Renewing Haiti's democracy

Kathie Klarreich's article "Time for Haitians to fix Haiti" highlights the difficult challenges Haitians face as they move toward full democracy, respect for human rights, responsive government, and economic growth (Dec. 29). The year ahead is critical, as Haiti holds local legislative and presidential elections, United States military forces withdraw, and the United Nations transforms its mission from peacekeeping to technical assistance.

The US has a huge stake in the success of this transition, and we will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Haitians confronting these challenges.

Haiti has not met the lofty goals held by many in the heady days after the restoration of the democratically elected government five years ago. Haiti remains by far the poorest nation in this hemisphere; democratic institutions are fragile; and high population growth, unemployment, crime and illiteracy pose a continuing threat to stability.

As Ms. Klarreich correctly pointed out, it is ultimately up to the Haitians - especially political and business leaders - to come together to overcome the legacy of two centuries of authoritarian and predatory regimes and to set their country on the right course for the new century.

The next key step is the holding of free and fair legislative and local elections, starting March 19. A restored parliament can unlock new international assistance and reassure potential foreign investors.

Equally important, a successful vote will reaffirm to the Haitian people that their nation is on the path to democracy, for which they have sacrificed so much.

The US is providing some $18 million to support these elections, recognizing the importance growth and stability in Haiti have for our own national interests.

If Haitians move beyond the politics of division and violence, the year 2000 will be seen as the period in which Haiti finally set a course for a future of peace, security and democracy.

Amb. Donald Steinberg Washington State Dept., Special Haiti Coordinator

Sending Elian back to what?

Regarding the article "US custody decision on Elian affirms parents' rights" (Jan. 6): The assertion that parents' rights are being affirmed by the return of Elian Gonzalez to his father in Cuba is totally false.

Article 5 of the Cuban Constitution of 1992 states that the Communist Party in Cuba is the driving force of the state for the construction of socialism and its advance towards communism.

Article 6 indicates that it is the function of the Union of Young Communists to promote the active participation of the youth in carrying out the objectives of Article 5.

I ask you, to whom or to what are we sending little Elian to his father or to an indoctrinating machine?

Moorad Alexanian Wilmington, N.C.

New role for zoos

I read with interest the article "It's all happening at the zoo" (Dec. 30). They are a complex issue, but when I think of the good zoos, I remember a quote from my first serious bird-watching book. The author wrote something like: The unperceived vanishes unnoticed. That made a deep impression on me.

In my opinion, more and more children, including suburban kids, grow up with very little idea of what animals, birds, and reptiles are like or what they need.

I think the best zoos promote an awareness of wildlife, showing we need to appreciate, understand, conserve, these wonderful co-inhabitants of our world.

Marilyn Crowley E. Bridgewater, Mass.

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