Haitian general, premier, exiled leader agree to talks on embargo

August 22, 1992|By J. P. Slavin | J. P. Slavin,Contributing Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Amid growing dismay over the negotiating tactics of Haiti's exiled president, a high-level delegation of the Organization of American States declared yesterday that an opening exists for negotiations between opposing factions here on ending an OAS trade embargo.

OAS Secretary-General Joao Baena Soares said his four-day mission to Haiti demonstrated "the possibility of continuing the negotiations."

"I bring back some signals that will allow me to continue these efforts," he said.

The OAS effort to reinstate exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has been stalled since March, but Mr. Soares said that when he later meets with Father Aristide, he will attempt to facilitate negotiations between Aristide supporters and the powerful enemies the Roman Catholic priest created during his eight-month rule as Haiti's first freely elected head of state.

Father Aristide, a radical priest, was elected in February 1991 but was overthrown seven months later by the Haitian army. After the coup d'etat, the OAS applied the trade embargo and other sanctions to pressure for his return.

Although Mr. Soares tried to create a positive image of his talks, another OAS ambassador said Father Aristide's intransigent stance is angering the 34-member international organization.

Just before the OAS delegation's arrival, Father Aristide told the British Broadcasting Corp. that he wants the commander of the Haitian army, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, either behind bars or in exile before he would agree to come back to Haiti.

"Some people are not giving us a good means to reach a solution," said the ambassador, who requested anonymity.

The army is considered the key in negotiating an end to the

embargo, and General Cedras has strong support among some OAS members.

"Time is running out. We know poor people are suffering [because of the embargo]. And the international community is now worried about the situation here," he said.

Mr. Soares had two meetings with General Cedras. He also met with the Rev. Antoine Adrien, head of a commission Father Aristide has appointed to negotiate on his behalf in Haiti, and the army-appointed prime minister, Marc L. Bazin.

OAS officials said General Cedras, Father Adrien and Mr. Bazin have agreed to support negotiations. But in a typical quagmire that has marred the OAS campaign to reinstate Mr. Aristide, the three parties have not agreed to negotiate with each other.

General Cedras is officially deferring to Mr. Bazin to lead the negotiations, although the army has a long tradition in dominating Haitian politics. Three of the eight governments that have led Haiti since the Duvalier family dictatorship collapsed in 1986 have been military dictatorships.

Mr. Soares said he has "not received any pressure" to lift the embargo from the United States. He dismissed as unfair charges the sanctions have crippled a country that before the coup was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

"There have been decades of deforestation here. Decades of a lack of economic progress," Mr. Soares said. "We have to be objective and separate these things."

In a statement, the delegation said it had proposed sending an international peacekeeping force to Haiti, a move strongly opposed by the army, and said humanitarian aid should be stepped up.

The group also expressed, "deep concern about the acts of repression and violence." Human rights groups say arbitrary arrests, beatings and killings occur regularly in Haiti.

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