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a347: How nation-building has gone awry (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
(St. Petersburg Times, Fla., Jan 14, 2002)
Haiti: How nation-building has gone awry
By David Adams
At the former U.S. military camp on the outskirts of Haiti's capital, a
large sign is a reminder of the 21,000 troops who invaded the country in
Operation Restore Democracy was wrapped up in early 1996. The American
troops are long gone. So too is a small force of United Nations
But as the international community undertakes its new mission in faroff
Afghanistan, the legacy of foreign intervention in Haiti is unraveling and
the country is sliding toward political collapse.
Fearing that Afghanistan might rapidly return to being a haven for
terrorists, the United States and its allies have pledged not to abandon
the country after the military mission is over.
Critics of the international community's role in Haiti ask why the same
commitment was not made here.
"The situation called for a long-term program of nation-building to create
or restore all of the institutions of government in tandem," said Haiti
expert James Morrell, research director at the Center for International
Policy, a Washington-based think tank.
In 1994 things went well at first. Haiti's democratically elected
president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was restored to power amid tumultuous
popular acclaim. The Haitian military was quickly disbanded and its most
corrupt officers banished into exile.
But longer-term goals of political stability and reduction of poverty have
Instead, Haiti is worse off than ever. According to a recent World Bank
report Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, with 70 percent
of its 7.8-million population living in dire poverty. Half of adults are
illiterate, and less than one-quarter of rural children attend primary
Expectations that Aristide would use his popular following to reunite the
country quickly evaporated after 1994.
The return of political infighting has paralyzed the government. Since
1997, foreign donors have held back $500-million in promised loans and aid
after a series of political crises. Parliament has not approved a budget in
Some U.S. and Haitian analysts blame the international community for
unfairly imposing a foreign blueprint on the country after 1994, failing to
take into account Haitian realities. "They came with their own plan to
solve their own interests," said Camille Chalmers, director of the Haitian
Platform to Advocate Alternative Development, known as PAPDA.
For example, the demand that Haiti open up its protectionist economy and
reduce tariffs resulted in a flood of cheap imported foodstuffs. Unable to
compete, local agricultural production has collapsed, fueling greater
unemployment in an impoverished countryside. Corn production in the south
of Haiti has fallen by 60 percent, PAPDA says.
The World Bank admits mistakes were made. A December 2001 report pointed
out that international aid failed to pay sufficient attention to
nation-building projects including strengthening weak public institutions.
Even so, many Haitians and foreign analysts say Aristide bears much of the
Back in power after five years, Aristide's second presidency is under fire
for corruption, including allegations of ties to drug money. The former
priest once regarded as a savior by Haiti's poor is fast losing popularity.
For the first time, graffiti has appeared on the streets of the capital:
"Down with Aristide."
Former allies have abandoned his political party, Lavalas Family, accusing
it of betraying its democratic roots and changing into a mafia-style family
business. Scandals abound as rival factions of the Lavalas Family jockey
for positions of influence.
While the country descends deeper into poverty, government officials drive
around in shiny new deluxe sport utility vehicles. Last year the government
spent an estimated $7-million on four mansions for top officials, including
one for Prime Minister Jean- Marie Cherestal, a boyhood friend of the
The prime minister's $1.3-million home is perched atop a hill with a
magnificent view of the slums below.
"We voted for these people because we thought there would be change," said
Alfonso Desi, a 38-year-old unemployed mason standing in the street
outside. "From the minute they go into government they become bourgeois."
Aristide's aloof political style and back-room machinations have earned him
unsavory comparisons to Haiti's infamous former dictator Francois "Papa
Repression has returned in the guise of militant pro-Aristide street thugs
- known as the "chimere." After a hapless Dec. 17 coup attempt by
unidentified gunmen, the chimere went on a rampage burning down the homes
and political offices of opposition leaders. At least 10 people were
Despite pledges to maintain law and order, the government failed to
intervene. Worse, Lavalas Family party officials participated in some of
the attacks. Government vehicles were used.
"Aristide is worse than Duvalier," said Evans Paul, a former Aristide ally
and former mayor of Port-au-Prince. "Duvalier had a certain vision. He was
selective in his repression. With Aristide it's anarchy."
In recent weeks a series of attacks by government supporters and officials
have occurred across the country. On Nov. 30, Lavalas Family officials in
the port town of St. Marc opened fire on a group of 100 antigovernment
demonstrators. Two people were killed and 10 wounded. Local police came
under fire when they intervened. None of the town officials has been
On Dec. 3 a radio director was stoned and hacked to death by government
supporters in the town of Petit-Goave after he broadcast an interview with
local opposition leaders. Although authorities identified the alleged
assassins, police have refused to execute arrest warrants. Rioting broke
out when police tried to stop 4,000 mourners marching to the local
In the most recent incident, a Family Lavalas member of parliament, Jocelyn
Saint-Louis, was accused last week of killing the mayor of northern town,
shooting him 17 times. Saint-Louis has denied direct involvement, saying
the bullets were fired by a member of his security detail after the mayor
attacked them. A parliamentary commission is investigating.
"This is a government that allows itself to do anything it wants, to kill,
to burn and to put itself beyond the law," said Jean-Claude Bajeux, a
veteran human rights advocate and former minister of culture in Aristide's
Aristide has condemned the violence but seems unable or unwilling to stop
it. International observers are increasingly perturbed by his inaction.
U.S. and Latin American diplomats are to meet at the Organization of
American States in Washington this week to discuss Haiti. The OAS is
considering invoking a provision in its charter to force the government to
allow international mediators to intervene.
Critics of the international response to the deepening crisis in Haiti say
much more than that is required.
"Haiti needs a long-term program of nation-building," Morrell said. "You
can't just parachute the president back in like we did in 1994. Once you
intervene you have to stay and finish the job."