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a56: Where is Haiti's Lifeline Miami Herald OpEd (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Published Wednesday, December 19, 2001



Where is Haiti's lifeline?
Until Monday, the slow social, political and economic disintegration of 
Haiti continued unabated, virtually unnoticed by anyone -- including the 
Bush administration and the foreign media.
A mysterious attempted, but unsuccessful, coup on Monday -- 11 years and a 
day after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Dec. 16, 1990 election to a 
first term -- changed that, at least termporarily. But it doesn't change the 
basic situation except, perhaps, to make it worse. Consider:

The country has been politically paralyzed for 18 months between Aristide's 
Family Lavalas Party and the Democratic Convergence, an opposition grouping 
with little popular support, over disputed May 2000 parliamentary elections.
Now yeoman efforts by mediator Luigi Einaudi, the deputy secretary general 
of the Organization of American States, have been dealt a severe, if not 
fatal, blow by Monday's events. In the wake of the coup attempt, Aristide 
supporters took to the streets burning opposition offices and homes of some 
of its leaders, events likely to harden the opposition.

The Haitian National Police, the only official security force in a country 
of 8 million people, now numbers about 3,000 members, down from about 6,500 
at its peak about three years. At the same time, a force that was, by 
Haitian standards, relatively professional and honest, has become 
increasingly politicized and corrupt following the forced departures of its 
three top officials.

The economy is a disaster, the result of governmental mismanagement, 
corruption, a worldwide recession and the lack of international aid, being 
withheld as the political dispute continues.
The recession and events of Sept. 11 have resulted in a drop in 
all-important remittances home from Haitians abroad and a substantial loss 
of jobs in the assembly industry.

While Aristide is the most popular politician with Haiti's masses, support 
is eroding among them and has dropped dramatically among more influential 
backers both in Haiti and abroad. One influential Haitian Lavalas supporter 
describes Aristide as paranoid and isolated.

His government also has come under increasing fire by various international 
media and human-rights organizations, particularly over the brutal Dec. 3 
killing of journalist Brignol Lindnor, an opposition partisan, by a 
pro-Lavalas mob in Petit-Goave. The unresolved April 3, 2000 killing of Jean 
Dominque, Haiti's most prominent radio journalist, also continues to command 
international attention. The Lavalas-dominated Parliament continues to 
stonewall over withdrawing immunity for powerful Sen. Dany Toussaint, whom a 
judge wants to question in connection with the killing.
Against this backdrop, the Haitian government and its U.S. lobbyists began 
an obviously orchestrated campaign in November to get the Bush 
administration to drop its hold on $500 million in assistance from 
internatioal financial institutions. At the forefront of the campaign is the 
Congressional Black Caucus. As part of that effort Haiti's foreign-affairs 
and finance ministers made a visit to Washington earlier this month at the 
invitation of the Black Caucus.

But the two officials were told quite bluntly, according to U.S. officials, 
that while Washington is sending $78 million in humanitarian assistance to 
Haiti this year, no aid is going to the government because the president 
hasn't been able to certify free and fair elections, the government has not 
demonstrated the capacity to satisfactorily use and account for development 
and it hasn't adopted all the legislation required to meet conditions of 
some of the international aid.

Despite all that, until Monday there were few in Washington who seemed to 
want to hear about Haiti. They had better start paying attention because 
Haiti's increasingly tenuous democracy, which 20,000 U.S. troops restored 
seven years ago, is at stake.

And it's a lot closer than Afghanistan.

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