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8205: NYTimes.com Article: OAS Approves Haiti Crisis Proposal (fwd)

From: netincome@l2bf.com

OAS Approves Haiti Crisis Proposal



Filed at 5:26 a.m. ET

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) -- Haiti's president promised to hold new
elections in the Western Hemisphere's most troubled democracy -- a
promise that opposition leaders say he'll break.

In a resolution carefully couched with provisos, foreign ministers
of the 34-nation Organization of American States gave a key
endorsement of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's timetable to hold new
elections in stages between this year and November 2004.

``We expect concrete actions, no more empty promises,'' U.S.
Ambassador Luis J. Lauredo told the assembly Tuesday before it
passed the resolution.

The OAS also agreed to help unblock hundreds of millions of aid
dollars frozen after last year's tainted legislative elections if
there is progress toward ``an enduring solution to the crisis.''
The resolution called on all sectors of Haitian society to accept
Aristide's overture and ``compromise totally.''

Opposition leaders rejected the proposal and charged the
organization is giving Aristide what he wants: the opportunity to
bypass their demands for immediate elections while helping to
unblock the frozen aid.

``It has diminished our confidence in the OAS. The proposals, for
that reason, leave us cold,'' said Serge Gilles of the main
opposition Convergence coalition. ``It is not the first time
Aristide has made promises. We can count on his breaking them

The assembly also agreed to hold a special session in Lima, Peru,
before the end of September to consider a U.S.-backed proposal
specifying democratic standards for the hemisphere, which could
carry sanctions for violators.

In countries once prone to military overthrows, democracies --
albeit fragile in many cases -- have emerged everywhere except
Cuba. Few seem as fragile as Haiti.

Haiti, with 80 percent illiteracy among its 8 million people, has a
two-century history of dictatorship before Aristide became the
first democratically elected leader 10 years ago.

He was ousted in a coup months after his inauguration and returned
to power by a U.S. military invasion in 1994. Aristide was forced
to resign by a constitutional ban on consecutive terms of office.
He hand-picked his successor and returned as president after
November elections boycotted by all major opposition parties.

May 2000 legislative elections drew international condemnation of
what the OAS called a ``manipulated'' vote count that allowed at
least seven candidates from Aristide's Lavalas Family party to
avoid runoff elections.

Delegates emphasized that Aristide's proposal for new elections is
seen as just a first step in a lengthy process to build trust
between the Haitian parties and establish a path to democracy.

Lauredo said the United States expects ``immediate negotiations
with the opposition (and) ... for Convergence and other opposition
groups to play their proper role to help Haiti.''

Delegates involved in the negotiations warned that Haiti's
opposition risks being left out of efforts to resolve the crisis if
they do not respond.

``I think they would lose an opportunity. But if they want to
exclude themselves from the process, well, all right,'' said
Ambassador Albert Ramdin, the deputy secretary-general of the
14-nation Caribbean Community.

On Sunday, Aristide promised that the seven senators whose
elections were disputed by the OAS would resign and new elections
would be held for those seats before the end of the year. The
senators resigned Monday.

The elections would be organized by a new electoral council that
Aristide said would be appointed by June 25 and include
representatives from all political parties. The resolution said it
must be ``credible, independent and neutral.''

Aristide also agreed to cut short the terms of all members of the
House of Assembly and of a third of the Senate, with elections in
November 2002. Another third of Senate seats would go up for early
election in November 2004.

But another Convergence leader, former President Leslie Manigat,
said it was ``highly unlikely Convergence will rally to a solution
that leaves the top and bottom and most of the rest of Aristide's
power structure intact.''

The Haiti proposal turned out to be the highlight of a conference
that was expected to tout a democracy charter. Costa Rican
President Miguel Angel Rodriguez opened the assembly Sunday saying
that deviant countries should be suspended from the OAS and
excluded from free trade markets. On Monday, Lauredo confidently
predicted quick approval, denying there was any ``ambiguity'' in
the definition of democracy.

But many countries felt it was too much like the U.S. idea of
representative democracy, or too vague, and did not take into
account different levels of democracy.

The ministers had come to the 31st general assembly with a proposal
for a charter that called for representative democracy based on
free and fair elections, access to power through constitutional
means, party plurality and respect for human rights.

The ministers of Uruguay and Chile asked for a more ``tolerant''
approach, noting some countries have survived with some degree of
freedom under one-party systems or benevolent dictators confirmed
by elections.