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Haiti Is Falling Short, Aristide Admits

March 31, 1995|KENNETH FREED | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said Thursday that he agrees that his government has failed to provide justice or jobs in Haiti and that these shortcomings are "absolutely" a threat to stability here.

"I welcome the concerns and share those comments" criticizing his government for failing to provide work or to arrest and punish criminals, he said. "I agree with them. They are right."

He made his comments in an interview with two U.S. reporters in his outer office while workmen nailed red, white and blue bunting to a nearby railing overlooking the platform where he will greet President Clinton today.

The interview and Clinton's trip come at a time when Haitians are increasingly clamoring for an end to a wave of crime and violence and blaming the U.S. troops here and the Aristide government for the lack of justice.

While saying the failures and criticisms of the government threaten stability, Aristide carefully, and with a slight smile, separated himself from the actions, or lack of actions, of his administration.

"While the government is losing weight with the people" because of their anger over crime and a lack of jobs, "the president is gaining popularity," he said, speaking of himself.

"I won with 65%," he said of his 1990 election, "but it (that popularity) is even higher now."

Aristide refused to directly criticize Clinton for not expanding the U.S. military mission here to include enforcing laws and creating jobs, saying that, overall, the U.S. intervention to restore his presidency and remove a military dictatorship "was a success."

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But as he leaned back in his white, overstuffed armchair and flashed a gold watch, Aristide observed that "clearly, the speed (of recovery) is slow, and I have asked the President to speed things up."

In other areas, he made these points:

* "Things are stable enough" for the United States to turn over responsibility for military and economic recovery to the United Nations today, "but we have to work to make things more stable."

* Creation of a free-market economy with privatization of key government enterprises "is my view and my position" and will remain government policy, despite strong opposition from inside and outside his Cabinet.

* He will talk and work with the Haitian business families, even if they supported the 1991 military coup that sent him into exile for three years and still oppose him, because their participation is crucial to economic growth and "because the president has to listen to them, all of them."

* U.S. military commanders did inform him of a plot against outspoken anti-Aristide opponent Mireille Durocher 10 days before she was murdered "and we did our best to prevent" the assassination. "But from my sources of information," he said, Interior Minister Mondesir Beaubrun was not involved, as alleged by U.S. military and diplomatic sources.

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