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6114: Not exactly a success story in Haiti (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Not exactly a success story in Haiti _____By Roger Fontaine

Like the cat that wouldn't go away, Haiti has now become a well-fixed
perennial problem for the United States and the outgoing Clinton
administration. It wasn't supposed to be that way. After 20,000 American
soldiers landed in Haiti six years ago, the Washington talk was all
about restoring democracy and nation-building. Today,that talk has long
vanished. Even the United Nations is about to pull out.It gets more
peculiar than that. Sunday last Haiti held its fourth presidential
election since the downfall of the Duvalier family dictatorship. A
reason for rejoicing? Well, no, not exactly. Although Jean-Bertrand
Aristide won handily — he ran against a half-dozen nobodies who were
too terrified to appear in public — the Clinton  administration does not
recognize the election's legitimacy and Mr. Aristide's victory. Let us
not dwell on the irony of rejecting a man Washington was willing to
spill blood in restoring to power in 1994. Washington has a point. The
Haitian presidential  election did not get its imprimatur because the
election results of last May's legislative elections were cooked by
 which Mr. Aristide's party, the Lavalas Family, won a number of Senate
seats without the required majority.Subsequently, three members of the
nine-man Provisional Electoral Council tasked to oversee Haiti's      
elections quit or were pushed out when they failed to recognize the
"results." Today, the Council is stacked with Aristide supporters
  and will no doubt remain in place for the life of Mr.Aristide's
presidency. The former priest now has huge majorities in Haiti's
bicameral Parliament, enough to amend the constitution and make him
president for life, if that's what he wants.He says he doesn't. No
matter. U.S. relations,including a once lavish aid program, have been
put on hold. While there are nearly three months to go before Mr.
Aristide is inaugurated, American policy-makers have  painted themselves
in a corner. It will take the next president to figure a way out.
It is certain Mr. Aristide won't make the first move —after all, what is
he supposed to do? And that's the case because, without U.S. backing,
Haiti's desperate situation will only get worse. What should the next
American president do about this upcoming catastrophe in the
Caribbean? First, end any illusion about the prospects for
nation-building. Despite valiant efforts from the international
community, it has not worked in Haiti. Every one of its some dozen
elections have been deeply flawed. Haiti's rickety infrastructure is on
the verge of collapse despite the waste of hundreds of millions of U.S.
 dollars. The economy remains shattered with some 80 percent of the
population unemployed — although, since this is Haiti, no one is sure
about the numbers.Haiti's institutions simply don't work. The courts
despite massive infusions of foreign aid remain as primitive as ever —
complete with illiterate judges. Haiti's  once celebrated police force
that was supposed to have 6,000-plus well-trained officers, has a
complement of  fewer than 1,500. Those remaining are demoralized,
badly equipped and increasingly corrupt. Crime,meanwhile, is
skyrocketing — including drug-running. And please, don't expect the
culprits of Haiti's dozen or so pipe bomb explosions to be caught. Not
even the usual suspects have been rounded up. Parliament will be Mr.
Aristide's rubber stamp. And the incoming president, never strong on
administrative skill, promises to do little to make the country's
moribund ministries function. As for market reforms, the only means
to rescue one of the world's poorest economies — well,forget about them,
too. Mr. Aristide doesn't believe in capitalism — so far as he
understands that word — and he won't accept American tutelage on this or
any other matter.Hopeless? Well, yes, by normal standards. But there
are things that can be done to keep matters from getting
worse. First, sooner or later, we must make our peace with Mr. Aristide,
but with no illusions. After all, what is the alternative? The
opposition parties chose not to run, in part, because they could not
win. Mr. Aristide alone commands the affection and loyalties of an
increasingly desperate majority. Second, Washington's present course
of funneling aid through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is
prudent. The NGOs are Haiti's lifeline.Without them, easily a million
Haitians could starve.Starving Haitians means they will go down to the
sea in boats — many disappearing before the U.S. Coast Guard
could ever intercept them. The United States cannot let that happen.
 What else? Other than that, not much, particularly in the short run,
but it isn't nothing and even that will require extraordinary patience
and skill to accomplish.Fortunately, neither Mr. Gore or Mr. Bush have
to be burdened with the failure of the old policy. A President
Gore doesn't even have to be embarrassed about it. After all, the vice
president wasn't grabbing the limelight and claiming a success in Haiti.
Bill Clinton did that. So leave that part of the legacy to the Arkansas
traveler and move on to a more limited, realistic policy.

Roger Fontaine is a Washington-based writer and was a member of the
Reagan National Security Council staff.