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5408: Wall Street Journal Nov 3, 2000 - Haiti (fwd)

From: Stanley Lucas <slucas@iri.org>

November 3, 2000 
                   A Look at the Record
                   Of Clinton's Protege in Haiti

                   By Georges Fauriol, director of the Americas
                   Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in
                   Washington, D.C.

                   In late 1992 the first foreign policy decision facing president-elect Bill
                   Clinton involved political turmoil in Haiti and an ensuing Haitian refugee
                   crisis in south Florida. Eighteen months later the U.S. sent 23,000 troops to
                   unseat Gen. Raoul Cedras and return democratically elected President
                   Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. The bill for that intervention ran close to $2
                   billion. But eight years later, as Haiti simmers in corruption, poverty and
                   violence, pro-Aristide voices in the U.S. and the international community,
                   having once worshiped the former priest's presidency, have been shamed
                   into silence.

                   In late November Haiti will hold presidential
                   elections solely designed to bring Mr. Aristide --
                   who officially sat out the last four years in
                   compliance with Haiti's constitutional ban on
                   consecutive terms -- back into power. Little stands
                   in his way except perhaps his own arrogance and
                   the excesses of his entourage.

                   Haiti's opposition is under siege and government
                   institutions are either dysfunctional or closed. The
                   head of the election commission was spirited out of
                   the country in July as Haitian police tried to hunt
                   him down. His sin was that he had ruled the May
                   congressional elections, which Mr. Aristide's
                   Lavalas party claims it won, fraudulent. The private sector is being largely
                   driven out of business and the growing trade in narcotics and money
                   laundering is the economy's star performer.

                   However one frames the past decade, none of it remotely constitutes
                   democratization and even less "nation-building," the latter the subject of
                   revealing distinctions between U.S. presidential candidates George W. Bush
                   and Al Gore. In one debate, Gov. Bush expressed opposition to the 1994
                   intervention as a misuse of military power. Mr. Gore countered that the
                   unstable nature of Haitian politics and the effect of refugee flows required
                   U.S. engagement.

                   Mr. Gore is not wrong, but his administration bears significant responsibility
                   for the dismal outcome. Washington may have found "nation-building" in
                   Haiti politically unsustainable, but engaging U.S. power credibly there
                   required a follow-up political strategy and should have included concessions
                   from Mr. Aristide.

                   The story of recent U.S.-Haiti relations is one of failed negotiations and
                   compromises. The significant exception was in the prelude to the 1990
                   elections. At that time the international community and the U.S. maintained a
                   strong hand, neutralizing the Haitian military and opponents of the
                   democratic process. Mr. Aristide joined this process belatedly and was
                   elected. Since then the pattern has been different.

                   After Mr. Aristide's return from exile in 1994, the international community
                   committed itself to a reconstruction package and institutional change --
                   notably, privatization and judicial reform. But Mr. Aristide never seriously
                   cooperated and his hand-picked successor, President Rene Preval, has
                   shown no backbone.

                   Consider the chain of attempts to establish a fair election process. In late
                   1994, negotiations with the parliament and opposition political parties to
                   create a provisional election commission (CEP) failed as Mr. Aristide
                   outflanked the forces of good. Negotiations to resolve the disputes
                   surrounding the June 1995 elections, and ensure continued opposition
                   participation, were again deflected. Yet again, in 1996-97, negotiations to
                   create a CEP led nowhere. Mr. Preval went ahead anyway and presided
                   over the fraudulent April 1997 elections. The opposition protested by
                   refusing to legitimize Mr. Preval's selection of a prime minister and
                   ultimately, in the impasse that followed, the parliament was closed.

                   Addressing a 23-month crisis, a March 1999 agreement between Messrs.
                   Preval, Aristide and the opposition coalition, l'Espace de Concertation, led
                   to a new CEP and limited opposition participation in the government. But, not
                   long after that, opposition ministers were rapidly driven out. Since then the
                   government has worked to neutralize the CEP and has sanctioned May's
                   bogus senate election results, which favored Aristide associates.

                   A weak but persistent opposition is still bravely standing up to the Aristide
                   machine by refusing to post candidates for the presidential election on Nov.
                   26. As a result, those elections are unlikely to be held on time and Haiti will
                   probably not meet its constitutional timetable for a new president by Feb. 7.

                   New negotiations unfolded recently under the aegis of Ambassador Luigi
                   Einaudi, an experienced assistant secretary general of the Organization of
                   American States. The only possibility now is to cobble together a deal
                   between a battered Haitian opposition regularly duped by Mr. Aristide and a
                   Haitian government that fulfills few promises. Coup rumors in mid-October
                   originating from within the national police added to outward indications that
                   Mr. Aristide's own Lavalas movement is degenerating into warring factions.

                   Haitian elections have narrowed to become a peculiar brand of one-party,
                   one-man referenda. The past two election cycles (in 1997 and in May of this
                   year) were never fully sanctioned by the U.S. or any other independent
                   international observers. Yet Washington's practice has been to reluctantly
                   criticize Mr. Aristide's actions and then to forgo follow-up accountability.

                   Events in Haiti are now going to force decisions here not long after the U.S.
                   polls close on Nov. 7. The next U.S. administration faces an imploding
                   Haitian economy. Food prices are skyrocketing. The national currency has
                   lost over 50% of its value in six months. The portion of Haiti's budget
                   financed by international donors (now probably over 70%) keeps rising.
                   Government performance is so poor that support for Washington's star
                   program, the new Haitian police, was scaled back earlier this summer.
                   Against this ghastly background, Haiti is reported to account for the transit
                   of about 13% (or more) of all the cocaine reaching the United States. This
                   may be two to four times the rate of the embargo years (1991-94), when
                   Haiti was under military control.

                   Logic in U.S.-Haiti policy has evaporated. The real challenge for
                   Washington's new policy makers, now fixated on exit strategies, will be to
                   define an approach that matches reality. Washington needs to reimpose
                   some discipline, be more demanding, and stop viewing policy options as
                   requiring choices among the lesser of different evils -- fear of boat people,
                   the reality of increased drug trafficking, and the overbearing Mr. Aristide