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#4079: Government on shaky ground (fwd)
From: Rosann Clements <firstname.lastname@example.org>
C I N C I N N A T I P O S T
Government on shaky ground
By Ellen Lord, Post staff reporter
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI - Before Haiti's government can even hope to deal with
the problem of child slavery, there first must be a government.
Right now, in the world's second oldest republic, the country's only elected
officeholders are the president and eight of 27 senators. (A ninth senator,
Yvon Toussaint, was assassinated in March 1999.)
The country has had no legislature since January 1999 when legislators'
terms expired and President Rene Preval dissolved the two-house parliament
rather than extend the terms.
The current prime minister, Jacques Edouard Alexis, has served for nearly a
year and a half without official authorization.
''In a sense, it's a de facto government,'' said a Washington, D.C.,
insider, who spoke on background. Democratic elections were scheduled and
postponed repeatedly in the past year and a half; during the delays there
were numerous targeted killings and fires.
Finally, the first round of elections was held May 21.
On the ballot:
All 83 legislators in the chamber of deputies
Two-thirds of the senate or 18 senators,
133 mayoral councils consisting of three people each
564 communal sections each electing a five-person council and three-person
Winners are still being determined. There will be a second round of
elections June 25, and the presidential election is slated for December.
This sort of instability and turmoil have been a part of Haiti's political
reality since it became a republic in 1804.
Before that, the lush island with rich sugar and coffee plantations and
imported African slaves was France's greatest colonial asset.
During its nearly 200 years of independence, Haiti has seen a plethora of
short-lived governments, contrasted by the powerful but violently repressive
Duvalier family that ruled from 1957 to 1986.
In its early years, Haiti was largely ignored and unrecognized by the
western hemisphere, including the United States, perhaps because these
countries feared revolts by their own slaves.
''Haiti was insulated a long, long time from the rest of the world - totally
cut off for about a half of a century after independence,'' said Yves Colon,
founding editor of the Haitian Times. ''Haiti remained kind of closed off
until really the 1950s, the 1960s.''
Since the public approval of a new constitution in 1987 and provisions for a
democratically elected president, the government has been no more stable.
After a series of provisional governments, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide won
presidential elections in late 1990, but less than a year after he took
office, pro-Duvalier forces ousted him, killing more than 1,000 people in
The United Nations and the Organization of American States supported
stringent economic sanctions in hopes of reinstating Aristide, who had fled
to the United States.
Massive human rights violations heightened tensions and thousands emigrated
by boat to the United States. A multinational military force landed in Haiti
on Sept. 19, 1994, and deposed the coup d'etat regime.
The United States' current diplomacy efforts center foremost on helping
Haiti re-establish a democratic government, including finishing the final
rounds of elections.
''That opens the doors for so many other things that we are trying to do,''
said U.S. Ambassador Donald Steinberg, special coordinator for Haiti. ''It
opens the door to more foreign assistance, investment,'' and provides a
government that can address educational and health needs of the nation, he
The Clinton administration has provided about $100 million in aid this
fiscal year helping the country with the oppressive poverty, unemployment
and high infant mortality rate of 91 deaths per 1,000 births.
Publication date: 06-05-00