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a687: Haiti-Aristide (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>


   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 7 (AP) -- Few Haitians celebrated the anniversary of
Jean-Bertrand Aristide's inauguration, and some former supporters said they
no longer recognized "the priest in the president."
   The man who campaigned under the slogan "Peace of Mind, Peace in the
Belly" instead has presided over increasing political instability and
poverty in the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, said human rights
advocate Jean-Claude Bajeux, a former Aristide minister.
   Thursday was the anniversary of the inauguration of the second term for
Aristide, a former Catholic slum priest who rose to power after the
overthrow of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.
   No new jobs have been created, and the average Haitian income is about a
dollar a day. Prices have risen 80 percent in five years, while the
economic growth rate has fallen below zero. Ecologists claim the current
rate of soil erosion will leave Haiti with no arable land by 2040.
   The 48-year-old president has blamed the opposition's "political
cynicism" and the international community's "economic terrorism."
   After the 2000 elections, which Aristide's Lavalas Family party swept,
the international community blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in aid
saying the elections were flawed. The aid has been suspended until an
agreement is reached with the opposition about new elections.
   "Trouble in mind and hunger pains for the poor, that's what Aristide has
delivered," said former supporter Pierre Cinola, a 44-year-old mason.
   Opponents and former supporters have also accused Aristide of fueling
political tension and violence, citing Aristide's "zero tolerance" policy
that some say has amounted to mob justice.
   "The human rights situation has clearly deteriorated." the National
Coalition of Haitian Rights stated, accusing the Aristide of obstructing
justice in the murder investigation of Haiti's most prominent journalist,
Jean Dominique, who was assassinated in April 2000.
   This week, "Echo of Jean Dominique's Voice," a group of the assassinated
journalist's friends, said in a radio show that Aristide had been acting
"like Pontius Pilate" and that they were unable to recognize "the priest in
the president."
   In 1990, Aristide won Haiti's first free elections but was ousted in
1991 by a bloody military coup. He was restored to power in 1994, but was
forced to step down in 1996 because his term had expired.
   He finally returned to office after his party swept local and
legislative elections in 2000. He was inaugurated Feb. 7, 2001.
   At a news conference Monday, Aristide could boast of little, saying only
that his people's misery hadn't exploded "in a violent way."
   His government held no commemorative events Thursday, but noted that in
the last year roads had been renovated, hospitals opened, electrical power
increased and a literacy campaign launched.
   Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday that the Bush
administration would not agree to the release of aid to Haiti because "we
do not believe enough has been done yet to move the political process
   Chances for an agreement with the opposition worsened after Dec. 17,
when gunmen raided the Haiti's National Palace in what Aristide said was an
assassination attempt.
   At least 10 people were killed in the attack and subsequent violence.
   "If misery hasn't exploded, it's no thanks to Aristide. It's a tribute
to the extraordinary patience of the Haitian people," Bajeux said.
   Aristide offered Monday to include the opposition in the new Cabinet.
The offer was promptly rejected.