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#3242: US is assured Haiti will hold elections, reestablish parliament (fwd)
US is assured Haiti will hold elections, reestablish parliament
By John Donnelly, Globe Staff, 4/13/2000
WASHINGTON - US officials have received assurances from Haiti's
president and its electoral commission that the country would hold local
elections May 21 and seat a parliament in June, even if a runoff is not
completed. Haiti, which has become tense in the past two weeks following
several violent incidents, has been without a parliament since January
1999. A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday
that the Clinton administration had hoped for a vote earlier than May
21,''but we have assurances that ... the parliament will be seated.''
Without a parliament, Haiti cannot receive some earmarked financial
aid, the US official said. And if voting slides further in the year, it
would come too near the scheduled December presidential elections, in
which former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is a favorite.Aristide
also supports the May 21 elections. The United States has agreed to send
three or four electoral experts to aid the commission, a second US
official said. Technical problems and political maneuvering led to
delays in the vote, which had been scheduled for last year.
''Assuming we now move forward, the other big issue is how to keep
the election from being the stimulus for violence between the parties,''
the first US official said.Washington plans to send riot gear and
transport equipment for police, and officials have urged Aristide to
speak out publicly against the recent violence. Last week, Anthony Lake,
a US special envoy to Haiti, met with Aristide in Miami to discuss the
elections and the recent violence,including the assassination of
prominent radio journalist Jean Dominique and the burning of the
headquarters of an opposition party. Lake also has talked with President
Rene Preval and members of the electoral commission. The US official
said that the Americans have received agreement specifically from Preval
and members of the commission for the May 21 date and seating of the
parliament on June 12. Under Haiti's constitution, the parliament can be
seated on only two dates a year. One is the second Monday in June; the
other is in December.''Even if the second round of voting is past June
12, they said they will find ways under the constitution to give
parliament full powers,'' the official said. ''This has been worked out
between the president and the electoral commission.'' Also yesterday,
the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Benjamin A.
Gilman, a New York Republican, called Haiti a ''narcostate'' at a
committee hearing.''We face a grim future in our relationship with
Haiti,'' Gilman said.''Without dramatic change, Haiti will become a
criminal organization shielded by the privileges of sovereignty.''
The first US official responded: ''Narcotics are a real problem, and
todeal with a real problem like narcotics, you need a functioning
government, you need a parliament. There's good news ahead for that.''