UN Embargo Takes Its Toll on Haitians
Talks continue on terms posed by parliament deputies, but lives continue to be threatened
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — GAS is only available on the black market for at least double its regular price. Transportation fares to leave the capital have increased three and four-fold.
Other repercussions from a fuel shortage could be felt as soon as next week. The city's fuel-dependent pumps for water distribution could stop. The state phone company could shut down. Blackouts have already reached 16 hours per day in some areas.
A United Nations arms and petroleum embargo against Haiti went into effect Oct. 18, because the military leader failed to step down in accordance with the UN-brokered Governor's Island Accord. Prices shot up - not for economic reasons, but for fear of the future. As it becomes increasingly clear that exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide will not be able to return here Oct. 30, as scheduled, people are painfully aware of their limited resources.
The UN Security Council is expected to vote shortly on extending its embargo to mandatory commercial sanctions, excluding humanitarian aid. Aristide is expected to address the UN General Assembly Oct. 28.
Besides the hardship resulting from the embargo, Haitians live in an uncontrolled environment of terror. Automatic weapons peal throughout the evening. Bodies are routinely dumped on the side of the street in the early morning, alongside the garbage. Neither one is picked up by the state. On the morning of Oct. 26 alone, seven bodies were found in the capital's streets.
Explaining why a multinational naval blockade deployed to enforce the embargo has moved in closer than the three-nautical-mile limit, United States Embassy spokesman Stanley Schrager said it was ``to send the message that we're out there and intend to stay out there until this is brought to a successful conclusion.'' Leaders meet
Haiti's military leader, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, and Prime Minister Robert Malval met on Oct. 26 for the third time in less than a week to discuss the crisis. Neither party has made any public statement.
The prime minister canceled his trip to New York Oct. 26 to meet with Aristide because negotiations are at a crucial stage.
Aides indicate that discussion has revolved around a proposal by 30 anti-Aristide parliamentarians, who call themselves the ``Crisis Committee,'' to steer negotiations back on course.
This Crisis Committee plan calls for General Cedras' retirement after parliament votes, immediately, on the separation of the police from the military, and then votes an amnesty decree granted by Fr. Aristide earlier this month into law.
Pro-Aristide representatives from both the Upper and Lower House are afraid to come out of hiding to vote. At least four Senators fled the country and are unwilling to come back until there is some guarantee for their security. Violence continues
Armed thugs gunned down Justice Minister Guy Malary Oct. 14. And last week two more pro-Aristide deputies went into hiding after receiving death threats. The US has sent seven armored cars for government officials to help with security.
Anti-Aristide parliamentarians say the only way they can be guaranteed safety is to go to the Legislative Palace and vote on the law that would grant them political amnesty.
``Security should come from a declaration from the Army,'' said Senator Eudrice Raymond, who is pro-Aristide. ``We're used to Army declarations. Let them come with us, sit down inside the Legislative Palace - then it wouldn't be just a declaration.''
Throughout this recent period of violence, the Army continues to pledge its vigilance in providing security for the population. When questioned about the military's reaction to the Crisis Committee proposal on Oct. 25, Col. Joseph Pierre Antoine, a spokesman for the military, denied knowing anything about an agreement being made between any of the various sectors.
UN Special Envoy Dante Caputo also addressed the security issue in a special news conference on Oct. 25. He called on the military to provide security for parliamentarians, and then issued a plea to world leaders to fly here and ``witness who is responsible for the violence.''
``We need the presence of different leaders in the world who have worked for democracy and human rights,'' he said in fluent French, English, and Spanish. ``Their presence here will be a moral force in the country. These days are essential.'' UN, US stress diplomacy
Both the US and the UN stress that even if Oct. 30 arrives and Aristide hasn't returned, pushing the date back does not mean the death of the Governor's Island Accord.
``We still believe that the Governor's Island Accord is the best formula for transition from military to civilian rule,'' Mr. Schrager says.
The only weapon the UN has to pressure the military, however, is strangling the impoverished country with strict sanctions imposed here last week.
The Crisis Committee has asked for sanctions to be removed before Aristide returns if Cedras steps down. Caputo insists that this will not happen.
Other UN requirements for the lifting of sanctions include a public request from Haiti's military for the return of the UN military advisers who left Haiti earlier this month for security reasons.