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This Is a Funny-Looking Deal : Haitian military may be taking U.N. negotiators for a ride

July 11, 1993

Last weekend's agreement between ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Gen. Raoul Cedras, who led the coup that ousted him in 1991, is not a strong platform from which to launch a restoration of democracy in that island nation.

That is not to say the accord, signed in New York after mediation by the United Nations, was not noteworthy. If it is successful it will mark the first time in history that a Latin American president is peacefully reinstated to power by the same military that ousted him. The problem is that there are too many loopholes in the pact, loopholes that leave intact a Haitian power structure that Aristide tried to change--and which turned against him as a result. That is troubling because Aristide not only has to worry about the thuggish military but a restive Haitian oligarchy that has never liked his outspoken advocacy on behalf of the desperately poor, a majority of Haiti's people.

There are, for example, no provisions in the accord guaranteeing Aristide's personal security. In a country where thousands have been killed or injured in political violence, safeguards for Aristide would be only prudent.

Gen. Cedras' promise to retire without setting a specific date is also disturbing. Some analysts fear Cedras will retire so close to the date set for Aristide's return, Oct. 30, that no meaningful reform of the army will be possible before he leaves.

The accord does not include punishment for those involved in the coup that ousted Aristide. In fact, it does not even provide for dismissal of the other members of the high command who helped Cedras plot Aristide's ouster.

About all the accord does, besides allow Aristide to return, is require the separation of Haiti's police from the armed forces. That will theoretically allow more civilian control of the police. But in exchange for that minimal concession, the accord lifts the international economic embargo that made the generals and the oligarchy come to the U.N. negotiations after holding out for almost two years. One hopes that U.N. diplomats did not give up their most potent weapon too soon.

There are already signs the accord might unravel. The latest obstacle was raised by a Haitian politician who insists that Aristide's restoration must be ratified by the Haitian Senate. That was not contemplated by U.N. mediators. So they must be prepared to stand firm in support of Aristide. So should Washington, which must make it clear that the $1-billion economic package put together by the Clinton Administration will not be forthcoming until genuine democracy is restored. And it might not hurt to at least alert Haiti's military hoodlums to the possibility that if they keep dragging their feet on restoring a popularly elected president, the alternative to U.S. aid could be the U.S. Marines.

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