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29235: (news) Chamberlain: U.S. radio ad fuels debate on Haitian sovereignty (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Joseph Guyler Delva

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Sept 24 (Reuters) - A radio ad urging Haitians
to reveal illegal weapons caches to the U.S. Embassy has angered
politicians and fueled debate on whether the troubled Caribbean nation has
become a tacit U.S. protectorate.
     The embassy denied any attempt on its part to undermine Haiti's
sovereignty but critics say U.S. authorities have appropriated the proper
role of the Haitian police.
     In a paid commercial broadcast in Creole on Haitian radio, U.S.
officials promise compensation to those who provide information about
people who have weapons or on the location of those weapons.
     Haiti has been plagued by political and gang violence since
Jean-Bertrand Aristide was pushed from the presidency by a bloody rebellion
in 2004. The poorest country in the Americas, it has relied since on
Aristide's ouster on U.N. peacekeepers for security and on foreign aid for
     Efforts by police and U.N. peacekeeping forces to disarm slum gangs
and former members of Haiti's disbanded army have had little success,
despite assurances by some gangs that they would hand over their guns after
President Rene Preval, a one-time Aristide ally, was elected this year.
     It was not immediately clear whether the new advertisements would have
any impact on the gun violence.
     "You who are listening, if you have information about people who would
hide heavy weapons, please, contact the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince,"
said the U.S. embassy advertisement, which provides a telephone number to
     "The calls will be treated confidentially and you will be amply
rewarded," it said.
     A U.S. embassy spokeswoman said the initiative was not meant to
threaten Haiti's sovereignty.
     "We work very closely with the Haitian police and U.N. troops to
improve the security climate in Haiti," she said, declining to clarify
whether the information collected by the embassy would be given to Haitian
police or U.N. troops.
     The spokeswoman said among the tasks of the embassy was to counter
threats to the security of U.S. citizens, but the embassy was also very
concerned about improving the security of all Haitians.
     A Haitian cabinet minister said he was offended.
     "I am not a spokesman for the government, but as a cabinet member I
feel offended that a foreign embassy can be allowed to air such ads in my
country," he said. The minister asked not to be identified because he was
not an official spokesman.
     Several government officials and politicians accused the United States
and other foreign powers of turning Haiti, the world's first independent
black republic, into a protectorate.
     "I think it's some sort of protectorate even though they did not
officially call it that name," said former Port-au-Prince Mayor Evans Paul,
who ran unsuccessfully for president this year.
     "I don't think Preval can make any decision without taking into
account the will of those foreign powers and institutions. I don't think
the Haitian embassy in the United States could have released such a
commercial," he said.