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a753: AP: Tough Year for Aristide (fwd)

From: JD Lemieux <lxhaiti@yahoo.com>

 Tough Year for Haitian President

The Associated Press, Fri 8 Feb 2002

A soldier stands guard behind a pile of sandbags set
up in front of the presidential palace in
Port-Au-Prince following security reinforcements after
an attack on the building. 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. (AFP PHOTO

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

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 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

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.

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Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten or redistributed.

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