(The interview was done in French. Below are the author’s original notes in English.)
The two think-tanks, CSIS and Inter-American Dialogue, have covered Haiti for a long time. Last February, the CSIS presented
the head of the UNDP in Haiti. In April, it scheduled Hedi Annabi, the head of the U.N. mission. This was canceled when
Annabi had to rush back to Haiti to contend with the crisis. In view of the gravity of the crisis, the two thinktanks
believed it was time to resume coverage.
Apart from the moderator, the presenters consisted of the ambassador of Haiti, the staff director of a congressional
subcommittee, and a representative of the Inter-American Dialogue. The ambassador’s responsibility was to present his
government in the best possible light, and he did so ably. The congressional presenter declared that he would steer clear of
Haitian political questions. If there was anyone then on the panel who might grapple with the political phenomena which might
underpin both the hunger riots and the prime-ministerial impasse, it would be Dan Erikson of the Inter-American Dialogue.
There was no one really on the panel to present the perspective of the Haitian democratic intelligentsia, who might raise
more sharply the questions of missed elections, the consequent threat to parliament, and the subterranean maneuverings for
the next presidency which underlie many of the surface phenomena. When one leafs through the pages of Haitian history one is
struck by the all-consuming nature of this drive for the presidency and the enormously disruptive effect it can have on the
economy and political institutions. Given the lack of such critical perspective, there was a danger that the panel might
touch only the surface of things and miss the underlying dynamics.
Well, Johanna didn?t say that the Haitian government was poised to solve the problems of the country rather that it was
poised to go ahead with confirmation of a prime minister. On that question, I am hopeful, but far from certain given the high
failure rate of Preval’s nominees.
The international community has made a major investment in Haiti. It has taken to heart the lesson of the deterioration of
the mid-1990s and its premature departure, and this time it has put in a potent mission and kept it there for four years. One
can agree with Jason to the extent that the means to prevent failure are in place. The question remains whether this
technical capacity is being used effectively towards the intended end. Since Haitian sovereignty is to be preserved, the
driver of the car remains Haitian. If that driver is determined to drive off the road for the historical reasons mentioned
above, then the foreign director of the mission had better be ready to grab for the steering wheel as well, or else both
could be headed for a crash. The veering off has already begun yet there is no sign of corrective action by the U.N. mission,
nor did the panel make any suggestions in this regard.
Indeed, that would be a distinction without a difference since hunger is a physical state. It matters not to the body whether
there is an absolute lack of food or lack of the social means to get itBthe body is weakened, leading to vulnerability to
disease and premature death. The extent of the hunger crisis is unprecedented in Haitian history. Particularly alarming is
the dependence on foreign imports in a country with such an agricultural tradition.
One therefore has to be very careful with these formulations lest one unintentionally communicate anything less than the deep
alarm that this situation warrants. Certain insensitive remarks by President Preval seemed to light the fuse of the hunger
At the conference, it was pointed out by a member of the Haiti Democracy Project that both the president and prime minister
were agronomists. Yet neither had promoted agriculture to a meaningful extent. Rather than hunger, the president had pointed
to the constitution with its limits on presidential power as the most destabilizing element on the horizon. Clearly the
priorities of the government were elsewhere.
The project appears to be promising, yet, as indicated above in the discussion of the U.N. mission, one must be careful about
taking refuge in technical solutions to political problems. The political problems, left unaddressed, would undermine the
most proficient technical solutions.
Haiti remains in crisis. The government is preoccupied with power issues such as how to eliminate rivals, remove
constitutional checks on power, and fix the outcome of elections. This leaves hunger as an issue to be addressed by foreign
charity. Jason is right that the international response has been generous and something that the United States can be proud
of. Nevertheless, without the political will in Haiti to recreate indigenous agricultural capacity, this foreign help will
remain a palliative.
For me, the situation in Haiti remains explosive. If one regards the April riots as primarily economically motivated, then
those economic factors remain in place. If one sees them as politically inspired, then those actors are still there,
unchecked by the U.N. mission.
As a Haitian-American member of the Haiti Democracy Project noted at the conference, one had a different view of this matter
if one actually visited Haiti and talked to the people in the streets in their own language. This member had spoken with the
Haitians in August 2007 about hunger and had found their situation alarming.
The precursors of the political crisis also began appearing that summer when the government failed to set up the local
assemblies which would nominate the members of a permanent electoral commission. Given the diversity of political parties at
the local level, this would have resulted in a pluralistic commission that President Preval could not control.
Under the leadership of another member of the Haiti Democracy Project, Sen. Rudolph Boulos, a joint Senate-Chamber of
Deputies conference was held at Kaliko Beach which resulted in local officials finally being installed. But this is as far as
the process went.
It has been well said of Haiti: Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see. When the reasons have to do
with one’s grandfather’s name or period of residency in Haiti, or aspects of someone’s private life, one is entitled to move
to the skeptical mode.
The Haitian news agency Alterpresse recently interviewed a former Haitian official:
L’ancien ministre de l’agriculture, Gerald Mathurin, actuel dirigeant de la Coordination Régionale des Organisations du Sud-
est (CROS), a qualifié de « tollé mineur » cachant des intérêts inavoués, la campagne de rumeurs orchestrée contre le premier
ministre désigné Michèle Duvivier Pierre-Louis.
« Il ne faut pas se laisser prendre à ce jeu ».
Mathurin affirme que « c’est l’après Préval qui se discute aujourd?hui ».
Constitutionnellement, le président ne peut briguer un troisième mandat. « Quel rôle a-t-il décidé de jouer ? Quel groupe
politique va-t-il favoriser ? Telles sont les questions qui se posent », souligne-t-il.
Face à cet enjeu de pouvoir, explique Gérald Mathurin, le désaccord, la méfiance et la division se sont installés au sein de
la plate-forme Espoir, sous la bannière de laquelle Préval a été élu.
Dans ce qui paraît être une « bataille entre l’exécutif et le législatif », il y a aussi des acteurs moins visibles, « des
mains occultes qui man?uvrent dans l’ombre », selon Mahturin.
C’est dans ce contexte, dit-il, que se sont produits les rejets des deux précédents premiers ministres désignés (Eric Pierre
et Robert Manuel). Les critères techniques évoqués par les parlementaires sont considérés comme des “prétextes” par le
dirigeant de CROS.
« Tout le monde sait que ce qu’on voit n’est qu’une apparence qui cache la réalité », déclare-t-il.
Cette “bataille pour le pouvoir” est qualifiée de « stérile », par Mathurin. « Dans l’état actuel des choses, ce n’est pas
une bataille pour apporter des réponses aux problèmes de la société, mais pour contrôler les avenues du pouvoir et assurer sa
réussite personnelle », opine l’ancien ministre.
That there was a large element of spontaneity and legitimacy to the uprisings cannot be doubted. From afar, it may have
seemed that the Haitian masses were blindly flailing at inexorable economic realities–international price movements. But one
can give the Haitians more credit for their capacity to realize the situation they are in and their attempts to improve it.
They correctly sensed, in a way that the international community has not, that Preval’s priorities were elsewhere. They well
knew when the price of necessities rose sharply, that the man they elected was doing nothing for them. They reacted
I see no reason to doubt the large spontaneous element of reaction to cruelly high prices of necessities and the government’s
passivity in the face of this crisis. Now, it would not have been Haiti if certain elements did not seek to use this energy
for their own purposes. Ambassador Joseph was right to note that MINUSTAH handled the situation without shooting anyone, and
this is to the mission’s credit.
Notwithstanding the large element of spontaneity, it would be a rare thing in Haiti if no political actor sought to harness
this energy to some aspect of attaining, retaining, or regaining presidential power. At the time of the events, it was widely
reported that Aristide partisans such as the Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste or Annette Auguste were circulating among the crowds
seeking to plant slogans for Aristide=s return and against MINUSTAH. There is no journalistic reportage so far that I am
aware of to the effect that Preval provoked the riots to get rid of Alexis. That Alexis was preparing a run for the
presidency, that Preval wanted to get rid of him, that he had complained about constitutional limits on his power to dismiss
him, all this has been verified, but no more. Such a move by Preval would not be inconsistent with an all-consuming drive to
eliminate a rival, but it would be a highly self-defeating move that has weakened his presidency in more fundamental ways.
Translation: Yes, that was a violation of Haitian electoral law. At the time, I was in Port-au-Prince following up the Haiti
Democracy Project=s electoral-observation mission for the February 7, 2006 elections. I personally raised this matter with a
top adviser to Preval, to the National Democratic Institute mission in Haiti, and to the U.S. ambassador. I remembered well
the acute pain this issue had caused Haiti in the 1997 elections, and how other counting irregularities had vitiated the May
2000 legislative elections. I also opposed giving way on an electoral issue to mobs which had been whipped up by Preval=s
false claim of Amassive fraud.@ Having just administered a fifteen-person mission of foreign electoral observers who had seen
much administrative confusion but no fraud, I knew well that Haiti had achieved remarkably on February 7 and the charge of
massive fraud was unfounded.
Accordingly, Ambassador Preeg, the chairman of the Haiti Democracy Project and former U.S. ambassador to Haiti, and I issued
a statement rejecting the illegal manipulation of the count to get Preval over the top. The International Foundation for
Elections Systems mission, headed by the able Johns Hopkins University elections expert Prof. Edward Joseph, did the same.
However, the Latin American governments on the scene whose troops would have to confront the pro-Preval crowds opted for the
manipulation route. The U.S., Canadian and European governments went along. A foreign electoral mission with heavy Canadian
government funding did so as well.
Ambassador Preeg and I also decided, in the same message, to accept Preval=s election as broadly legitimate even if deviating
from the law, since he had amassed an impressive 48 percent, against 11 percent for his nearest rival, and clearly could have
won on the second round. We very much wanted Haiti to have at last the benefit of legitimate elected government to tackle the
daunting tasks ahead.
In the time since, the costs of this manipulation have become clearer. The first loss was the resignation of the brilliant
Mirlande Manigat, who had been elected senator from the Ouest Department. She resigned in admirable solidarity with her
husband Leslie Manigat, from whom had been filched the opportunity to keep alive his candidacy by taking on Preval in a
legally-required second round. As a result, the Haitian senate was deprived of perhaps its most illustrious memberBone of the
most incorruptible, upright, and competent public figures Haiti has to offer. As the quality of senate proceedings on many
occasions has attested, she has been sorely missed.
Second, and worse, was the evident effect these proceedings had on Preval himself. Picked up by helicopter from Marmelade and
brought to the capital to calm the crowds, Preval found himself anointed as the indispensable man. He had the unconditional
support of the international community even if it meant breaking a law here or there. He pocketed the lesson for future use.
Translation: Our organization, the Haiti Democracy Project, has striven to do just thatBhelp Haiti maintain and further its
democratic achievements of 2006. In September 2007, in testimony that our project founder Senator Boulos helped arrange,
elections administrator Jacques Bernard appeared before the Haitian senate. Bernard was the man most responsible for creating
the administrative machinery that took Haiti through three good elections in 2006 and so laid the foundation for Haiti’s
recovery and future prosperity. At the senate, Bernard testified that if the Haitian government began right then, in
September, there would still be time to hold the needed senatorial elections with the existing electoral commission and
maintain the senate at full strength. Foreign funds for the elections were available.
Getting no response from the Haitian government, the senate next in October sent a five-member official mission to Washington
headed by senate vice-president Sen Edmonde S. Beauzile to, among other things, plead for support in high U.S. councils. The
Haiti Democracy Project arranged this mission. Follow-up missions went to Ottawa and Mexico City.
This and other pressure from Haitian public opinion at least made Preval address the problem. He dismissed the existing
provisional commission and formed a new one, of members innocent of any electoral experience but properly imbued with loyalty
to him. To make up for this lack of competence, he reappointed Jacques Bernard as administrator.
As a condition for taking the unpaid job, Bernard insisted that the bylaws that he had written to take Haiti through three
successful elections remain unchanged. Preval seemingly agreed. A month later he sent a new version completely taking away
Bernard’s authority. Bernard could not run the machinery to prevent fraud, but he could stay and lend his name to the
process. Bernard resigned the same day.
Together these goings-on have created a virtual certainty among Haitian opposition politicians that Preval intends to use the
handpicked electoral commission, sans the credible Bernard, to rig the outcome.
With no elections for the senate in sight, in January 2008 Senator Boulos helped engineer a compromise by which the third of
the senate whose terms were technically expiring stayed on the job for five more months.
Boulos would now personally pay the price for these democratic labors. He had struggled to create the permanent electoral
commission, get senate elections scheduled, and keep the full senate in session. He also began speaking out warning of the
coming hunger crisis and calling on the government to abate the rice tax, get microcredit to market women, and lend seeds and
fertilizer to farmers. All these activities brought the invidious attention of President Preval. How could a mere senator
question the leadership of a president, whose indispensability had been certified by the international community?
Preval’s first move was a rumor campaign directed against the senator. This mushroomed into a campaign personally
orchestrated by Preval to have the senate expel Senator Boulos on spurious grounds of double nationality. By Haitian law,
nationality issues are the province of the courts, nor can the senate expel a member unless that member has been duly
convicted in the courts. But Preval knew from the experience of February 2006 that the little matter of the law need not
detain him. On March 18, 2008 he got the senate to vote the resolution. Boulos, in a life-threatening situation, verbally
resigned and left the country. He believed he would be put in jail, from which he would not emerge alive. Indeed, a warrant
for his arrest was prepared. Later information indicated that the method of mistreatment would have been injections to put
him into a coma.
At the time of these shenanigans, Boulos was vice-president of the senate.
Reaching safety, Boulos insisted that his verbal resignation had been under duress, that he had not resigned in writing, and
therefore he remained senator. Senator Beauzile urged the senate to reconsider its resolution.
The court in Fort-Liberté subsequently ruled that Senator Boulos had been unfairly and unlawfully deprived of his seat. A
number of senators indicated their willingness to reconsider the expulsion.
With the Boulos episode, abstract threats against democratic institutions such as elections and parliament made their
inevitable escalation into physical threats against persons, exactly as under Aristide.
What has been revealing about the international response to this phenomenon has been its selectivity. Two Haitian senatorial
delegations have now toured Washington asking for its support for the needed elections. Jacques Bernard issued a public
statement detailing the pressures that forced him to resign, and repeated these facts to congressional aides. The vice-
president of the senate was forced to flee for his life. But it was not until Haiti was deprived of a prime minister, and the
prospect of an indefinite empty seat, as during the 1990s, presented itself, that the United States remonstrated with Preval.
But for the student of Haiti, all of these phenomena, whether the resistance to a permanent electoral commission, or the
failure to hold a senate election, the manipulation of a new commission, the expulsion of the senate vice-president, or the
loss, nomination, and re-nomination of prime ministers, are all subsets of the same category. They are, in Gerard Mathurin’s
words, all so many expressions of the same “bataille pour contrôler les avenues du pouvoir et assurer sa réussite
Well, Dan would probably be the first to admit the contradiction, which was encapsulated in the title of the Inter-American
Dialogue’s excellent study in 2007: AHaiti: Real Progress, Real Fragility.@ Knowing Haiti well, Dan was not about to vouch
for the irreversibility of the progress, welcome as it had been. In fact, all serious students of Haiti will have to grasp
this particular nettle: how is it that Haiti could achieve the elections of 2006 and institute legitimate government, only to
have it backslide into the usual threat of rigged elections, the threat of constitutional change to allow consecutive terms,
the erosion of parliament, the persecution of political opponents, and governmental void?
This is a problem for the Haiti Democracy Project above all, as we had been advocating since 2002 that what Haiti needed most
was a free election, by which the action of the voters could bestow the precious gift of legitimacy on Haiti’s government,
and so lay the foundation for recovery and modernization. We got what we asked for, but it has not brought the result.
The only answer we can find, to rescue us from this contradiction, is to keep having elections until the Haitian democratic
intelligentsia finally send a better-unified slate of qualified candidates of integrity and capacityBof whom Haiti has many
both at home and in the DiasporaBand the voters have the sense to choose them. When one recalls neighboring countries that in
the 1980s were in the same sad shape that Haiti is in today, or worseBsuch as the Dominican Republic or El SalvadorBit took
repeated elections before modern-minded teams from the business, intellectual and Diaspora communities were put in place.
Then these countries took off, creating economic opportunity for many.
It is for this reason that the threat posed by President Preval is so pernicious, that he would take away the possibility of
free elections to give Haiti’s voters and democratic sector another chance to create effective governance.
The April demonstrators in Haiti did not feel that such inaction could be justified, and they let their feelings be known,
emphatically. There were no widespread riots in the Dominican Republic, whose leaders have obviously more bestirred
themselves for national development. While not indifferent to their own political fates, the Dominican politicians have been
content to let voters decide and institutions regulate. The stability that this more mature behavior has created has
completely transformed the climate for investment. As a result, investors and tourists are flocking in from all over the
world. The land is the same as Haiti’s, and increasingly the workers are Haitian. The only difference is the quality of
governance. With the governance that repeated free elections in Haiti could create, the Dominican Republic’s level of
prosperity could be Haiti’s.
Preval indeed presented these qualities in 2006. He talked to everyone and mollified former opponents by including them in
the government. He traveled internationally and was good at obtaining aid. And as his manipulation of the electoral crowds
indicated, he could raise and quieted the masses.
Had Preval been content to exploit these qualities to make his last five-year term a success, he could have been one of the
best presidents Haiti has ever had.
But presidents in Haiti do not serve and leave; rather they gather power and connive to stay. Preval was not the man to break
from this tradition. The effects for democracy have been evident since last summer. The international community, having bet
the bank on this personality and his presumed combination of qualities, is loath to admit its mistake.
We have already discussed some of the pressures Preval has placed on parliament–the failure to have the needed elections,
his willingness to let that one-third of the senate depart in January, his success in stirring up the senators to vote out a
perceived political rival. One can scarcely forget that Preval sent parliament packing in January 1999, although the same
argument was made then that the terms of the deputies should run their full four years until October, in the absence of
elections to replace them. At the time, we blamed all that on the pressure Aristide was exerting on Preval.
As we are now seeing with the prime-ministerial nominations, the relationship between Preval and the members of parliament,
the seeming “bataille entre l’exécutif et le législatif,” may be mere shadow play, in Gerald Mathurin’s words, “des mains
occultes qui man?uvrent dans l’ombre.”
With its democratic intelligentsia and Diaspora, and its people’s persistence in voting under difficult conditions, Haiti has
the human capital and morale to pull off the same recovery that countries like the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and
Guatemala have achieved in difficult circumstances when they put that human capital into play. Many countries in Africa have
also so succeeded. The fate of Zimbabwe, however, demonstrates what can happen when a dictatorship is left in place long
enough and there is a club of regional rulers that supports the dictator.
The contribution of Haiti’s democrats came notably into play in 2003 with the Group of 184 and its successful appeal to
Haitian public opinion. While it was Aristide’s own violence that was the ultimate convincer, that organization struck a
chord with the Haitian population, completely changing the climate to the point that even Aristide’s armed retainers defected
from him. This as well as the experience of other countries demonstrates the power that the progressive middle class, from
businessmen to professionals to politicians and Diaspora, can exert if it organizes itself and makes the effort. In 2005 that
discipline broke down as the Haitian political class confronted the electorate with forty-four presidential candidates.
Confronted with this confused mass, the electorate chose the only two who had ever been president.
I believe Dan here is speaking above all of the means: the U.N. mission, the aid programs. These are indeed impressive and
dedicated to Haiti for the long term. But as we have suggested above, technical means without a purposeful strategy may be
unavailing. If the United States or international community now has a strategy to somehow guide, persuade, prod or pressure
Preval back to the democratic path, they have indeed kept it a secret to this point.
To be sure, something was said about having the senate elections, and a question was raised about the senator’s exile. It is
only in the matter of prime-ministerial nominations, however, that Preval shows any signs of feeling the pressure, most
recently in his public show of support for his latest nominee. One must still regard that show skeptically.
While the Bush administration has its questions about Preval, it has invested too much in him and is not interested at this
point in switching to a purposeful program of suasion and pressure to save democracy. As the international community’s
experience with both Cédras and Aristide demonstrates, the road of pressure on Haitian rulers is hard and unrewarding. They
absorb enormous amounts of diplomacy, they resist with all the smoke and mirrors of marronage, and when they finally give
way, their replacement is no better. The Bush administration shows no sign of wanting to make this effort, and every sign of
watching the clock until its time runs out. Nor is there an independent vision from the Latinos, Canadians, or Europeans.
To begin with, any occupation of Haiti by any foreign troops, even with the best of intentions, is a highly suboptimal
situation that can only be countenanced by overriding considerations of the “right to protect” and doctrines of humanitarian
intervention. That is, if one does a cold cost-and-benefit analysis, are the Haitian people better off being overseen by
efficient foreign soldiers, trained to protect civilians, or by the succession of gangs or ragtag armies that personalities
of the likes of Preval, Aristide, or Alexis would inflict on them? Considering the chaos of the latter course, many Haitians
would reluctantly agree that they are better off for now under the foreigners. This is by no means an easy choice. Haitian
political analysts as astute as Gerard Pierre-Charles and Nancy Roc have warned Haiti to be on its guard, not for rhetorical
nationalistic reasonsBbecause these writers’ thought is pitched at a far higher intellectual and moral levelBbut because the
weight of the foreign presence must be felt somewhere in the politics, and that weight may work against the Haitian
democratic center and in favor of the ruler of the day. It is here that the full cost-and-benefit analysis begins.
Both of these writers believed that in 2004, with the rising sense of national unity that was evident in the Group of 184,
the political parties, and the risings against Aristide, there was the potential for the democratic sector to rule Haiti
alone, without having to share power with the foreigners and Lavalas as provided in the tripartite agreement. This was only a
potential dimly seen and beset by difficulties, and only mentioned, not explored, by these writers. It was an alluring
potential nevertheless, because in it lay the germs of modernization and nationhood.
The problems that these writers have seen in the foreign presence have indeed been realized in the overly protective and
deferential stance the foreigners have taken toward Preval. The fact that he is the duly elected president indeed entitles
him to respect, but not to blanket approval. In the denouement with President Aristide in early 2004, Haiti had to contend
with much the same problem. The weight of U.S. diplomacy came down on Andy Apaid, leader of the Group of 184, in a misguided
effort to get him to agree to leave Aristide in under some sort of controls. As the leader by then of a truly national and
conscious movement to get rid of Aristide, Apaid in no way could countenance this demand, even when it came personally from
Secretary of State Powell. The very making of the demand at that late stage reveals the unrealistic extent to which American
administrations will cling to the ruler in place (“the devil you know”) as opposed to letting necessary change happen.
It is this clinging to the status quo, the defining of the relation with Haiti as predominantly with the head of state,
almost to the exclusion of the rest of the constitutional institutions and the people themselves, that overhangs the U.N.
mission in Haiti and threatens to transform it into a presidential guard. Absorbing fully the February 2006 experience,
Preval uses the U.N. mission as a shield behind which to play the power game described above by Mathurin. Thus, as Pierre-
Charles and Roc foresaw, the U.N. mission, although judicially correct in that Preval is the elected head of state, has in
reality intervened in Haitian politics and not on the side of democracy.
The solution, however, considering the chaotic alternative, is not the mission’s leaving but its rededication to the quite
legitimate end of stabilization and support for return to full sovereignty. Stabilization and democratic development cannot
be achieved by backing a factionalist who threatens democratic institutions, even if that personality is the president. A
program of guidance of Haiti’s weak democracy is an indispensable part of the U.N. mission’s task. For if Haiti’s current
rulers were capable of operating a democracy alone, without such foreign assistance, there would be no need for the U.N.
mission to stay another day.
Certainly HOPE is a highly practical form of aid to Haiti in carving out a small area of security for investment and job
creation by reserving a small crevice of the U.S. market for Haitian output. HOPE II does this by expanding benefits to ten
years and liberalizing categories, thus making it a more realistic business decision to invest in textile plants in Haiti.
In the larger scheme, HOPE is another one of those technical advances that can only be fulfilled as part of a larger policy
of stabilization and democracy-building. Alone, it will only be an island of welcome activity; linked to stabilization and
the improvement of security and predictability for investment, it will be an example that will spawn a thousand imitators in
dozens of other industries.
In 2004 the chairman of our organization, Ambassador Preeg, gave a presentation entitled “Why Haiti Is Not a Failed Nation-
state.” Even after all that Haiti had been through, the ambassador remembered well the capable businesspeople and
professionals the country had produced and he was not about to pronounce a country that had such achievers a failure.
In short, both Dan Erickson and our organization, being Haiti boosters, are loath to apply the epithet failure and instead
seek other formulas such as hollow or fragile to describe the problem in a more positive way.
That there should be emergency food aid to address a hunger crisis is normal. The larger point that this aid is only a
palliative, absent a policy to build governance and internal production, remains valid. A full reading of the aid agencies’
portfolio will reveal many worthy projects that would promote agricultural growth and go far beyond a charity handout. One
can expect that Haiti and the agencies will roll out more such projects as the rising price of food makes Haitian domestic
agriculture more profitable. Although there is a U.S. export interest in selling food to Haiti, it is not so strong that it
could interfere with professional aid managers’ decisions to support Haitian agricultural capability.
Perhaps Dan had in mind a canary that would sing, not die, on detecting poisonous gases. It is certainly true that most
people in Washington will ignore the situation in Haiti as long as it is quiet. The hunger strikes gave a face and voice to
the suffering and certainly got Washington’s attention. Jason Steinbaum was right to consider the food aid a significant
reaction. Now, Washington will not take the next step toward an overhaul of Haiti policy and rededication to democratic
state-building, no matter how many papers the Haiti Democracy Project might produce on the topic. But it will be forced to
look at this option if a similar number of Haitians on the ground insist on it, mobilized perhaps by the political parties
and organizations of the caliber of the Group of 184. The two Haitian senatorial delegations calling for elections got a
respectful hearing, but not backed by a movement on the ground, they could be safely ignored.