a book review of
Peter Hallward's "Damming
the Flood" (Part I)
by Stephen Lendman
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 d'Haiti.
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
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
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 these facts:
-- throughout its colonial and post-colonial
history, Haiti's tiny ruling class has had dominant social and
-- 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
-- in contrast, the vast majority (over
80%) "endure harrowing" poverty;
-- 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; and
-- 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 needs:
-- unemployment and underemployment are
rampant, and two-thirds or more of workers are without reliable
-- structural adjustments decimated the
rural economy and forced displaced peasants to cities for non-existent
-- 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 health services;
-- 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
-- half its population is "food insecure"
and half its children undersized from malnutrition;
-- more than half the population has no
access to clean drinking water;
-- 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 Africa;
-- 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 dismissive.
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 recounts it:
-- economic isolation from which Haiti
-- 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
-- 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 climate;
-- 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 15 years;"
-- 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) was threatening;
-- 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
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 Lavalas leaders.
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
-- 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 in exile.
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
-- 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) public life;"
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" amount.
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 Andy Apaid.
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
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 Contras;
-- 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 now vilified.
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
-- 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 elections.
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
-- be able to choose its own prime minister;
-- authorize him to govern by decree;
-- 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 Haiti's problems.
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
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.
However, it's known that "contingency
plans for an insurgency" were likely well advanced by the
late 1990s. CIA operatives accompanied US occupation troops in
1994, and recruited and preserved FRAPH leaders, army personnel,
and others to be used as an anti-Aristide paramilitary force.
They went on the Agency's payroll for the time their services
would be needed. It arrived in late 2000, and consider who led
Three names were prominent:
-- former Cap-Haitien police chief, dispassionate
killer, member of Haiti's army, and Augusto Pinochet admirer,
-- former Macoute, FRAPH assassin and
leader of the infamous "Raboteau massacre," Emmanuel
"Toto" Constant; and
-- the similarly credentialed Louis Jodel
Chamblain, described by a US intelligence official as a "cold-bloded,
cutthroat, psychopathic killer" and perfect for what CIA
had in mind.
In early 2001, they enlisted a group of
disgruntled former FAdH personnel and began preparing an anti-Lavalas
rebel force in the DR, long a loyal US client state. CIA and US
Special Forces ran the operation in what's been pretty standard
US practice throughout the world for decades.
The insurgency began early in small steps:
-- in July 2001 against the Haitian National
Police Academy in Port-au-Prince and three police stations near
the DR border in the Central Plateau; five police officers were
killed and 14 others wounded;
-- in December 2001 in a full-scale assault
against the presidential palace; the Haitian National Police (PNH)
were involved, armed commandos seized the palace for several hours,
announced on radio that Aristide was no longer President, and
five or six people were killed; popular response was quick; thousands
of Lavalas supporters stormed out to protest, and the insurgency
-- other FLRN assaults were staged in
2002 - against police stations, FL activists, jails that were
emptied, and more;
-- in May 2003, 20 insurgents attacked
Haiti's largest power station in the Central Plateau killing two
security guards; in June, an FL supporter was executed; in July,
rebels killed four Interior Ministry members; other attacks continued
through the summer and fall.
By early 2004, things were coming to a
boil with "one and only one objective: the unconditional
surrender of Lavalas."
2001 - 2004: Aristide's Second Administration
Aristide's second term was even more challenging
than his first. Haiti was nearly bankrupt, its social and economic
programs severely compromised by extorted concessions, media propaganda
was intense, and from his inauguration to ouster paramilitary
pressure was building.
In spite of it and his damaging mistakes,
Aristide's accomplishments were remarkable:
-- his government built and renovated
health clinics, hospitals, dispensaries and improved medical services;
Haitian medical students were trained in Cuba; a new Haitian medical
school was established in Tabarre and provided free medical education
for hundreds of Haitians; Cuba also sent Haiti about 800 doctors
and nurses to supplement its meager 1000 or so total;
-- education was targeted in addition
to medical training in Tabarre; FL implemented a Universal Schooling
Program; new primary and high schools were built, including in
rural areas; thousands of scholarships were provided for private
and church-run schools; schoolbooks, uniforms and school lunches
were subsidized; a national literacy campaign was undertaken and
from 1990 - 2003, illiteracy dropped from 65% to 45%;
-- there were human rights and conflict
resolution achievements, including criminal justice reforms; special
children's courts were established and the nation's youths got
real legal protection; measures were also adopted to reduce exploitation
-- for the first time, women got posts
as prime minister, finance and foreign minister, chief of police
and unprecedented numbers won parliamentary seats;
-- the hated military was abolished as
-- unprecedented free speech, assembly
and personal safety were achieved;
-- the minimum wage was doubled;
-- land reform was initiated;
-- thousands of jobs were created;
-- new irrigation systems supplied farmers
with water; rice yields (Haiti's main staple crop) increased sharply;
-- many thousands of Caribbean pigs were
distributed to farmers;
-- efforts were made to collect unpaid
taxes from the rich and business elites;
-- hundreds of community stores sold food
at discount prices;
-- for the first time ever, a Haitian
government participated in discussions with Venezuela, Cuba and
other Caribbean states to discuss US-limiting regional economic
strategies, including cooperative trade; and
-- low cost housing was built, and more
in spite of enormous constraints, bare bones resources, the country
nearly bankrupt, and an administration targeted for removal by
overwhelming internal and external force.
In spite of overwhelming obstacles, the
1994 - 2003 decade was remarkable by any standard. "For the
first time in its history, Haiti's people were ruled by a government
of their choosing, one that adopted their priorities as its own."
It made popular support for Aristide active, strong, and channeled
through a network of "organisations populaire" (OPs)
that played a central collective mobilizing role in the country.
They provided an instrument for all kinds of social programs -
education, construction, youth and cultural projects, sports,
street cleaning, waste management, and more. It made FL "the
single most important organized political force in the country"
and also the main obstacle to elitist dominance. It made the movement
and what it represents, far more than Aristide, the real 2004