which has been perpetrated from
above and without, will be reflected in local violence.... You'd
think that progressive observers, at least, would make this connection.
But many don't."
Tom Reeves is a retired professor of history
and politics from Roxbury Community College in Boston, where he
was director of the Caribbean Focus Program from 1986 to 2001.
He was a founder of the New England Observer Delegations to Haiti
(NEOD), which sent eight delegations to Haiti in the 1990s. His
first visit to Haiti was in 1986 and his most recent visit was
in March, 2003, when he gathered some of the information on which
this article is based.