With an attempted coup underway in Venezuela, those of us who studied the 2004 Haiti coup are looking back at Haiti 10 years ago and being reminded of the parallels. Actually, I wrote about the Venezuela coup of 2002, which followed a similar playbook to the coup attempt currently underway.
I write about a lot of different countries and a lot of different political situations, and people have implied to me that it is impossible for anyone to be knowledgeable about so many different contexts. It seems to me though that in many of these situations, the same external actors are intervening (for example, the US and other Western countries), and they have a limited number of ways of conducting intervention. There’s some kind of a playbook out there, and for people who are concerned about development or democracy or freedom in the poor countries, there is no way to avoid trying to understand what is in that playbook of intervention. That’s why I wrote Haiti’s New Dictatorship, and why I really liked Peter Hallward’s Damming the Flood. I think of both books as an attempt to understand the way external power operated to destroy the sovereignty of a country – in this case, Haiti. Peter showed how it was done, and I tried to focus on the post-coup results.
One of the strongest moral voices against coups in Latin America for the past decade and a half has been, and you wouldn’t know it from the name, the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). Their name only covers one aspect of their organization’s personality – the fact that they are extraordinary researchers and that they do their homework. Their name doesn’t cover the fact that they are a strong voice of principle, when the media are full of murky justifications for coups and violence, and murky accusations of violence against targeted enemies. They have been very strong on Venezuela and on Haiti.
In this interview, published on CEPR, Dan Beeton and Georgeanne Nienaber interview former OAS Special Representative in Haiti, Ricardo Seitenfus. It’s a powerful account because it comes from someone who was part of the post-coup attempts to bring Haiti under control. It reveals a lot about how Haiti has been governed, post-coup. Seitenfus was fired for telling the truth about what was going on. If you read Haiti’s New Dictatorship, you’ll find this interview with Seitenfus verifies a lot of what I argued was going on based on other sources.