WHO can blame Haitians for being as skeptical as they are hopeful of peace in their impoverished nation? The process set in motion by United Nations negotiators will be drawn out through Oct. 30 when, all going well, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide will return to the office wrested from him in September 1991.
Haitians asked about their confidence in better times are at best cautiously hopeful. But although some may envision the waiting period as a yawning time gap into which their hopes could fade, others see the slow pace of negotiation as a way to avoid hastily gained agreements that could quickly unravel.
A six-step agenda has been set, leading to the restoration to office of the tiny nation's first elected president: (1) Haitian political party leaders will convene, probably in Washington, to set the stage; (2) Mr. Aristide will nominate a prime minister, who must be confirmed by Parliament; (3) amnesty will be declared for soldiers involved in the president's unseating, and Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, who led the coup, will resign; (4) a new military commander will be named by Aristide; (5) international adv isers will go to Haiti to help set up a police force independent of the Army; it will also place the Army under civilian authority; (6) Aristide will return to Haiti to resume the presidency.
This elaborate process is by no means universally accepted in Haiti. Some among the poor who supported Aristide solidly in the 1990 election are said to believe that he made too many concessions in the negotiations without demanding sufficiently strong guarantees. The Haitian problem, ostensibly in the hands of the UN, will continue to be an American dilemma and challenge.