Originally: Three former U.S. diplomats arrive in Haiti to assess security situation ahead of elections

February 18, 2004. Three former U.S. diplomats arrived in Haiti on Thursday to evaluate security conditions ahead of the country’s first elections since last year’s ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Former U.S. Ambassadors to Haiti Timothy Carney and Ernest Preeg were scheduled to meet with interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue after arriving in Port-au-Prince Thursday evening, said Arielle Jean-Baptiste, of the Haiti Democracy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that is organizing the trip.

Former special U.S. envoy to Haiti Lawrence Pezzullo is also participating in the six-day visit, which will include meetings with members of Aristide’s Lavalas Family Party and leaders of the 7,400-member U.N. peacekeeping force patrolling Haiti.

The delegation will try to determine whether the climate exists for safe, credible elections scheduled for later this year, Jean-Baptiste said. It will submit a report on its findings to the U.S. Congress in March.

The interim government has pledged to hold national elections in November but has struggled with mounting tensions since Aristide fled the country Feb. 29 after a three-week uprising led by former army soldiers.

More than 250 people _ including 24 police officers _ have died in clashes in the capital since September, when Aristide supporters stepped up protests to demand his return from exile in South Africa.

His supporters say they won’t participate in elections unless interim officials stop what they call the arbitrary arrest and detention of Aristide loyalists, including former Prime Minister Yvon Neptune.

Preeg was U.S. ambassador to Haiti in the early 1980s, before a popular uprising ended the 29-year dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Carney served in the same post in the late 1990s, while Pezzullo was former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s special U.S. envoy in 1993-94, after Aristide’s ouster by the army in a bloody 1991 coup.

Clinton sent 20,000 U.S. troops to Haiti in September 1994, restoring Aristide to power.