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#5269: OAS trying to break Haiti impasse (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Published Monday, October 9, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 OAS trying to break Haiti impasse
 Country could be left as pariah if election disputes go unsettled

 A top OAS official will return to Haiti this week to make a ``last
chance'' effort to resolve the political crisis that could make an
international pariah of the hemisphere's poorest country.
 It will be the third trip to Haiti in a month for Luigi Einaudi,
assistant secretary-general of the Organization of American States and
the designated point man for international efforts to broker a solution
to Haiti's electoral standoff. The crisis threatens the credibility of a
scheduled Nov. 26 vote for president and nine Senate seats.
 A week of shuttle diplomacy on Einaudi's last visit failed to bring
about a face-to-face meeting between representatives of former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide's dominant Lavalas Family party and the
opposition, prompting Einaudi to declare a time out.``This is an active
pause for reflection,'' Einaudi said in a telephone interview from
 Washington. ``It is apparent that a very large number of different
groups in Haiti,not just political parties but also business and civil
society representatives, are increasingly coming together to push for an
accord. And I expect enough progress to take place in the coming week to
be able to return to Haiti at the end of the week to try to facilitate


 Even Einaudi concedes, however, that ``time is running out, and this is
the last chance.'' The government is moving ahead as scheduled in
preparation for the Nov. 26 vote, which Aristide is expected to win
handily and which the opposition is boycotting. Candidate registration,
scheduled to close Oct. 2, has been extended until today.
 The only presidential candidates who have registered are four unknowns
without party affiliation. Aristide had been expected to register, but
the weeklong extension was announced before he did so.
 If an agreement is reached, say diplomatic sources, it will require a
postponement of Nov. 26 elections, probably until sometime in December,
but a new president would still be inaugurated Feb. 7, 2001, as
scheduled. Candidate registration would have to be reopened, if it is
not extended again today.


During the break between Einaudi's last visit and the upcoming one,
according to diplomatic sources, intense international pressure for an
accord has been applied on both the opposition and Aristide, along with
his ally, the government of President Rene Preval. Additional pressure
has come from the near collapse of Haiti's currency, the gourde, which
has gone from about 18 to the U.S. dollar four months ago to as
 low as 32 to the dollar within the last week. It has sent the cost of
living skyrocketing and generated increasing discontent.
The electoral dispute centers on May 21 parliamentary elections in which
 Aristide's Lavalas Family won an overwhelming majority in both
legislative chambers. But an OAS observer mission said 10 of the 18
Senate seats Lavalas won in the first round should have gone to a


 Lavalas Family insists the 10 seats are nonnegotiable. The opposition
says itwon't participate in Nov. 26 elections unless a satisfactory
solution for the 10 seats is reached. It has also demanded suspension of
the new parliament seated in August and a reconstituted Provisional
Electoral Council. As a counter-proposal, Lavalas Family reportedly
offered not to contest some or all of the nine Senate seats to be filled
in the upcoming elections, allowing them to go to the opposition. The
opposition rejects that offer and insists the May 21 vote be resolved
before anything else is negotiated. The Clinton administration has said
that if no agreement is reached to provide for opposition participation
in the upcoming elections, it will not support the elections
 or an observer mission financially. The administration also says it
would channel aid to Haiti through nongovernmental organizations and
would look closely at all assistance provided by multilateral financial


Lack of an agreement would also throw into question international
recognition of the new president -- probably Aristide -- as well as the
current parliament resulting from the May and July votes, costing Haiti
hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign assistance.Skeptics, of whom
there are many, think Einaudi's effort to forge a solution is
 essentially a mission impossible, given the intransigence of the two
sides. ``I don't hold out much hope,'' said a longtime foreign analyst
in Haiti. ``I think enough pressure has been put on Aristide that he is
prepared to make some concessions, but not enough to please the
opposition.'' ``This is the last chance for getting it right,'' said a
congressional staffer who tracks Haiti. ``The mood in Congress is that
it will not support something that falls short of a full and fair
process that deals directly with all of the concerns,including May 21 .
. . and obviously a new, credible, competent electoral council
 free of Aristide influence.''