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#2887: No Solutions in Haiti (fwd)


No Solutions in Haiti _________ Six Years of Work Does Little Good 
By Michael Norton  The Associated Press

 P O R T - A U - P R I N C E, Haiti, March 18 — Six years after U.S.
troops landed in Haiti hoping to  shore up democracy and promote
stability, the international force that followed is leaving the        
island much as it was found: in a state of political crisis, crushing
poverty and deep  uncertainty.Long-delayed elections to replace the
Parliament that President Rene Preval dissolved a year ago have
once again been postponed. A spate of attacks on election offices have
sharpened doubts about the  police’s ability to fight increasing street
violence. And many Haitians say they’ve lost all faith in the          
government.  The remnants of a U.N. force deployed in 1995 flew home
this week, leaving Haiti’s security in the hands of local authorities,
described in a recent U.S. State Department report as “an immature force
that is still grappling with problems of corruption and human-rights
abusers,” as well as narcotics traffickers,“at all levels of the force.” 
U.N. Efforts Produce Few Results President Clinton sent 20,000 American
troops to Haiti in 1994 to oust the country’s military dictatorship
after thousands of Haitians risked their lives in rickety boats to flee
the Caribbean island and reach U.S. shores.The operation restored
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected
leader since the founding of the Haitian republic in 1804.The United
States passed the peacekeeping baton to the United Nations in 1995.
Three years later, the U.N. mission had been reduced mainly to a
training operation for Haiti’s police force, which replaced the       
disbanded army. Some U.S. troops continued a  humanitarian mission,
which shut down in January. A new U.N. mission takes over this week to
help  organize elections, continue police training and coordinate
international aid. But the elections remain uncertain, and the police
training has so far produced a force that seems incapable of handling
the escalating violence. No Parliament, Corrupt Courts Preval,
Aristide’s hand-picked successor, first called for new elections in
January 1999, after he dissolved  Parliament in a dispute with lawmakers
over 1997 polls that opponents say he rigged to pack the legislature
with allies.  Haiti’s electoral council has rescheduled the vote      
for a second time. It’s now set for April 9 and May 21, but Preval has
challenged the council’s authority to set new dates.Opponents say Preval
is a dictator, since there is no parliament and the courts are
notoriously corrupt. They charge he is delaying elections to ensure that
Parliament is not installed by June 12, as the constitution requires. If
it is not, Preval can choose to convene Parliament when and if he
pleases, and limit the issues it can address.“It’s obvious that ... the
Haitian people’s right to vote has been violated,” said the outgoing
U.N. civilian mission director, Argentine jurist Rodolfo Matarollo.    
Preval claims the delays are logistical, and insists the date is
secondary to assuring “serious” elections. The premier that Preval
appointed by decree,Jaccques-Edouard Alexis, said there would be
only,500 officers to protect up to 12,000 voting stations inthe
elections.“If there are problems and we can’t get a consensus on the
problems, I guarantee you the police won’t be  able to ensure order,” he
conceded Thursday. 

 Two-Thirds Want to Leave

Haiti’s continued instability has prompted naggingquestions about
whether the international effort and expense have been worthwhile.     
The latest U.N. mission, expected to last a year,will cost $24 million,
but the United Nations has only $9.7 million. The rest must come from
voluntary contributions. So far, only Canada has promised $3.5  
million. U.S. officials said the Clinton administration is working with
Congress to make a timely contribution.U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
said in a report last month that the U.N. missions “have brought the 
people and the Haitian government the stability that is necessary during
a period of crisis.”But many Haitians say they no longer have     
confidence in their national institutions. A November survey by U.S.
officials who interviewed 1,502 Haitians nationwide reported that     
70 percent believed their country was “heading in the wrong direction.”
Forty-seven percent said their  family’s financial situation was worse
than before the U.S. invasion, and 44 percent said they felt more
insecure. Almost 70 percent had given serious thought to  leaving Haiti.
But for the first time since 90 percent of Haitians  voted for Aristide
in 1990, millions are expressing the desire to vote — a desire that does
not bode well for those in power. Preval was elected by less than 5  
percent of voters. By February, some 3 million voters had registered    
and more than 1 million more were trying to register. But $1.2 million
worth of registration materials have  been stolen, many of the 4,000
registration offices have not opened and training has barely begun for
electoral workers.