More Agony for Haiti

October 29, 1993

It will be no surprise if President Jean-Bertrand Aristide does not return to Haiti tomorrow. It is not news that Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, army commander and real ruler, has welshed on his promise of July 3 to step down tomorrow. If the popularly elected president returned to take power while the general held it, the president would probably be killed.

General Cedras is defying the U.S. and the U.N. He is terrorizing the people of the country. He lied before and will probably lie again. He is no doubt inspired by General Mohamed Farah Aidid's defiance of the U.S. and the U.N. in Somalia.

The Clinton administration's long and careful effort to force a return to constitutional rule on Haiti through diplomatic and economic pressure has hit the wall. General Cedras is the wall, reinforced by thugs and henchmen of the ousted Duvalier regime who have returned. Clearly, the U.N. oil and weapons embargo enforced by naval scrutiny will need to be increased.

Unhappily in the history of economic warfare, it has almost always been impossible to target a regime without hurting the people, though often possible to harm the people without noticeably inconveniencing the regime.

Three decades of U.S. economic warfare against the Castro regime in Cuba has helped to impoverish the Cuban people and shifted business from American to foreign firms, without yet causing the overthrow of the Castro regime.

The U.N. oil embargo of Haiti, however, did work to some extent. It did panic General Cedras into agreeing to step down. Now President Aristide has asked the U.N. General Assembly for "a total and complete blockade, which is necessary, even essential," for him to reclaim his legitimate authority. The poor multitudes of Haiti, who would suffer from this, are his supporters.

The Clinton administration should plan a half-turn of the screw very rapidly, making it clear there is more to come. It should not retreat and not invade, but convince the soldiers, police and thugs of Haiti that they are cut off from the rewards of holding tyrannical power. The people of Haiti deserve better than they are getting.

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