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17649: Hermaintin: Miami-Herald Editorial- Resolve, Aid and International support needed (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Posted on Mon, Jan. 05, 2004

Haiti's 200-year quest for democracy

In 1804, Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence,
following a 12-year struggle against France led by Toussaint L'Ouverture and
other former slaves. This celebrated event occurred 200 years ago, well
before other nations in the Americas were able to shake off the authority of
the Spanish crown and take destiny into their own hands.

Haitians are justly proud of the role that their country has played,
particularly in the independence of the New World. The defeat of Napoleon's
armies gave heart to patriots throughout the region and paved the way for
their own successful revolutions.

Courageous beginning

On this bicentennial, the people of Haiti deserve heartfelt congratulations
for setting a courageous example, for their spirit, and for the perseverance
and strength that they have displayed throughout the decades of adversity
that followed independence. As they face one more political crisis at the
hands of yet another failed leader, the people of Haiti also deserve greater
help from the United States and the other countries of the region, for no
solution is possible without assistance.

The problems of Haiti are well known and extensive: Illiteracy of nearly 50
percent, extensive deforestation, soil erosion on a grand scale, lack of
potable water, insufficient roads; the list goes on. The prevalence of
HIV/AIDS is high, medical resources are scarce. Life expectancy is low,
infant mortality is high.

But none of these problems can be addressed as long as the current political
crisis continues unabated. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who won 92
percent of the vote, has squandered his mandate by corruption and sheer

The opposition, meanwhile, has shown little political ability and appears to
have no program other than overthrowing Aristide. Nearly 18 years after
Haitians celebrated the departure of ''Baby Doc'' Duvalier -- only to usher
in an era of instability, dictatorship, invasion and occupation -- it should
be clear to all but the most hard-headed that getting rid of one bad leader
is no guarantee of a better political future.

What Haiti needs is a massive infusion of assistance and aid, to be overseen
by multinational organizations that have decided to pull Haiti out of its
desperation for good. Surely, if the United States can find $87 billion in
one fiscal year to help Iraq, it can find a fraction of that amount to aid

Long-term view

Other nations can be persuaded to join this long-term effort, but no one has
a bigger stake in Haiti's success than the United States and the people of
South Florida, the first to feel the effects of a Haitian diaspora.

Some will object that this has been tried before, but it hasn't really.
Previous ef forts to help Haiti have been half-baked and short-term, beset
by frustration and undermined by weak re solve. The problem is much greater
than Mr. Aristide. He can be part of the solution, or he can stand aside.

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