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Haiti Votes: Bigger Challenge Remains Dominican Republic's Threat of Ethnic "War"

October 25, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti—Haitians voted for a new president. With 54 candidates seeking the post a run-off seems inevitable. Whoever wins will face overwhelming challenges, none greater than the threat from the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola, to expel hundreds of thousands of ethnic Haitians

Haiti was an oppressive French slave colony, liberated in 1804 in a bloody, 13-year revolt inspired by the French Revolution. Slave-holding America was ambivalent toward Haiti’s revolution and the two countries developed in very different directions. For instance, Haiti’s liberator declared himself emperor and slaughtered many whites. “Liberated” peasants were forbidden from leaving plantations to revive the farming economy.

Haiti never developed into a stable, prosperous democracy. Rather, the country suffered through some 30 coups over the years and was occupied by the U.S. military for nearly two decades a century ago. More recently Haiti went through three decades of rule by father and son dictators, “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier, which ended only in 1986, followed by botched elections, military coups, violent conflict, populist politics, international sanctions, and a threatened U.S. invasion in 1994, followed by reinstatement as president of the violent demagogue Jean-Bertrand Aristide. (One of his former ministers, Maryse Narcisse, is on today’s ballot.)

In January 2010 an earthquake devastated Haiti. Estimates of dead ranged widely, to more than 300,000. At least 1.5 million people were displaced. Haiti received almost $10 billion in foreign aid in the following three years, but little long-term benefit is evident. The government is legendarily incompetent and corrupt. Today President Michael Martelly, a popular musician elected in 2011, rules virtually alone. He and the opposition were unable to agree to the composition of the Provisional Electoral Council, preventing scheduled parliamentary polls from taking place. At the moment Haiti has only 10 elected officials besides the president.

Secretary of State John Kerry dropped into Port-au-Prince earlier this month to urge “free and fair elections that take part without intimidation, without violence.” So far Washington has contributed $30 million toward the legislative and presidential polls.

Alas, the campaign was not smooth. The first round legislative vote in August, contested by 128 parties, suffered several violent incidents, closing some polling places and requiring a revote for 25 (of 139) seats. Later that month presidential candidate Michelet Nestor was assaulted while campaigning. At least 15 people were killed earlier this month in Port-au-Prince’s infamous slum, Cite Soleil. Some residents blamed gang disputes over distribution …read more

Source: OP-EDS