“Haiti walks a fine line between a failed state and fascistic state.”
More than two months before its forthcoming August 2012 released, Jeb Sprague’s book, “Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti,” stormed academia, political and diplomatic communities, delivering what some reviewers perceived as a brilliant diagnosis of the history of political violence in Haiti. Following years of primary research, including more than fifty interviews and the acquisitions of 11,000 secret U.S. documents using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Sprague exposed the antidemocratic, malefic forces that, for the last two decades, barricaded the Haitian people’s democratic aspirations.
Sprague, a PhD candidate in Sociology at Santa Barbara’s University of California, chronicled the post-Duvalier era, at times risking his own safety, to decipher the processes of Haiti’s political destabilization and popular disempowerment. His investigative work unveiled power struggles within the National Police of Haiti (PNH French acronym), the central role of the Dominican Republic in 2004, overthrowing Haiti’s democratically elected government, as well as the subversive campaign leading to the internationally-sanctioned dethronement of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
“The result of this campaign,” argued Author Peter Hallward, a philosophy professor at Kingston University in London, “More or less destroyed Haiti’s precarious democracy and crippled the country’s capacity to invest in its people or to respond to disaster.” Hallward, who published “Damning the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment,” characterized Sprague’s 375-page book as the most substantial and detailed account yet written of the paramilitary insurgency that led to the 2004 coup. “Its consequences,” added the professor, “should remain central to any discussion of Haiti’s reconstruction today.”
Beyond a chronological marshaling of facts and events, the groundbreaking book helped provide a panoramic view into Haiti’s current political landscape. “It make a substantial contribution to our understanding of Haiti today,” said Monthly Review Press (MRP). “And is a vivid reminder of how democratic struggles in poor countries are often met with extreme violence organized at the behest of capital,” added the review. Moreover, Sprague also revealed a country unable to flush major political actors: local or transnational players, deliberately deterring its democratic evolution. In fact, many members of that ultra-conservative world still dominated Haitian politics, reemerging strategically as allies of “Build Haiti Back Better.”
As “Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti,” painted the post-dictatorship era in a fascistic light dominated by paramilitary machinations that sabotaged Haiti’s democracy, it became clear that the populist rhetoric so prevalent on the lips of current leaders was only a facade cleverly contrived as the practical cure to the country’s chronic poverty. Meanwhile, Haiti plunged further into dependency and even deeper into the global capitalist order, a point sociology Professor William I. Robinson argued eloquently. As a leading theorist in transnational capitalism and Latin America, Robinson authored “Latin America and Global Capitalism: a Critical Globalization Perspective,” in which he explored transnational labour in Ecuador, Columbia, Chile and Argentina.
What came across most clearly, the Haitian people genuinely believed –maybe naively– in spite of numerous regressive, repressive paramilitary coups, rendering its prized democratic aspirations elusive, that each new government swept into office on inflated promises would constitute a rupture with its regrettable past. Even more sobering, Sprague’s book might be a chilling reminder of the difficulties awaiting Haiti’s battered democracy, as the resourceful, unscrupulous right wing community remobilized.