President Clinton can take pride in the Haiti operation. Against the wishes of an America made leery by Somalia, the Administration accomplished what it set out to do: U.S. intervention ended a corrupt and illegal military rule, restored the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and stanched the flow of illegal immigrants to this country. That's not bad.
In addition, before getting bogged down there Clinton on Friday turned over the six-month-old operation to the United Nations, which will use 6,000 peacekeeping troops from 37 nations, including 2,500 Americans. Led by an American commander, the U.N. peacekeepers will oversee legislative elections in June and a presidential election in December, both crucial points for Haiti's fragile democracy.
However, if democracy is indeed to take root Aristide must see that his critics do not suffer the attacks and threats of the sort he and his supporters had to endure earlier. Quashing of dissent would only bring back violence and corruption--and lead to Aristide's downfall.
Political murders are part of Haiti's history. The latest victim is Mireille Durocher Bertin, an opposition figure and a critic of Aristide. Before she was murdered last week, her name was found on an assassination list that contained about 100 political names; the finger of suspicion points to Aristide's interior minister, Mondesir Beaubrun. The FBI will investigate, and if the accusations prove true, Aristide must remove Beaubrun to show that no one is above the law. Alas, so far Haiti's president seems inclined to protect his minister. Not surprisingly, frictions with Washington are surfacing.