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
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
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
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
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,"
the outgoing U.N. civilian mission director, Argentine jurist Rodolfo
Preval claims the delays are logistical, and insists the date is secondary
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
"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,
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
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.