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#3061: Recommended csmonitor.com article (fwd)
email@example.com has recommended this article from The Christian Science Monitor's
Headline: The legacy of US, UN intervention in Haiti
Byline: Kathie Klarreich , Special to The Christian Science Monitor
(PETIT GOAVE, HAITI)
Like thousands of Haitian women living in the countryside, Yves Rose Jule
is a single parent with little formal education. She sells used goods on
the side of the road, for which she has no government permit. She pays no
taxes, and has nothing but a birth certificate to show that she is a
Ms. Jules did not know that the last of the American troops who had
intervened in Haiti in 1994 left this past January. Nor did she care. Like
millions of other Haitians living hand to mouth, her energy is consumed
with trying to make sure she has enough food to feed her family.
But she did know that despite numerous setbacks, the country should be
holding elections sometime soon.
"I voted in 1990 and again in 1995," she says. "I'm going to register, but
I'm not going to vote this time because nothing ever comes of elections.
Just like nothing came of the US intervention."
This isn't to say that the US mission wasn't noticed or that it didn't
accomplish anything. Fanfare, bravado, and open arms welcomed 20,000
American troops when they landed on Haitian soil to restore democracy in
September 1994, ending three years of a repressive military regime. One
month later, democratically elected President Jean Bertrand Aristide
returned from exile in the US to complete his five-year term after a bloody
military coup d'état.
But nearly six years later, many are asking how much was accomplished by
the $2.2 billion US mission.
"Very little, as far as I can tell," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of
Vermont, earlier this month. "The poorest country in the hemisphere remains
a place where the government is barely functioning, political reform has
gotten nowhere, and democracy exists only in theory. the judicial system is
in disarray, the police are politicized, and the average person lives from
hand to mouth."
The US reduced its numbers, but remained a part of the mission when the
United Nations took over in March 1995. The troops helped maintain order
while the Aristide government dismantled the Haitian military and
paramilitary. It also assisted in the formation and training of a new
Haitian police force.
"The security the US provided was psychological," says Colin Granderson,
former head of the United Nations mission. "For the elite and the
government of Haiti, it was a form of reassurance. They never played a
security role. Their absence has had little, if any impact. Since 1997, the
security has been in the hands of the Haitian police 100 percent."
A 500-member technical and medical team that remained as part of the US
Support Group until January concentrated its humanitarian efforts in the
Port-au-Prince region. Among other things, the staff attended to
138,000 patients, built or renovated 50 schools, built 12 miles of new
road, and repaired 170 wells.
The only presence remaining is a small, rotating US contingent, which has
been based in Haiti's second-largest city, Cap Haïtien. They are part
of the New Horizons program, which deploys National Guard and Army Reserve
troops for training rotations in Central America. In Haiti, their mandate
is limited to civil-engineering projects, such as renovating orphanages and
setting up medical units.
Such help is crucial to a population whose per capita income is less than
$300, and whose government budget barely covers salaries.
There has been no approved budget since 1997. And there has been no
government since current President Rene Preval, who was the country's
second democratically elected president, dissolved parliament in January
According to US officials, drug trafficking is rampant, with an estimated
13 percent of all cocaine that enters the United States passing through
"The US intervention, having destroyed the security structure, created a
vacuum now being replaced by narcotraffickers," says Port-au-Prince
businessman Georges Sassine. "Before, drug trafficking was
institutionalized. Now it's pervasive."
The 6,200-strong police force is inexperienced. Some 400 officers already
have been fired, 130 of them for human rights violations. Another 266
officers have abandoned their posts. The judicial system is a blend of
inefficiency and corruption, while hundreds of prisoners have yet to be
charged formally with a crime.
Meanwhile, as of March 15, the UN ended its three-year police-training
mission, and instituted a technical assistance mission. Its emphasis will
be on professionalizing the police and providing assistance to the
The US hoped that, among other things, its presence would add strength and
support to the Haitian government's democracy building. The upcoming
elections, which were scheduled for December then postponed to March, were
to have been a litmus test of Haiti's ability to stand on its own. But
elections have been put off again - with no new date set.
"It's very troubling that elections have been postponed," says one senior
US official, who requested anonymity. "Haiti's been in an
extra-constitutional state since January 1999, and this is too long. Haiti
really needs to understand that we can't move forward. Congress has a hold
on aid and all new electoral support."
Congress put a hold on $2.75 million earmarked for Haiti on March 2.
Another $1.3 million for electoral aid has been held since November. But
the US has already invested $20 million in upcoming elections, where
representatives from 33 political parties and dozens of independent
candidates have registered for nearly 1,500 positions. Opposition parties
accuse the president of delaying the elections so that they will be rolled
into a presidential vote scheduled for the end of the year. President
Preval was President Aristide's prime minister, and is still closely
aligned with him.
Aristide, the country's first democratically elected president, was
constitutionally barred from running for a consecutive term, but is now
eligible and plans to run this December. He heads Family Lavalas, which
hopes for a parliamentary majority.
While there are formidable problems to overcome in a country that held its
first democratic election only 10 years ago, more than 3 million people
registered to vote.
"I'm going to vote," says Raymund, an unemployed accountant. "The
intervention did nothing for us, and things aren't any better. But I'm
going to vote because vote is change."
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