Hallward's book on Aristide & Lavalas

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Serge
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Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2007 10:39 am

Post by Serge » Wed Mar 11, 2009 11:28 pm

Heloise,

I am glad to read your comments. I hope to be able to do a more thorough review at some points when I get the time.

As far as I am concerned, Peter Hallward's book: Damming the Flood is probably the best analysis I have read of the Aristide period; it is also the best attempt to explain the Aristide phenomenon. Not the man, but the significance of his rise. I have always thought that the Aristide problem in Haiti is social first, then political. That is the kind of connexion Hallward explains: the social ills, the class problem in Haiti, the role of the "morally repugnant elite" (not my expression, but that of the Los Angeles Times from some years ago) allied with their powerful friends in the United States Senate and Lower Chamber. They were relentless.

Hallward cannot be accused of defending Aristide, for he says himself that he only went twice to Haiti. Some might be tempted then to say that he does not know Haiti enough to write a book like this. Big mistake! A true scholar, the research is superb and very thorough and this shows that the author did his homework, trying to be totally objective. Il ne fait de cadeau à personne!

Hallward systematically describes with a lot of perspicacity the actors, their motivations, the social and political context, the role of the international community, particularly that of the CIA. He shows with a lot of clarity how Aristide was being systematically squeezed by the US gvt., the international financial institutions, while he was being undermined at home by the Haitian upper class-economic elite-intellectuals turned politicians-former friends etc, And why? because Aristide and the ideas he sought to implement, represented a deep, deep threat to the hegemony of this apartheid-practicing elite determined to maintain the status quo. Having underestimated the enemy, Aristide made some crucial errors which lead to his downfall. By the time he returned to Haiti in 1994, he had been thoroughly "defanged" and the rest is history.

For any Haitian , or for that matter, anyone who wants to understand why the Haitian elite hated - and still hates Aristide so much, - why the US considered him such a threat, even though Haiti is totally dependent on the US, why the international institutions imposed stringent restrictions on his gvt. while repeating everywhere that Haiti was the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, why , 5 years after his second ouster, he remains immensely popular among the masses despite the many mistakes he made, Peter Hallward's book is an excellent source of sound, analytical and precious information even though it is voluminous at more then 400 pages with interviews, notes etc.

Heloise, I started by saying that I would make a review later, but I got carried away afer you put me on the track. So I killed 2 birds with one stone!

So the short answer to your question is: yes, yes, yes. I strongly recommend this book to my fellow countrymen and women, as well as to all others who are interestd in Haiti and want to be open-minded enough to learn more about another tragic chapter in our history.

Serge

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