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8610: Little short-term hope for Haiti (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By MICHAEL RUST
WASHINGTON, July 9 (UPI) -- The political outlook for Haiti over the next
90 days is grim, a recent report from an influential think tank warned.
"A rancid political and diplomatic stew characterizes the background of
the recent (Organization of American States) General Assembly meeting held
in Costa Rica in early June," Georges A. Fauriol wrote in "Searching for
Haiti Policy: The Next Ninety Days." Fauriol is a policy analyst with the
Center for Strategic and International Studies, which published the report.
Other American policy scholars looking across the Caribbean to the
unhappy nation of Haiti are equally without optimism.
"It goes from worse to worse," said Mark Falcoff, a Latin America expert
at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
The unpleasant concoction to which Fauriol refers was a proposal at the
OAS meeting by Haitian officials to schedule repeat elections for some
Haitian senators, shortened terms for the rest of the island nation's
national legislators and a new effort to conduct the new lections under the
supervision of a reconstituted election council.
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the controversial president of Haiti, and Luigi
Einaudi of the Organization of American States negotiated the agreement.
"The United States forcefully lobbied the case (for the new agreement)
and rallied an otherwise ambivalent assembly," said Fauriol.
But Fauriol and other Washington think-tank scholars believe that some
ambivalence is appropriate where efforts to reform Haiti are concerned.
"The United States' relationship with Haiti needs to break out from the
costly and unproductive policy thrust of the last eight years," Fauriol
wrote. "The arrival of the Bush administration should enable Washington to
start fresh, yet so far it has not really done so."
The United States, he said, has long desired to foster modern government
in Haiti, while eliminating money laundering and narcotics shipments.
However, the persistence of poverty in the island nation has led many
Americans to become accustomed or oblivious to Haiti's needs.
"There isn't a level of conflict there like in Kosovo," said Stephen
Johnson, a policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in
Washington. And while lack of U.S. troops there may lower American
interest, the current shortage of U.S. policymakers devoted to dealing with
the Caribbean also plays a role.
"The administration doesn't yet have a policy team together. The new
administration isn't talking about Latin America except in very broad
This will probably change with the appointment and approval of officials
in the state department, Johnson added. But in the meantime, policymaking
for the Caribbean has been put on hold.
"In essence, they're just running on autopilot from what they
inherited," Johnson said. "You're not going to hear anything come out on
Haiti because the policy guidance isn't there."
At the same time, neither Washington nor its allies are especially eager
to continue struggling through the seeming morass of reform in Haiti.
"The international community is fatigued and fearful of Haiti going off
the rails," Fauriol said. "Therefore, they're eager to reach a deal."
But previous deals with Aristide have not yielded much in the way of
"The problem right now is that so many foreign donors, including the
United States, have withheld aid because past attempts to provide aid to
Haiti have been throwing it into a vast bottomless pit," said Johnson.
In his paper, Fauriol said that Aristide's recent offer to break the
political stalemate in Haiti was greeted with a swift negative response
from Haiti's democratic opposition. However, Fauriol argued that this
skepticism on the part of the opposition was justified.
"The real intent (of Aristide's government) is to trigger renewal of
foreign aid flows," he said.
Some suggest that many in Washington would like to see this happen.
"By returning Aristide to Haiti, we now have an excuse to turn the boat
people back and wash our hands of it," suggested a former Senate staff
member and think-tank scholar who preferred to remain anonymous. "Because
once they have a black racist dictator, then the (Congressional) Black
Caucus is happy and that's the end of it. I'm sorry, but that's what really
is going on."
Other scholars do not share this cynicism, but they do see more Haitian
turmoil spilling over onto American soil in the near future.
"I think the disaster that would affect the United States most directly
is another wave of immigrants going to sea and the human tragedy of them
trying to make it to the United States," Johnson said. "The thing about
Haiti is that people there have been living at the bottom. They have the
most meager existence and have been used to it for a very long time."
Johnson agreed with Fauriol that little can be expected from Aristide.
Both his regime and the OAS have focused on elections to the exclusion of
other problems, he suggested.
"There seems to be an awful lot of emphasis on elections and there
probably will continue to be," Johnson said. "It's sort of a mantra in the
OAS and it certainly has been supported by the United States in its
But self-government will only come about gradually, Johnson warned,
saying, "I suspect the best way to help Haiti is to work with
Non-Governmental Organizations to improve the level of education, and do it
as a 30- to 40-year project."
And while three or four decades might do the trick, Fauriol is of the
belief the next 90 days could be grim. Aristde returned to power last year
in an election season marred by intimidation, said the CSIS scholar. Barely
10 percent of eligible voters bothered to vote in the election.
"The crisis in 2001 is deepened not so much by the mismanagement and
political miscalculations of the last 12 months, but the cumulative effect
of a decade-long pattern of abominable government," Fauriol wrote.
In the long run, said Johnson, the work of developing democratic
institutions can only happen at the local level.
"Really, if you don't learn at the town council level how to represent
constituents, and compromise on issues and do the public's business, it's
kind of a stretch to think you can ever do that at the national level," he