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a56: Where is Haiti's Lifeline Miami Herald OpEd (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.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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