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8227: FWD - OAS Approves Haiti Crisis Proposal (fwd)

From: Racine125@aol.com

OAS Approves Haiti Crisis Proposal

.c The Associated Press

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 

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 again.'' 

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, 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 

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 

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 

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. 

AP-NY-06-06-01 0526EDT