Violence may halt Aristide's return U.S. to send delegation

U.N. weighs sanctions

September 18, 1993|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The United States and the United Nations Security Council reacted yesterday with increased alarm to mounting violence in Haiti that threatens to derail the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The Clinton administration announced it was sending a high-level delegation to Haiti on Monday that includes senior aides to the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- a demonstration of its determination to ensure a transition to democracy.

The Security Council threatened to reimpose sanctions unless the island progressed toward civilian rule. The sanctions, including an oil and arms embargo and a freeze on certain Haitian assets abroad, were suspended last month with the swearing in of a new government led by Prime Minister Robert Malval.

"This is crunch time here," one U.S. official said. "This is the moment of truth for us and the Malval government. We all have to hang tough."

Yesterday, in the latest incident, about 100 men broke into Haiti's Foreign Ministry during a swearing-in ceremony for Foreign Minister Claudette Werleigh.

As the gunmen held Mr. Malval and the others in check for some 90 minutes, police and soldiers reportedly stood by and did nothing to help the officials or interfere with the intruders.

The U.S. mission will demand that the island's military forces bring the rogue police forces under control and push for the early removal of Port-au-Prince police Chief Michel Francois, widely viewed as a key force behind recent violence, a senior official said last night.

Chief Francois "has got to leave sooner rather than later," the official said.

The United States also wants to speed up the dispatch of United Nations forces intended to help train Haiti's military and police forces and build democratic institutions.

Although Haiti's armed forces chief, Raoul Cedras, signed an accord with Father Aristide this summer pledging to cooperate in a transfer to constitutional government, he has done little to control the police, diplomats say.

Police now are aided by armed plainclothes auxiliary "attaches," containing members of the feared militia used by the deposed Duvalier dictatorship.

A diplomat connected with a U.N.-Organization of American States observer mission in the island nation said extremists opposed to Father Aristide "could very well upset the process" of his return at the end of October.

If the situation does not improve by the end of this month, "it will be very difficult to deploy the U.N. forces or [secure] Aristide's return," he said. "The army has to be held accountable if it deteriorates. Cedras has an obligation to maintain order."

The United Nations plans to dispatch about 1,200 military trainers, engineers and civil affairs specialists, including 500 to 1,000 Americans. In light of the violence, "protection will have to be taken into consideration," a U.N. official said.

Earlier this week, U.N. envoy Dante Caputo was warned by a Duvalierist group to leave the country in 72 hours "or we will act."

U.S. officials are looking at ways to get U.N. forces to Haiti more quickly and provide them with adequate security, a senior official said.

Under the accords reached on New York's Governor's Island, both Mr. Cedras and Chief Francois are to leave office by Oct. 30, when Father Aristide is expected to return. The accord contains broad pledges of amnesty for the president's opponents, but these have yet to be turned into law by the Parliament.

The U.S. delegation also will lay the groundwork for a U.S. aid package to help in nation-building.

The United States plans to spend $114 million to aid the transition, with $77 million in food and health aid and the rest for police and military training and institution-building.

Plans call for creating a new police force and separating it from the military structure, and training a reduced military and removing it from politics.

The U.S. delegation, to be led by Assistant Secretary of State Alexander Watson and Lawrence Pezzullo, the U.S. special adviser on Haiti, will include Marine Lt. Gen. John J. Sheehan, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Brig. Gen. James T. Hill, a senior joint chiefs staff member.

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