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#3168: Haiti Stalls Out (fwd)


Haiti Stalls Out
 Friday, April 7, 2000; Page A30 Washington Post

 FIVE YEARS after 20,000 U.S. troops intervened to restore democracy to
Haiti, the political system in that country has collapsed,and the
responsibility lies squarely with the very Haitian leaders that       
the Clinton administration has spent millions of dollars to support.  
Even the administration, which has labored mightily to cast the rule of
Haitian President Rene Preval--and, by extension, its own policy--in  
the most favorable light, now concedes as much. Peter Romero, acting   
assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, told a  
House committee that Mr. Preval "has attempted to walk away from  the
commitments he made to us, and more importantly, to the Haitian     
people" to hold prompt parliamentary elections.Mr. Preval, elected in
1995, is the hand-picked successor and close political ally of
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former elected president who was deposed in
a 1991 coup and reinstated by the U.S. military in October 1994. Haiti's
last attempt at an election, in April 1997,failed amid widespread apathy
and fraud. For the past 14 months, Mr.Preval has been ruling by decree,
having taken the legally dubious step of dissolving parliament and
permitting the terms of all other elected officials to lapse. During
this constitutionally nebulous period,drug trafficking has mushroomed
and the economy has stagnated. Yet the people of Haiti still want
democracy; more than 4 million have registered to vote. In the view of
many analysts, Mr. Preval and Mr. Aristide--the real power broker--are
stalling because they think it is to their advantage to hold the
parliamentary elections at the same time as the December presidential
election, in which Mr. Aristide is expected to try to formalize his de
facto power. Meanwhile, political violence,blessedly reduced since the
United States removed the brutal military from power, is on the rise.
Four people, including a local election official, were killed by a
pro-Aristide crowd on March 27.A week later, radio commentator Jean
Dominique, a longtime ally of Mr.Preval and Mr. Aristide, was murdered
by unknown gunmen.The Clinton administration's current position is that
Mr. Preval must permit a vote and the seating of a new parliament no
later than June12--or else risk both the loss of foreign assistance and
diplomatic isolation.If the electoral chicanery in Haiti continues much
longer, the administration will have no choice but to make good on its
threat. Any other reaction could mean acquiescing in a regime not much
more legitimate than the one U.S. troops ousted in the first place.