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5957: Six Years After Invasion, Haiti Still Struggling (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Saturday November 25 3:46 PM ET
Six Years After Invasion, Haiti Still Struggling By Jim Loney

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Six years after a U.S.-led invasion
force ousted a brutal military junta and restored Haiti's rightful
leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, democracy seems a frail thing in the
poorest nation in the western hemisphere. When eligible voters among
Haiti's nearly 8 million people go to the polls on Sunday to choose a
new president, they will be casting ballots in an election that is
considered a fait accompli. Aristide, the 47-year-old former Roman
Catholic priest who claimed the presidency on a  grassroots tide in 1990
and remains Haiti's most popular politician, will win easily.
 But his return path to the National Palace is littered with cautionary
signs for emergent democracies, critics within and allies in the
international community contend. While democrats apparently abound,
democracy is a strange sight in Haiti these days. The presidential
election is being boycotted by all of the major opposition parties.
Aristide did little campaigning and the other six candidates did none.
Bomb blasts rocked the streets of the capital this week, killing two
children, though the explosions and street shootings quieted by
Saturday. The only real questions in this election revolve around voter
turnout, Aristide's margin of victory, and whether the shaky police
force can keep peace at the polls.  ``There is no democracy in Haiti.
There is dictatorship,'' said Aristide critic Evans Paul, a former mayor
of Port-au-Prince and one of the leaders of Espace de Concertation, an
opposition coalition. ``The opposition cannot play any democratic part
in the country.'' The 20,000-member, U.S.-led multinational invasion
force that ousted  military leader Raoul Cedras and put Aristide,
Haiti's first freely chosen  president, back in power in 1994 was hailed
as one of the major foreign policy triumphs of the Clinton
administration.  But six years later, the United States, Canada and the
European Union (news - web sites) are standing back from these
elections, concerned about the Haitian government's refusal to repair a
parliamentary election in May deemed tainted by the international
observers who oversaw it. The observers said the winning vote
percentages of 10 Lavalas Family candidates for the Senate were
miscalculated, giving them outright victories when they should have been
forced into runoffs. Political analysts say no nation needs outside help
more than Haiti. Its infrastructure is crumbling, electric power is
spotty, many roads are barely passable and open sewers are choked with
debris and garbage.Sixty-two percent of Haitians are underfed, the
third-worst rate in the world behind only Somalia and Afghanistan,
according to a U.N. report. Yet Aristide, a charismatic leader who won
67 percent of the popular vote in 1990 and the man considered by most to
be Haiti's best hope for stable democracy, has distressed the outside
world with his intransigence toward international intervention,
observers say. ``It's hard to tell if he's going to be good for the
country at the present time. Haiti might be entering a dangerous period
in 2001,'' said Anthony Bryan, a political scientist at the University
of Miami's North-South Center. ``It looks like the United States will
not recognize the new  government.' The current election campaign has
hardly been a study in open democracy. Unlike a decade ago when his
Lavalas party -- literally, ``the flood'' in native Creole -- swept
Aristide to power after a campaign laced with public rallies, the
diminutive populist has said virtually nothing in public this time.
 He made a brief radio address on Friday, the final official campaign
day, to urge Haitians to vote and visited the slum of Carrefour to
console the family of the young girl killed in a bomb blast this week.
 Unlike 1990 when Aristide was opposed by prominent former World
 Bank economist Marc Bazin, this election has six unknowns challenging
 him for the presidency. They have not campaigned. Many Haitians cannot
name them. Free speech has taken a beating this year. Opposition leaders
say they are being ``hunted.'' In April, Haiti's best known journalist,
Jean Leopold Dominique, was shot to death outside his radio station, and
many Haitian journalists now have to watch what they say and write.
While the United States insists it is not washing its hands -- ``we will
not abandon the people of Haiti,'the State Department said in a
statement this month -- it is watching Sunday's election with a wary eye
and offering no help.We're not supporting these elections with observers
or with financing until the Haitian government addresses the
irregularities of the May election,'' U.S. embassy spokesman Dan Whitman
said. When he wins on Sunday, Aristide will have control of Haiti like
no leader in 15 years, since the waning days of the 30-year Duvalier
dictatorship when Francois ``Papa Doc'' Duvalier and his son
Jean-Claude``Baby Doc'' ruled and the Ton Tons Macoute, the dreaded
paramilitary, spread fear.
Aristide's Lavalas Family won the May parliamentary elections
overwhelmingly. It controls most municipal posts, the Chamber of
Deputies and the Senate.His supporters say this control is the natural
result of democracy -- Aristide's overwhelming popularity with Haiti's
poor masses. ``What this is all about is this; there is no opposition to
Aristide,'' said Ira Kurzban, a U.S. lawyer who represents the Haitian
government. Indeed, to his legions of supporters, Aristide is the only
path for Haiti. ``Aristide brings life. He is the  principal person who
can help everybody,'' said Alexandre Carlo, 16, a student. But asked if
democracy lives in Haiti today, Franz Laurore, 30, another Aristide
supporter, said: ``In my  dreams.''