The Miami Herald
January 9, 2002

 OAS seeks to end crisis in Haiti


 PORT-AU-PRINCE -- U.S. and Latin American diplomats, increasingly worried over the erosion of civil government in Haiti, are exploring ways to pressure President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to negotiate an end to the country's deepening political crisis before it worsens.

 According to diplomatic sources, the Organization of American States is studying the possibility of invoking a provision that would require Haiti to allow international
 mediators to negotiate a truce between the government and its critics.

 The continuing dispute between Aristide and his political opponents has led to an increasingly violent confrontation between the two sides and has kept Haiti isolated on the international front, freezing badly required financial aid from abroad.

 The effort comes less than a month after a Dec. 17 attack on the National Palace that the Aristide government branded as a failed coup d'etat, an event that set off a
 series of attacks on the government's political opponents.

 Property and homes belonging to members of a 15-party alliance known as Democratic Convergence were specifically targeted by mobs whose members described
 themselves as Aristide supporters.

 The rampage claimed at least 10 lives.

 ``The events of Dec. 17 demonstrated a failure of the Haitian government to protect its people from mob violence,'' said a U.S. State Department official who spoke by telephone on the condition of not being named.

 According to the official, ``A number of countries have considered the Inter-American Democratic Charter [of the Organization of American States] as a viable way to move forward and get negotiations between the government and the opposition sectors back on track.''

 On Tuesday, during a closed-door meeting of representatives from various governments and the OAS in Washington, participants discussed the application of the
 Inter-American Democratic Charter adopted last year at the OAS summit in Peru.

 If the provision is applied, the action would signal a tighter squeeze on a government that has become increasingly troublesome since Aristide took office in February of last year.

 Aristide and his Lavalas Family party have been at a stalemate with political opponents over alleged irregularities in last year's legislative elections.

 Though the OAS has actively pursued efforts to broker a resolution to the electoral crisis, this is the first time a more hands-on approach is being contemplated.

 The change in attitude comes as a result of violence that erupted after the Dec. 17 attack at the National Palace, according to diplomatic sources.

 The meeting in Washington included representatives of the United States, Canada, European and Latin American nations, as well as Raymond Valcin, Haiti's ambassador to the OAS.

 The objective, according to sources familiar with the talks: ``strengthening democratic institutions'' in Haiti.

                                    © 2002