Originally: Failing the Last Test: Aristide Misses an Ultimatum

What?s next after the Haitian government failed the last test to end the long running crisis that has sapped the energy of the Caribbean nation?

The ten-day ultimatum given to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide by a high level delegation of the Organization of American States and Caricom, the Caribbean Common Market, passed last Sunday. The changes that would have made possible the formation of an independent electoral commission weren?t enacted.Thus,no credible elections can be held, as the OAS urged in several resolutions over the past two years. If the government failed to deliver this time around, said Luigi Einaudi, the American who is assistant secretary general of the OAS,”the international community and many Haitians will be disappointed.” He added, “That means we will be in a different ballpark.”

The OAS Permanent Council met yesterday to figure out what game to play and in what “ballpark.”. The U.S.delegation was critical of the OAS handling of the Haiti crisis and suggested that the organization pulled out of that entanglement. The full debate on Haiti was adjourned to allow the delegates to contact their government for instructions. In 1994 when the OAS failed to broker an agreement with the Haitian military that to allow Mr. Aristide to return to power, it turned the dossier to the Security Council of the United Nations.With little discussion, a resolution approved a U.S.-led invasion of Haiti that was seized without a shot being fired.

Meanwhile the Haiti Democracy Project of James Morrell, a former adviser to Mr. Aristide, has formally recommended that article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter be invoked against the Haitian government. A meeting of the General Assembly should be convened to consider the suspension of Haiti as a member in good standing of the OAS. Moreover, the Permanent Council should “advocate the formation and support the efforts of a transitional administration in Haiti.”

Whatever the indecisive OAS chooses to do, in Haiti the citizens aren?t waiting for another meaningless resolution. The Group of 184 [organizations of civil society] issued a comprehensive statement on Monday accusing the government of “interfering with freedom of assembly and expression [and] failing to arrest the leaders of gangs responsible [for violence ] and to disband those gangs.” So-called changes in the Haitian National Police, said the group, were meant to “introduce outsiders whose credibility is seriously questioned at the highest level of the institution.” This is a reference to the new “police director,” Jean-Claude Jean-Baptiste, a crony of the president who has no police background, but whose past is tainted with murder and arson.

Other than Mr.Jean-Baptiste,the president?s photographer and one of his personal bodyguards have been named top police commanders. Instead of reforming the police, accused of drug running, human rights violations and corruption on a grand scale, Mr. Aristide has turned it into his personal tool.

Understandably, Mr. Aristide?s police can?t inspire confidence and the Group of 184 concludes that naming representatives to the 9-member electoral commission is out of the question. It reminds the OAS of its ultimatum to Aristide, who has ignored it. The opposition Convergence Democratique coalition of political parties supports the Group of 184, forging in the process a strong alliance against the regime.

It is obvious that a wider opposition is gaining ground, while the officials are losing credibility. Last weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) “tens of thousands” of citizens took to the streets in Cap Haitien, Haiti?s second largest city to call for the ouster of Mr. Aristide. On Monday, partisans of the regime, staging their own demonstration, numbered about 1,000, including some infamous thugs against whom arrest warrants have supposedly been issued. The pro-government demonstrators can be very dramatic, as happened at a demonstration in Port-au-Prince March 27. At a pro-government march led by Ben Dupuy, publisher of the Brooklyn-based weekly Haiti Progres, demonstrators stopped in front of the American Embassy to burn an effigy of President Bush wrapped in an American flag. Interestingly, this demonstration had full protection of the police, unlike several antigovernment protest marches that have been violently dispersed by pro-Aristide thugs.

Meanwhile, the government has been jolted by the declaration of a famous former supporter. MichPle Montas, the widow of eminent journalist Jean Dominique, gave a long interview to The New York Times (March 29) to denounce the Port-au-Prince regime and Mr. Aristide personally. She said Aristide “feels he can solve anything by throwing money at problems. [He] is so different from the man I once knew, the priest, the man of the people. Power is now the name of the game.”

Ms. Montas was reacting to the report of the third investigative judge in three years to be assigned to the case of the feisty journalist who was gunned down in broad daylight three years ago,together with the caretaker of the station, Jean-Claude Louissaint.

After having reportedly met with Mr. Aristide and his Minister of Justice, Judge Bernard St.-Vil “cleaned” the report of the prior judge, Claudy Gasssant, who is in exile in Florida. The name of Senator Dany Toussaint, a top official of Mr. Aristide?s Lavalas Family party, has been expunged from the report. Only six underlings, who are already in jail, have been indicted. And Ms. Montas told The New York Times, “We?ve had at least five people die in this case. One suspect was lynched, another disappeared. The judge is in exile in Miami. How can they say they cannot identify a brain behind this.Maybe the word brain is too strong.Maybe I should say money.

Now Ms. Montas has joined dozens of journalists in exile, but she asserts that while feeling “sadness and betrayal,” she remains a fighter. “I am fighting to get justice,” she told the Times reporter,”not just for Jean, but [for] the country we fought for.”

How can the OAS and the larger international community fold their arms while the best lights of Haiti are being snuffed one by one by a ruthless dictator who was installed in power by America?