The Multinational Monitor



Haiti Betrayed

The Clinton Administration's policy toward Haiti a brazen betrayal of Candidate Clinton's campaign pledges.

Candidate Clinton promised to work hard to restore democracv in Haiti. On May 27, 1992, he declared, "The [Haitian] military regime must be made to understand that it cannot successfully oppose the restoration of democracy simply by waiting. I urge the administration to redouble its eflorts, with the OAS, to tighten the embargo and to insist that our European allies observe it, particularly with regard to oil." And in September, just prior to his election, Clinton reiterated, "the best solution to the crisis in Haiti is the restoration of democracy. We should continue to work with the Organization of American States and our allies in the hemisphere toward that end."

Candidate Clinton also repeatedly denounced the Bush administration's policy of returning to Haiti those Haitians who were fleeing the brutal military regime that has governed that country since the overthrow of democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. On May 27, Candidate Clinton said, "I am appalled by the decision of the Bush administration to pick up fleeing Haitians on the high seas and forcibly return them to Haiti before considering their claim to political asylum."

As president, however, Clinton's Haiti policy has been indistinguishable from the cynical, immoral and misguided approach of the Bush administration.

President Clinton quickly reneged on his promise to open U.S. doors to Haitian refugees fleeing political persecution in Haiti, instead continuing the Bush policy of intercepting refugees' boats on the high seas and forcibly and illegally repatriating the refugees to Haiti without even providing them with a hearing on their request for political asylum.

President Clinton has also backtracked on his pledge to get tough with Haiti's illegal military regime. While President Aristide and popular sector leaders in Haiti have pleaded to have the embargo tightened, Clinton has continued to allow U.S. companies to conduct business with assembly plants in Haiti, and the Clinton State Department has pressured President Aristide to make an endless series of compromises in the name of diplomatic negotiation, while demanding very little from the current illegitimate rulers of Haiti.

Even where there were opportunities for progress, Clinton has failed to capitalize on them. In July 1993, Aristide and the Haitian military signed the Governors' Island Accord, which would have returned Aristide to power in October of that year. Lieut. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the commander of the Haitian military, refused to step down as scheduled, however, and Clinton allowed the agreement to fall apart. Instead of attempting to bring pressure on the military to observe the agreement, the Clinton administration just stood by and watched. U.S. troops that had been sent to pave the way for Aristide's restoration were symbolically repelled by a small, violent protest organized by the Haitian military.

President Clinton's overlooking of human rights abuses is particularly disturbing given his tolerance of a virulently anti-Aristide element within the U.S. foreign policy bureaucracy which has slandered Aristide, and supported anti-Aristide organizations inside Haiti.

The Clinton policy has had horrific - and entirely foreseeable - effects, as the Haitian regime has intensified its repression of all opposition figures in Haiti. Since the Haitian military reneged on the Governors' Island Accord, U.N. human rights liaison Marco Tulio Bruno Celli reports that arbitrary arrests, torture and executions have continued unabated and repression in rural areas and urban slums has intensified.

Americas Watch reports that the number of political killings and suspicious murders rose from five in June 1993 to a peak of over 80 in October 1993 (coinciding with the failure of the Governors' Island Accord), before falling slightly to over 70 in February 1994. The organization reports that "the [Clinton] administration alternatively ignored or downplayed human rights, despite the obvious deterioration in the human rights situation."

The Haitian regime has particularly targeted refugees repatri-ated by the United States. Upon their return to Haiti, repatriated refugees are fingerprinted by the military, and often harassed and detained.

Since President Clinton's inauguration, U.S. leverage over Haiti has diminished; hearing sporadic tough talk but seeing no action, Haiti's military leaders no longer feel threatened by U.S. posturing.

But that could change; President Clinton still has an opportunity to make good on Candidate Clinton's promises to take steps to end the bloodshed in Haiti and return the overwhelmingly popular Aristide to power.

First, Clinton should immediately close the loopholes in the trade embargo. U.S. firms doing business with Haitian assembly factories are channeling money to the elite, making it possible for them to withstand the embargo. Oil shipped to Haiti for so-called "humanitarian purposes" primarily benefits the military regime.

Second, the Clinton administration should pressure the Dominican Republic, over which it exerts enormous influence, to shut its border with Haiti to trade, especially oil, This trade is widely thought to be controlled by Haiti's military, and directly benefits them,

Third, Clinton should block all commercial flights from Haiti and freeze the visas of family members of top Haitian military officers. This action would limit the coup leaders' mobility, especially to their favorite haven of Miami, and force them to feel the bite of the sanctions.

Following this course of action could help bring a relatively swift restoration of democracy to Haiti, end the terror that the ancien regime is inflicting upon the Haitian population and allow the Haitian people the opportunity to regain control over their country and begin to address the economic and social disasters which plague their land.

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