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a624: Where racketeers rule (fwd)

[Corbett comments:  I dont' know what's going on with this,
but 1/2 dozen people have sent me this story in the past two days.
My sent mail file tells me I've already sent it to the list twice.

Oh well, one more time.  Sorry if this is the third.]

(The Economist, 31 Jan 02)

> Where racketeers rule
> A rickety island becomes yet more unstable

> SEVEN years after American troops intervened to oust a brutal military
> regime and reinstate Haiti's democratically elected president, little
> has changed in Latin America's poorest country. Although civilians still
> rule, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide—elected again last year after a
> five-year gap—is hardly living up to expectations as the great
> democratic hope.
> Serious signs of political instability have also returned. After almost
> a decade without a coup, there were two attempts last year, in July and
> December. Opposition politicians and journalists have been hounded,
> and their offices and homes burned, by the chimère, Mr Aristide's hired
> thugs from the slums.
> Meanwhile, the economy has stagnated. Two-thirds of Haiti's 7.8m
> inhabitants live in poverty, half of all adults are illiterate, and less
> than a quarter of rural children attend primary school. Infant and
> maternal mortality rates remain among the highest in the world, and
> Haiti produces more new cases of HIV-AIDS each year than the entire
> United States.
> The government has failed to pass a budget in six years. Instead,
> diplomats suspect, the country's depleted coffers are being filled with
> pay-offs from drug-dealers who use the country to trans-ship an
> estimated 10-15% of the cocaine that enters the United States. With
> notable exceptions—one big tobacco group is investing $40m in a Hilton
> franchise by the airport—private industry is struggling to stay afloat.
> Some of Haiti's rich families are selling up and moving abroad. They
> complain of government corruption and a dramatic rise in kidnappings
> by armed gangs, some of whom are thought to have close links to Mr
> Aristide's Lavalas Family party.
> The Haitian government blames the rest of the world for blocking $500m
> in foreign aid, calling it “economic terrorism”. But last year the
> government spent an estimated $7m to buy four official mansions,
> including a $1.5m hilltop spread for the prime minister. Within the
> broad ranks of the Lavalas movement, which first swept Mr Aristide to
> power in 1990 as the champion of the poor, discontent is growing. For
> the first time, “Down with Aristide” graffiti have begun to appear.
> Small anti-government demonstrations have taken place around the
> country, and are ruthlessly put down. On January 27th, police used
> tear-gas and live bullets to disperse a crowd of hundreds who were
> storming a warehouse in Port-au-Prince in protest against corruption in
> a rice-importing programme.
> So far, Mr Aristide has managed to dodge most of the blame. Last week
> it was the turn of his prime minister (and boyhood friend), Jean-Marie
> Cherestal, to take the fall after the chimère demanded his head. “The
> mafia wing of the party is trying to take Aristide hostage,” said one
> member of Lavalas. “It's a bunch of thieves, murderers and racketeers.”
> The president hangs on largely
> because of fear of what may follow him. “Aristide is one of the more
> moderate in his party,” says Richard Coles, a former president of the
> Haitian Manufacturing Association. Mr Coles, one of a small group of
> progressive businessmen, worries that the severing of international aid
> merely plays into the hands of those in Lavalas “who don't believe in
> Mr Aristide himself appears to be aware of the threat from within. A few
> days before the attempted coup of December, he delivered a dressing-down
> to top Lavalas officials, specifically warning them against any ties to
> drugs. Government officials now admit that the attempted coup may have
> involved dissident mafia elements within Lavalas, led by a group of
> disgraced former officers in Haiti's now-disbanded armed forces under a
> former policeman, Guy Philippe. Mr Philippe, now under arrest in the
> Dominican Republic, is one of nine officers who fled Haiti in November
> 2000 after foolishly approaching the American embassy to seek backing
> for a coup. Several are believed to have drug connections.
> The government refuses to take any responsibility for its woes. Instead,
> it hints at an international conspiracy to sink Mr Aristide. Its critics
> are unimpressed.