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#5152: Cutoff of U.S. aid to Haiti leaves judiciary faltering (fwd)
Published Wednesday, September 20, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Cutoff of U.S. aid to Haiti leaves judiciary faltering
But the government is to blame, congressional investigators say
WASHINGTON -- (AP) -- Pulling the plug after $97 million in U.S. police
and judicial aid has left Haiti with an ineffective system of justice,
but Haiti's government is largely to blame, congressional investigators
said Tuesday. ``Haiti's judicial system is exceedingly weak and subject
to manipulation,'' Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House
International Relations Committee, said at a hearing.
The United States spent $70 million over six years to help Haiti
recruit, train and equip a police force and $27 million to beef up
courts and prosecutors. But there is little evidence of success,
investigators for Congress' General Accounting Office said.
``The key factor affecting the lack of success of U.S. assistance has
been the Haitian government's lack of commitment to addressing the major
problems of its police and judicial institutions,'' said Jess T. Ford,
GAO associate director.
U.S. concern for the future of democracy in Haiti has accelerated since
critics accused the government of manipulating the May legislative
election results. The Lavalas Party of former Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide appeared to have clear election victories. But
critics say manipulation of the vote count to avoid runoffs in some
Senate races appears to be aimed at perpetuating the former Catholic
priest's hold on power even further, possibly eliminating his
opposition and creating a one-party state. Aristide is widely expected
to be elected president again in Nov. 26 balloting.
Nearly all U.S. aid to Haiti has been suspended. It has totaled more
than $500 million since a $1.5 billion U.S. invasion in September 1994
aimed at restoring democracy. Aid for police training and the justice
system was cut off in July. The GAO, which conducts inquiries for
congressional committees and members, is to release a detailed report on
justice in Haiti and the effectiveness of U.S. aid next month.
The preliminary report presented by Ford says U.S. assistance helped
Haiti recruit and equip a 6,000-member police force, create a police
academy and establish an inspector general for monitoring the police
force. In addition, the U.S. Coast Guard provided $4.6 million to help
organize and train the Haitian Coast Guard to deal with drug smuggling
and illegal migration. Major weaknesses persist in both forces, the GAO
said. The Haitian Coast Guard is poorly equipped and the police are
largely ineffective, subject to corruption and politicization, it said.
U.S. help for the judiciary created a case registration system,
training for judges and prosecutors and a magistrate school. But the
system continues to ``exhibit major shortcomings,'' the GAO said,
including corruption, continued control by the executive branch, a
large case backlog, an outdated legal code, and dilapidated facilities.