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a307: What Should Be Done in Haiti elections. (fwd)





From: Stanley Lucas <slucas@iri.org>

What Should Be Done in Haiti
By James R. Morrell
Research director of the Center for International Policy. Former adviser to President Aristide at Governors Island and throughout 1992*94; OAS observer of the May 21, 2000 elections.



            The recent coup attempt in Haiti, real or staged as the case may be, has a strong sense of Yogi Berra's "deja-vu all over again." There was one six months ago, and in June 2000 electoral fraud so gross that the political opposition, with only some exaggeration, called it an "electoral coup d'*tat." The reactions also have run a predictable course. From the rent-a-mob violence against the political opposition in Haiti to the muffled reaction in Washington, where the policy of benign neglect of Clinton's second term is being applied unaltered, everyone assumed their accustomed roles.
            In fact, it's time for an altogether new approach to Haiti.
            The last time anyone in Washington made a decision on Haiti was in 1994, when President Clinton sent the invasion force. He had the right idea in that nothing less would dislodge the military, which had transformed Haiti into a refugee factory. But there were two problems, one political and the other conceptual. Politically, Republicans won both houses of Congress only two months after Clinton went into Haiti and they sensed he was vulnerable there. The entire administration went into a defensive crouch, seeking to get the troops out as soon as possible and lower the administration's profile there in every conceivable way.
            Conceptually, peacekeeping and nation-building were in poor repute in Washington then, after the eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed in Somalia; al-Qaeda's role in their killing, and its significance, was not then known. The expansive, intrusive program of U.N. institution-building that the desperate situation in Haiti called for was anathema to both the right and the left, the right because it was nation-building and the left because it was colonialism. So there was no conceptual acceptance of the right course in Haiti by the U.S. body politic and in the intellectual realm.
            What the United States did, with Clinton's intervention and precipitous departure, was to restore a president with twenty-two thousand troops but leave the restoration of the rest of the institutions»parliament, judiciary, local government, electoral machinery, police»to aid programs. The departure of the troops meant that the building up of all these institutions of democracy would be unprotected against factional takeover. It left too much dependent on a chance factor»the character of the individual restored to the presidency. If he turned out to be another Michael Manley or Nelson Mandela, then Clinton would be lucky again. If he turned out to be just another factional infighter, so common in Haiti and until recently Latin America as a whole, then the outcome would be entirely different.
            It took a few years after the troops left, beginning with bad elections in 1997 and the dissolution of the parliament in 1999, followed by the dismantling of the professional administration of the police, before Jean-Bertrand Aristide felt bold enough to flout the Clinton administration openly, but he did this with the preposterous miscount of the senatorial elections of May 2000 in which his representatives on the election commission cut off the counting of ballots at the top four recipients, discarding all the votes received by the other ten or fifteen candidates. This way Aristide's candidates, who were leading, could all be declared winners in the first round, although in fact the non-Aristide candidates outpolled the Aristide ones in half the races.
            The OAS election observers withdrew in protest. The election commissioner refused to sign off on the fraud and was forced to flee Haiti after being personally threatened by Aristide and President Pr*val. The opposition boycotted all further elections. The country's leading journalist, Jean Dominique, was slain by Aristide supporters. The judge investigating his case has heard testimony that Aristide's henchmen feared the outspoken journalist's popularity threatened Aristide's chances in the presidential election.
            Because the United States left Haiti precipitously, after going in with twenty-two thousand troops, none of the institutions of democracy has been consolidated. Meanwhile the individual restored to office by U.S. power has taken full advantage of his good fortune to grab all power for himself and his personalistic political party, the Lavalas Family, violently suppressing the opposition. Refugees will soon have the same claim to political asylum as their predecessors in the 1991*94 wave.
            Just as the United States withdrew from Afghanistan after 1991 and left it to a bloody free-for-all among the factions, leading to the rise of the Taliban, so it can continue to neglect Haiti. The OAS has sent its negotiator there seventeen times without result; it can continue to send him. This is a formula for the further immiseration of the people of Haiti and for a U.S. policy that merely reacts to events, hoping for the best.
            The United States should call an international conference of all of Haiti's benefactors, all twenty-six countries who contributed to the 1994 intervention, and all the factions from Haiti. The U.N. chairperson of this conference should lay out a schedule of elections, based on negotiating drafts already initialed by both Haitian sides, with an international security presence sufficient to protect the voting and the count. A comprehensive program of U.N. nation-building should staff all the institutions of democracy, now reduced to shells, with the many competent, progressive Haitian professionals who are to be found both on the island and in the diaspora. Haiti is fortunate in having many people capable of running its institutions to world-class standards. Once this is done, not only should the $500 million in loans currently frozen be freed up and delivered, but the entire package of $3 billion planned in 1995 and mostly not delivered because of the political morass should be renewed.