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Posted April 3, 2003
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OAS must reckon with Aristide

On March 19, President Bush gave 48 hours to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq: Spare Iraqis unnecessary sufferings, or face the consequences. Bush's decision derived from the United Nations' unwillingness to enforce its own resolutions regarding Hussein's suspected possession of weapons of mass destruction. On March 20, after more than 25 failed Organization of American States missions undertaken to Haiti in three years, the OAS and the international community gave President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti 10 days -- until March 30 -- to fulfill OAS resolutions 806 and 822 and end the deadlock between Aristide and the Haitian political opposition created by the fraudulent legislative election of May 2000.

If the OAS does not want to flirt with irrelevance like the United Nations in Iraq's case, it needs to unequivocally take severe sanctions against Aristide and his Lavalas regime at its meeting today, if they fail to meet the deadline.


Mario Dupuy, Aristide's secretary of communication, suggested last week that the Haitian government understands that March 30 is a date not for the government to fulfill its obligations but only to indicate that progress on the two resolutions has been made. This suggestion and others made by other high-ranking Aristide officials demonstrate that the slippery slope of dilatory tactics is continuing. The three paramount mandates of OAS resolutions 806 and 822 require the Haitian government to arrest the thugs, known as chimres, affiliated with the Lavalas regime who perpetrated the violence against the political opposition on Dec. 17, 2001; change the Haitian police hierarchy, which is implicated in violence and drug trafficking; and end the impunity of extra-judicial killings. So far, the first few steps taken by Aristide do not bode well. He replaced the chief of police, Jean-Nesny Lucien, with Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste, a long-time Aristide supporter who is suspected of political crimes. Similarly, the police are feigning to search for the most notorious thug among the many affiliated with the Lavalas regime, Amiot Metayer, the head of the self-proclaimed ''cannibal army.'' He, alerted to his potential arrest, has gone into hiding.

The case involving the assassination of Haiti's most famous journalist, Jean Dominique, is finally ready for trial. But a member of Haiti's parliament said that, with such a flawed trial dossier, ``Jean Dominique has been assassinated a second time.''

Thus, the actions undertaken so far by the government can hardly be expected to quell the opposition's legitimate fear, distrust and suspicion.

Aristide and his Lavalas regime are holding the Haitian people hostage by preventing them from having access to the international community's funds for economic development and political stability. The OAS and the international community must no longer tolerate that. The increased poverty, the further ecological deterioration, the ruined economy and the blatant attempt at ''constitutional dictatorship'' experienced by Haitians since 1990 must end.

Democracy requires institutions. The OAS and the international community must help Haiti create these institutions instead of tolerating a leader who claimed to have won the presidency in 2000. Aristide figured that if they had accepted that he had won the presidency in 1992, when that was patently false, why would they not accept his and his supporters' stealing a few legislative seats in 2000?

Like Hussein, Aristide has contributed to the suffering of his people, not by chemical weapons, but with thudding poverty, increased malnutrition, infant mortality, soil erosion, infectious diseases and violence. Haiti has suffered long enough. After nearly 200 years of undemocratic rule, nearly three decades of brutal dictatorship and 17 years of endless transition to democratic rule, the native and international will of a democratic Haiti must prevail and become a reality.

Jean Joseph Auguste, former city manager of Gretna, Fla., is a novelist. Reprinted from The Miami Herald of April 3, 2003.

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