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Old 02-16-2004, 09:45 AM   #1
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Haiti in Flames

So much for the theory that you can install democracies.

February 16, 2004
Chaos Becomes a Way of Life in a Rebel-Held Haitian City
By LYDIA POLGREEN

ONA¤VES, Haiti, Feb. 14 Ś When Roselene Guillaume saw her husband's bullet-riddled body, she did not need to be told what to do.

She packed up the few rags of clothing that her six children Ś three sets of twins, ages 2 to 6 Ś could carry and sent them on foot with her aunt to a village 20 miles north of here. She wanted them out of this city, the center of a violent uprising aimed at overthrowing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide that threatens to plunge the country into chaos.

But Ms. Guillaume, 20, her belly swollen with her seventh child, refused to go with them. She would not leave the body of her husband, Chaolin, who was killed, she said, by pro-Aristide militants as he tried to make his way home here during the uprising.

"I have to bury my husband here, in his home, where Aristide killed him," Ms. Guillaume said, her eyes vacant as she stared into a street covered with a shimmering carpet of ash and broken glass. "But we are very afraid."

Political strife has gripped the country since a disputed parliamentary election in 2000, and huge opposition marches over the past several months have intensified calls for Mr. Aristide to leave office. Earlier this month, the crisis boiled over into violence as armed rebel groups attacked police stations in as many as a dozen cities across the country. More than 40 people have died in violent clashes.

In Gona´ves (pronounced goh-nah-EEV), an opposition force wrested control from the police on Feb. 5.

Fear and chaos have become a way of life here, a critical crossroads in Haiti's revolutionary heartland between the country's two largest cities, Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien.

In recent days, the leader of the uprising here has indicated that he has the support of sinister figures from this country's violent past.

It is unclear whether this support will actually materialize, though some foreign journalists have reported that they spoke with these men in Haiti in recent days. But the possibility of their involvement, coupled with the government's weak and disorganized security arrangements, could take the conflict in Haiti, which has until now been limited to uprisings by small armed groups in cities across the country, to another level, experts say.

At this point the rebel group in Gona´ves, which calls itself the Artibonite Resistance Front, a more palatable name than the Cannibal Army, as the group was formerly known, appears not to have massed enough militants to take on the police and pro-Aristide militants in other major cities. But with only a small police force and militant gangs that sometimes serve as an auxiliary government force, Mr. Aristide does not appear to have enough manpower to take back Gona´ves by force, though government officials have said a plan to do just that is in the works. As a result, Gona´ves is likely to simmer in its current misery for some time.

It was here in Gona´ves that the slaves who shook off Napoleon declared their independence from their imperial oppressors, leading to the founding of the first black republic here 200 years ago. It was also here that the revolt that overthrew the brutal dictatorship of the Duvalier family began in the 1980's. Haiti has experienced 30 coups since its independence.

The man who has placed himself in charge of this city in an effort to force Mr. Aristide from office is Butteur Metayer. His brother, Amiot, once led a pro-government gang, but they switched sides last fall after Amiot Metayer was killed, and they accused the government of the killing.

On Feb. 5, the group repelled the police here, and Butteur Metayer declared from behind his customary dark glasses that the city had been liberated.

"We have freed Gona´ves," Mr. Metayer said at an impromptu news conference in a ramshackle schoolhouse at the edge of the seaside slum that is his base.

"We have a plan to take St.-Marc," he continued, the smell of rum heavy on his breath, referring to the port city 20 miles south of here that rebel groups and government forces have now battled over for more than a week. "Then we will march to the capital. And there is only one goal when we get to the capital: the palace."

Mr. Metayer refused to say how many men he commands, but he contended that reinforcements had arrived from the Dominican Republic, led by two men feared for their sinister roles in the army and the police force in the past.

Louis-Jodel Chamblain, a former soldier who led death squads in the late 1980's and was accused of committing atrocities after a 1991 military coup is gathering a force of men, Mr. Metayer said. Guy Philippe, a former police chief whom the government accused of trying to overthrow it in 2002, is also on the ground near Gona´ves, he said.

"This is beginning to shape up to what I call an unholy alliance," said Robert Maguire, an expert on Haitian politics at Trinity College in Washington who is on cordial terms with Mr. Aristide.

"You now have the real possibility of civil war, and you have a government that is facing depleted capacity to resist this because of the weakness of the police force."

With a demoralized police force of fewer than 5,000 men, Mr. Aristide has struggled to retain control of the country and relied heavily on armed gangs loyal to him to retain control in places where the police have been unable or unwilling to do so. The weakness of the police and the violence of the street gangs have diplomats here concerned that all order could break down very quickly.

"The police could melt away and he could unleash the chimŔres," said a senior Western diplomat in Port-au-Prince, using the Haitian name for pro-government gang members. "The government is more and more dependent on gangs. It is a very fragile situation."

The armed uprising more than a week ago in this important seaside city choked off a crucial north-south highway that links Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitien and has transformed Gona´ves into a bubbling cauldron of misery, and thousands of the city's 200,000 residents have fled.

With the road blocked by machine-gun wielding rebels, the price of rice, the staple food here, has doubled.

Children fish gasoline out from the underground tank below a bombed-out Esso gas station with tin cans attached to wires, selling it for as much as $20 a gallon. Burned car chassis and all manner of trash Ś baby carriages, tires and bed frames Ś block roads throughout the city.

The hospital's bullet-riddled gates are open, but its wooden doors are shut tight. The Cuban doctors who normally staff it are afraid to show up for work, hospital workers said. International aid agencies said they cannot safely bring supplies to the city.

But it is a measure of the misery of life in Haiti even under the best circumstances that people here say things were not much better when the government was in control.

"Even before now we had no food, no money," said Dieuline Menard, a 17-year-old student who has not been to school in months because of the chaos gripping the city. "If Aristide stays or goes, we still will not eat."

In a country where millions live on less than a dollar a day, perched precariously on a knife-edge between survival and utter despair, international aid agencies warned that they were struggling to get food to more than a quarter million people who rely on them to be able to eat in the country's arid north.

There, in the areas around Cap Haitien, farmers struggle to coax crops from rocky bits of land between barren mountains. Further instability could force the number of people needing food to as many as 800,000, according to Guy Gavreau, country representative for the World Food Program, which plans to send a barge loaded with rice to Cap Haitien to feed schoolchildren and pregnant mothers in the countryside.

"These people are entirely dependent on food aid," Mr. Gavreau said. "They are extremely vulnerable."

Opposition civic groups in Port-au-Prince have tried to distance themselves from the violent uprisings, particularly the one in Gona´ves. But the government has been equally forceful in asserting that the groups are connected.

[In the capital on Sunday, more than a thousand opposition protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the government, in the first opposition march since the uprisings began. A march planned for last Thursday was called off when pro-government militants threw rocks and menaced protesters as police officers stood by.

[But on Sunday the police were out in force, keeping opposition groups and government supporters apart to avoid violent confrontations. Sporadic gunfire erupted in the city and the march broke up shortly after noon when an opposition leader went on the radio and told his supporters to go home.]

In a news conference last week, Prime Minister Yvon Neptune said the rebel group in Gona´ves was "a group of terrorists linked to the opposition," and that the city's population "has been taken hostage by an armed group."

Jean-Claude Bajeux, a former member of Mr. Aristide's cabinet and a longtime human rights advocate in Port-au-Prince who now supports the opposition, said the government's contention was disingenuous given that the uprising in Gona´ves consisted largely of former Aristide supporters who said they received their weapons from Mr. Aristide with instructions to control and intimidate opposition civic groups there.

"Power that has fallen into delinquency wants to have its own law," Mr. Bajeux said. "It is for that reason that Aristide lies and kills."

Indeed, the current crisis is in many ways one of Mr. Aristide's own making, said a senior Western diplomat in Port-au-Prince. By arming the rebel groups and politicizing the country's police force by appointing political cronies rather than professional managers to run it, Mr. Aristide weakened the only legitimate defense he had.

"The chickens are very much coming home to roost here," the senior diplomat said.

In Gona´ves on Saturday, Mr. Metayer said very much the same thing. "We are fighting Aristide with the weapons he gave us," Mr. Metayer said. "He gave us guns to stop the opposition, but now we oppose him."


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Old 02-16-2004, 09:49 AM   #2
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I have written my thoughts before about this. It disgusts me....
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Old 02-16-2004, 10:11 AM   #3
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A democracy / republic / whatever, as theorized with Plato, requires a strong, well-educated middle class. I think that "middle class" is probably a reference to the working class today. In other words, the average person in any democracy should be well-educated. You can't throw democracy at any nation and tell them to vote the way we want them to. Chances are, many of these nations will vote in a despot, who will, ironically enough, take away the process that voted them in. Does this remind you of what could happen in Iraq?

If we want "world peace," then the first thing that will have to happen is proactive secular education globally. But, since that will never happen in a world of power-hungry clerics of all religions, then this is nothing but a pipe dream. Welcome to our past, present, and future with nations like Haiti.

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Old 02-16-2004, 11:11 AM   #4
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Great post, melon. I agree with everything you said. This sort of mess could happen anywhere.
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Old 02-16-2004, 07:10 PM   #5
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"So much for the theory that you can install democracies."

The recent events in Haiti does nothing to stop the fact that the USA and its Allies have succeeded over the past 60 years in many area's of the world in helping to develop democracies.

Haiti's economic situation has to improve for the country to make better progress on the democratic front.


melon,

While a large, well educated middle class, helps in developing democracy, it is not a prerequisite. Guess what the largest Democracy in the world is?
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Old 02-16-2004, 07:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by STING2
melon,

While a large, well educated middle class, helps in developing democracy, it is not a prerequisite. Guess what the largest Democracy in the world is?
India. But I wouldn't use India as a model for democracy. They have too much political instability, border disputes, dynastic shenanigans, political assassinations and the like for that.
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Old 02-16-2004, 07:42 PM   #7
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Looking at India's rampant poverty and it's penchant for informally maintaining the caste system, in direct violation of its own constitution, I would say that if India is a model for democracy, then the rest of the world is in trouble.

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Old 02-16-2004, 08:48 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by STING2


The recent events in Haiti does nothing to stop the fact that the USA and its Allies have succeeded over the past 60 years in many area's of the world in helping to develop democracies.
Sting! You always sound like the WH press secretary.

Sure, we've been successful helping nations that WANTED democracy. Germany and Japan are obvious examples. But any of us could cite failures (currently Afghanistan is the best one, and I'll give Iraq till say...Novemeber ) too. That is precisely my point. Our foreign policy for decades now has operated on a "one size fits all" just have elections, open your markets and call us in the morning basis, and it's caused more harm than good. Well intentioned? Now doubt. Am I proud of those intentions? Yes? Am I blind to the fact that markets and elections are not a paneca? No.

As Melon stated, Plato did say an educated populace IS a requirement for a healthy, sustainable democracy. So did Jefferson and Franklin. They were all pretty smart guys. They've got this one right. Education is a must for a democracy to truly function as it's meant to (which is one of the reasons ours often doesn't, but that's a whole other thread).

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Old 02-16-2004, 09:14 PM   #9
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Great post Cheryl.
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Old 02-16-2004, 09:22 PM   #10
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Sherry Darling,

"Sure, we've been successful helping nations that WANTED democracy. Germany and Japan are obvious examples."

Germany and Japan were committed to serving their respective dictators in World War II. It took a US military invasion and occupation to turn these places into Democracies in the modern sense. Japanese citizens were still willing to fight to the last man, women and child to defend the dictatorship they were living in.

Most people in South Korea prior to World War II did not know anything about democracy. South Korea was agricultural based nation and certainly had no middleclass or well educated populace.

"But any of us could cite failures (currently Afghanistan is the best one, and I'll give Iraq till say...Novemeber"

Afghanistan a failure? I think you fail to understand how far Afghanistan has come in just 3 years after going through the past 25 years of war and dictatorship, plus history of warlordism for the past several thousand years.

American soldiers, civil affairs officers, and diplomats have made great progress in Afghanistan and working very hard on solving problems in Afghanistan that no one has been able to do for THOUSANDS of years. I don't think any of them consider their efforts and progress they have made in this country to be a failure.

US troops, civil affairs officers and diplomats have only been in Iraq for 11 months and have already made great progress in helping to build what will be the first democracy in the Arab world.

After what Saddam did to Iraq, its going to take time to develop a strong democracy there. I don't understand this idea that building a democracy is like simply building another McDonalds and that Iraq by now should be fully functioning democracy. Iraq will still be going through the growing pains of democratic development on some level 10 and 20 years from now.

US troops and coalition troops have helped prevent Iraq from becoming the next Bosnia or Kosovo which brings me to my next point.

Look at what the United States has done in Bosnia and Kosovo. Stopped wars that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and led to the rapes of tens of thousands of women(a tactic used by Bosnian Serb military).

Today Bosnia only has 12,000 troops from NATO keeping peace, down from 60,000 8 years ago. Bosnia currently has a the #66 standard of living in the world, a huge accomplishment considering it was below #175 only 8 years ago. Bosnia is still a fractured country and it will probably take more years, decades before it becomes a truely united country. But again this is another example of the USA succeeding in bringing democracy and stability to a very unstable part of the world, and not everyone WANTED it.

"Our foreign policy for decades now has operated on a "one size fits all" just have elections, open your markets and call us in the morning basis, and it's caused more harm than good."

Thats a gross generalization.

"As Melon stated, Plato did say an educated populace IS a requirement for a healthy, sustainable democracy. So did Jefferson and Franklin. They were all pretty smart guys. They've got this one right. Education is a must for a democracy to truly function as it's meant to (which is one of the reasons ours often doesn't, but that's a whole other thread)."

Guess what the education level in the United States was in 1776 or 1830?
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Old 02-16-2004, 09:26 PM   #11
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Melon,

" Looking at India's rampant poverty and it's penchant for informally maintaining the caste system, in direct violation of its own constitution, I would say that if India is a model for democracy, then the rest of the world is in trouble."

Is it much worse than the USA from 1776 into the 1900s?
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Old 02-17-2004, 08:23 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by STING2
Sherry Darling,

Germany and Japan were committed to serving their respective dictators in World War II. It took a US military invasion and occupation to turn these places into Democracies in the modern sense. Japanese citizens were still willing to fight to the last man, women and child to defend the dictatorship they were living in.


Many Germans resisted Hitler, and there was continent-wide socialist democratic movement at the time of Hitler's rise, so at the least, the seeds were there. I'm not as familiar with Japan from that time period, so I won't speak to it.


Quote:
Most people in South Korea prior to World War II did not know anything about democracy. South Korea was agricultural based nation and certainly had no middleclass or well educated populace.
That doesn't prove your point. Its not about experience or knowledge, though they obviously help. Its about choice. Democracy because of its very nature can never be about anything else.



Quote:
Afghanistan a failure? I think you fail to understand how far Afghanistan has come in just 3 years after going through the past 25 years of war and dictatorship, plus history of warlordism for the past several thousand years.

American soldiers, civil affairs officers, and diplomats have made great progress in Afghanistan and working very hard on solving problems in Afghanistan that no one has been able to do for THOUSANDS of years. I don't think any of them consider their efforts and progress they have made in this country to be a failure.
The Taliban is reforming, women are still living in fear and war lords still control much of the country, Sting. This is according to official of the new Afghan government and international dimplomats on the ground.

Quote:
US troops, civil affairs officers and diplomats have only been in Iraq for 11 months and have already made great progress in helping to build what will be the first democracy in the Arab world.

After what Saddam did to Iraq, its going to take time to develop a strong democracy there. I don't understand this idea that building a democracy is like simply building another McDonalds and that Iraq by now should be fully functioning democracy. Iraq will still be going through the growing pains of democratic development on some level 10 and 20 years from now.

But again this is another example of the USA succeeding in bringing democracy and stability to a very unstable part of the world, and not everyone WANTED it.
I cut some of your post for space. Of course it's not like building a McD's. That's a straw man; who said it was? My point was that if a place refuses to accept democracy, no amount of military power, money or time will install one. Again, because of its very nature, it cannot be "installed." It has to be accpeted. That, as you rightly point out, takes generations. The Bush admins/Congress's under-resourcing of Iraq and Afghanistan already suggest that we're not prepared to give this thing the Marshall Plan that it needs. Meanwhile, we're nearing civil war.



Quote:
Thats a gross generalization.
Tell that to anyone in Latin American, and most nations of Africa. If you're genuinely interested in learning about this, read Amy Chua's "World on Fire." (Or are you familiar with her/other scholars who have documented what I'm referring to?)

Guess what the education level in the United States was in 1776 or 1830?
[/QUOTE]

Guess what level of actual democracy we had? LOL. You just proved my point. Low education= low democracy. I know I don't need to remind you that only rich white men could vote, and that some of our citizens counted only as 3/5 of a human.

Cheers,
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Old 02-17-2004, 08:52 PM   #13
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You're right Sherry. The situation in Afghanistan is grim indeed. Basically the warlords run the country, the Taliban is gaining ground, and women are undergoing severe abuse. I say this as someone who initially supported the Administration's policies in Afghanistan because of 9/11 and my intense dislike of the Taliban. Unfortunately all of this is still going on. Am I disappointed? You bet--very disappointed. I had hoped better things were ahead for that unfortunate country.
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Old 02-18-2004, 09:15 AM   #14
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I know! When I did my presentation on Afghanistan for my Conflict 801 class last term, I read all sorts of reports from the Afghan gov't, from the UN, Amnesty, etc. They all told the same story. Basic security has not been established, and that's always job one. Nothing else can happen before that. They cited underresourcing as the problem. *sigh*

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