Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Hti: Haitians want Haiti to be a U.S. governerate

I'm glad Haitians concur with my view on the governance of Haiti so that infrastructure, the economy, and civil society might be restored, and so that democratic institutions might be nurtured, developed, and thrive.

Ask many Haitians who runs their country and you'll hear the same thing: God and the United States, not necessarily in that order.

Ask them whom they'd like to run their country, and you'll also hear similar answers, like the one given by Mirlande Lormil, 35, as she jostled in a line of hundreds to enter a bank that was opening earlier this month for the first time since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's flight into exile Feb. 29.

"I don't believe in any politicians, because once they get into power they don't care for nobody - all they think about is their own pockets," said Lormil as bank officers, fearful of looters, cracked the iron gates open to squeeze in three customers at a time, then slammed them shut again. "If the new president is Haitian, I won't believe in him."
While the current peacekeeping force includes French, Canadian and Chilean soldiers, the U.S. troop presence is largest, at about 1,800 members, and they are the ones getting pressure from all sides.

Armed pro-Aristide rebels resent them because the United States pressed Aristide to resign; armed anti-Aristide rebels resent them because the White House demanded they turn in their guns; civilians who expect them to secure the streets, create jobs, and draft a political solution are getting impatient.
In the meantime, Haitian political leaders are creating an interim government until elections can be held. That culminated in the swearing-in March 12 of a new prime minister, Gerard Latortue, an economist and Aristide critic who once served briefly as foreign minister. He was chosen by a U.S.-backed council of Haitian officials.

The fact that the choice has not sparked major opposition is promising, said Clotilde Charlot, a co-founder of the Haiti Democracy Project in Washington.

Still, she said peacekeepers should stay several years while the next government earns the trust of people like Lormil, the woman in the bank line.

"They need to help rebuild institutions. They can't afford to leave while Haitians try to sort out their issues," she said.

For Lormil, it is already too late. She planned to move to Florida once she got her money from the bank. "This is my country, but I hate it," she said. "I see us as slaves. No good government, just greedy people who lie. We need foreign nations to teach Haitians how to live."
For "foreign nations," read "the U.S."


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