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#5234: In crisis,Haiti feels U.S. chill (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

In crisis, Haiti feels US chill
 By Richard Chacón, Globe Staff, 10/2/2000 (BOSTON) 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - This country's main legislative building
 was filled with its normal bureaucratic buzz one recent morning:
 Aides scurried this way and that as their elected bosses chatted
 comfortably in the hallways.On a sidewalk two blocks away, Marie Bazile
laid out a half-filled crate of almost-rotting potatoes and carrots,
which she needed to sell that day to buy a chicken to feed her three
children.''This is an insult to all of us,'' the 30-year-old woman said,
glancing at the imposing legislative building. ''They get paid for
pretending to work while we have to sell everything we have just to
survive.''That has summed up today's Haiti: a government that says it's
working, while most everyone else says it's not. But now this
impoverished country of 8 million people, already mired in grave
economic problems, is having to accept another setback: a government so
isolated from the international community that it risks the loss of
millions of dollars in desperately needed aid.Even those countries once
considered allies, like the United States, no longer have the patience
for Haiti's slow pace of democratic reform.Diplomats, specialists, and
Haitian officials say publicly that much of the problem centers on
Haiti's 109-member Legislature, which was elected in two rounds of
balloting, in May and July, and is back at work for the first time since
it was dissolved by President Rene Preval in January 1997.
Privately, specialists express concerns going beyond the Legislature.
Most analysts and government critics worry that this country, which
endured 29 years of dictatorship under Francois Duvalier and his son,
Jean-Claude, may be fast approaching a similar situation under
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former president now seeking reelection.
Aristide's ruling political party, known as Family Lavalas, won a
unanimous majority in the legislative elections that were widely
 criticized by international observers for failing to give runoffs to
 opposition candidates in at least 10 closely contested races.
And Aristide, a former Catholic priest, is certain to win his race in
November for the presidency because most serious opponents have
chosen not to run against him.Officials put the legislative elections
together in hopes that it would free tens of millions of dollars in
international aid that has been held up during Haiti's three-year
political gridlock. But the controversy surrounding the vote-counting -
as well as the growing doubt over the cleanliness of November's
presidential elections - has kept the funds away. Meanwhile, relations
between the United States and Haiti - once strong allies - are as cold
as they have ever been, only weeks before both countries elect a new
president. Nearly all US aid - a total of $2 billion - has been
suspended. A $97 million US-funded program to improve Haiti's
corruption-riddled judicial system showed little proof of success, and
it was cut off in July. A preliminary report from the US General
Accounting Office, released last week, found that the system showed
''major shortcomings,''including the politicization of the country's
5,000-member police force and too much government control of the courts.
 In addition, US officials have said they would channel all future aid
 money through nongovernmental organizations instead of the Haitian
government, and that they would put pressure on international lending
organizations to carefully review all loans to Haiti.
The problems between Washington and Haiti also have frustrated the
Clinton administration, which immediately after the 1994 US-led
invasion had held the country up as one of its foreign policy success
stories.Today, James P. Rubin, a former assistant US secretary of state,
calls the situation ''a very sad, sad story.'''Even a tiny place like
Haiti is a very hard place to change,'' Rubin said, referring to the
Clinton administration's changing role in Haiti from friend to critic.
''The US can give a helping hand between terrible tragedy and controlled
chaos, but once we get to controlled chaos, the people themselves have
to do the work.''Haitian government officials attribute many of the
recent disputes with the United States to election-year posturing
between Democrats and Republicans in Washington, and they blame US and
European officials for trying to create instability in Haiti by
encouraging opposition parties.''Haiti is a football for US politics,
and we all knew it would be hell during the presidential campaign,''
said one Preval aide. ''There is all this tough talk right now, and
we've heard it before. But what Haiti needs is real support, not a
democratic model imposed by others.'' In an effort to patch relations
between Haiti and the international community, the Organization of
American States dispatched a special mission to negotiate an agreement
with the Preval government over this  year's legislative and
presidential elections. But the assistant secretary general of the OAS,
Luigi Einaudi, who directed last week's mission, said he was not able to
negotiate an agreement between Aristide's ruling party and opposition
members,who want the legislative elections to be overturned and are
calling for a restructuring of the country's leading electoral agency.
'It is a polarized, highly complicated situation and we could not
produce a face-to-face discussion,'' Einaudi said after leaving Haiti on
Friday. One diplomat also has also suggested that intense international
pressure - particularly from the United States and Canada - might force
Aristide's party to accede to some of the opposition's demands, or even
postpone November's elections in order to make them more credible. 
But residents like Bazile, the vegetable vendor and a staunch Aristide
supporter, don't understand why their fortunes don't improve even after
voting for candidates who promise to help them. Amid so much chaos,
she utters the once unthinkable: a longing for the kind of order that
existed under the brutal Duvaliers.'In some ways we were better off when
we didn't vote,'' Bazile said.''We vote, we wait, and still nothing is
better, only worse.''