HOW long must the impoverished people of Haiti endure the blockade imposed on their Caribbean nation by its Western Hemisphere friends and approved by their president in exile, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in a so-far futile attempt to return President Aristide from exile and install him in his rightful office?
The effects of the political and military ``war'' that began after Army leaders refused to accept the overwhelming 1990 election victory of President Aristide - in which 67 percent of voters chose him - and forced him into exile despite pressure from within and outside Haiti to accept him as the lawful leader of the Haitian government, become more oppressive with every passing day.
Since his ouster by the corrupt military regime, Aristide has so far spent most of his presidency in exile despite being endorsed by 70-plus percent of the Haitians who voted.
How much mistreatment and suffering must the tiny nation's ordinary people, especially its children, suffer while the United States and other concerned nations seek to somehow convince or coerce those who are depriving President Aristide of the office he won when Haitians overwhelmingly rejected rule by the military.
One thing stands clear: Aristide is the legitimate president of Haiti, swept into office on a landslide of the kind few politicians achieve in this era.
His fellow leaders of Democratic nations seem at a loss to devise some means to collectively change this situation.
Four nations - Canada, France, Venezuela, and the US - attempted conciliation but got nowhere with the Haitian generals.
The embargo against Haitian products made no impression on them. Installation of a new prime minister has been recommended by some observers, but Aristide says the individual named would simply be a sitting duck.
Some observers say the economic boycott is slowly becoming more effective as Americans and others who have bought Haitian produce have joined the boycott. Others say the generals are ready to sit tight while Haiti's children suffer.
A surprising number of Haitians, mostly of meager means, evince willingness to give the embargo more time in spite of the sacrifice that would entail.
These are the real Haitian patriots, and their neighbors must not let them down, even if resort to arms is necessary.