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Volume 59 / Social Sciences

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


CLIFFORD E. GRIFFIN, Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Administration, North Carolina State University
JOAN F. HIGBEE, Specialist in Caribbean Area, Hispanic Division, Library of Congress


THE THEME OF DEMOCRACY in the Caribbean and the Guianas persists in this chapter. For a number of countries in the Caribbean, democracy has become standard practice; for others (items #bi 00004543# and #bi2001002677#), including Haiti (item #bi 00006888#), democracy's hold remains tenuous at best, given that history and political culture have prevented democratic governance from taking root. The Washington model of democracy that has toppled dictatorships and authoritarianism in the Western Hemisphere has resulted in countries that hold free and fair elections, but in which democracy is imperfect. From Alberto Fujimori in Peru, to Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, and to Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, the lesson of democracy is that elections alone do not guarantee that democracy will follow. While democracy in the hemisphere has matured beyond the initial steps, it is the next steps that are crucial, whether in Haiti or Guyana or especially in Venezuela, where inequality, poverty, and distrust are growing. Democracy may work best, and more completely and effectively, when given time; when countries are able to survive disappointing leaders; when elections are more of a beginning than an end. As the Caribbean area continues to refine and consolidate the democratic process, this lesson must be heeded.

Another lesson, however, is informed by growing levels of crime, forcing governments to channel scarce resources from social programs such as education and health care into law enforcement and public safety. For many governments, the problem is compounded by increasing numbers of nationals being deported from major metropolitan countries, particularly the US, for criminal and other offenses. Though the data are anecdotal at this time, many of these criminal deportees may contribute to this rising incidence of crime, including drug trafficking, gun running, as well as burglaries, larcenies, homicides, and increasing numbers of kidnappings for ransom.

Further challenging governments in the Caribbean is the high per capita levels of HIV/AIDS cases, second only to sub-Saharan Africa. While numerous factors account for this development, some point to the tourism industry—upon which many of these countries are highly dependent—as one of the main contributors. Evidence exists to support the case that a two-way transmittal of the disease takes place between tourists to the region and nationals who engage in sexual liaisons for monetary and other gains.

Finally, with the sluggish performance of the US economy and concerns over security following the events of September 11, 2001, tourism has not been as robust as in the mid- to late-1990s, thus contributing to low levels of economic growth and increased levels of hardship in the region. Further, the offshore financial services sector is under much more scrutiny out of concern that this sector may be used to launder the proceeds of illicit activities, and that such proceeds may be used to fund the activities of terrorist groups. This closer attention is also reducing the revenue generation capacity of this sector. These factors, among others, combine to underscore the fragility of the economic foundation upon which the democracies in the region stand. [CEG]

Elected president of Haiti in 1990, Jean Bertrand Aristide was removed by a coup in 1991. He was reinstated in 1994, with the support of US troops, and served the last 16 months of his term. Succeeded by his protégé Réne Préval, Aristide returned to overt power following the Haitian presidential election of 2000. Tensions exploded when his Lavalas Family Party also swept the questionable 2000 legislative elections. Faced with escalating crises and violence, international financial institutions froze five hundred million dollars in loans to the impoverished country. In 2002, the OAS passed Resolution 822: "Support for Strengthening Democracy in Haiti." The document incorporated agreements made with the government of Haiti to strengthen democratic institutions—including political parties; form a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP); establish, by the CEP, an Electoral Guarantees Commission (CGE); develop and implement a comprehensive disarmament program; promote national dialogue and consensus-building between the government of Haiti, all political parties, and Haitian civil society; and assure professional development of an independent police institution, development of a security plan, and creation of a climate of security for the 2003 elections. Transition from document to practice proved illusive.

As this chapter goes to press, a range of voices compare the current status-quo in Haiti to that of a collapsed state. Concurrently, many Haitians wish to celebrate the bicentennial of their homeland's historic emergence in 1804 as the first black republic. An internet site, "Bob Corbett's Mailing List On Haiti," provides an animated space for discussion of current and historic events as well as the posting of timely documents. Access to the list is via a free subscription that may be requested at the following address: <majordomo@lists.webster.edu>. Current instructions are to leave the subject line blank and to write "subscribe haiti" in lower case letters in the body of the message.

Themes of formation and endangerment of Caribbean cultures and of the evolution of civil societies (#bi2002003719#) are heightened in this chapter by works depicting the erosion of Haitian society as violence and insecurity have culminated in broad-based, invasive fear and anguish at the level of daily life (items #bi2002003717#, #bi2002003716#, and #bi2002003712#). The search for a humane sense of law and order finds expression (item #bi2002003711#), as do efforts to understand modern political agendas in terms of a historic past (item #bi2002003706#). Complex issues that nongovernmental organizations now face are prefigured (item #bi2002003710#). Dramatic political and security issues present in Haïti increase appreciation of research bearing upon processes developed to seek and express the desire for change in Martinique (item #bi2002003705#) and Guadeloupe (item #bi2002003707#). The theme of security policing which is state protective rather than citizen protective is explored here in terms of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (item #bi 98006978#). The rich research area of East-Indian Caribbean cultural presence is mined by a study of land settlement schemes in Guyana (item #bi2002003718#). [JFH]


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