Originally: Haiti-U.S. Intervention
By MICHAEL NORTON
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Sept 19 (AP) — When U.S. troops landed in Haiti nine
years ago Friday, Kesnel Wilson believed they would help his hapless
country recover from years of military-backed rule.
Today, he feels abandoned as he watches U.S. assistance dwindle and his
poverty-stricken country sink deeper into despair.
“The United States was right to intervene. But it was wrong to lead us
into believing it would help us rebuild our nation,” said Wilson, a
43-year-old carpenter in Haiti’s crumbling capital.
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide won a landslide victory in 1991 and
governed for seven months before the Haitian army ousted him in a bloody
coup. Three years later, 20,000 U.S. troops arrived on Sept. 19, restoring
Aristide to power and stemming a Haitian exodus.
A windfall of U.S. aid came with the intervention. But since Aristide’s
government has fallen out of favor with the United States, none of the aid
has been directed at development.
The relationship began to fray in 2000, when Aristide’s Lavalas Family
party swept flawed legislative elections. Since then, the government and
opposition have been deadlocked and the opposition has accused Aristide of
attempting to establish a one-man, one-party rule.
The opposition and civil groups refuse to sit on an electoral council
that will organize legislative elections this year until the government
disarms its partisans, ends judicial impunity and reforms the police
according to two resolutions from the Organization of American States.
Although opposed to demands that Aristide step down, the United States
has been increasingly critical of the government, saying it is dragging its
feet on implementing the OAS resolutions.
“All friendships go through changes,” Judith Trunzo, spokeswoman for the
U.S. Embassy in Haiti, said on Friday.
But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roger F. Noriega went a step
further last week.
“The U.S. intervention to return Aristide in 1994 has ended up a
complete failure, due to the Haitian leaders’ inability and lack of
willingness to move the country along a democratic path,” he said.
Aristide has blamed the country’s deteriorating economic and political
situation on international “political and economic terrorism.”
“Most Haitians believed there would be a change in the traditional U.S.
policy of supporting the minority against the majority,” said government
spokesman Mario Dupuy. “But the United States still supports the elite …,
imposing an unjust embargo on international aid and causing the political
crisis to drag on.”
Some $427 million in international aid poured into Haiti in 1995. It has
steadily dwindled since then, with the United States allocating some $70
million in humanitarian aid this year, and international lenders suspending
aid or grants to demand democratic reforms and stability.
Meanwhile, Haiti has plunged even deeper into poverty and unrest.
Most Haitians are jobless or unemployed and live on less than $1 a day.
Income is 40 percent lower than in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in
the hemisphere. Inflation is at 30 percent.
But it’s also a no-win situation for the United States.
Haitians either blame the United States for not providing enough support
or for failing to get rid of Aristide, whose government has been accused of
using violence to stem dissent.
“The United States has let us down,” said tailor Sauveur Pierre, 49,
once a fervent Aristide partisan. He hates the opposition, but his
disappointment is so great he has become apolitical.
This year he can only afford to send one of his three children to
school. Haitians often still risk their lives to take rickety boats bound
for better economic opportunities in the United States.
Wilson, meanwhile, says Haiti’s allies have vanished.
“I was sure the United States would help set the country back on its
feet,” he said. “But life is harder than ever.”