March 18, 2000
U.N. mission leaves Haiti as it found it: mired in crisis

                   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Six years after U.S. troops landed in
                   Haiti hoping to shore up democracy and promote stability, the international
                   force that followed is leaving the island much as it was found: in a state of
                   political crisis, crushing poverty and deep uncertainty.

                   Long-delayed elections to replace the Parliament that President Rene Preval
                   dissolved a year ago have once again been postponed. A spate of attacks
                   on election offices have sharpened doubts about the ability of police to fight
                   increasing street violence. And many Haitians say they've lost all faith in the

                   The remnants of a U.N. force deployed in 1995 flew home this week,
                   leaving Haiti's security in the hands of local authorities -- which a recent U.S.
                   State Department report describe as "an immature force that is still grappling
                   with problems of corruption and human rights abusers," as well as narcotics
                   traffickers "at all levels of the force."

                   President Bill Clinton sent 20,000 American troops to Haiti in 1994 to oust
                   the country's military dictatorship after thousands of Haitians risked their
                   lives in rickety boats to flee the Caribbean island and reach U.S. shores.

                   The operation restored President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first
                   democratically elected leader since the founding of the Haitian republic in

                   The United States passed the peacekeeping baton to the United Nations in
                   1995. Three years later, the U.N. mission had been reduced mainly to a
                   training operation for Haiti's police force, which replaced the disbanded
                   army. Some U.S. troops continued a humanitarian mission, which shut down
                   in January.

                   A new U.N. mission takes over this week to help organize elections,
                   continue police training and coordinate international aid.

                   But the elections remain uncertain, and the police training has so far
                   produced a force that seems incapable of handling the escalating violence.

                   Preval, Aristide's hand-picked successor, first called for new elections in
                   January 1999, after he dissolved Parliament in a dispute with lawmakers
                   over 1997 polls that opponents say he rigged to pack the legislature with

                   Haiti's electoral council has rescheduled the vote for a second time. It's now
                   set for April 9 and May 21 -- but Preval has challenged the council's
                   authority to set new dates.

                   Opponents say Preval is a dictator, since there is no parliament and the
                   courts are notoriously corrupt. They charge he is delaying elections to ensure
                   that Parliament is not installed by June 12, as the constitution requires. If it is
                   not, Preval can choose to convene Parliament when -- and if -- he pleases,
                   and limit the issues it can address.

                   "It's obvious that ... the Haitian people's right to vote has been violated," said
                   the outgoing U.N. civilian mission director, Argentine jurist Rodolfo

                   Preval claims the delays are logistical, and insists the date is secondary to
                   assuring "serious" elections.

                   The premier that Preval appointed by decree, Jacques-Edouard Alexis, said
                   there would be only 3,500 officers to protect up to 12,000 voting stations in
                   the elections.

                   "If there are problems and we can't get a consensus on the problems, I
                   guarantee you the police won't be able to ensure order," he conceded

                   Haiti's continued instability has prompted nagging questions about whether
                   the international effort and expense have been worthwhile.

                   The latest U.N. mission, expected to last a year, will cost $24 million, but
                   the United Nations has only $9.7 million. The rest must come from voluntary
                   contributions. So far, only Canada has promised $3.5 million. U.S. officials
                   said the Clinton administration is working with Congress to make a timely

                   U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report last month that the
                   U.N. missions "have brought the people and the Haitian government the
                   stability that is necessary during a period of crisis."

                   But many Haitians say they no longer have confidence in their national

                   A November survey by U.S. officials who interviewed 1,502 Haitians
                   nationwide reported that 70 percent believed their country was "heading in
                   the wrong direction." Forty-seven percent said their family's financial
                   situation was worse than before the U.S. invasion, and 44 percent felt more

                   And 70 percent had given serious thought to leaving Haiti.

                   But for the first time since 90 percent of Haitians voted for Aristide in 1990,
                   millions are expressing the desire to vote -- a desire that does not bode well
                   for those in power. Preval was elected by less than 5 percent of voters.

                   By February, some 3 million voters had registered and more than 1 million
                   more were trying to register. But $1.2 million worth of registration materials
                   have been stolen, many of the 4,000 registration offices have not opened
                   and training has barely begun for electoral workers.

                    Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.