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a55: Miami Herald Editorial:The politics of violence (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

After a day of violence that claimed at least eight lives in Haiti, the 
country returned to a semblance of normalcy yesterday. But relative calm in 
Haiti these days is a mask for the roiling tensions and political vacuum 
that threaten further chaos and prevent Haitians from realizing their dream 
of economic revival and democratic governance.
The United States and the international community, which have helped Haiti 
to try to right itself in the past, yesterday called for calm and a 
restoration of order. They rightly have offered guidance and support, and 
stand ready to intervene if necessary -- although the latter possibility 
seems remote.

However it is characterized -- coup or provocation -- the violence this week 
is part of an unhealthy mosaic that has beset Haiti throughout its history. 
Since the 29-year dictatorial rule of the Duvalier family ended in 1986, 
Haiti has set itself on the road to becoming a constitutional democracy. The 
journey has proceeded in fits and starts that brought a violent coup in 1991 
followed by years of military rule, thousands of deaths and, eventually, 
free elections that returned populist President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to 

Still, the violence was an emphatic sign to the world that Haiti's embrace 
of democracy remains weak and fragile. It began with a 2 a.m. raid on the 
National Palace in Port au Prince when a band of 30 armed gunmen set off 
explosives and attempted to storm the building. President Aristide and his 
family weren't in the palace and so were unharmed. But the attack triggered 
a round of retaliatory attacks by Aristide loyalists. When it was over, the 
death toll included police officers, passersby, opposition-party supporters 
and at least one of the attackers.

Immediately after the violence, each side attempted to ``spin'' the 
situation in a manner most favorable to its cause. Mr. Aristide called it a 
coup; opposition groups claimed it was a ``setup'' orchestrated by the 
president's Lavalas Family party and aimed at silencing them. By either 
characterization, the violence reflects a historical truth: It is a 
continuation of politics by other (more extreme) means.

In fact, low-intensity, political violence has been ongoing since Mr. 
Aristide assumed office in February. A radio journalist recently was hacked 
to death, and another popular journalist was killed last summer. The 
political situation has worsened since May, 2000 when several senators were 
elected in flawed balloting. Meanwhile, the number of Haitians who are 
fleeing the country has increased. They risk their lives on the high seas in 
inadequate boats to escape Haiti's wrenching poverty and political turmoil.

The United States and international supporters of Haiti have written the 
prescription for Haiti's political woes -- and Mr. Aristide has agreed to 
it. It requires him to resolve the election irregularities and include 
members of opposition groups in his government as a condition for getting 
hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. and international aid. Yet the two 
sides remain at an impasse.

For Haiti, stability and democracy are attainable goals. But the first step 
must be a cessation of the violence.

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