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6937: NYTimes.com Article: U.S. Counts on Aristide for Reforms (fwd)
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U.S. Counts on Aristide for Reforms
February 6, 2001
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 3:19 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As Jean-Bertrand Aristide prepares for a second
term as Haiti's president, the Bush administration is hopeful that
he will rescue his country's teetering democracy by fulfilling his
commitments to carry out governmental and political reforms.
Aristide made the commitments in a letter to former President
Clinton in late December, a month after winning a second term in
elections widely viewed as undemocratic. He will be inaugurated
U.S. officials consider Aristide's promises among the few positive
developments in a country whose democratic development has largely
been stagnant since the U.S. military reinstated Aristide as
president in 1994.
``Aristide has a second opportunity now,'' Sen. Mike DeWine,
R-Ohio, a leading congressional expert on Haiti, told an
interviewer. ``The real question for Haiti is whether he is willing
to do things that have to be done to give Haiti a viable future. He
needs to fulfill his commitments.''
Aristide promised the reforms during consultations with Anthony
Lake, who served as a diplomatic troubleshooter for Clinton after a
stint as his national security adviser.
Aristide promised to carry out electoral reform, including creation
of a credible electoral council; to increase U.S.-Haitian
cooperation on narcotics trafficking; to form more professional
police, military and judiciary systems; to strengthen democratic
institutions; and to protect human rights.
Lake said he could not assure Aristide that the Haitian leader's
December commitments would satisfy the incoming Bush
administration. Secretary of State Colin Powell has called the
commitments ``an appropriate road map'' for getting started but
left open the possibility that the new administration may want to
add to the list.
Aristide was first elected in 1991 but was deposed in a military
coup. When he was restored to power three years later, he was
viewed as a hero by many in Haiti and in the United States as well.
His stock has fallen since then.
Christopher Kovats Bernat, a cultural anthropologist who has worked
extensively in Haiti, says Aristide, by living an opulent lifestyle
in the wretchedly poor country, has lost much of the appeal he
earned during the 1980s with charitable work he did as a priest
living in a rundown neighborhood.
``It is clear to most people he is no longer a recognized as just
simply a poor priest from the slums,'' said Kovats Bernat, a
professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa.
During his years out of power, Aristide washed his hands of the
democratic debacles that occurred under his hand-picked, elected
successor, Rene Preval.
For much of Preval's five-year presidency Haiti was without a
functioning government. Another setback was a senatorial election
last May in which votes in 10 districts were counted in a way that
precluded candidates from Aristide's Lavalas Party from having to
face a runoff. The process drew condemnation from the United States
and other countries.
The result is that U.S. assistance is no longer channeled through
the government. Millions of dollars in Inter-American Development
Bank and World Bank loans are being held in abeyance.
``If Aristide does not follow through on his commitments, you're
not going to see money freed up,'' DeWine said.
The only U.S. aid is $47 million in humanitarian assistance
channeled through charitable organizations with no ties to the
government. Administration officials said that, regardless of
political developments, the humanitarian aid will continue.
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