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17902: (Hermantin)Miami-Herald- New policies needed -- or leadership change (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Posted on Tue, Jan. 13, 2004

New policies needed -- or leadership change

In 1995, when we sent 20,000 U.S. ground troops to the island to restore
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power, we did not expect miracles of
immediate recovery. We also did not blame Aristide for the poverty and
desperation he inherited. We only expected him to keep his word and
establish a foundation for change that would help move the country away from
its failed past toward a hopeful and productive future.

Tragically, however, under Aristide's rule, an already dismal situation in
Haiti has only worsened, leaving the nation further wracked by wretched,
abject, dehumanizing poverty. Furthermore, it has become a nation terrorized
by a government of gangs. And unless Haitian President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide initiates significant political and economic changes and halts his
current campaign of violence and political intimidation, the United States
has little choice but to challenge the legitimacy of his government.

Gang rule

With Haiti's ever-deteriorating economy and a consequently dissatisfied and
disillusioned electorate, Aristide sees his survival hinging on his use of

supported thugs -- state sanctioned street gangs who terrorize anyone who
opposes him. The police force that the United States and the international
community worked so hard to train and professionalize has become corrupt,
dispirited and politicized. Some of its members now are trafficking drugs.

While not appearing as centrally controlled or as organized as the old
Ton-Ton Macoutes of the Duvalier regime, they are just as effective and just
as deadly. Aristide's henchmen paralyze neighborhoods with their violent
intimidation tactics, leaving many parents too fearful to send their
children to school.

Aristide may believe that his gangs will assure his power. They will not.
They only escalate the violence, lessen his credibility among his own
people, and seriously risk the legitimacy of his presidency in the eyes of
the international community. For Aristide to continue down this path will
only lead to more violence, more death, and more disaster for him, for
Haiti, and for the United States, as we once again will see boats swollen
with Haitians risking their lives for the chance of a better life.

Change is possible

Aristide can make things right. He is smart. He is charismatic. And, he once
had overwhelming support among the Haitian people, as well as the
international community. Furthermore, Aristide has demonstrated that good
work can be done in Haiti, by allowing the nongovernmental organizations to
go about their humanitarian work. Specifically, in the fight against AIDS,
Haiti is fortunate to have some of the world's best HIV/AIDS doctors and
strongest advocates, like First Lady Mildred Aristide.

President Aristide does have, within his hands, the power to preserve the
legitimacy of his government and avert further chaos and inevitable
disaster. He can pull back the thugs and tell them to stop the violence. He
can rebuild a professional police force. He can work out an agreement with
the opposition to provide for wholesale political change and reform. Or,
frankly, he can leave power now.

U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) is a member of the Senate Intelligence
Committee and has traveled to Haiti at least 13 times in recent years.

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