Haiti's Raw Despotism

HAITIAN President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is not about to give up his right to the office, despite the fact that he is in virtual exile while the country's military forces, led by Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, remain firmly in power.

The 70 percent of Haitian voters who elected Mr. Aristide in 1991 sought the end of despotism only to find themselves under a harsh, military-controlled government concerned only with the aggrandizement of its members.

The president-in-exile's persistence has met with little reward. And although Canada, the United States, Venezuela, and France have joined in an effort to restore the democratic process in Haiti, their efforts have failed so far to move the military usurpers.

Now, in a move led by Canada, the four nations have consulted with United Nations officials about imposing a total trade embargo on Haiti.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Andre Ouellet met with Aristide in Ottawa and later declared that the four nations ``are determined to help'' Aristide fulfill the ``overwhelming mandate'' given him by the Haitian people.

So far their efforts have failed to move the military leaders in Port-au-Prince.

As a result, the four countries are now calling for a UN-supported total trade embargo against Haiti.

This kind of support might be heartening to the majority of Haitians, except for the fact that they are undergoing extreme privation, while those who have created the inhumane situation have so far been able to isolate themselves from its ravages.

If this turns into a contest of strength and will between Haiti's present illegitimate rulers and its beleaguered citizens, the people will be facing a tremendous test of unity and perseverance. Already, ordinary Haitians have endured conditions that should never occur in civilized societies.

The UN, the US, and all who cherish decency and freedom should continue - without, let us hope, having to resort to force - their efforts to enable the legitimate president of Haiti to return to Port-au-Prince, take up the reins of government, and get about the task of restoring civil reforms.

Haiti must not be robbed of the mandate for freedom promised by the man who won the presidency in an open and honest election.

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