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a33: U.S. support seen vital for troubled Haiti (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
U.S. support seen vital for troubled Haiti
By Frances Kerry
MIAMI, Dec 18 (Reuters) - As the United States pledges not to abandon
Afghanistan after its military mission ends, some experts on Haiti say
Washington should focus in the same way on the impoverished Caribbean
nation and follow up its military intervention seven years ago with a
degree of nation-building.
For some observers of Haiti's long-running agony, an attack by gunmen
on the National Palace on Monday, was just "more of the same" troubled
politics, and an illustration that the United States should not have baled
out so quickly.
"Haiti needs a long-term program of nation-building, with foreign
security provided," said Haiti expert James Morrell, research director at a
Washington think-tank called the Center for International Policy. "Clinton
started the right thing but shouldn't have left ... once you intervene you
have to stay and do the job well," he said.
In 1994, then President Bill Clinton dispatched some 20,000 troops to
Haiti to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide to the presidency in the poorest
country in the Americas. The mission was rapidly wound down.
In an editorial on Monday, the Washington Post said Haiti illustrated
why the United States should not walk away from "troubled states,
especially those it intervenes in."
"The troops are gone now, and Haiti is in some ways worse off than
ever. Its political system has been gridlocked and dysfunctional for years,
its 8 million people grow ever more impoverished ..." the Post said, urging
Washington not to deny the country much needed aid because of the "feud
between Aristide and his opponents."
Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest and left-leaning populist
viewed with optimism as a break with Haiti's bloody political past, had
taken office in 1991 after winning free elections, only to be ousted in a
coup seven months later.
Aristide handed over power to his elected successor Rene Preval in
1996, retaining a strong behind-the-scenes influence on the ruling Lavalas
Family, and again assumed the presidency in February after winning
presidential elections a year ago.
Haiti's progress since the U.S. intervention has been uninspiring.
Anthony Bryan, a Haiti expert at the University of Miami, said the
country's woes showed in large part that "you can't "change political
"There has got to be very long-term reform in Haiti. There has got to
be an autonomous legislature, an independent judiciary .. a police force
that works with population to restore order, an open economy," he said.
Aristide's second term has been marked by a bitter dispute with the
main opposition alliance over parliamentary elections in May 2000 that
Lavalas probably would have won but not by the sweeping majority it said it
Foreign aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars has been held up
pending a resolution to the dispute, and this to a country battling
problems ranging from illiteracy to AIDS. The Organization of American
States has repeatedly sought to persuade Aristide and his political
opponents to reach a deal.
Aristide and his party have been criticized by human rights and press
freedom groups for being heavy handed with their critics. There have been
periodic incidents of violence such as Monday's in which a group of some 30
gunmen attacked the National Palace, their assault fizzling when they were
killed, or captured by police, or fled.
"Haiti's in the same desperate position as it was in 1994, with
President Aristide unable or unwilling to do what the donors want him to do
in order to get serious outside funding," said Robert Rotberg, director of
a program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution at Harvard
University's Kennedy School of Government.
"So Haiti remains in a state of squalor thanks largely to Aristide's
insistence on personal control," said Rotberg. "Aristide turns out to be no
different in his small mindedness than his predecessors.
Morrell said that the government had "delegitimized itself," because
of the "fraud in the counting of votes in 2000 and then violence against
"How did they squander the considerable degree of legitimacy they
had?" he asked. "How did they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?"
But, said Morrell, "the international community needs to get in there
and we need to pick up where we left in '94, when we left the job
He and other advocates of a big program to help Haiti out with a more
hands-on policy are aware that such thinking is hardly attractive either to
the right-wing in the United States, because it smacks of straying far from
national interests, or on the left, where it looks like interference.
But Morrell said Haiti might benefit from the lesson of Afghanistan --
which President George W. Bush has promised not to abandon once
Washington's military mission is complete, pledges that have been taken in
some quarters to mean a relaxation in his previously strong views against
For the moment, some question whether Haiti is helped by the
withholding of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from international
donors such as the Inter-American Development Bank, a case where Washington
holds the purse strings.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a U.S. research group, said Haiti
was "hanging from a rope" and urged the Bush administration to move away
from a White House orientation that it said was "bent on tarnishing
Aristide" and to lower the bar for Haiti to get international aid.