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a151: Washington risks appearing heartless, racist in Haiti - US think , tank (fwd)





From: MKarshan@aol.com

 
Washington risks appearing heartless, racist in Haiti - US think tank 
BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Dec 21, 2001

A US think tank has criticized Washington's policy on Haiti in the wake of the recent attempted coup at the National Palace. The research group contrasts the annual US intake of 25,000 refugees from Cuba with its policy to automatically repatriate all Haitians intercepted at sea. " Without trivializing the importance of democratic elections, Washington should consider on what grounds it normally denies essential humanitarian assistance to an impoverished nation," the report also says. The following is an excerpt from a report carried by Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) news agency; subheadings inserted editorially:

Washington, 20 December: A prominent US research organization said [on] Thursday [20 December] that part of the blame for Wednesday's unsuccessful attack on the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince rests with Washington...

"Throughout this agonising situation, Washington has not even visibly wrung its hands in grief over leaving the doomed nation to a tragic fate.

"Such an outcome could register a serious blow against US national interests, however, as tens of thousands of Haitians will again risk their lives to seek refuge in the US but more probably be interdicted and summarily returned to the island or drown on the high seas," the think tank said.

Since the US automatically repatriates all Haitians intercepted at sea (with the exception of a small percentage of these who may be genuine political refugees), while allowing 25,000 Cubans to enter the US annually, Washington risks not only appearing heartless, but also racist, the organization added.

Deadlock

A political deadlock and bitter street violence between the Lavalas Party and the opposition Convergence party, combined with abject poverty, are paralysing Haitian society.

"Immediate international action is needed, on an emerging basis, to reverse the steady deteriorating living conditions on the island," the research body noted.

"If US-Haiti policy has been predictably second rate - just as it was throughout the Clinton administration - the Congressional Black Caucus, in contrast with its admirable pre-1994 effectiveness, can be censured for its current listless and ineffectual lobbying on Haiti's behalf, essentially buying in to the current White House orientation which is bent on tarnishing [President Jean-Bertrand] Aristide.

IADB loans frozen

According to the State Department, the Bush administration is freezing nearly 150m dollars in Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) loans until the Haitian government improves its drug interdiction practices (the State Department had nothing to say about drug trafficking under the previous Haitian military junta) and the Aristide government and Convergence Party agree on a formula to address voting irregularities in seven districts, deriving from the 21 May 2000 Senate elections.

All told, 500m dollars is being withheld by international donors on a number of grounds, with Washington permitting the Convergence party to exercise a de facto veto over US policy towards the island.

Lavalas concessions

Thus far, Lavalas has committed itself to solicit the resignation of the seven senators elected under questionable circumstances - which is the issue of the greatest controversy - as well as to the reduction by two years of the terms of all senators elected on May 21, 2000, and early election for all sitting senators (by moving them to next year rather than the scheduled day of 2004), which are among other concessions offered by Aristide.

Intransigence

Recent meetings in October between the two parties made no headway on the matter and a stalemate now plagues a nation growing increasingly intolerant of what seems like intransigence on both sides, but which is mainly attributable to the Convergence.

Demonstrably, with its direct connections to the US-funded and militant anti-Aristide International Republican Institute and the Aristide-basher Senator Jesse Helms, Convergence essentially dictates how foreign countries view events in Haiti.

Humanitarian relief

Meanwhile, many Haitians who have supported Aristide since his overthrow in 1991 and worked for his return to power in 1994, still await the fruits of democracy and are becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of an economic revival, the ubiquitous political discord and the rise of violent crime.

Without trivializing the importance of democratic elections, Washington should consider on what grounds it normally denies essential humanitarian assistance to an impoverished nation.

Currently US and Haitian NGO's receive about 75m dollars worth of aid from USAID humanitarian relief for the island. The aid is channelled through civil society organizations and democracy-building institutions; but inevitably it does not provide Port-Au Prince with the means to rebuild its impoverished public health and education programmes or get the country running again.

Source: Caribbean Media Corporation news agency, Bridgetown, in English 1341 gmt 21 Dec 01

/BBC Monitoring/  BBC.

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