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#3671: Haiti Must Escape Chaos by Itself
Paris, Wednesday, May 17, 2000
Haiti Must Escape Chaos by Itself
By William B. Jones Los Angeles Times Service
LOS ANGELES - What goes around, comes around. Once again, Haiti has
made the complete circle from chaos and violence to chaos and
violence. Although well-meaning and idealistic, U.S. policies have
failed to bring democracy, stability and economic growth to Haiti.
Millions of dollars of foreign aid have gone down the drain. Drug
trafficking controlled by the Latin American cartels has turned the
country into a major transshipment hub. There is virtually no private
business investment. Personal security is at levels reminiscent of the
times of the Tontons Macoutes.
U.S. policies, based on the premise of ''restoring democracy,'' have
had little positive effect. The Haitian government is paralyzed and
the country is close to anarchy. The ill-advised embargo destroyed the
business and industrial infrastructure. Tourism, a staple of other
Caribbean nations, is virtually nonexistent.
It is essential that the United States re-evaluate its policies toward
Haiti. A more realistic, pragmatic approach is necessary, recognizing
the cultural history of Haiti and the many complexities of its
society. Such a policy should be based on four major principles:
Political. Washington should stay out of Haiti's internal political
processes. Democracy cannot be imposed on a country that has
absolutely no history of it. The only condition that Washington and
others should insist on is that there be no organized political
violence - no death squads, no killing of political opponents. Beyond
that, let the Haitians sort things out for themselves. The result may
not resemble U.S.-style democracy, but it will be a Haitian solution
arrived at in the context of their culture.
Economic. There should be no more unilateral U.S. foreign aid. If
there are food shortages or a threat of epidemics, the United States
should work with the international community to provide assistance.
Haiti should never become an economic ward of the United States.
Development only can come from free and open private investment. The
light industrial sector was thriving, largely under Haitian ownership,
when the embargo destroyed its base.
Security. Whatever government that finally emerges on Haiti should be
told, through normal diplomatic channels, that neither the United
States nor the international community will tolerate
government-sponsored violence and corruption. There must be basic
regard for internationally recognized human rights.
Social. Washington should respect Haitian culture and history. There
is a strong sense of nationhood in Haiti. The United States and the
international community should recognize Haitian sensitivities and
traditions. We should encourage Haitians who have fled, but who can
make a contribution to development, to return. We should urge the
government of Haiti to welcome their return and not view trained,
educated Haitians as a threat.
If Washington bases its policies on these principles, Haitians may
begin to move forward, at their own halting pace, and the United
States will not be stuck with a commitment that the American people
will not support. It is in America's national interests to have a
peaceful, relatively stable Haiti that can stand on its own feet. U.S.
policies, however, must be based on realism, not on slogans or
idealistic dreams. Diplomacy is the art of the possible.
The author, who was U.S. ambassador to Haiti from 1977 to 1980,
contributed this comment to the Los Angeles Times.