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#918: Haiti Problems May Spill Into U.S., Senator Warns - FWD (fwd)
Haiti Problems May Spill Into U.S., Senator Warns
Wednesday, November 10, 1999
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON -- Thousands of desperate Haitians fleeing a political and
economic disaster will board boats for our shores if the United States does
not continue to support reforms in the poorest country in the Western
hemisphere, Florida Sen. Bob Graham told a congressional committee Tuesday.
"Turning our backs on Haiti is not an option," said Graham, a Democrat.
The House Committee on International Relations' hearing on U.S. policy
toward Haiti comes as that country is once again flirting with disaster. Five
years after 20,000 United Nations troops, mostly American, helped end the
dictatorship of Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the country remains in shambles.
Since January, when President Rene Preval dissolved Parliament, Haiti has
been governed by decree. The economy is a mess, and elections originally
scheduled for this month have now been postponed at least until March.
Political violence is up, too. Just last month, at an event intended to
prepare the country for the elections, supporters of Jean Bertrand Aristide
-- former president and current presidential candidate -- sprayed officials
with bottles of urine. Assassinations, intimidation by political groups and a
high number of people held in Haiti's jails without due process of law
continue to plague the country, according to a report issued this month by
The report also warned that the country's police force could be taken
over by political groups that would use it to intimidate opponents. The
police force, organized and trained by the United States, was supposed to
help bring stability to the country after the military was disbanded.
Not all has gone wrong in Haiti, though, Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, told
the committee. He cited millions of dollars in American aid provided by the
U.S. Agency for International Development. The aid includes almost $100
million for health care and population programs, plus investments in
agriculture and business.
U.S. AID says there have been improvements in health and other areas.
The last remaining permanent American soldiers are scheduled to leave
Haiti in December. Graham favors a Clinton administration plan to rotate
units of soldiers through Haiti to help build roads, schools and other
"It's a situation we cannot avoid," Graham said. "We are going to be
affected by the illnesses that affect Haiti and we will be the beneficiaries
of its improved health."
© Copyright 1999, The Salt Lake Tribune