------- Forwarded Message Follows ------- Date: Thu, 3 Jul 1997 06:05:43 -0700 (PDT) From: MichaelP <email@example.com> Subject: neo-liberal pressure on Haiti ?
Jean-Bertrand Aristide said threatening U.S. interests PORT-AU-PRINCE (July 2, 1997 6:50 p.m. EDT) -- A U.S. congressional report accuses former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of threatening U.S. interests in Haiti by thwarting U.S.-backed plans to reform the country's economy. Aristide continues to influence his hand-picked successor, President Rene Preval, and is undermining U.S. efforts to persuade the Haitian government to accept austerity measures in exchange for foreign aid, the report says. "We are forced to assume that Preval -- with no deep political base of his own -- will not challenge Aristide," says the bipartisan report, dated June 26 and obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. "The hour is late. If this crisis is not ameliorated, it poses a real threat to U.S. policy and interests and to the U.S. investment in Haiti," says the report prepared for the chairman and ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee. The United States staked its prestige on improving the situation in Haiti when it sent 20,000 troops there in 1994 to oust the military leaders who had overthrown Aristide. The United States then reluctantly restored Aristide to power, despite concern about his populist bent. Since then, Washington has tried to keep Haiti's fragile democracy on course and persuade its government to adopt the privatization plans and government cuts. The report was made available during a visit here by five Democratic congressmen who met with Aristide, Preval and several other Haitian politicians during three days of talks that ended Wednesday. Their visit was prompted by the report and by the June 9 resignation of Premier Rosny Smarth, who had been the main champion of the internationally backed austerity plan. After returning to Washington, the delegation spoke Wednesday of the delicate state of the Caribbean nation's young democracy and urged an increase in aid. "We're building a government from ground zero," said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. "We feel that it's urgent we move in with every resource we are able to spare and provide." But international aid comes with strings attached. Aristide had tacitly consented to the austerity plan in 1995 in return for international aid, but now opposes it, said Robert White, a former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador who joined the congressional delegation. "(Former) President Aristide has decided not to do what he promised to do," said White, who is currently director of the private Center for International Policy in Washington. The unimplemented program, which has placed on hold hundreds of millions dollars of aid from the United States and other sources, would lay off thousands of Haitian government workers and put nine inefficient state companies in private hands. The visiting legislators said they would report to President Clinton, who, along with Congress, must determine in the fall how much aid Haiti will receive in fiscal 1998. In 1995, the United States gave about $240 million and in 1997 about $100 million. Smarth resigned June 9 after Haitian legislators split over his economic program, a rift that deepened when Aristide formed a new party. Preval, who replaced Aristide in February 1996 after being nominated by the coalition that previously had supported Aristide, has been unable to win a consensus in Parliament to replace Smarth. Runoff elections that would decide who controls the Senate were indefinitely postponed last month after all parties except Aristide's announced a boycott, charging they were fixed to favor Aristide candidates. The April 6 first round of elections "were seriously flawed," the congressional report said, contradicting the Clinton administration's statement that the elections were free and fair.
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