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Q&A: What's behind the violent uprisings in Haiti?

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As a violent uprising in Haiti continues to spread, the country's fragile peace looks as shaky as it has in a decade. Robert Maguire, Director of International Affairs & Haiti Programs at Trinity College in Washington DC, spoke with's Seth Stern about the situation in Haiti.

What's causing the recent violence? How much is due to anger over the 2000 legislative election which President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's opponents charge was flawed?

The underlying cause is both economic and political. Politically, it does go back to the 2000 election and the government's inability to address that issue effectively and the opponents' inability to participate. It has created this growing crescendo of political polarization that in the past two months has reached the shouting point of violence and demonstrations in the street.

The economic component is somewhat linked to those 2000 elections. Even before that and surely following that, most bilateral and multilateral assistance was cut off - including by the US. Some $500 million in developmental assistance was withheld and essentially this has been a resource starved government unable to invest in social welfare programs, infrastructure development and any other investments in the hemisphere's poorest country. This has obviously eroded support of the government since people expected it to deliver and it has been unable to accomplish virtually anything

Who is in the opposition to Aristide's rule?

The opposition is multi-faceted. The traditional political opposition which has been intransigently opposed to Aristide since 2000. You have the more elite opposition to Aristide which is led by more traditional elites - people from the business class and intellectuals - which has attracted people from middle and lower middle classes. They are all disaffected by corruption and the inability to meet the nation's needs.


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