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#4731: Disenchanted Island (fwd)


Disenchanted Island  Thursday, July 27, 2000; Page A22 

 THE CAUSE of democracy in the Western Hemisphere has a new hero: His
name is Leon Manus. Mr. Manus is the 80-year-old jurist who headed the
commission charged with ensuring that Haiti's May  21 parliamentary and
local elections would be free and fair. International observers have
determined that the vote count was  manipulated to give 18 of 19 Senate
seats to candidates of the Lavalas Family Party--the party of President
Rene Preval and his powerful  mentor, former president Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. Nevertheless, says Mr. Manus, top government officials ordered
him to certify the  results. Despite threats, he refused. Fearing for
his life, he then fled to the United States. Mr. Preval found someone
else to validate the vote count.The Haitian government's stubborn
refusal to back down from this fraudulent result could well have dire
consequences for Haiti's impoverished people. Hundreds of millions of
dollars in international financing have been withheld pending the
elections. Now the United States, the European Union and Japan are
appropriately threatening to withhold other aid unless Mr. Preval agrees
to undo the phony vote count. So far, he says no. All indications are
that Mr. Aristide plans to run for president later this year, and
intends to take office with the parliament safely under his control. The
national police force, recipient of millions of dollars in U.S. aid
intended to create an  apolitical crime-fighting apparatus, has already
fallen under Lavalas's sway. A growing number of Haitians speak of a
creeping Lavalas dictatorship. Plainly, that isn't what the Clinton
administration had in mind when it sent American troops to oust a
military regime and restore Mr. Aristide to the presidency in 1994. The
administration continues to work the diplomatic channels in hopes of
averting failure in an undertaking it had previously labeled a foreign
policy success. Such claims were largely based on the fact that the
brutal military was ousted at a cost of  zero American lives--and that
the flow of Haitian refugees to U.S. shores ceased after the
intervention. But if trends continue, political and economic decay may
eventually undercut the latter achievement: Coast Guard figures indicate
more Haitians have been intercepted en route to South Florida so far
this year than in all of 1999.