New Sanctions on Haiti

BY applying broad trade sanctions against Haiti on Sunday, the UN Security Council has tried to turn up the heat on the military rulers in Port-au-Prince. The objective: the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to his rightful place at the head of Haiti's government.

We hope the need for such sanctions is short-lived. Although the trade embargo does not apply to food, humanitarian supplies, and medicines, it already is prompting mass layoffs as companies no longer export or import goods. The embargo will tax the ingenuity of rank-and-file Haitians - already strapped by the fuel embargo - to meet their daily needs without jobs and in the face of the skyrocketing prices that accompany shortages. And the military remains in a strong position to regulate the flow of whatever goods do reach the country.

Yet Haiti's military rulers have shown nothing but contempt for the fledgling democratic process that first swept President Aristide into office and for international efforts since his ouster in September 1991 to return him to power. On May 11, Emile Jonassaint was named provisional president with the military's blessing. The United Nations has refused to recognize his government.

Short of military intervention - a response that the Clinton administration is considering - the tightened embargo represents one of the few options remaining to the international community.

For the trade sanctions to be effective, more must be done to plug the leaks in the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic; ``embargoed'' fuel has flowed across the border. The UN is sending international monitors to keep watch on the border, which should help. But it is unclear that three monitors will be sufficient.

Reports are surfacing of splits between members of the Haitian business community and the military over the sanctions. And in weekend interviews, Aristide's prime minister, Robert Malval, hinted that divisions may be developing within the military over the installation of Mr. Jonassaint's government.

If the embargo helps widen these gaps to a point where the government seriously negotiates Aristide's return, both countries can be grateful for being spared having to deal with the gunboat approach.

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