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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 

    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 
Amnesty International. 
    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 
infrastructure improvements. 
    "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