WASHINGTON — AS efforts to reinstate ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide move into a fifth month, there is growing recognition that restoring his presidency is only the beginning of a long-term international commitment to protecting Haiti's democratic process.
Repeatedly stalled talks between feuding political factions underscore the fact that a democratically elected president does not ensure success of Haiti's democratic process, diplomats say.
"The worst failure would be if we get a negotiated political settlement and then the international community walks away and washes its hands," says Luigi Einaudi, the United States ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS).
But that negotiated settlement is only incrementally closer than it was when the Roman Catholic priest-turned-populist-politician was overthrown in a military coup Sept. 30 after serving just nine months as the first freely elected president in Haitian history.
Since then, OAS members have launched a trade embargo against the Caribbean nation and shuttled a negotiating team between the exiled Mr. Aristide and politicians back in Haiti.
And last week, after finding that Haiti was receiving oil from European nations not party to the embargo, the OAS created a special committee to monitor compliance with the trade ban.
OAS negotiations are aimed at reaching agreement between Aristide and the opposition-led parliament on a new prime minister who can be the caretaker of government until it is safe for Aristide to return. But it has taken five months for discussions to settle on a single candidate. Aristide's choice for prime minister, Communist Party leader Rene Theodore, is lobbying for confirmation in the divided parliament. No-show parliamentarians
But the latest round of negotiations - scheduled here last week between Aristide, Mr. Theodore, and parliamentary leaders - failed to materialize when the parliamentarians didn't show up.
Meanwhile, Aristide declared that Haiti's crisis could not be solved unless there is an overhaul of the Haitian military - including the jailing or exile of Army chief Gen. Raoul Cedras. Observers say that Aristide apparently believes the sooner General Cedras is out of the way, the sooner the exiled president can return to power. But Aristide's comment has created a "major obstacle" to the negotiations, says a diplomat involved in the OAS talks. Role of the OAS
The diplomat, who asked not to be named, explains that the timing of Aristide's return and Cedras's departure is a "burning issue" that can be addressed only after certain other steps are taken.
"There are several issues of import to resolve that would fall into place and attenuate the situation" if confidence could be placed in a prime minister as a caretaker, explains the diplomat. For example, the OAS team expects to help negotiate the composition of the Cabinet, the new administration's policies, the role of the president in relation to the prime minister, and the lifting of the embargo as conditions are met, the diplomat says.
Negotiations over Theodore's nomination as prime minister are expected to be back on track within the week, the diplomat adds.
Beyond that, the OAS resolution calls for a civilian team to stay in Haiti after restoration of democratic rule to strengthen democratic institutions.