End Haiti's Tragedy

EXILED Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has proved his dedication and toughness in refusing to deal with the military usurpers who control the tiny Caribbean country.

He also has made clear his well-based lack of confidence in the possibility of genuine compromise between himself and those who illegally cling to power in Port-au-Prince. It is clear that these men, whose professions as military leaders and police officials put them in the nominal role of protectors of their people, have no regard for that duty - or else they would have long ago turned over the reins of government to President Aristide and got about their legitimate responsibilities as the protectors, not the tormenters, of their fellow Haitians.

The junta's treatment of its fellow Haitians is an ugly denial of the humanitarian impulse. Its members apparently are unable to look beyond their own lust for power and wealth to notice the devastation they have visited on their people. Already this group has disregarded the laws under which Aristide is the legitimate, democratically elected president and should be installed in office.

That he has been driven to support a trade embargo that has caused extreme hardship for Haitians must be extremely difficult for a man of the cloth to have to accept in a desperate attempt to bring down the false rulers.

The most recent attempt by the Clinton administration, and others, to effect a compromise (even though to date the junta has shown no willingess to abide by past compromises) calls for the appointment of a new Haitian prime minister, retirement of Haiti's Army chief, and amnesty for the military men who created this nightmare.This new proposal goes far to mend a strategy gap between the US and Aristide and puts the Haitian generals on the defensive. But the Haitian president has, rightfully, his own plan. It envisions the departure of the junta members, followed by designation of a prime minister and Aristide's return to Haiti 10 days later.

No one wants out-and-out hostilities in Haiti (least of all the battered and hungry populace), but so far the generals have given no indication that they are ready to relent. Yet they would more than likely have to give way if faced with an ultimatum by the US, France, Canada, Venezuela, and other nations that have been active in trying for a negotiated settlement.

The Haitian people should not be made to suffer one day more.

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