Haiti Archives 1995-1996
02/10/95 HAITI-U.N.: Officials See Rosy Future for Aristide Government by Farhan Haq

Copyright 1995 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 2 (IPS) — Haiti is as secure as it has ever been following the near-completion of parliamentary elections, the top U.N. official in that country says.

Lakhdar Brahimi, the special U.N. envoy to Haiti, said here Monday that the security situation in Haiti has improved dramatically since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was restored to power by a U.S.-led force one year ago.

Despite concern that the political situation remains tense — particularly since a pro-Aristide party took nearly all National Assembly seats when election results were declared last week — the envoy stressed that Haiti remains largely calm. Discontent is ‘’nothing terrible, for the moment, anyway,’’ he said.

‘’The situation has improved immensely’’ in human rights especially, Brahimi told reporters at the United Nations. ‘’No fair-minded person can compare what takes place now with what happened before,’’ during Haiti’s 1991-94 military regime.

‘’Definitely, progress is being made, the security situation is improving and … the people feel more secure,’’ he added.

Brahimi asserted that there are no major threats destabilising the Aristide government or threatening a repeat of the 1991 coup in which the president was ousted and exiled for three years. Nor is any breakdown expected after the U.N. Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) departs the country next February, he said.

Brahimi’s optimism is shared by members and supporters of the Aristide government, as well.

‘’I think the situation in Haiti is very secure,’’ Ira Kurzban, general counsel to the Aristide government, told IPS. ‘’If I were a businessman in Haiti, I would invest as fast as I can at this point.’’

Some businessmen have already taken up that offer. ‘’A lot of the investors who left the country in the last few years have decided to come back,’’ said Jocelyn McCalla, executive director of the U.S.-based National Coalition for Haitian Refugees (NCHR).

McCalla told IPS that roughly half the factories in Haiti have re-opened or are re-opening after months in which they had been shut down by the international embargo against the military regime or by businessmen fearful ÀR(ÆZ.]Z≤Y”.$ÆY]]π∑. But investors and other elite Haitian groups have been wooed actively by the returned president, he noted.

Nevertheless, a number of concerns remain that groups left out by Aristide’s regained dominance over Haitian politics could cause trouble. Those fears intensified after the pro-Aristide Lavalas Political Party (PPL) swept run-off elections boycotted by the political opposition.

The results, officially declared last week, gave the PPL majorities in both houses of the National Assembly. Lavalas took 66 seats in the lower Chamber of Deputies, with 13 going to the opposition and four still undecided because of voting irregularities. The party also won 17 of 20 seats in Haiti’s Senate.

Brahimi acknowledged that opposition parties continue to ‘’cry foul’’ at the elections. But he added that, according to the popular perception of the priest-politician Aristide, Lavalas was expected to win the support of 80 percent of Haitians anyway.

The U.S. Congress has threatened to cut off aid to Haiti if elections scheduled for late this year are not conducted fairly. Other officials, including some in UNMIH, have also warned that any ‘’populist’’ measures by Aristide or the PPL could spark renewed tensions with the nation’s economic elite.

A confidential memo sent last month by Maj. John Shissler, Chief MIlitary Information Officer, to the mission’s chief, Maj. Gen. Joseph Kinzer, warned that instability could result if Aristide opted for populism rather than ‘’pragmatic’’ policies favoured by the elite.

But McCalla downplayed the significance of the memo as simply analysis by an individual expert, rather than any encouragement by UNMIH to prod Aristide politically. ‘’I am one who does not believe in conspiracy,’’ he said.

At any rate, Brahimi argued, Aristide and the elite — the main supporters of Gen. Raoul Cedras’s 1991-94 junta — have had at least a partial rapprochement.

‘’Quite a few of them (the elite) now have an ongoing dialogue with the government and with President Aristide,’’ Brahimi said. ‘’I don’t think their attitude with the government is as shy as it used to be.’’

‘’Aristide, in particular, has sought to have a dialogue with the wealthiest elements on a regular basis,’’ McCalla agreed. ‘’The elite has its interests served best by Aristide, in fact.’’

The Haitian government has stuck by its commitment to privatise several major Haitian companies, including its electrical power utility. Kurzban conceded that the privatisations have led to disturbances — including small riots last month — but added, ‘’I don’t think it threatens the stability of the state.’’

There remain some genuine threats, McCalla argued. ‘’We’re concerned by the tendency of the police forces to use excessive force when they’re making arrests,’’ he said. ‘’The justice system is completely inadequate.’’

Brahimi admitted the new National Police needs training ‘’on the job.’’ He said that the U.N. peacekeepers will continue to provide that training for the remaining five months of their mandate, before the hand the nation’s security to those police for good. (END/IPS/FAH/JL/95)

Origin: Washington/HAITI-U.N./ ----

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