Stan Cox's Reviews > Haiti's New Dictatorship: From the Overthrow of Aristide to the 2010 Earthquake

Haiti's New Dictatorship by Justin Podur
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it was amazing

The yardstick by which the international media measure a society's misery typically features the nation of Haiti at the grim extreme. Most often, the origins of Haiti's misery either go unexamined or are attributed to natural disasters or vague societal failings. Justin Podur's Haiti's New Dictatorship helps correct that shameful record; it's must reading for anyone who wants to understand the real forces that have steered that nation toward its state of ruin.

More specifically, it's those of us in the North who need to read this book. Haitians themselves understand all too well why they remain impoverished and oppressed, and they have long struggled to reverse that reality, both at the ballot box and in their communities. In his masterful investigation, Podur observes what Haitians really are doing and saying, while he demonstrates how international nonprofits (NGOs), United Nations troops, and private industry all are creating and exacerbating, not curbing, the nation's rolling disaster.

In Haiti's New Dictatorship—from the post-Duvalier struggles of the 1990s, to the 2004 coup by US-approved paramilitaries and the exile of the still-popular President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (a move characterized by Aristide as a “geopolitical kidnapping” and shown by Podur to be just that), to the bloody record of the business-friendly post-coup government, to the 2006-11 presidency of Rene Preval (whose attempts to repair political life in Haiti, even marginally, were stymied by foreign NGOs—including “progressive” ones—and UN military leaders) to the horrendous consequences of the 2011 earthquake for those Haitians least able to withstand a seismic disaster on top of their economic and political disasters, to the post-quake “open-for-business”, NGO-friendly government—Podur documents Haiti's ordeal thoroughly and with the sharpest of eyes for hair-raising detail.

As striking as the accounts of violent repression is his description of the repeated tugs-of-war between, on the one hand, the Haitian electorate, which time and again, over more than two decades, struggled to express its overwhelming support for economic justice and independence from North American political, military, and economic forces, and on the other the ruling class and its foreign backers and thuggish enforcers who have endeavored, usually but not always successfully, to ensure that elections would go their way whatever the actual result.

After offering some solid ideas for turning Haiti around, Podur advises his North American readers that in order to allow Haitians, at long last, some space in which to rebuild their country, from its soils to its industry and its political institutions, we should first “stop believing the lie that Haiti is a site of heroic foreigners struggling against local corruption and look at the facts of Haiti's recent history, facts that paint us in an unflattering light.”

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 12, 2012 – Finished Reading
July 14, 2013 – Shelved

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