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#877: From the Haitian Times (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>

U.S Troops To Leave Haiti Amid Chaos

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -Last May, police shot 11 detainees in 
Carrefour-Feuilles, a neighborhood south of the city center. Former 
Port-au-Prince Police Commissioner Jean-Coles Rameau and several other 
officers were arrested in connection with the killings. Haiti's justice 
system is in shambles, prison escapes are common, and fair trials rare. 
The overthrow of the military and the restoration of Constitutional 
order did open up political freedom in Haiti. More than 60 legal 
political parties sprang up almost overnight and countless other parties 
are not registered. On March 1, Sen. Jean-Yvon Toussaint of the 
Organization of People in Struggle party (OPL) was gunned down in front 
of his house. In April, three OPL lawmakers sought asylum in the Chilean 
embassy before fleeing Haiti for the U.S. and Canada. In early 
September, gunmen fired shots at OPL's secretary general Sauveur 
Pierre-Etienne, in an assassination attempt the party says was meant for 
OPL leader Gerard Pierre-Charles, the owner of the car Pierre-Etienne 
had borrowed. 

Earlier this month, gunmen shot dead Jean Lamy, a former Haitian army 
colonel who was to head a controversial government post that oversees 
the police. He was considered a close ally of Aristide, who appears to 
be a sure bet as Haiti's next president. Then just last week, gunmen 
shot at the head of Haiti's judicial police. Though wounded, he managed 
to get away. "It is very hard to say that right now Haiti is on a more 
positive path than it was on the first day of the invasion," 
Michel-Rolph Trouillot, professor of anthropology at the University of 
Chicago, said. U.S. Ambassador Timothy Michael Carney admits Haiti is 
not the success story that most in the world had hoped for. "Haiti has 
not met the unrealistic expectations of the international community 
since 1994," Carney said. "The modest advances in the economy, the real, 
but still fragile improvements in the police, and the spotty record in 
the transition toward democracy reflect Haiti's history and political 

For the past two and a half years Haiti has been embroiled in a 
political crisis that led to the resignation of a prime minister in 
1997, and the near total shut-down of parliament this year. "The return 
of Aristide has not really meant the return of democracy," OPL leader 
Gerard Pierre-Charles said. "Across the board, the hope was that the 
intervention would permit not only the return to democracy but also a 
social and economic rebirth. This was the biggest disappointment." The 
current government has prioritized the International Monetary Fund's 
structural adjustment program, which included the privatization of nine 
state-owned companies. The flourmill and the cement company have been 
privatized, and the seaports are slated to be sold shortly. But the 
government has not made any noticeable headway in improving social 
conditions. Haiti's annual per capita income has sunk to $250. 
Illiteracy has surpassed 70 percent, and unemployment remains between 60 
and 70 percent. 

There are signs of improvement, however, in the assembly sector, in 
construction and in agriculture. The construction sector is booming not 
only in the capital, but throughout the country, said economist Kesner 
Pharel. However, it's hard to put numbers on that sector of the economy 
because it remains primarily an informal industry, Pharel said. Most of 
Haiti's economy is informal, he said, which explains why per capita 
income is now estimated to be between $250 to $500 a year by the World 
Bank. A lot of money circulating throughout the country is coming from 
drugs, along with about $800 million Haitians living overseas send every 
year to relatives back home. There are some public works, renovations of 
public squares, repaving of a few main roads in Port-au-Prince, and 
creation of a few dirt roads throughout the country. The assempbly 
sector is doing "well" according to Pharel, because of strong demand 
from the United States. 

Haiti has the highest growth in the Caribbean, he said "but that's also 
because it was at the lowest." Today there are some 30,000 jobs in the 
assembly sector. At its peak, that number reached 100,000, but went down 
to 60,000 in the late 80s. Experts said the drop was caused by political 
instability that engulfed the country after former president-for-life 
Jean-Claude Duvalier fled to exile in 1986. An embargo to force authors 
of a military coup to bring back Aristide choked the remains of the 
industry, and it is just starting to pick up again. In 1998 it had 
upwards of 23,000 employees. Haiti's GDP growth was 3.1 percent for 
1997-1998, and 2.2 percent for 1998-1999, according to Pharel. He 
estimated GDP at a little over $400 million [see note below], a number
officials want to see increase every year. But, five years after U.S. 
invasion, Haitians wonder about the past five years, and the future. "I 
think that the presence of U.S. troops in Haiti saved lives, having said 
this, I think it served as a short term solution to allow Haitian 
politicians to forget about long term solutions," Trouillot said. "Some 
of the problems that were there in 1994-95 have now exacerbated." Many 
fear a rise in political violence after the departure of the troops, 
particularly as Haiti prepares for legislative and municipal elections 
set for March 19 and April 30. "You are likely to get an increase in 
violence," Trouillot said. "The question is how will the government and 
the political parties react to this increase in violence. Will they let 
it escalate?" 

The Haitian Times 

32 Court, Street Suite 805, Brooklyn New York 11201 718-852-3900
Send Questions and Comments to info@haitiantimes.com 

Note:  This number cannot be correct. It could be as low  as 2 billion US $

on the basis of a GDP per capita of $250 and a population of 8 million 

and as high as 4 billion on the basis of a GDP per capita of $500 and the 

same population figure. Perhaps the $400 million  number refers to the 

state budget