In This Review

Haiti's Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy
Haiti's Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy
By Robert Fatton, Jr.
Lynne Rienner, 2002, 237 pp

Haiti has fallen from the headlines, but the story of its turbulent years during the early Clinton administration and Washington's subsequent rocky experience in nation-building there are well recounted in this history. Fatton takes us inside the internal power struggles within Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas movements and his shadowy exercise of power behind the scenes during the presidency of Rene Preval. As Fatton describes it, both Aristide and the opposition that emerged were prisoners of "the politics of the belly": government based on the acquisition of personal wealth through the control of state offices. In short, politics becomes an entrepreneurial vocation and the only means of social mobility for those not born into wealth and privilege. The tragedy in the Haitian government is that politics destroyed the idealism of the most honest men and women by transforming them into "big eaters." (None of this, of course, is exclusive to Haiti.) In this depressing picture of "predatory" democracy, there are few constitutional constraints on executive authority. Instead, there is only the acute feeling of defeat and betrayal among the political activists who sought real change after the end of the regime of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier. A dark reminder of why Haiti will likely force its way back onto the U.S. agenda.