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Volume 53 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: THE CARIBBEAN AND THE GUIANAS (except Cuba)


ANTHONY MAINGOT, Professor of Sociology, Florida International University

THE LITERATURE OF THIS PERIOD reflects the hopes, victories and defeats of the ongoing struggle for democracy in the Caribbean. While the literature deals mostly with individual nations, there are also a number of good works that cover the region as a whole. The variety of electoral systems is recorded in CAPEL's Memoria: segunda conferencia (item bi 91021484), and Jamadar discusses two extensively used systems of voting in The mechanics of democracy (item bi 92017150). The current range of ideologies in the Caribbean are described by Lewis in "The contemporary Caribbean" (item bi 91021481).

Next to Cuba, Haiti continues to be the most studied country in the Caribbean. The 1986 overthrow of the Haitian dynasty of the Duvaliers unleashed pent-up popular expectations and aspirations, the most explosive of which was the desire for democracy understood as freedom of expression and participation in fair elections. It is not surprising, therefore, that the literature on Haiti should reflect these aspirations. In Démocratie en Haïti, also available in English, Morse provides a good perspective on what key Haitian intellectuals were thinking and hoping for soon after the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier (item bi 91021473). Turnier cautions us about being overly optimistic: tracing the aftermath of retributions and revenge which have followed each political overthrow throughout Haiti's history, he concludes that the island has a "revanchist" political culture (item bi 91021472). Good insights into the nature of this revanchisme after the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier are provided by Abbott in Haiti: the Duvaliers and their legacy (item bi 90010089) and by Joseph and Victor in Haïti en péril (item bi 91021471). All was not violence, however. After 1986, Haitian society was mobilized to create the fundamental institutions and structures which any transition to democracy requires. The efforts to aid the transition to democracy are extensively analyzed in Moïse's two-volume Constitutions et luttes de pouvoir en Haïti, 1804-1987 (item bi 91021458); vol. 2 covers the new 1987 Constitution and contains excellent documentation. The human rights situation is described in painful detail by the Organization of American States' Report on the situation of human rights in Haiti (item bi 91021448).

The political parties and actors who held center stage during this period are described by Manigat in Les partis politiques (item bi 91021470) and Haïti: quelle démocratie? (item bi 91021468). On the critical role of the Roman Catholic Church, Présence de l'Eglise en Haïti (item bi 91021476) reprints the key declarations of the Church just before and following the 1986 fall of Duvalier. The central role of Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, before he was elected President in 1990, is outlined in Wilentz's The rainy season: Haiti since Duvalier (see HLAS 51:3660); in Aristide's own account, In the parish of the poor (item bi 92017141); and in a most revealing interview Aristide granted as recorded by Gregorio Selser in El Caribe Contemporáneo (item bi 91010414).

Right next door lies the Dominican Republic, also well studied. Two presidents collected and published their speeches. The durable Joaquín Balaguer brought out vol. 9 of his collection, La voz del capitolio (item bi 88001904) and also vol. 5 of his Mensajes presidenciales (item bi 91021455). Ex-President Salvador Jorge Blanco attempts to set straight the record of his 1982-86 presidency which was blemished by his subsequent arrest and trial on corruption charges (item bi 88001910). The nature of Dominican political culture is competently analyzed by Espinal in Autoritarismo y democracia en la política dominicana (item bi 88001903). Hillman and D'Agostino's Distant neighbors in the Caribbean (item bi 92011266) sheds light on the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. In El proceso electoral (item bi 91021478), Castillo describes the main political contenders in the 1990 elections. Very revealing insights into the actual operation and meaning to Dominicans of the electoral system are contained in Y nadie sabe quien es su legislador (item bi 91021474). Also contributing to historiography is Taveras' Abril, la liberación efímera (item bi 91021490) which records some of the mistakes made by the revolutionaries of 1965.

The lamentable story of the fate of Haitian cane cutters in the Dominican Republic is documented in Haitian sugar-cane cutters in the Dominican Republic (item bi 91015846), a good reminder of how much remains to be done in the area of human rights in both countries.

The failure of revolutionary attempts is well recorded. The Grenadian "revolution" (1979-83) continues to be scrutinized. A revolution aborted (item bi 91021457) is an excellent compilation of essays on this revolution which committed suicide. Ryan's Revolution and reaction (item bi 91021487) contributes solid insights into the aftermath of the 1970 Black Power rebellion in Trinidad while Pantin's Black Power day (item bi 91021485) provides us with an eyewitness account of those events. The radical left inclinations of the Michael Manley government during 1976-80 are better understood after reading the political action plans of some of the period's leading radicals in Pathways to progress (item bi 88001909). Payne's Politics in Jamaica (item bi 91021465), while sympathetic to the left, is a balanced and highly informative analysis of this period.

There are numerous reminders that many of the islands in the region still maintain intimate ties with their respective metropoli. Mathieu provides a good overview of France's overseas departments (item bi 91021463); Othily analyzes the specific case of Guiana in this French scheme (item bi 91021462). The case of the Netherlands is described in an illuminating report from the Office of the Minister for Netherlands Antillean Affairs (item bi 91021452). The US-Puerto Rican relationship is comprehensively dealt with by the various essays in The political status of Puerto Rico (item bi 88001922), while Meléndez's Puerto Rico's statehood movement (item bi 91021460) makes a case for a special kind of relationship with the US, an estado jíbaro or Creole statehood. The case for independence is forcefully made by Mari Bras in La Asamblea Constituyente (item bi 92017154). In Raíces del proceso político puertorriqueño (item bi 92017151), Barbosa de Rosario analyzes the relationship with Spain during the 19th century according to generations of Puerto Ricans.

Mitchell's Caribbean crusade (item bi 92017144) contains the speeches of St. Vincent's premier politician and at this writing its Prime Minister. It reveals the continual search by leaders of the Eastern Caribbean islands to form some sort of economic and political association.

And finally, the student who wishes to know what the social sciences have written about this varied and complex region can turn to Sankatsing's authoritatively written, Las ciencias sociales en el Caribe (item bi 91021491).


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