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a383: This Week in Haiti 19:44 1/16/2002 (fwd)

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                       January 16 - 22, 2002
                          Vol. 19, No. 44


Despite an all-out campaign by the U.S. to use Haiti as a test
case for the coercive and interventionist provisions of the newly
ratified "Inter-American Democratic Charter," the Organization of
American States (OAS)  settled Tuesday for a "compromise"
resolution which simply renews OAS Secretary General Cesar
Gaviria's mandate to meddle in Haiti.

The Jan. 15 resolution calls for the launching of a new open-
ended "OAS Mission" in Haiti which would be empowered "to
undertake an investigation, to evaluate the situation, and to
help the Government and the people of Haiti to strengthen their
system and their democratic institutions" (translated from the
French version of the final resolution).

The "Inter-American Democratic Charter" is a U.S.-championed
accord, approved in Lima, Peru last Sep. 11, which seeks to allow
the OAS the power to convene the Permanent Council and take
action "when situations arise in a member state that may affect
the development of its democratic political institutional process
or the legitimate exercise of power." Under the new charter, a
country may have actions taken against it -- such as being
suspended from the OAS, enduring trade sanctions, or perhaps a
military action -- when there is "an unconstitutional
interruption of the democratic order or an unconstitutional
alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs
the democratic order in a member state." Of course, in the case
of the OAS, Washington is the supreme judge of what is
"democratic order."

The final resolution of the Special Session of the OAS Permanent
Council, which was adopted around 8 p.m. after a long day of
intense diplomatic wrangling, calls on the Haitian government to
implement  "a deep and independent investigation of the events
linked to Dec. 17 and the following days." On that date, an armed
band of about 30 men took over the National Palace for several
hours in an attempt to assassinate President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, sparking a mass uprising which resulted in the burning
of the headquarters and homes of several opposition politicians
(see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 19, No. 40 Dec. 19, 2002). The
resolution also calls on the government to carry out "the
prosecution of any person and the dismissal, if necessary, of any
individual whose complicity is proven in the acts of violence
perpetrated" and "a thorough investigation of all politically
motivated crimes" and "reparations to organizations and
individuals who experienced damages as a direct result of the
violent acts of Dec. 17th." The OAS did not specify who should
provide reparations to the Haitian government for the extensive
damage inflicted on the National Palace or to the families of the
two Haitian policemen killed in the attack. The resolution also
invited the OAS's Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to
visit Haiti.

Of course there was also the inevitable call for the government
"to renew with urgency the negotiations under the auspices of the

The essence of the final document, however, was to force Haiti to
"reaffirm the mandate of the Secretary General...  and, in the
framework of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to ask him to
pursue, in consultation with CARICOM and the Group of Friends of
Haiti, his efforts aimed at contributing more to resolve the
present political crisis in Haiti."

In his remarks at the final session, Haitian Ambassador to the
OAS Raymond Valcin said that "despite its imperfections [on which
he did not elaborate], this resolution constitutes a definitely
balanced legal instrument." And in a telephone interview with
Haïti Progrès immediately following the OAS meeting, Valcin
expressed even greater satisfaction with the outcome. "It is a
victory," he said. "Of course, the struggle is not over. We
cannot sit on our laurels. Any war has its different stages. But
this represents a reprieve."

But one wonders how much of a reprieve from Washington's
relentless low-intensity war it really is. In reality, nothing
has been gained since the Haitian government still accepts the
principle of the OAS meddling in its affairs. And one wonders if
Ambassador Valcin wasn't being sarcastic when he said in his
closing remarks to the Permanent Council "The [Haitian]
delegation very certainly is encouraged to see the important
steps taken to arrive at redefining the modalities for the
intervention of the OAS in our country... the continuation and
even the strengthening of the OAS presence."

He went on to salute "the spirit of flexibility, comprehension,
and goodwill shown by the United States delegation, and [U.S.]
ambassador [to the OAS Roger] Noriega," and sent "special
greetings to the two members of the Haitian opposition" who were
present. These were Victor Benoit of Konakom and Luc Mesadieu of
MOCHRENA, both members of the U.S.-backed Democratic Convergence
opposition front. Micha Gaillard of Konakom had also been present
at the OAS during the day.

Clearly, Ambassador Noriega was not happy with the outcome. He
appeared to be apologizing to the Convergence members present in
the room when he said in the closing sesion that the compromise
resolution was "not perfect by any means... falls short of our
initial expectations... it was the best we could produce under
the current circumstances..."

He also admitted that Washington was behind the push to invoke
the Lima accord. "My government has explored in recent weeks the
advisability of applying the Inter-American Democratic Charter in
the circumstances that we find Haiti in today," Noriega said, but
then he tried to recast Washington's punitive crusade in a
"helpful" light. "However, invoking that Charter, in varied
circumstances, does not always imply, by any means, the
imposition of sanctions on any country. In fact, it can be an
important tool to help a country through a crisis."

Noriega also made it clear that he would continue to push for
invoking the Democratic Charter against Haiti. "We have consulted
and concluded that a consensus doesn't exist to do that today,"
he said. "But this resolution does not represent the final word
on this subject and it does not represent the final chapter in
terms of our implementation of the Inter-American Democratic
Charter," he concluded, just a little too unilaterally. He
expressed satisfaction nonetheless that the OAS resolution
"provides the Secretary General with the mandate he needs to
redouble his efforts to field and deploy a permanent presence...
of a mission in Haiti to continue to monitor events in that

Of course, Gaviria's mission will just help to deepen the crisis
in Haiti. As the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) pointed
out in a typically feisty analysis released Jan. 15: "Another
problem with OAS intervention is that it will weaken the
country's democratic fabric and will most likely further alienate
the Haitian electorate. Most Haitians are already deeply
embittered that the U.S. favors the Convergence coalition, and
its ending of direct aid, as well as and by imposing a
'semi-blockade' on the country which further impoverishes its
impoverished population." The COHA press also notes that
"interestingly, the international community seems to be more
concerned with the protests following the coup attempt than the
coup itself," and that "after the Dec. 17 failed coup attempt,
many Haitians living in Miami carried signs declaring, 'Aristide
is the people's choice-not President Bush.' If the OAS is allowed
to intervene in this domestic situation on entirely spurious
grounds, it could set a dangerous precedent for other member

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