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a254: OAS seeks to end crisis in Haiti (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Published Wednesday, January 9, 2002

OAS seeks to end crisis in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- U.S. and Latin American diplomats, increasingly worried
over the erosion of civil government in Haiti, are exploring ways to
pressure President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to negotiate an end to the
country's deepening political crisis before it worsens.

According to diplomatic sources, the Organization of American States is
studying the possibility of invoking a provision that would require Haiti to
allow international mediators to negotiate a truce between the government
and its critics.

The continuing dispute between Aristide and his political opponents has led
to an increasingly violent confrontation between the two sides and has kept
Haiti isolated on the international front, freezing badly required financial
aid from abroad.

The effort comes less than a month after a Dec. 17 attack on the National
Palace that the Aristide government branded as a failed coup d'etat, an
event that set off a series of attacks on the government's political

Property and homes belonging to members of a 15-party alliance known as
Democratic Convergence were specifically targeted by mobs whose members
described themselves as Aristide supporters.

The rampage claimed at least 10 lives.

``The events of Dec. 17 demonstrated a failure of the Haitian government to
protect its people from mob violence,'' said a U.S. State Department
official who spoke by telephone on the condition of not being named.

According to the official, ``A number of countries have considered the
Inter-American Democratic Charter [of the Organization of American States]
as a viable way to move forward and get negotiations between the government
and the opposition sectors back on track.''

On Tuesday, during a closed-door meeting of representatives from various
governments and the OAS in Washington, participants discussed the
application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter adopted last year at
the OAS summit in Peru.

If the provision is applied, the action would signal a tighter squeeze on a
government that has become increasingly troublesome since Aristide took
office in February of last year.

Aristide and his Lavalas Family party have been at a stalemate with
political opponents over alleged irregularities in last year's legislative

Though the OAS has actively pursued efforts to broker a resolution to the
electoral crisis, this is the first time a more hands-on approach is being

The change in attitude comes as a result of violence that erupted after the
Dec. 17 attack at the National Palace, according to diplomatic sources.

The meeting in Washington included representatives of the United States,
Canada, European and Latin American nations, as well as Raymond Valcin,
Haiti's ambassador to the OAS.

The objective, according to sources familiar with the talks: ``strengthening
democratic institutions'' in Haiti

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