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28007: Hermantin(News)Give Haiti united message from D.C. (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Posted on Sun, Feb. 26, 2006
Give Haiti united message from D.C.
BY JAMES DOBBINS
For more than a decade, Washington has been bitterly divided on policy toward
Haiti. In 1994 the Clinton administration, over virulent Republican opposition,
sent U.S. troops into Haiti to restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to
power. In 2004, in a move condemned by Democrats, the Bush administration
spirited Aristide out of Haiti and sent U.S. troops back into that country in
support of the regime that had overthrown him.
During the intervening 10 years, mixed signals from Washington consistently
exacerbated Haiti's endemic political divisions. The New York Times recently
revealed one such episode, in which representatives of the federally funded
International Republican Institute conducted activities in Haiti that, in the
view of the U.S. ambassador at the time, undercut his efforts to promote
reconciliation between Aristide and his domestic critics. Whatever the truth,
the widespread impression was created in Port-au-Prince that influential voices
in Washington opposed reconciliation and wished to see a premature end to the
This month's election in Haiti may finally have broken this pattern. René
Préval, who served as Aristide's first prime minister in 1991 and who is still
known in Haiti as Aristide's ''twin,'' was declared the winner on Feb. 16 after
a retabulation of the vote.
The Bush administration, which would almost certainly have preferred a
different outcome, nevertheless persevered in seeking to keep the electoral
process on track to deal responsibly with the many charges of massive fraud and
to promote an outcome that recognizes the clear choice of the Haitian people.
Assuming that Préval ultimately gets the clear backing of a conservative
Republican administration in Washington, the divisive and debilitating American
debate on policy toward Haiti might finally be brought to a close.
U.S. should take the lead
It is easy enough to see the basis for a bipartisan accord on Haiti. Aristide
is gone, and should stay that way. Representing the same constituency of
impoverished, uneducated, desperate Haitians, Préval has emerged and won a
clear political mandate. U.N. peacekeepers will need to remain for years to
come as Haiti builds new institutions for public security and the rule of law.
The United States, as Haiti's near neighbor, should take the lead in helping to
build those institutions and in alleviating the poverty of its long-suffering
Préval should be encouraged to be inclusive in his choice of cabinet and
advisors. Opposition leaders should be encouraged to recognize and accept the
election outcome and to work with the new government. No one in Washington
should back dissident elements in Haiti that seek to challenge the results. No
federally funded voices in Port-au-Prince should undercut policies being
advanced by the American ambassador.
The durability of any such American accord will, of course, depend heavily on
how Préval handles his new responsibilities. During his last term of office
from 1996 to 2001, American officials found Préval to be personally honest,
accessible and willing to act against abuses in his own regime, but rather
undynamic and unwilling to press forward with necessary economic reforms.
Without Aristide at his elbow, Préval may prove more decisive this time around.
Much responsibility for the lost opportunities of that earlier period also
rests with the opposition parties that then controlled the Haitian Parliament
and which were unwilling to pass the measures need to qualify for billions of
dollars in international assistance. The Haitian Parliament that emerges from
this most recent election may well be dominated by those same opposition
Only a united message from both sides of the aisle in Washington has any hope
of getting the various Haitian factions to work together for the good of that
country. The early call made by President Bush to Préval, congratulating him on
his victory and urging him to build an inclusive government, could signal a new
era in U.S. Haitian relations.
James Dobbins was the Clinton administration's special envoy for Haiti from
1994 to 1996. He heads the International Security and Defense Policy Center at
the RAND Corporation.