Aristide pledges opening to opposition
Concessions could regain aid for Haiti
BY YVES COLON
In response to U.S. and international criticism, Haitian President-elect
Jean-Bertrand Aristide has agreed to a series of steps that could mend tattered
relations between the United States and Haiti and restore the international aid
Aristide desperately needs to carry out a successful presidency.
During meetings last week with President Clinton's envoys to Haiti,
committed to fix the May 21 elections through runoffs for 10 disputed Senate
seats and to create a credible electoral council.
Both the United States and the international community had urged
his Lavalas Family party to agree to new legislative elections and an independent
electoral commission, as opposition parties had demanded.
Aristide's concessions, announced Thursday by the White House,
any promises from the United States, U.S. officials said.
``What we made clear to President Aristide is that he needs to
relationship with the international community and to recognize that these steps
are fundamental to building confidence,'' said Don Steinberg, the State
Department's special Haiti coordinator and one of three envoys who brokered the
deal with Aristide after months of negotiations.
``I think he understands that the success of his presidency depends
cooperation of the Haitian people, and the international community.''
Although these concessions may satisfy external criticism, there
indication Thursday that Haiti's opposition may find them unacceptable.
``These so-called concessions are warmed-over ideas the opposition
accept,'' said Gerard Pierre Charles, a leader of the opposition movement. ``The
process was rotten, with an illegal electoral commission at the service of Aristide.
``For me, these are not concessions, just accommodations that
will allow Aristide
to stay in power. Now that the food has been cooked, he's proposing this and
they're asking us to accept a fait accompli.''
Both the May 21 and Nov. 26 elections should be redone completely,
provisional government to run the country until the results are made public,
Among Aristide's other concessions:
He pledged to enhance drug enforcement cooperation that
would allow U.S.
Coast Guard ships chasing drug boats to enter Haitian waters and to work with
Haitian police to stop the flow of those drugs across the border into the
He agreed to professionalize the police and the judiciary
and to ``ensure that
there is no interference in the professional work of the Haitian police by members
of parliament,'' Steinberg said.
He agreed to strengthen democratic institutions with a
commission of the Organization of American States and through international
monitoring of human rights.
Aristide has come under strong criticism in the United States.
Earlier this month,
three influential Republican congressmen called his election a sham and
demanded that the United States make it clear that he will not be welcome at an
April 2001 summit of the hemisphere's democratically elected leaders in Canada.
``The United States must now deal with Haiti for what it has become,''
declared in a joint statement by Sen. Jesse Helms, R.-N.C., chairman of the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Rep. Benjamin Gilman, R.-N.Y., chairman
of the House International Relations Committee, and Rep. Porter Goss, R.-Fla.,
chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
``Narco-traffickers, criminals and other antidemocratic elements
Jean-Bertrand Aristide should feel the full weight of U.S. law enforcement,'' the
statement said. ``Their U.S. visas must be denied or stripped from them, their
green-card status reviewed to ensure compliance with the requirements of that
status and their ill-gotten assets frozen.''
The statement also called for an end to ``all direct support for
government . . . as provided under current U.S. law'' and a ``comprehensive,
bottom-up review of U.S. policy toward Haiti,'' which they called long overdue.
Aristide's proposals may be anticipating a more antagonistic relationship
administration of President-elect George W. Bush, according to Charles.
Haitian officials may also be courting the international community
are trying to access as much as $600 million in loans and grants held up by
financial institutions until what they deem a legitimate parliament takes office.
That would be accomplished through the run-off for the 10 contested Senate
Aristide is unquestionably his nation's most popular politician,
month's presidential elections with 92 percent of the vote. The opposition
coalition, however, boycotted the contest, saying members of the electoral
council were not independent. They also wanted new legislative elections to
replace those held in May, won by huge margins by candidates of Aristide's
Aristide takes office Feb. 7 for a five-year term.
In response to Aristide's concessions, the White House said that
if they are
implemented, they ``can mark a new beginning for Haiti's democratic future.''
Steinberg explained that there is no deadline for Aristide to
concessions. However, he said, the bottom line is that if Aristide does what he
says he plans to do, the relationship between Haiti and the United States will
In addition to Steinberg, the group included Anthony Lake, the
security advisor who has maintained a good relationship with Aristide since
Aristide's exile in Washington, and Caryn Hollis of the National Security Council.