[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

a697: Article: Tough Year for Haitian President (fwd)

From: Dan Craig <dgcraig@att.net>

Tough Year for Haitian President
February 8, 2002
Filed at 2:14 a.m. ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (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

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

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 forward."

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

"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.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company