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5943: US Distances Itself From Haiti (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Saturday November 25 5:39 AM ET
US Distances Itself From Haiti By GEORGE GEDDA, Associated Press Writer 

 WASHINGTON (AP) - It looked like a major foreign policy triumph for
President Clinton (news - web sites) six years ago when a U.S. invasion
force deposed a discredited military dictatorship in Haiti and     
reinstated the country's elected leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.The
intervention helped rescue Haiti from pariah state status. But as Haiti
prepares for a presidential election Sunday, the country is once again
becoming an international outcast because the electoral process is
widely perceived to have been rigged.The Clinton administration, intent
on not legitimizing the process, has refused to provide financial     
support or send observers to monitor the balloting.Haiti's crisis of
governance is not a new phenomenon. In one recent two-year period, the
government and the opposition could not agree on a prime minister,
leading to governmental paralysis. Congress recently banned any U.S.
assistance from being channeled through the Haitian government,        
codifying an existing situation.The administration has been treating
Haiti like a charity case, supporting programs run by private   
voluntary organizations in such areas as health, education and
agriculture. European nations suspended government-to-government
assistance to Haiti last June. Haiti has received no help from the World
Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank for years.The
administration's pro-democracy effort has cost an estimated $2.3
billion, including aid funds and the invasion price tag. Aristide was
replaced by an elected successor in 1996 and is poised to win a second
term in Sunday's elections. The State Department believes that as the
leading figure in the ruling Lavalas Family Party,Aristide cannot escape
responsibility for Haiti's democratic failures but also says blame can
be ascribed to the opposition parties as well.It was a beaming President
Clinton who visited Haiti in March 1995, six months after the military
regime was deposed. ``We celebrate the return of democracy to your
country,'' Clinton said then. The legitimacy of Sunday's election is
being questioned because all of the country's major opposition       
parties are boycotting the balloting. Barring a surprise, Aristide will
take office on Feb. 7. At issue for the United States and the Haitian
opposition is the composition of the provisional electoral council,
heavily tilted toward Aristide's party and, U.S. officials say,
appointed as part of a process that clearly violated constitutional
norms. Another sore point is the May 21 parliamentary elections. The
administration claims that Aristide's party won virtually all Senate
races through fraud. The then-chairman of the Provisional Electoral
Commission, Leon Manus, said he received death threats if he refused to
certify the ``false final results.'' Fearing for his life, he fled to
the United States.Months after remedial efforts failed, Luis Lauredo,
the U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States, said there
was an unwillingness among Haitian authorities ``to address the serious
irregularities and deficiencies arising in the elections' aftermath.''
 Violence also has cast a shadow over Sunday's elections. Seven bombs
exploded Wednesday, killing a teen-age boy and injuring at least 14 on
busy streets in and around Port-au-Prince. On Thursday, two bombs
exploded in a suburb of the capital, killing a 7-year-old girl and
injuring two other people.Former Rep. Michael Barnes, a Maryland
Democrat who fought hard for a restoration of democracy during Haiti's
military rule, says, ``All friends of Haiti are disappointed with the
tragic lack of progress -  economically, politically and in every way.''
 George's Fauriol, who watches Haiti from the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, says the process is so rigged in Aristide's favor
that he refuses to dignify the balloting as an ``election.' I call it an
event,'' he says.