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Military Poses Obstacle to Haiti Stability : Caribbean: Malval faces daunting task on reforms. U.N., U.S. aides arrive to lend support.

September 01, 1993|KENNETH FREED | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The celebration of becoming Haiti's first legitimate prime minister in nearly two years already a dimming memory, Robert Malval returned home Tuesday to confront the reality of one potentially devastating obstacle to the re-establishment of democracy here--the retrograde military.

Barely 24 hours after taking his oath of office in an emotional ceremony at the Haitian Embassy in Washington, Malval began meetings with ranking U.S. and U.N. officials here on ways of subduing and reforming the army and police force.

In the first of what promises to be a series of trips here, Lawrence Pezzullo, President Clinton's special adviser on Haiti, and Dante Caputo, the United Nations' leading Haiti expert, arrived for two days of talks with Malval and other Haitian leaders, including army chief Raoul Cedras.

The arrival of the two diplomats in tandem with Malval was designed to impress on Cedras that he and the other military leaders who overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide 23 months ago would not be allowed to weaken an agreement permitting the exiled president's return Oct. 30.

Among the crucial elements of the accord, signed July 3 in New York, are requirements that Cedras step down by mid-October and that the 7,000-member military and police forces separate. The forces must also agree to revamping and retraining and accept genuine civilian control.

Pezzullo and Caputo brought with them a U.S. army colonel and a Canadian police official to begin the military-police reformation process.

The first step calls for the cleansing of the most offensive members of the police force, which is better-known for its corruption and brutality than for keeping law and order.

Each police unit will be assigned a handful of trainers--likely three or four foreign police officers--from French-speaking nations, including Canada. Initially, the training will take place in Port-au-Prince, but it will continue when the foreign trainers accompany the police to their home bases.

The U.N. Security Council on Monday discussed immediately sending 30 police technicians to prepare the program. All told, there will be 657 foreign trainers.

In an effort to offset concerns about the presence of an occupying foreign armed force, the trainers will carry only side arms. They will be prohibited from any intervention in the actual activities of the Haitian police.

Nevertheless, opposition politicians and government employees are already throwing up dust. Slogans painted by local officials have shown up on walls in the southern city of Jacmel condemning the new government for permitting foreign intervention.

Along with the police training program, a U.S. military advisory group of about 50 soldiers will be brought in to retrain what remains of the army. The aim is to eliminate the extensive human rights violations that mark military behavior and turn the troops into border protectors and road builders.

In return, the United States has promised up to $50 million for new equipment, improved living conditions, job training for dismissed soldiers and other benefits to induce the military to cooperate.

Cedras, who has been promised amnesty for his part in the September, 1991, coup and the bloody repression by his forces in the months since, has pledged to carry out the agreement. But there remains real concern among diplomats and Malval's new government about both the general's sincerity and his ability to hold the rest of the army in line.

Since July 3, according to international human rights observers here, the military has participated or acquiesced in daily killings and continued repression of political activities, particularly in the isolated countryside, and in general intimidation of the population.

The military police problem, although the most important at the outset, is not the only headache for Malval on his return. He must also find a way of governing at the most elementary level with a bulging, inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy of 45,000 people.

Although Malval and his officials have promised to keep public employees "who do real work," many fear for their jobs and have threatened to sabotage his government.

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