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7063: NCR article about Aristide (fwd)

From: Haiti Reborn <haiti@quixote.org>

Aristide takes office amid election fraud charges

               By NCR STAFF

               Jean-Bertrand Aristide, inaugurated president of Haiti
for the second time on Feb.
               7, pledged to make peace with his opposition and improve
conditions for the
               republic?s vast underclass. ?My arms are open, my heart
is open with honor and
               respect for the Haitian people,? he said in his inaugural

               But some in Haiti are less than open to Aristide. Haiti?s
15-party opposition
               alliance, the Convergence, believes Aristide won election
through fraud, and the
               alliance has refused to recognize his presidency,
according to press reports. After a
               reconciliation effort with Aristide failed Feb. 5, the
alliance named a provisional
               president of its own, Gerard Gourgue, and is calling for
new elections. Gourgue
               was justice minister after dictator Jean Claude Duvalier
fled the country in 1986.

               Commenting on the conciliatory tone of the inaugural
speech, Gourgue said,
               ?Words are one thing, acts are another. We are waiting
for Aristide to do
               something positive and concrete.? According to a New York
Times report,
               Gourgue said the country is worse off now than when
Duvalier was ousted.

               Few foreign dignitaries attended the inauguration as a
protest to the disputed
               election and failed negotiation with Convergence. The
European Union has
               withheld nearly $50 million in aid in protest.

               Aristide has promised to create a half-million jobs as
president. His plans call for a
               significant increase in public works jobs and a
strengthening of the police force to
               combat corruption.

               The peaceful installation of Aristide as Haiti?s
president was a ?victory for the
               democratic process in Haiti,? as was Aristide?s election,
said Melinda Miles, who
               directs the Haiti Reborn project of the Hyattsville,
Md.-based Quixote Center.

               ?The United States should see it,? said Miles, ?as a good
development that offers
               us an opportunity to work with a popularly elected stable
government.? In reality,
               she said, ?the U.S. government is not ready to work with
Aristide, who has
               historically fought for rights of poor.?

               According to Miles, the Convergence has the support of
many Republicans in the
               U.S. Congress through the party?s overseas outreach, the
International Republican

               Having Republicans in power in the White House and
Congress represents
               ?enormous challenges for Aristide in working with the
U.S. and international
               community,? said Miles, ?as well as Aristide having to
live up to the expectations of
               the people who elected him.? Haiti?s economic situation
is the poorest in the

               Aristide, a laicized priest, rose to fame in the
mid-1980s with his fiery sermons
               criticizing the totalitarian Duvalier family regime. His
homilies won the support of
               Haiti?s impoverished minority. In 1990, he became Haiti?s
first democratically
               elected president.

               National Catholic Reporter, February 16, 2001