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6954: Aristide regaining office in a Haiti beset by crises (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

 Aristide regaining office in a Haiti beset by crises
 By Richard Chacón, Globe Staff, 2/7/2001

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - The day before Jean-Bertrand Aristide's  return
to power went something like this: A UN peacekeeping  mission closed its
doors in failure and an opposition alliance formed an   alternative
government, naming its own president.
 With this uncertainty, most Haitians welcome the former priest's
return  today to the National Palace with the hope that he can lift this
desperate  nation into peace and out of its raging political and
economic crises. But even before Aristide is sworn in, the onetime human
rights leader must contend with the rebellious opposition coalition,
which refuses to recognize   his presidency and has sworn to fight, even
if it means further destabilizing
Haiti. He also faces abandonment by Washington and other longtime
international allies, which accuse him of abiding by crooked elections
last year to aid the rise of his Lavalas Party. ''We will fight against
him like we fought against Duvalier,'' Mischa Gaillard,
 a spokesman for the 15-party alliance known as Convergence, said in a
reference to battles waged against dictator Jean-Claude ''Baby Doc''
Duvalier, overthrown in 1986. ''We cannot let Aristide exist alone in
government, and he must respect our rights as an opposition.''  The
dispute shows how much good will has evaporated since Aristide,
 elected overwhelmingly in 1990 and later overthrown by the military,
returned from exile in a US military intervention in 1994 to complete
his first  term. He was constitutionally barred from a second
consecutive term, and not eligible to run again until last year.
 Marathon negotiations broke down early yesterday between Aristide's
party and Convergence, the coalition of former Aristide supporters and
members of the country's dissolved military.  Soon after the talks
ended, Convergence leaders announced the formation  of a provisional
government and named Gerard Gorgue, a 75-year-old
  former presidential candidate and a member of a civilian junta that
succeeded the Duvalier dictatorship, as Haiti's provisional president.
Evans  Paul, the former mayor of Port-au-Prince and another alliance
leader, called for residents to protest today during Aristide's
inaugural address. But the provisional government has its own
credibility problems.Opposition parties have little if any political
support among Haiti's poor
 masses, who have put their trust largely in Aristide. And the
international  community, including the United States, which once
supported Aristide with  troops and $2 billion in aid but now gives him
a cold shoulder, refuses to support two separate Haitian
governments.''The US has told Convergence that the formation of a
provisional               government does not advance the prospects for
dialogue or a solution of   the political crisis,'' said US Ambassador
Brian Dean Curran. In a symbol   of Washington's new distance from
Haiti, Curran will be the highest-ranking US representative at today's
inaugural.  Aristide has remained mostly quiet and hidden from public
view. He made       a brief appearance on Saturday when talks began with
opposition members, but since then his bespectacled image has appeared
only in the  thousands of paintings and posters that Lavalas-paid
residents have put up  around this capital city.
 ''The people have been waiting for a long time to have Aristide back in
the presidency, so we're doing what we can to make things clean for
him,'' said James Petitfrere, a 20-year-old Lavalas activist in Cite
Soleil, the capital's largest and poorest slum. ''No one knows who the
opposition is because  they never come to where we live. They only exist
on the radio.''   In a letter to President Clinton in December, Aristide
pledged to include
opposition figures in his government and appoint a new provisional
electoral council. But Convergence members have instead demanded that
Aristide share his power with opposition representatives and that new
presidential elections be held in two years - a proposal that Lavalas
rejected. The pullout of the UN International Civilian Support Mission
was not a  surprise, but it has left some Haitians worried that the
country will now be  left alone to untangle its political and economic
 Once a cast of thousands that had come from dozens of countries to
 the judicial system, promote human rights, and build a fair and
responsive  police force after decades of military rule, the operation
soon became an  impossible mission.
  As the country became more politically and economically
dysfunctional,demand for UN services grew, but so did violence against
workers; one mission official was dragged from a car and shot to death
by a mob in  August. Meanwhile, the international community grew
impatient and has withheld aid because of the political stalemate.
  Last November, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the closing of
the Haiti mission, but pledged to keep some development projects in this
country of 8 million people. A persistent US fear is that an economic
depression in Haiti will spur thousands more Haitians to risk their
lives aboard flimsy craft headed toward US shores.
 Yesterday, at the two UN compounds, both of which are wrapped in
razor-wire, there was heavy security as workers returned dozens of
white   SUV's, computers and office equipment, and gave long hugs
goodbye.  More than $1 million in spare auto parts will be packed in
crates or sold to  Haitian residents. Many of the mission's 130 Haitian
employees will lose   their jobs.
 ''It's been a challenge, but we've tried to make this a better place,''
one staff member said yesterday amid a stack of boxes that were being
shipped to  his next assignment in New York. ''Haitians are strong
people, but they  need lots of support and help.''
Leslie Voltaire, an adviser to outgoing President Rene Preval, credited
the   UN mission with helping to dismantle the country's violent
military and to establish the Haitian National Police. But he criticized
the UN failure to    take guns off the street.
'In the end, people became indifferent to the UN because they saw that
their lives haven't improved all that much,'' Voltaire said. ''We're
grateful for  what they have done, but it's time now for Haiti and its
new president to be  free of any large international overseer. Our
democracy is five years old   now, and it's time for it to walk on its