Silencing a People: Destruction of Civil Society in Haiti

In This Review

Silencing a People: Destruction of Civil Society in Haiti

By Americas Watch and The National Coalition For Haitian Refuge
Americas Watch, 1993
152 pp. $15.00

This chilling report based on an investigation conducted in June and July 1992 demonstrates just how difficult a reestablishment of democratic rule in Haiti will be, despite the pressure exerted by the international community to bring about the return to office of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's first freely elected president. The investigators document the systematic and ruthless repression by the army of the civic, popular, and grass-roots organizations that formed after the downfall of the Duvalier dictatorship. The objective of the army has been to destroy "virtually all forms of independent association" so that any civilian administration will find it exceedingly difficult to garner the organized support needed to exert authority, not only over the military but also to confront the country's desperate economic and social problems. The authors strongly assert the need for accountability for the crimes committed by the army, including abuses by junior officers and section chiefs in the rural areas, where 70 percent of the Haitian population lives. As to U.S. policy, the report criticizes Washington's preoccupation with stemming the tide of Haitian boat people to the detriment of efforts to protect civil society in Haiti from systematic attack.

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