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8279: NOAH on the Haitian Crisis (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <maxblanchet@worldnet.att.net>

Intransigence is a nonstarter
By Joseph E. Baptiste
and Bob Maguire

June 11, 2001

The recent approval by the Organization of American States of a carefully
worded resolution endorsing Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's
proposals aimed at breaking his country's political impasse is
news to all who desire progress in Haiti. The immediate negative response to
the OAS action by the Democratic Convergence, a coalition of small political
groups whose unyielding opposition to Aristide is virtually all they have in
common, is very discouraging.

The OAS-endorsed proposals rejected by leaders of the CD include new
elections by the end of this year for senate seats disputed in the May
election and the creation of a new electoral council to manage those
elections. That council would be composed of representatives of an array of
Haitian civil society and political groups, including the CD. Predicting
that Aristide's promises will be broken, CD leaders stated that they would
not participate either in the elections or the new electoral council.

Sadly, this response of Haiti's so-called "democratic opposition" has become
predictable. The group has refused to engage a high-level, joint OAS and
Caribbean Community delegation that traveled to Port-au-Prince in an effort
to help break Haiti's political impasse. It cited the arrest in
Port-au-Prince of Prosper Avril, a notorious former leader of the Haitian
army, as its reason for boycotting negotiations. Although some details of
Avril's May 26 arrest, based upon a warrant issued in 1997, were uncertain,
the anti-Aristide opposition lost no time in using this incident as a
political smokescreen. Release Avril, they demanded, or we will not
participate in OAS/CARICOM-led talks.

Avril -- the latest cause célèbre for an opposition whose quest increasingly
appears to have no other goal than ascension to power through means other
than elections -- led a 1988 military coup d'etat to become Haiti's
"president." Two years later, the general fled Haiti to take up a gilded
exiled residence in South Florida. In a South Florida courtroom in 1992, a
U.S. district judge ruled the general guilty of "egregious human rights
abuses in Haiti during his military rule." When the judge awarded millions
of dollars in damages to a group of Haitian plaintiffs, Avril fled back to
Haiti, citing his inability to receive justice in the United States. Such
are the heroes of a "democratic opposition"?

That opposition remains unyielding at least in part because it has shrewdly
used its notoriety to gain an apparent political veto that far exceeds the
depth of its constituency in Haiti. In an unreleased U.S. government-funded
poll conducted by the Gallup Organization less than three weeks before
Haiti's late November 2000 presidential election, less than 4 percent of
Haitians were reported as expressing trust in the members of the CD
opposition. In the U.S. system, such a Lilliputian "opposition" would not
even qualify for matching federal funds, let alone continual apparent veto
power from vacant chairs at a negotiating table.

None of Haiti's political actors -- in the majority or in the minority --
come out of this protracted political impasse smelling like a rose. Aristide
and his allies blundered terribly by not acceding to the demands of the OAS
to hold senatorial runoffs in the aftermath of the May 2000 elections, as
prescribed by Haitian electoral law. Aristide's opponents have blundered
terribly in their intransigence in the face both of international efforts at
mediating the crisis and of the Haitian government's efforts toward

Now, with the OAS endorsement of the government's proposals, Haiti's
opposition politicians should participate in the electoral council and in
the Senate elections that will be closely monitored by the OAS and CARICOM.
Almost all actors in this unfortunate drama are ready to move forward.
Continued intransigence by the CD will not only result in a lost
opportunity, but will also risk exclusion from further participation in the
political process.

It is way past time for ALL of Haiti's political actors to stop fiddling
away their country and to engage fully each other -- and the international
community -- in finding a way out of their self-imposed quagmire. Enough is

Joseph E. Baptiste is chairman of the National Organization for the
Advancement of Haitians. Bob Maguire is coordinator of the Georgetown
University, Trinity College, Haiti Program.