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6833: Back to the future? (fwd)




From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

 MONDAY, JANUARY 29, 2001,-OPINION
Aristide in Haiti: Back to the future?
By Richard C. Hottelet
 Richard C. Hottelet was a longtime foreign correspondent for CBS
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR


On Feb. 7 Jean-Bertrand Aristide will be inaugurated as president of
Haiti for the second time. The first swearing-in was in 1990, after the
first free election ever in Latin America's oldest independent state. He
lasted seven months.Overthrown by a military coup, he made it to safety
in the United States, embraced as a victimized democrat. It was a role
he played well for three years, a frail, winsome priest preaching
thorough-going
reform for his country and a better life for its people living in
poverty,extreme even by third-world standards. Mr. Aristide has remained
the most popular figure in Haiti. But if he had to leave again, he would
not be welcome here and in other countries that have tried to build
Haitian democracy. More than 20,000 US soldiers plus a contingent of UN
peacekeepers and civil-affairs experts brought Aristide back to
Port-au-Prince in
September 1994 and returned him to office. His promises were the same,
but his 14 months in office saw no slacking in the anarchic violence,
corruption, and incompetence he had inherited. His refusal to consider
basic common-sense reforms, like privatization of state monopolies that
have long been cash cows for the rulers, led to Western nations'
freezing some $600 million in aid funds. Millions in cash vanished.
Poverty grew even worse for the people, while the grands mangeurs - the
"big eaters," in their
fortified villas - mysteriously lived the good life. The cocaine barons
of Colombia turned this vacuum into a hub that ships to the US an
estimated 14 percent of its habit.
Aristide's top priority was to remain in office when his term
expired.That being blocked by the Constitution, he aimed for the next
five-year term, which he now begins. Meanwhile, an old crony has kept
the presidential chair warm, mainly ruling by decree. The last prime
minister resigned four years ago. Parliament has been stymied by a
movement, Fanmi Lavalas (Lavalas Family) which is Aristide's personal
political force. His supporters are notorious for beating up the
opposition and stealing elections. There have been some infamous
political murders.
The populist now-ex-priest has married and lives in a luxurious villa.He
knows the score. He will not trust Haitian police to protect him, but
hires guards from an American security company. As for the long-promised
reforms, Aristide renewed his commitment
to them in a cheery message to President Clinton in December,conveying
no more credibility than his earlier assurances. It would be interesting
to see his reply to President Bush - if Mr. Bush ever asks.

.