Reflections on Haiti and Democracy

by Courtenay Barnett

Global Justice Online, February 29, 2004


"The elected leader in Haiti has now been given a thumbs down by Washington. The power of the bullet is ironically speaking more effectively than the ballot ( or, at least as effectively as the bombs did in Iraq, to urge on regime change)."

"Democracy" one man - one vote- and one President duly elected is not a bad idea. But, what if that elected President is Jean Bertrand Aristide, and the people see no light directly ahead for socio-economic advancement? Charisma lost, no food on the boil, and legitimacy is lost as well. Aristide is not Saddam Hussein, in the sense that he was freely and democratically elected. In Iraq, of course we will be seeing one man - one vote ñ-one President after June 30th , 2004 - really? The elected leader in Haiti has now been given a thumbs down by Washington. The power of the bullet is ironically speaking more effectively than the ballot ( or, at least as effectively as the bombs did in Iraq, to urge on regime change). Haitiís difference is that it is poor, has a misguided and frustrated populace who are now supporting overthrow of the President who has failed to deliver. Iraq, by contrast, was invaded and occupied by a foreign power in 2003. And so was Haiti by the US, in 1891, 1914-34, and 1994-96.

The real issue in Haiti is not "democracy" simpliciter. A people brutalised and impoverished for centuries need food, shelter, clothing, health care, and education to a far greater extent than they need to drop a ballot paper in a box. Socio-economic upliftment cannot be delivered by any Haitian leader overnight, and the pretext of ìdemocracyî in Haiti is that it could leapfrog ìfirst order survival rightsî for a second order of "freedom and democracy". Putting the cart of political democracy, before the work-horse of basic survival needs for the people will forever see Haiti in crisis. Ten to fifteen years of a substantial national development plan ( on an optimistic and conservative estimate) is what a country such as Haiti needs to start on a path of necessary national development. Cubaís programmes of health care, low income housing, mass education and literacy prorammes post-1959 have far more to offer in practical terms than another quarter century of elections in Haiti, with or without Washingtonís help.

By contrast, ìdemocracyî in Iraq remains a bad idea from a US foreign policy perspective, for it is evident that the voice of the people is also the voice of the Shite majority. A round of free and fair elections in Iraq will usher in a Shite leadership, and some variant of Islamic rule. Another round of elections in Haiti will usher in someone as leader, hopelessly inept, and without any effective answers for the real issues of health care, low income housing, jobs, mass education and literacy programmes.

Washington's installation of Aristide, or anyone else, without a genuine national programme for lasting socio-economic development shall be but a travesty labeling itself "democracy"in Haiti. If democracy is to have meaning for real human beings, it has to be of service beyond the political right to vote, and needs to be of relevance to socio-economic rights for decent human survival.
And so the world marches on "invasion in Iraq ( for freedom and democracy, of course, forget the oil). Invasion in Haiti " ( for freedom and democracy, of course, forget the food and the people's real needs). As Francis Fujiyama and the neoliberalists in Washington would definitely agree -let's all just be thankful we have democracy!!!

Postcript ( plus ca change, plus cíest la meme chose):

The Rebel paramilitary army crossed the border from the Dominican Republic in early February. It constitutes a well armed, trained and equipped paramilitary unit integrated by former members of Le Front pour l'avancement et le progres d'Haiti (FRAPH), the "plain clothes" death squadrons, involved in mass killings of civilians and political assassinations during the CIA sponsored 1991 military coup, which led to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

The self-proclaimed Front pour la Liberation et la reconstruction nationale (FLRN) (National Liberation and Reconstruction Front) is led by Guy Philippe, a former member of the Haitian Armed Forces and Police Chief. Philippe had been trained during the 1991 coup years by US Special Forces in Ecuador, together with a dozen other Haitian Army officers. (See Juan Gonzalez, New York Daily News, 24 February 2004).î


The URL from which this postscript quotation of Michel Chossudovsky was taken appears in the article entitled "US sponsored coup díetat The destabilization of Haiti " and is to be found at:-

Author may be reached at ablec2000 [at]

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