Originally: Post-Aristide Haiti Seeks Stability

April 22, 2004

BOB EDWARDS, host: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I’m Bob Edwards.

Since Haiti’s president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was driven into exile nearly two months ago, the interim government has been trying to create political and economic stability at home and gain recognition abroad. Newsday reporter Michael Deibert is in Haiti and says a lot of areas have calmed since the bloody rebellion but many problems remain.

Mr. MICHAEL DEIBERT (Newsday): Some semblance of normality is returning to the cities. I mean, there’s quite a larger presence of the PNH, the national police, here than there used to be. About the biggest complaint I think a lot of people have right now is the electric situation which has always been spotty, but recently has been particularly bad.

EDWARDS: Is the new government gaining stability?

Mr. DEIBERT: Well, I mean, there’s more stability than there was before the fall of Aristide in the sense of, you know, for the few weeks prior to his departure the cities were pretty much–especially Port-au-Prince, were in the hands of these armed government gangs that were just routing motorists at will and kind of running amok. And now that is not the case so much anymore. A lot of those gangs …(unintelligible) have gone underground. And, you know, you don’t have anymore rebel army marching across the north, taking over towns and whatnot. So there’s a little bit more of an ebb and flow of daily life.

I think one of the things really confronting the government that they have to deal with, though, is the fact that, number one, they’re broke. There’s very little money that was left in the coffers. And, number two, the institutions of the Haitian government, the judiciary, the police, things like that, have been so weakened over the last couple of years that they have a lot of work cut out for them in order to make them effective and to give people faith in them again, I think.

EDWARDS: Is the government getting international support?

Mr. DEIBERT: So far, there’s been quite a bit of money pledged by the United States and by France. But from what I hear in terms of, you know, France and the US going out with the cop-out kind of asking for money, some countries haven’t been that receptive as people would think they were. I mean, I don’t know whether it’s just a donor fatigue with regards to, you know, Iraq and Afghanistan already calling the blood of money or if there’s still some, you know, skepticism about the method or the circumstances of Aristide’s departure.

EDWARDS: Is the new government prosecuting members of Aristide’s administration?

Mr. DEIBERT: Well, so far, they’ve arrested several people. In one, the most high-level senior-ranking member of the Aristide government arrested was the former minister of the interior, Jocelerme Privert, who was arrested basically for complicity of what many people are calling a massacre that occurred in a central town called St. Marc after it was recaptured from the rebels right before the fall of Aristide.

EDWARDS: What do the Haitians want to see happen with Aristide?

Mr. DEIBERT: Well, you know, I think there’s a mix of opinions. I mean, I think a lot of people to some degree have a feeling that that chapter of Haiti is now closed and so they’re kind of more interested in moving on, dealing with the issues of right now, the present day. There are some more hard-core opposition folks who say that he should be tried. You know, there are some supporters of Aristide who say that he should be allowed to return to the country, but I think generally in some ways, Aristide is not exactly the thing that’s in the forefront of people’s minds right at this second.

EDWARDS: You mentioned problems with electricity. What about the other basic amenities, water, food and the like?

Mr. DEIBERT: Well, you know, now that the country isn’t cut in half by this armed rebellion anymore, I think food aid is getting to people in more remote areas like the north of the country, for instance, a lot easier. The markets are operating pretty much as normal in towns outside of Port-au-Prince and in Port-au-Prince itself. As I said, the amenities in terms of water and electricity have always been kind of spotty in Haiti at least since about 1986, but, you know, I think things–I mean, hopefully, the government will get its act together and the levels of those will start increasing.

EDWARDS: Newsday reporter Michael Deibert in Haiti.