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Date: Sat, 17 Dec 1994 21:25:08 -0800

From: Arthur R. McGee (amcgee@NETCOM.COM)
Subject: Haiti Info v.3, #6 ARISTIDE TRAPPED
To: Multiple recipients of list AGE-L (AGE-L@uga.cc.uga.edu)

Aristide more trapped than ever

Although he's following U.S./elite dictates, he's trying to preserve space

From Haiti Info, Vol. 3, no. 6, 16 December 1994

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec. 16 - The actions taken by President Jean- Bertrand Aristide and his government over the past few weeks illustrate more vividly than ever the extent to which he is trapped in a cage he helped construct.

Recent decrees, agreements with the World Bank, overtures to the private sector, calls to the public to help the government find justice and the shuffling of de facto personnel are evidence that, as the U.S. and its allies here continue to restrict his movements, Aristide is attempting to create space for himself. Despite his efforts, however, he has less and less margin of maneuver.

Currying a Neoliberal Favor

Aristide is following the dictates of the U.S. and the private sector to the very note. Today he returned from his second visit to Miami this week: a conference of Caribbean Latin American Action (CLAA), a business lobbying group which pushes assembly industries. Just Monday, the president got back from the Americas Summit.

Both meetings were dominated by a pro-business, pro-U.S. tone, and at the summit, Aristide's promise to follow strict neoliberal policies was touted by the U.S. as a model. The U.S. has good reason to see him as such. Like all the other leaders (except Fidel Castro, who was not invited), he signed a declaration pledging to make the hemisphere a free trade zone by 2005. In addition, today Leslie Delatour, champion of neoliberalism, was appointed governor of the Central Bank and last week, Le Nouvelliste reported that Haiti signed on with the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank division which helps sell off their public institutions.

Is Justice in the Cards?

In the realm of justice, Aristide appears to be trying to preserve some space. At a mass on Monday, he spoke about justice for practically the first time, pleading people to bring your complaints to the Justice Ministry and promising to supply them with lawyers.

However, Aristide still has not announced any government-sponsored investigations or openly supported the proposed truth commission. (The word is that the U.S. government is pressuring the justice ministry to stall the commission.) In feeble reform moves, last week the old supreme court was replaced with a new one, but with judges from the same corrupt system, and some army officers, including those associated with the coup, have been shifted around, but so far only about 30 have been retired.

Another touchy issue between Aristide and the occupiers is disarmament. Aristide has begged the U.S. to take guns away from the paramilitary forces. That makes no sense, however, since the main terrorist group, FRAPH (Front pour l'Avancement et le Progres Haitien) was built up and organized by a CIA asset, and the chief repressive force, the army, was trained and armed by the U.S. Now the government is saying the new Haitian army will do the disarmament - but that is being trained by the very same masters: U.S. soldiers and police officers.

Understanding the Elections Game

A shift in Washington and the recent visit by three high-ranking U.S. officials (Strobe Talbott, John Deutch, Sandy Berger) appears to have brought about a change in election plans. Instead of organizing a permanent electoral council as planned, on Dec. 8 Aristide decreed a provisional one should be arranged by Dec. 14. As of today, many of the nine members were still unnamed.

The speed-up in the schedule may be due to pressure expected from the new Republican Congress which is threatening to pull the plug on Clinton's Haiti plans. It is said to oppose the occupation, all forms of aid and is dominated by enemies of Aristide. (The change could benefit the democratic movement, since it gives U.S. dollars less time to co-opt and influence.)


The construct of Aristide's cage is clearer than ever, and, as might have been predicted, the U.S. has once again managed to keep most cards in its hands. The president is at an impasse, and now he, and even the U.N. - which has repeatedly called for disarmament, for example - have to resort to exploiting the decreasing remaining space and to relying on the good will of the occupiers.