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#3142: U.S. warns Haiti's Preval to keep electoral pledge (fwd)


WIRE:04/05/2000 15:36:00 ET 
 U.S. warns Haiti's Preval to keepelectoral pledge
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Haitian government risks  international  
isolation if parliamentary elections -- postponed  three times -- are
not held  without delay, the United States  said Wednesday.  U.S.
officials and congressmen called for Haitian President  Rene Preval
topromptly set a date for a vote so the new  parliament can take office
by June 12 as mandated by the constitution.They also urged Preval to
stop the escalating political violence that led to the assassination
Monday of  prominent  journalist and democracy advocate Jean            
Leopold Dominique.  Preval closed the National Assembly 15 months ago  
and has  ruled the hemisphere's poorest country by decree since then.
Failure to constitute a parliament by June 12 would risk  isolating
Haiti from the community of democracies and jeopardize  future
cooperation," Peter Romero, the assistant secretary of  state for      
Western Hemisphere affairs, told a congressional hearing.  
 "We will continue to put pressure on President Preval to  hold these
elections," he told the House International  Relations Committee.      
Romero said the United States will ask the Organization of  American
States Thursday to send its secretary general, Cesar  Gaviria of
Colombia, to Haiti  to assess the situation. The OAS could call a
meeting of the hemisphere's foreign  ministers to decide on collective
steps to defend democracy in  Haiti, he said. Romero said conditions
existed to hold transparent and fair  elections, despite a climate of
increasing violence.         
The government has cited logistic problems for the delay.  But Romero
said Preval had not shown the political will to hold  elections and
Haiti was slipping  down an undemocratic path. Failure to hold elections
would dash the hopes of an unprecedented 4 million Haitians who have
registered to vote  since January -- 90 percent of those eligible, he
said.  Multilateral development banks have been holding off $400 
million in badly needed loans for two years because of the  political
uncertainty, he said.  Romero said the United States has made a big
investment in  building democracy in Haiti. In 1994, 20,000 U.S. troops
were sent to restore   Haiti's  first democratically elected president,
BertrandAristide, three  years after he was deposed by a  military