Haiti Democracy Project
Washington, D.C., April 2002
The Haiti Democracy Project will advocate a more effective
U.S. policy toward Haiti. While the sending of an OAS
democracy mission to Haiti this month is a useful first
step, experience indicates that the United States and
international community will need to do considerably
more if human-rights abuses are to be contained and
democratic institutions built. And without these minimal
building blocks of governance, Haiti will remain mired
in the worst poverty in the hemisphere.
A recent conference of U.N. agency heads and Haiti
specialists generally concluded that the 1994 U.S.-led
intervention was unduly driven by an exit strategy and
that the international community "had a one-year plan
for a ten-year problem." The withdrawal from Haiti was
precipitous and left fledgling democratic institutions,
such as the professionalized police, vulnerable to political
takeover. The power of the exiled president was certainly
restored by this intervention of twenty-two thousand
troops. However, the other democratic institutionslegislature,
electoral machinery, judiciary, police, governmental
ministrieswere left unprotected against a recrudescence
of presidential power.
Nevertheless, virtually the entire Haitian middle class,
"civil society," independent news media, and independent
politicians continue to demand their democratic freedoms
and they have an increasing echo from the impoverished
majority which objects to the corruption of the regime.
At the same time, President Aristide still enjoys important
support based on the historical memory of the legitimacy
of his 1990 election. This bifurcated polity adds to
the complexity of the Haitian question. Such few valid
elections and opinion polls as have been held point
to a bedrock of support for Aristide's party co-existing
with a wide diversity of other candidates and positions.
The Haiti Democracy Project, an independent organization,
is a continuation of the Center for International Policy's
ten-year Haiti project, which originally worked to restore
President Aristide to power but in more recent years
joined with the major human-rights organizations in
deploring the unfolding political violence and destruction
of democratic institutions. In recent years the Haiti
project signed joint declarations of concern with the
National Coalition for Haitian Rights, Human Rights
Watch, Washington Office on Latin America, and the International
Human Rights Law Group.
The director of the Haiti Democracy Project is James
Morrell, who for twenty-eight years served as research
director of the Center for International Policy, a liberal
thinktank in Washington. He was an adviser to President
Aristide at the Governors Island negotiations in 1993.
In the year 2000 he observed Haiti's legislative elections
for the OAS. He entitled his report on those elections
"Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory" to convey
the paradox of a party that had the votes to win legitimately,
yet threw away that legitimacy by falsifying the count
in a bid for total power. Morrell received his Ph.D.
in history from Harvard University in 1977.