Deadline looms in Haiti as U.N. troops prepare to leave
U.S. envoy asks for extension
In this story:
July 14, 1997
Web posted at: 11:38 p.m. EDT (0338 GMT)
From Correspondent Susan Candiotti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNN) -- For the three years, 24 hours
a day, United Nations peacekeepers have walked the streets of
Cite Soleil -- the poorest and perhaps most dangerous area of
But peacekeepers may not stay much longer. Their mission is
due to end on July 31, and a deadline is looming amid a
deepening political crisis in the country.
A month ago, Premier Rosny Smarth resigned, with President
Rene Preval unable to get Parliament to agree on a successor
or to complete partial legislative elections halted over
Richardson presses for end to crisis
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson arrived Monday to
press Preval to act decisively to end the crisis. He wants
the international force, now totaling 1,300, to stay another
four months to help keep order.
Richardson said Monday U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will
recommend that the Haitian peacekeeping mission be extended
to the end of November.
He also said former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has
pledged his support for an extended mandate, despite strong
opposition to the move expressed by grass-roots supporters of
Aristide. Troops from the United States helped to restore
Aristide to power in 1994, three years after he was ousted by
the Haitian army.
"I was impressed by his (Aristide's) willingness to resolve
the political crisis here," Richardson told an afternoon news
conference, co-hosted by President Preval. "Aristide did tell
me that he supports his president in the presidential view
that there should be four more months of the U.N."
Richardson said he was "relatively optimistic" the mandate
would be extended and planned to lobby for the move before
the U.N. Security Council.
Aristide has behind the scenes role
The peacekeepers have been steadily scaling back since the
U.S. sent 20,000 troops to restore Aristide to power in 1994.
Though Aristide is no longer president, he remains the
country's most popular political figure with considerable
behind-the-scenes influence. Privately, senior U.S. officials
complain he's failing to use his influence to move the
country forward, a charge he denies.
The Clinton administration desperately wants Haiti's fragile
democracy to succeed. Not only has it been one of the
president's international success stories, but failure could
spark another immigration crisis.
During Haiti's political turmoil, more than 70,000 Haitians
sailed toward Florida, creating a humanitarian crisis and a
political quandary for Clinton.
Stability is key, partly dependent upon Haiti's new national
police created after decades of military dictatorship. If the
mission ends this month, the local police may not be ready to
go it alone, although U.N. Special Representative Enrique ter
Horst believes they are ready.
"They're well on their way to becoming a very good force," he
Economic reforms are uncertain
Maintaining security could be a problem if Haiti's economy
continues to stagnate. Millions of dollars in international
aid remains frozen until economic reforms come through.
"The picture is depressing and frightening ... We dreamed of
a state of law and have reaped anarchy," the Haitian Chamber
of Commerce and Industry declared last week.
It said the country "cannot develop if it doesn't join the
New World Order" through an austere economic plan that has
divided Parliament and led to Smarth's resignation in the
face of opposition from Aristide, because it involves laying
off thousands of workers and privatizing nine state
Economic reform is not likely until Preval names a new
premier to replace Smarth.
Preval, in only his second official press conference as
president, emphasized the need to move cautiously in filling
"The car is in the garage. They're checking the parts," he
said. "We don't want to start and get stuck again" on the
Haitians know one day their struggling democracy will have to
survive on its own. The question is whether it will be sooner
Reuters contributed to this report.
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.