By DON BOHNING
Herald Staff Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- A provision approved almost unnoticed by Parliament
this year as part of a judicial reform law may force the withdrawal of nearly 400
U.S. troops remaining in Haiti and raises questions about the continued presence
of a U.N. civilian police advisory mission.
The law says the Haitian government is ``obligated to obtain the departure
foreign armed forces and will take all means necessary in order that there will be
no other armed forces on national territory parallel to the Haitian National Police.''
That would clearly apply to the U.S. Support Group Haiti, which includes
400 military personnel and 100 civilians. Its mission is to render humanitarian
assistance and to help provide a psychological security blanket as the new police
force gains experience.
Although less certain, the provision could also apply to the U.N.'s 284-member
Civilian Police Mission in Haiti, which includes an armed 140-member Argentine
police unit to provide security for the 144 civilian advisors to Haiti's National
``It's [the law is] clear for the U.S. Support Group, slightly fuzzy for
and highly fuzzy for the civilian police advisors,'' a foreign diplomat said.
It is unlikely the United Nations would maintain the police advisory mission
the Argentine police unit as security.
So far, President Rene Preval has made no move to enforce the legislation,
became effective Aug. 17. But the provision has become a topic of political debate
and radio commentary recently, and the discussion could grow more strident as
the date approaches for the U.N. Civilian Police Mission's mandate to expire at
the end of November.
Diplomats in Haiti think people linked to former President Jean-Bertrand
are the ones most likely to turn the matter into a nationalistic issue.
Yvon Neptune, a spokesman and Senate candidate for Aristide's Lavalas Family
party, was ambiguous on the subject in an interview, but did note that the
``government said the last [U.N.] mandate was the last one and in addition now
the law is there.''
Haiti's 1987 constitution also says that apart from Haiti's armed forces
``no other armed body may exist in the national territory'' -- a reflection of the
residue of resentment over the U.S. Marine occupation of Haiti from 1915 to
Even so, Preval is said to favor extending the U.N. mandate for another
retaining the U.S. Support Group in Haiti. Preval is reported to have made a
preliminary request for extension of the U.N. police mission, which needs Security
Council approval. China and Russia balked at extending the last mandate before
finally voting for it.
That is said to be one reason Preval met with China's U.N. ambassador when
visited Haiti last month, despite objections from Taiwan, a major aid donor that
has diplomatic relations with Haiti.
Preval discussed the presence of the U.S. Support Group with former Clinton
administration national security advisor Anthony Lake -- who has continued to
serve as the administration's Haiti troubleshooter -- when Lake visited Haiti in late
Sources said Preval told Lake he was in favor of the Support Group remaining
Haiti but had to have help in demonstrating that it was doing something for the
country in order to overcome the vocal minority who want it to leave.
Marine Col. Charles W. Morris, the U.S. Support Group's new commander,
noted in an interview that ``thus far the legislation has not been enforced and there
has been no immediate move to have us deploy back to the United States.''
If that were to happen, Morris said, ``it would be really unfortunate .
. . because of
the positive impact of our humanitarian and civic assistance operations.''
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