US promises aid to Haiti to ease move to democracy

Moving from a dictatorship to a democracy is not easy in any country, much less for one of the poorest in the world. But only a week after the Haitian government announced a plan for an election in November 1987, the United States has responded with a promise of $20 million in additional aid to ease the transition.

A State Department spokesman drew no links between the promised election and the promised aid, in making the announcement. But another State Department official said the election announcement provided the ``clout'' needed within the administration to get a commitment for the additional funds.

The newly promised US aid is to help Haiti ease its balance of payments burden. The State Department announcement said Secretary of State George Shultz has promised that Haiti ``can count on US government support in its efforts to establish a true democracy in Haiti.''

Congressional approval is still required before the money can be made available. The $20 million would have to be taken from some country not using or needing it at this time and redirected to Haiti. Sometimes Congress refuses to approve such redirection.

In recent years, thousands of Haitians have fled desperate conditions of poverty and repression and risked their lives on overcrowded boats to reach the US for jobs. The US government considers them illegal aliens.

Earlier this year, Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was forced to flee Haiti when his support eroded. His departure raised popular hopes there of better and freer times ahead.

The road to democracy is precarious. There is widespread discontent with the progress Lieutenant General Henri Namphy, head of the government, is making. And economic conditions are worsening.

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