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5882: Haiti's Fate Since Called Tragic (fwd)

From: Rosann Clements <rosann@onemain.com>

>From Rosann Clements <rosann@onemain.com>
Haiti's Fate Since Called Tragic
The Associated Press, Wed 22 Nov 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) - ``We celebrate the return of democracy to your country.''
Amid doves and balloons, President Clinton was in an ebullient mood when he
uttered those words to the Haitian people during a visit to Port-au-Prince
on March 31, 1995. It was six months after an American-led force deposed a
military junta in Haiti and reinstated ousted President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, who was elected in 1991.
At the time, the U.S. intervention seemed like an unqualified success. Not
anymore. Today little remains of the democracy that Clinton eagerly
celebrated on that spring day in 1995.
Of all Clinton's foreign policy initiatives of the past eight years, Haiti
is among those that have yielded the most meager results.
Former Rep. Michael Barnes, D-Md., who fought hard for a restoration of
democracy during the period of military rule in Haiti, said Tuesday, ``All
friends of Haiti are disappointed with the tragic lack of progress -
economically, politically and in every way.''
Aristide stepped down in 1996, giving way to an elected successor, and is
expected to receive a mandate for a five-year term in elections on Sunday.
But the legitimacy of the process is being questioned because all of the
country's major opposition parties are boycotting the balloting.
Georges Fauriol, who watches Haiti from the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, says the process is so rigged in Aristide's favor
that he refuses to dignify the balloting as an ``election.''
``I call it an event,'' Fauriol told a gathering Tuesday at the Woodrow
Wilson Center, a Washington research group.
At the heart of the disillusionment are the parliamentary elections of this
past May, which resulted in announced victories by large margins for
candidates backed by Aristide and his Lavalas Family Party.
When Leon Manus, the chairman of the Provisional Electoral Council, tried to
call attention to irregularities, he said his ``safety was seriously
``At the top governmental level, unequivocal messages were transmitted to me
on the consequences that would follow if I refused to follow the false final
results,'' he said in a report. Concerned about perceived death threats, he
fled the country.
The Clinton administration has urged Haitian authorities to remedy the
``serious irregularities and deficiencies'' evident in the May elections.
The appeals have been ignored.
In the absence of meaningful change, the administration has withheld support
for Sunday's elections, financially or through observer missions.
Aristide, a priest-turned-politician, lived in U.S. exile after he was
deposed in 1991. He was treated by many in Congress and elsewhere as a
democratic martyr.
To Caleb McCarry, a Republican staff member of the House International
Relations Committee, Aristide's prospective return to power does not bode
well for Haiti.
``Aristide is prepared to drive the train off the tracks,'' McCarry said
Pentagon officials say up to 20 percent of U.S.-bound South American cocaine
goes through Haiti, its flow unimpeded by Haitian authorities.
Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Relations
Committee, expresses fear that Haiti will become a ``narcostate.''
Administration officials attribute growing crime problems in Haiti to a
sharp reduction Haiti's police force.
Fauriol notes that hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance from the
United States and other countries has been frozen because of a lack of
progress on reform.
``That in effect has been wasted away,'' he says.
U.S. humanitarian assistance averaging about $90 million annually has been
sent to Haiti for the past several years.
But nearly all has been channeled through private and non-governmental
organizations. U.S. officials want these funds kept beyond the reach of
Haitian authorities.
EDITOR'S NOTE - George Gedda has covered foreign affairs for The Associated
Press since 1968.