Square One in Haiti

February 06, 1993

Official Haiti's treatment this week of the United Nations negotiator, Dante Caputo, was a slap in the face for the U.N. and the Organization of American States. The provisional government of Prime Minister Marc L. Bazin and its masters in the army under Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras have been stringing along their critics since the Sept. 1991 coup. They have no intention of letting in hundreds of U.N.-O.A.S. human rights observers or restoring ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide or letting the Haitian people decide in fair elections.

That was made clear by the anti-U.N. mob whipped up by the regime and the police to terrorize and immobilize Mr. Caputo on his visit. And by Mr. Bazin's negotiators who hurled insults at him. It is emphasized by the sinister disappearance of a Haitian radio correspondent who reported what he saw. And it fortifies the intransigence of the exiled President Aristide, who simply demands to be restored and denies the legitimacy of concerns about his own autocratic behavior.

This is no way for the Haitian authorities to persuade a new U.S. administration to lift the trade embargo on Haiti, which punishes the Haitian people more than the usurpers of power there. It is, in the end, a challenge to President Clinton to do something, anything. General Cedras and Mr. Bazin have joined a lengthening queue of Third World autocrats who are testing the new American president's resolve.

Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic, Iran's Hashemi Rafsanjani, Zaire's Sese Seko Mobutu, Somalia's warlords, Liberia's Charles Taylor and Cambodia's elusive Pol Pot stand ahead of General Cedras in the queue. They all know Mr. Clinton means to give domestic affairs priority. They perceive a crisis between him and the U.S. military leadership over a host of issues, and assume it limits Mr. Clinton's freedom of action. They resent U.S. pretentions to police the world. They are probing and testing.

General Cedras had earlier agreed to United Nations monitors of human rights and democratic restoration. The U.N. and O.A.S. ought to hold him to it. If the leaky embargo is the stick, the hope of ending it ought to be the carrot. And in return for supporting Father Aristide's restoration to his elected presidency, the Clinton administration ought to obtain assurances from him on reconciliation to end the civil war, not perpetuate it.

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