NatCAN

National Community Activists Network

On the back cover of 'Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti' (Jeb Sprague - 2012), Robert Fatton, professor of politics, University of Virginia, says, "A must read not only for Haitianists, but for anyone interested in the processes of political destabilisation and popular disempowerment."

For many, Haiti will conjure up little more than images of the recent earthquake and perhaps stir vague memories of Papa Doc Duvalier.

Haiti was the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean and the first black-led republic in the world. There have been consequences, as quotes from the book, (based around the 2004 internationally sanctioned coup of the democratically elected government) make clear:

"The poor living on…Haiti have long been the targets of political violence."

"One may ask why dominant groups (and governments such as those of the United States, France and Canada) care – as they obviously have – about stifling a pro-democracy movement in so small and poor a country. The simplest – and bluntest – answer has been provided by Noam Chomsky. He likens the elite networks that undergird global capitalism to a mafia that does not allow even the smallest and most inconsequential shopkeeper to show open defiance."

"Writer-activist Randall Robison recalls how “no one could remember an occasion where the United States and its allies had mounted a more comprehensive campaign to cripple a small, poor country as they had in the case of democratic Haiti."

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty. Its richest 1% own nearly half the country's wealth.

Quotes from the book add flesh to the bare bones of these statistics.

"This country is dying. It is running out for fresh water. Less than 2% of its natural forested areas remain; as a consequence, agriculture us devastated. Though wracked with poverty and disease the population continues to grow – and continues to migrate for rural to urban areas, chiefly Port-au-Prince."

"Slavery is alive and well in Haiti.  It’s even worse than slavery, really, because at least with slavery you were offered some fringe benefits, as far as housing. In this situation you are offered hard labour and that’s it.  If you get enough money to buy a machete so you can chop down a few trees and weave together a hut and pack mud on the side of it, good for you. If not, tough luck. They don’t provide housing, they don’t provide food; they just use them for labour."

Jeb Sprague has researched and documented the specific role of paramilitary groups in the 2004 overthrow of then President Aristide's government (elected in 2000 with 92% of the vote). In doing so he exposes an iceberg of intrigue and collusion beneath the surface of which the criminal brutality of these organisations is but the visible tip.

The book is a stark, disturbing reminder, to those born into more fortunate circumstance than the wretched poor of Haiti, of the absolute lack of morality employed by those committed to an ideology dramatically opposed to democracy, human rights, equality and social justice.

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