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Jeb Sprague on "Remilitarization in Haiti"

Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti by Jeb Sprague

"It is absolutely imperative for Haiti's history that such a detailed account of the role of paramilitary violence in the country be recorded. The marshalling of facts and events and the meticulous references are phenomenal."

—Mildred Trouillot-Aristide, former First Lady of Haiti

Jeb Sprague is the author of Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti, published by Monthly Review Press. This article was printed in ¡Presente!, the newspaper of the movement to close the School of the Americas.

Remilitarization in Haiti

Written by Jeb Sprague

Following the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, the country’s small right wing has had a political comeback. As with the shocking return of former dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier in early 2011 (who remains unaccountable for his crimes), through a controversial and poorly attended election, musician Michel Martelly, a longtime neo-Duvalierist, was able to woo a small part of the population as an “outsider” candidate.

Since the 2004 coup d’état in Haiti, there has been a clear rollback of the slow but positive reforms that had been undertaken by Haiti’s popularly elected governments. Judicial rulings that had held accountable some of the country’s most violent elites, army, and paramilitary criminals in the early 2000s and late 1990s were overturned. As we now know through WikiLeaks, 400 paramilitaries were integrated into Haiti’s revamped post-coup police force. A UN force has also remained in the country since mid-2004.

The most stunning achievement of Haiti’s democratic period, though, has been more difficult to undo: this was the disbandment of Haiti’s brutal military and rural section chiefs. The forces had been built up to support the US occupation in the early 20th century and by the 1960s a symbiotic relationship had formed between the forces and a cold war paramilitary apparatus set up in the country. 

The Tonton Macoute paramilitary force, set up under François “Papa Doc” Duvalier (and responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands), eventually would become even more reliant on Haiti’s military following the fall of Papa Doc’s son, Jean Claude…

Read the entire article in ¡Presente!

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