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6137: Hope and peril in Haiti (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Hope and peril in Haiti__THE TIMES PICAYUNE___December 4 2000 

While the wrangling over the United States presidential election
continues,one of our most troubled Caribbean neighbors has Managed to 
choose a new leader.On Wednesday, the Provisional Electoral Council of  
Haiti declared that former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had won the
Nov. 26 election. But given the questionable circumstances             
surrounding his victory, Mr.Aristide will be in a difficult position
when he returns to office in February. If he wants support from the
international community, he will have to demonstrate that he can
govern responsibly and deal fairly with the opposition.

Whether he will do so is very much in question.A former Roman Catholic
priest,Mr. Aristide  became the first democratically elected president
of Haiti in 1990. And while many outsiders doubted that he had the
ability to make something out of Haiti's almost nonexistent
economy, they still held out the hope that his charisma alone would make
him a force for progress in a nation that suffered for two centuries
under a series of dictatorships.But Mr. Aristide lost power in a 1991
military coup that ushered in three years of bloody terror. The United
States intervened in 1994 and restored Mr. Aristide to power. His
actions since then seem less than illustrious. He only reluctantly left
office at the end of his first term as president, and in recent years
the Lavalas Family movement that he leads has been accused of political
After Mr. Aristide's Lavalas Family movement cleaned up earlier this
year in parliamentary elections that may well have been rigged,       
opposition parties boycotted the November presidential election.
At this point, it's impossible to determine the extent to which fraud or
irregularities may have affected the results of last week's
elections. There was no broad international effort to place impartial  
observers at the polls. So when the electoral council says Mr. Aristide 
received 92 percent of the vote against virtually unknown opponents, the
margin isn't as impressive as it might seem.
Haiti has had enough of leaders who serve their own ends at the expense
of the public's. If Mr. Aristide wants to improve the lives of his
people, he will have to resist a tradition in which political          
disputes are settled through violence rather than through democratic
institutions. With good reason, neither the United States nor the      
United Nations has shown any interest in propping up a one-party
government in the western hemisphere's poorest nation.
U.S. officials should be willing to offer financial and technical
assistance and encourage American investment in Haiti -- but in
exchange for concrete political reforms. Until then,American diplomats 
say, all American aid to Haiti will be sent to private organizations
rather than the Haitian government.It's wise to keep the pressure
up. Haiti needs international assistance, but most of all it needs a   
stable, democratic, legitimate government that can function on its own.