Haiti An Avalanche for Democracy

A priest's appeal to the poor wins him the presidency, but he will need more than popularity to remedy his country's problems

In the sermon-like speeches that antagonized his enemies and mesmerized his followers, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide often described his movement as a lavalas, the Haitian term for a cleansing avalanche that will wash away tyranny and corruption. That image was particularly relevant last week, as a political lavalas carried the 37-year-old Roman Catholic priest to an overwhelming victory in Haiti's first truly democratic presidential elections.

The triumph of Aristide and his party, the National Front for Change and Democracy, was a resounding endorsement of his brand of theological populism, which is based on restoring the dignity and material well-being of the country's...

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