Haiti: Holding up democracy

For nearly six years, the United States – which occupied Haiti between 1915 and 1934 – has been back in its former satellite with Operation Uphold Democracy. This recently concluded multinational effort reinstated the democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide – elected President in December 1990 with sixty-seven percent of the popular vote. It cost about $2 billion and involved up to twenty thousand troops – mainly Americans.

The World Today Updated 27 October 2020 Published 1 May 2000 4 minute READ

Marlye Gélin-Adams

Programme Officer, International Peace Academy, New York

Over the last seven years, the United Nations has maintained four successive peacekeeping missions in Haiti and has worked with the Organisation of American States to create a new police force and promote human rights. However, as frequently-delayed municipal and parliamentary elections approach, there are those who believe that democracy has been more ‘held up’ than ‘upheld’ in this Caribbean nation of seven million people.

An elected president, a new police force, new schools and clinics and infrastructure improvements attest to the six-year international peacekeeping presence. Yet, Haiti remains strangled by numerous problems despite efforts to revive its weak economy and to stabilise its volatile politics. Rising crime, a moribund judiciary, a paralysed political system, high unemployment and a debilitating economy are among the main ailments hindering democratisation.

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