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From: nozier@tradewind.net

CHICAGO TRIBUNE November 29, 2000 

Tempting as it may be to do so, the United States can neither dismiss
Sunday's flawed presidential elections in Haiti as just a bit of static
on the foreign policy monitor nor try to express its displeasure by
imposing economic sanctions. This nation's recent and costly military
involvement in Haiti, the potential for increased illegal immigration to
U.S. shores--and a sense of compassion for the people of this
hemisphere's most wretchedly poor nation--argue to the contrary.

It's a foregone conclusion that former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide
will be returned to office, even if Sunday's elections were discredited
by charges of fraud and intimidation, a boycott by most of the
opposition and a pathetic voter turnout. The first round of elections in
May was not  a great deal better. Aristide once embodied the Haitian
people's hope that the country somehow could emerge from decades of
dictatorship and misery, but reality turned out otherwise. He was sworn
in as president in 1991 but overthrown by the military seven months
later. Tens of thousands of Haitians then fled to the U.S. and the
economy collapsed under the generals' brutal rule.
In 1994, international pressure--and 20,000 U.S. troops--reinstated
Aristide. The U.S. then poured more than $2 billion in aid to train a 
police force, help develop a judiciary and carry out basic road-building
and other infrastructure projects. Sadly, little has improved. The
economy is in a shambles, Aristide controls whatever government
institutions still function and international lenders are withholding
approximately $500 million in loans and other assistance until a
legitimate parliament is installed. Yet the U.S. cannot afford to walk
away from Haiti. Worsening economic conditions could lead to another
wave of refugees or greater control of the country by narco-traffickers,
who increasingly use it as a trans-shipment point.
The U.S. needs to use whatever diplomatic leverage it has to gradually
improve Haiti's economy and government institutions. Isolation and
economic sanctions would only ravage what's left of the economy
and worsen the plight of the people, as they did when they were used   
during the most recent military regime. The U.S. cannot be so foolish as
to provide humanitarian or economic aid through Haiti's corrupt
government. But direct assistance to charitable groups, estimated at
about $50 million a year now, ought to continue in an effort to
alleviate the most urgent human needs and maintain a U.S. presence in
the country. Haiti is, and has long been, a sad case. The U.S. can't
afford to abandon it, though the development of an economic and
political order out of chaos is a tremendously daunting task.