- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005


More than 19 months after U.S. Marines whisked away Pres-ident Jean-Bertrand Aristide amid an armed revolt, Haiti remains beset by worsening poverty and violence, despite a U.N. peacekeeping force and nearly $195 million in U.S. aid.

The ouster of Mr. Aristide was welcomed by the Bush administration, which had accused the former Roman Catholic priest of tolerating drug trafficking and of using gangs to attack the opposition.

But the interim government of Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has failed to deliver stability and economic progress while making enemies among both rich and poor and exasperating its international backers.

Mr. Latortue yesterday confirmed what many had predicted, telling Agence France-Presse that “technical problems” have forced the government to defer general elections set for Nov. 20 by three weeks.

“We have problems. We have considerable delays in the logistics and finalization of the lists of candidates,” he said, adding that the presidential inauguration remains fixed for Feb. 7.

It was the fourth time this year that the government had changed the date of the elections.

Bob Maguire, a Haiti specialist at Trinity University in Washington, said a surprise visit to the capital, Port-au-Prince, two weeks ago by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a sign of the U.S. administration’s growing concern that just such a delay in the critical first vote was imminent.

“It’s painfully apparent that the interim government, which faced steep challenges to begin with, has disappointed,” Mr. Maguire said. “The U.S. is clearly staked to these elections and wishes to see them free and fair enough so that the winner can be supported with international aid and other assistance. But the bar may be set rather low in order to achieve this, which does not portend well for the future of Haiti’s democracy.”

A multinational effort

In contrast to Iraq, “regime change” in Haiti has been a broadly multilateral effort, with France and Canada sending troops to join U.S. Marines after Mr. Aristide’s departure, and Brazil helping lead the U.N. peacekeeping force, enlisted from more than 40 nations.

But the United States has played a central role, from arming the national police force to financing the elections, and Congress this year has budgeted $407 million, more than twice as much as any other donor or lender.

Washington has helped rebuild Haiti’s run-down police force, providing trucks, equipment and guns. Making an exception to the 14-year-old arms embargo on Haiti, the Bush administration provided 2,600 weapons to the police last year and has since approved a sale of $1.9 million worth of pistols, rifles and tear gas to the Haitian government.

Meanwhile, Haitians from all walks of life are on the U.S. government payroll, including more than 800 street sweepers, who earn $2 a day through a program financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the prime minister’s spokesman, whose $4,000 monthly salary is paid by the agency.

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