By JEB SPRAGUE (New York, Monthly Review, 2012), 400 pp. Paperback $23.95.
Reviewed by BOAZ ANGLADE
This comprehensive study on paramilitarism throughout Haiti’s history focuses particularly on the most recent wave of paramilitaries in the twenty-first century, concerning which it provides a fascinatingly detailed case study. Such groups of armed individuals, serving as irregular forces, in league with brutal militaries or as security militias have had no legitimate or legal status in Haiti – but have had, from the outset, enormous influence in shaping its history. As Sprague shows, throughout Latin America, both local elites and foreign governments have used such groups against the people to advance their own interests. But in Haiti, dictatorial regimes such as the Duvalierist dynasty took this to a new extreme. It is a legacy the country has suffered from ever since.
Sprague’s book took some seven years to put together, involving the careful analysis of more than 11,000 documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, as well as the diplomatic cables on Haiti unveiled by Wikileaks. And he carried out extensive field research and interviews in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and in North America – sometimes at considerable personal danger. Here is the proof to hand, showing how business elites and sectors of foreign governments have used paramilitary groups to conspire against the Haitian people, a project given additional impetus in the early 2000s…