US role in Haiti comes under fire. Officials seek ways to avoid further anarchy
Washington — Washington policymakers and specialists are asking themselves what went wrong in Haiti and what the United States should do now. There will be plenty of finger pointing about what the US should have done to ensure that Sunday's elections were not disrupted. But the key question now, say US officials, congressional aides, and private specialists, is what the US can do to prevent more killing and anarchy in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation and to get democracy back on track. (Uncertainty and fear in Haiti, Page 32.)
Haiti specialists are uniformly grim and disappointed. They fear the population will go to the streets to protest Sunday's cancellation of elections by the ruling National Governing Council (CNG) and the unprovoked killings by supporters of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. Such mass risings helped force the departure of Mr. Duvalier in 1986.
If the populace rises, the scene will be set for bloody confrontations with the military and possible anarchy, officials and other specialists say. It was fear of anarchy that spurred the US military intervention in 1914 and resulted in a 20-year US military presence on the island. No one wants that again, a knowledgeable US official says, but the danger of chaos is there.
US officials who follow the situation are angry at the poor performance of the Haitian security forces and what some see as broken commitments by the CNG. This is reflected in Sunday's suspension of most undisbursed US aid to Haiti (about $40 million) and the recall of all military assistance personnel. Administration policymakers were huddling late Monday to decide on further ways to pressure a quick return to the democratic process and avoid further bloodshed.
US congressmen and others who have supported the democratization process reacted strongly. Walter Fauntroy (D), the nonvoting delegate who represents the District of Columbia, calls for international intervention to stop the killing. Concerned lawmakers conferred Monday about possible action.
Fritz Longchamp of the Washington Office on Haiti, a pro-democracy watch-group, and Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a liberal research group, say the US seriously misused its leverage over the past year. The key now, they say, is to send a strong message that the CNG will be ostracized internationally unless elections are held soon.
Critics such as Mr. Longchamp and Mr. Birns say suspension of US aid is not enough. One American who was in Haiti as an election observer says the aid cutoff means little to people willing to kill to prevent a vote.
Some US specialists have long argued that former allies of Duvalier in the CNG and military have sought an anarchic situation to avoid elections and justify a military intervention. The US had placed its bet on Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy to prevent such developments and see the elections through. Now US some officials have serious doubts about his ability to control the military.
Initial reports from the scene strongly suggest elements in the military cooperated with Duvalier supporters who disrupted the elections and spread terror, an informed official says. The military handled the Tonton Macoutes after Duvalier left, he says, so they should have been able to do so now.
The possible key link between the military and the renewed rightist terror group is retired Gen. Claude Reymond, a US official says. General Reymond, who headed the powerful National Palace Guards under the Duvaliers, was recently forbidden to run for president.
In retrospect, many in and out of the government now think the US should have been tougher with Haiti's ruling National Governing Council. Critics say the US was much too subtle in privately urging General Namphy to support the elections and misread consistent signs that the situation was deteriorating.
One key US official, however, says it was always an uphill struggle, fighting against 150 years of dictatorship, brutality, and poverty. This weekend's violence falls into an all too familiar pattern in Haiti, he says.