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|First published in The Wall Street Journal, Friday, July 6, 2001
|Haiti's Aristide Says 'Show Me the Money'
Imagine a place so dominated by violence that even those revered icons of the
underworld, Colombia's cocaine kingpins, have begun to abandon it on the grounds that it
is too lawless.
A senior U.S. official charged with high-level drug interdiction responsibilities in the
Caribbean tells me this is exactly what intelligence networks say has happened in Haiti.
Under the leadership of President Aristide, who has controlled the country since 1994,
Haiti has become an inferno of terror that even hardened Colombian crime rings can't
|By Mary Anastasia O'Grady
Over seven million impoverished Haitians confront life in Mr. Aristide's morass daily;
many have tried to flee. Last week Reuters reported that a Haitian vessel built for 15
passengers but carrying 93 had run aground off a Bahamian island. Sharks devoured 11 of
the migrants. "They risk their lives on the open seas because there is no food, no
money and no work in Haiti," said a deacon from a local Bahamian church. The same
week a U.S. Coast Guard patrol picked up another 183 Haitian refugees on a 40-foot wooden
sailboat. A week earlier 25 shipwrecked Haitians were rescued by the Bahamian navy; four
of their shipmates were found dead.
|The Organization of American States has been negotiating with
Mr. Aristide for some time now, seeking an end to the violent government repression that
has slowly strangled the economy. It dangles a huge carrot in front of the Haitian
president: If he and and his Lavalas Party will agree to a bare minimum of democratic
standards-toleration of political dissent, an independent electoral council, and new
Senate elections for seats that were stolen in the May 2000 balloting - then the OAS will
clear the way for resumption of international aid. That aid could run as high as $500
million but is frozen because of Lavalas violence against its opponents and its role in
stealing elections. Last summer Léon Manus, the electoral council jurist who ruled that
the May elections were fraudulent, had to flee the country.
||Sorry Mr. Aristide, we'll 'Show you the Money'
after you first show us democracy. (Wehaitians.com Photo)
Putting aside the question of whether it is morally sound to bribe a corrupt
authoritarian such as Mr. Aristide, it is worth asking whether such
"negotiations" can achieve the desired outcome. The Haitian strongman has a long
record of saying one thing and doing another. In this latest round of chicken with the
international community, at least one seasoned negotiator remained unconvinced of his
sincerity. Dame Eugenia Charles, former prime minister of Dominica and the Caricom
representative to the OAS mission, said she "found the Haitians are only interested
in what financial help they can get from the international world. I don't know if they are
interested in having the matter solved."
Mrs. Charles is best remembered in international circles as the Caribbean leader who asked
Ronald Reagan to intervene in Grenada in 1983, on the grounds that Fidel Castro was
quietly converting the island into a Cuban satellite. It's not surprising that she
recognizes Mr. Aristide's modus operandi. Like Castro, Mr. Aristide badly wants at the
multilateral largess sloshing around the globe. His immediate challenge is to somehow fool
the international community into resuming aid without risking his monolithic rule.
One line of attack is in Washington, where he's hired the Washington law firm of Patton,
Boggs to help him get at the honey pot. On June 4, Patton, Boggs filed with the Justice
Department as an agent for the government of Haiti. According to Justice, the firm said
that it had "agreed to assist the foreign principal in its relationship with the U.S.
executive branch, U.S. congress and certain multi-lateral organizations in order to obtain
U.S. support for the release of withheld foreign aid by the OAS and the IDB
[Inter-American Development Bank]." The contract is for eight months for a fee of
$50,000 per month.
|Mr. Aristide's time-tested practice of greasing the wheels in
Washington has Haitians cynical about any OAS agreement with him. On June 18, a spokesman
for the Haiti's strongest opposition alliance, Democratic Convergence, accused OAS
negotiator Luigi Einaudi of working with Lavalas leader," according to a Haitian
radio broadcast monitored by the BBC.
There is no proof of this, but the allegation reflects suspicion that is not
unwarranted. After all, high-priced Patton, Boggs is schmoozing the Washington elite for
its clients even as Mr. Aristide's hitmen continue to target his potential opponents. Just
about the time that the OAS was announcing a successful Aristide "agreement" at
its annual meeting in Costa Rica in June, the Haitian president was arrested adversaries
and inciting his notorious street gangs to new violence back home; in one week six people
were burned alive in the streets.
Any workable treaty must bring Mr. Aristide's opponents on board, but Democratic
Convergence and numerous civil-society organizations have refused to accept what was
announced in Costa Rica. This has negotiators frantic. As Haiti expert Georges Fauriol of
the Center for Strategic and International Studies has written, the "international
community is fatigued and fearful of Haiti going off the rails and therefore eager to
reach a deal."
This is a shame. The U.S. has already spent $3 billion on Mr. Aristide, first to reinstall
him as president and later to "reform" his police department. Yet Haiti's
institution building is no further along than it was in the days of post-coup President
Raoul Cedras. And it's not uncommon to hear Haitians pine for the good old days of the
Duvalier dictatorship. Six years of placating Mr.Aristide have advanced few but him, and
possibly his telephone company associates Joseph P. Kennedy II, former Democratic Party
finance man Marvin Rosen, and Clinton pal Thomas "Mack" McLarty III.
Mr. Aristide bears direct responsibility for his country's hardship. His extortion
practices aimed at the few productive sectors of the economy have suffocated growth and
investment. He has overseen the complete collapse of justice and personal security, and
implemented a tyrannical crackdown on political dissent.
Haiti doesn't need international aid to get back on its feet. It needs modern democratic
institutions that will attract private capital and brains. This conflicts sharply with Mr.
Aristide's most basic instincts, which run more along the lines of his chum Fidel. It is
folly to believe that in exchange for multilateral aid the leopard will change his spots.
|Ms. O'Grady edits the Americas column.
Editor's notes: In this article published in The Wall Street Journal was a caricature
of tyrant Aristide showing him smiling while holding up with his left hand dollars and at
the same time looking at them as if they were toys a little boys had received from his
scholarly journal of democracy and human rights