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8027: Haiti's leader shows few gains since election (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

     By Trenton Daniel

     PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti May 13 (Reuters) - Haitian President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide has made little headway during his first 100 days
back in power in dealing with a political crisis and heightened worries
about crime, academics and opposition politicians say.
     Since taking up a second term on Feb. 7, Aristide remains the
impoverished Caribbean country's most popular politician and has unveiled a
U.N.-backed plan to battle AIDS in Haiti, where some 333,000 of 7.8 million
people have the disease.
     Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, has renovated public parks
and the airport and has been working on carrying out political reforms
agreed with the United States.
     The president, who was returned to office by U.S. troops after a coup
during the 1990s, has also said he hopes to resolve a political impasse
stemming from tainted legislative elections a year ago before Friday, a
national holiday and the 100-day mark of his second term.
     "If the judgment is based on expectations, I think he fell a bit
short," said Planning and External Cooperation Minister Marc Bazin, a
government opposition member.
     "But the political crisis to a large extent prevented him from meeting
the expectations of a lot of people. I think he's overwhelmed with the
political crisis."
     Academics and analysts, while acknowledging the drag from his disputes
with Democratic Convergence, an opposition bloc which runs a
counter-government as a symbolic protest, said the fruits of Aristide's
labors have yet to be seen.
     "The first 100 days may be only memorable in that he's achieved very
little, except maintaining what appears to be a stalemate," said Georges
Fauriol, a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International
     "I think he's engaged in negotiations of attrition with the
international community, primarily with the Organization of the American
States (OAS) at this point -- at the moment, there are very little
     The OAS sent a delegation to help the government and its opponents
hammer out a solution to last year's contested legislative election. The
Caribbean Community and the Carter Center were also in the delegation.
     The head of the OAS delegation, Assistant Secretary General Luigi
Einaudi, told Reuters on Sunday before leaving Haiti it was unlikely other
high-level visits would come quickly.
     "We can help, but Haiti needs to make the first step," he said.
"Everybody knows that there are a lot of things that need to be fixed to
move forward."
     Last year, an OAS electoral mission concluded a faulty counting method
had unfairly given 10 Senate seats to Aristide's party. The government's
decision not to recount led to the suspension of more than $500 million in
loans and aid.
     "What has he done? Nothing," said Firmen Jean-Louis of Democratic
Convergence. "As far as I'm concerned, nothing is happening in a political
way, social way, or economic way. The country's out of business. The
country's bankrupt."
     The minimum wage is less than $2 a day and, according to the United
Nations, two thirds of the population suffers from malnutrition.
     The International Monetary Fund said last week Haiti's economy had
lost even more ground in the past fiscal year. The Central Bank has had to
tap into its international reserves.
     A much more tangible sign of Haiti's financial problems is an
electricity shortage, which creates nightly blackouts in the congested
capital of Port-au-Prince.
     An informal economy of drug trafficking, street vendors, and
remittances from abroad help Haiti stay afloat. Rampant crime and
corruption have kept away foreign investors, whom Aristide has said he
hopes to attract.
     Many believe street crime has picked up in the past few months. In
just over one month, at least four people have been abducted and held for
ransoms in the million-dollar range, including a U.S. businessman who later
     Kidnappings have so captured the popular imagination that that the
English word has now entered the Haitian Creole vocabulary. The government
has created a special police unit to fight the crime.
     Aristide swept to power on a grass-roots movement arising from the
1986 overthrow of the Duvalier dictatorship, but was toppled seven months
into his first term by a military junta. A U.S.-led invasion restored
Aristide to power, and he handed power in 1996 to his hand-picked
successor, Rene Preval.
     "He squandered the first 100 days, and so we need to give him another
100 days to see what he can accomplish," said Robert Rotberg, a Havard
political scientist who has written extensively on Haiti. "It's
unfortunate, because Haiti's a small place and Aristide's a powerful