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5471: A Look at the Record of Clinton's Protege in Haiti (Wall Street J ournal) (fwd)
From: "BriceWebb, Carline" <CBriceWebb@oas.org>
November 3, 2000
The Wall Street Journal
A Look at the Record
Of Clinton's Protege in Haiti
By Georges Fauriol, director of the Americas Program at the Center for
Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C.
In late 1992 the first foreign policy decision facing president-elect Bill
Clinton involved political turmoil in Haiti and an ensuing Haitian refugee
crisis in south Florida. Eighteen months later the U.S. sent 23,000 troops
to unseat Gen. Raoul Cedras and return democratically elected President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. The bill for that intervention ran close to
$2 billion. But eight years later, as Haiti simmers in corruption, poverty
and violence, pro-Aristide voices in the U.S. and the international
community, having once worshiped the former priest's presidency, have been
shamed into silence.
In late November Haiti will hold presidential elections solely designed to
bring Mr. Aristide -- who officially sat out the last four years in
compliance with Haiti's constitutional ban on consecutive terms -- back into
power. Little stands in his way except perhaps his own arrogance and the
excesses of his entourage.
Haiti's opposition is under siege and government institutions are either
dysfunctional or closed. The head of the election commission was spirited
out of the country in July as Haitian police tried to hunt him down. His sin
was that he had ruled the May congressional elections, which Mr. Aristide's
Lavalas party claims it won, fraudulent. The private sector is being largely
driven out of business and the growing trade in narcotics and money
laundering is the economy's star performer.
However one frames the past decade, none of it remotely constitutes
democratization and even less "nation-building," the latter the subject of
revealing distinctions between U.S. presidential candidates George W. Bush
and Al Gore. In one debate, Gov. Bush expressed opposition to the 1994
intervention as a misuse of military power. Mr. Gore countered that the
unstable nature of Haitian politics and the effect of refugee flows required
Mr. Gore is not wrong, but his administration bears significant
responsibility for the dismal outcome. Washington may have found
"nation-building" in Haiti politically unsustainable, but engaging U.S.
power credibly there required a follow-up political strategy and should have
included concessions from Mr. Aristide.
The story of recent U.S.-Haiti relations is one of failed negotiations and
compromises. The significant exception was in the prelude to the 1990
elections. At that time the international community and the U.S. maintained
a strong hand, neutralizing the Haitian military and opponents of the
democratic process. Mr. Aristide joined this process belatedly and was
elected. Since then the pattern has been different.
After Mr. Aristide's return from exile in 1994, the international community
committed itself to a reconstruction package and institutional change --
notably, privatization and judicial reform. But Mr. Aristide never seriously
cooperated and his hand-picked successor, President Rene Preval, has shown
Consider the chain of attempts to establish a fair election process. In late
1994, negotiations with the parliament and opposition political parties to
create a provisional election commission (CEP) failed as Mr. Aristide
outflanked the forces of good. Negotiations to resolve the disputes
surrounding the June 1995 elections, and ensure continued opposition
participation, were again deflected. Yet again, in 1996-97, negotiations to
create a CEP led nowhere. Mr. Preval went ahead anyway and presided over the
fraudulent April 1997 elections. The opposition protested by refusing to
legitimize Mr. Preval's selection of a prime minister and ultimately, in the
impasse that followed, the parliament was closed.
Addressing a 23-month crisis, a March 1999 agreement between Messrs. Preval,
Aristide and the opposition coalition, l'Espace de Concertation, led to a
new CEP and limited opposition participation in the government. But, not
long after that, opposition ministers were rapidly driven out. Since then
the government has worked to neutralize the CEP and has sanctioned May's
bogus senate election results, which favored Aristide associates.
A weak but persistent opposition is still bravely standing up to the
Aristide machine by refusing to post candidates for the presidential
election on Nov. 26. As a result, those elections are unlikely to be held on
time and Haiti will probably not meet its constitutional timetable for a new
president by Feb. 7.
New negotiations unfolded recently under the aegis of Ambassador Luigi
Einaudi, an experienced assistant secretary general of the Organization of
American States. The only possibility now is to cobble together a deal
between a battered Haitian opposition regularly duped by Mr. Aristide and a
Haitian government that fulfills few promises. Coup rumors in mid-October
originating from within the national police added to outward indications
that Mr. Aristide's own Lavalas movement is degenerating into warring
Haitian elections have narrowed to become a peculiar brand of one-party,
one-man referenda. The past two election cycles (in 1997 and in May of this
year) were never fully sanctioned by the U.S. or any other independent
international observers. Yet Washington's practice has been to reluctantly
criticize Mr. Aristide's actions and then to forgo follow-up accountability.
Events in Haiti are now going to force decisions here not long after the
U.S. polls close on Nov. 7. The next U.S. administration faces an imploding
Haitian economy. Food prices are skyrocketing. The national currency has
lost over 50% of its value in six months. The portion of Haiti's budget
financed by international donors (now probably over 70%) keeps rising.
Government performance is so poor that support for Washington's star
program, the new Haitian police, was scaled back earlier this summer.
Against this ghastly background, Haiti is reported to account for the
transit of about 13% (or more) of all the cocaine reaching the United
States. This may be two to four times the rate of the embargo years
(1991-94), when Haiti was under military control.
Logic in U.S.-Haiti policy has evaporated. The real challenge for
Washington's new policy makers, now fixated on exit strategies, will be to
define an approach that matches reality. Washington needs to reimpose some
discipline, be more demanding, and stop viewing policy options as requiring
choices among the lesser of different evils -- fear of boat people, the
reality of increased drug trafficking, and the overbearing Mr. Aristide