Haitian military refuses to meet U.N. negotiators Aristide advisers plan to leave country today

November 06, 1993|By Ginger Thompson | Ginger Thompson,Staff Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Hopes for a quick settlement to Haiti's political crisis were crushed yesterday when military leaders controlling the government refused to meet with United Nations officials and representatives of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

U.N. envoy Dante Caputo, desperate to bring an end to the two-year crisis, planned to leave Haiti today. A chief adviser to Father Aristide said that the negotiators would be reluctant to return to participate in future talks.

"I think [the military] are saying to the world, 'Stick it in your ear,' " said Michael Barnes, the former Maryland congressman who is a chief adviser to Father Aristide. "They are saying, 'We're holding this country hostage. We're running it with violence, and there's nothing you can do about it.' "

Yesterday's meeting had been planned since last week. Mr. Caputo, grasping for solutions that would enable the return of Father Aristide, hoped that the military government could be pressured by leaders from the United States, Canada, France and Venezuela to surrender control of the country. The military seized power from Father Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest and Haiti's first democratically elected president, two years ago and has intimidated the country into submission with thousands of assassinations.

The violence has become even more intense over the last few months and thwarted U.N. efforts to bring Father Aristide home by Oct. 30 under an arrangement negotiated in July in New York between Father Aristide and his opponents. The United Nations has tried to put pressure on the military with an embargo to cut off supplies of oil and weapons to the military. But after yesterday, Mr. Caputo will likely suggest the that United Nations employ tougher sanctions.

"This is not a failure for us," Mr. Caputo said at a news conference yesterday. "It is a failure for Haitians, for those who want this crisis solved as soon as possible."

He added, "We are not giving up. You can be sure of that."

Stronger sanctions could include:

* Prohibiting the transfer of dollars to Haiti, a significant source of income for poor families with relatives in the United States.

* A complete embargo, ending all trade with the country.

* The placement of U.N. soldiers on the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic to prevent goods from entering Haiti from its neighbor on the Caribbean island known as Hispaniola.

Ira Kurzban, another attorney who represents Father Aristide, said the president supports a stricter embargo, even though it would more seriously hurt the poor than the military and the small class of elite.

"People here want Aristide back," he said. "They have suffered two years of violence and repression, 3,000 people have been killed. So I think the people of Haiti would endure the embargo if they felt it would help President Aristide return."

The United States already has six warships patrolling Haitian waters to prevent ships from entering the country with oil, weapons and narcotics.

But the effects of the embargo have not been fully realized. The head of the military government, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, has remained defiant.

In a ceremony Wednesday, General Cedras commissioned 28 new military officers, a responsibility which the constitution grants only to the president. During the ceremony, the new officers wore fatigues instead of dress uniforms as a symbol that they are in combat.

"The army will not become a slave to the government of the day," General Cedras said. "We want to offer young Haitians an example of courage and nationalism."

An aide to Prime Minister Robert Malval, chosen by Father Aristide to be head of the government in his absence, said that such actions indicate that the military has no intentions of surrendering power, and he predicted that the military would attempt to install its own government.

"We don't know what they are going to do because they haven't spoken to anyone," said Frantz Voltaire, chief of staff for Mr. Malval, throwing up his arms in frustration. "You should be demanding answers from them."

Mr. Voltaire said Mr. Malval and his Cabinet were meeting all afternoon and might issue a statement today.

There was widespread speculation that Mr. Malval is so frustrated by the stalemate with the army and the ineffectiveness of the United Nations that he could resign any day.

Mr. Barnes said Father Aristide is also demanding a quick, devastating blow so that the crisis is resolved within 30 days. He said the option of military intervention would be explored in greater depth, but he expected less violent means to be used.

"On it's surface, it's a hopeless situation," Mr. Barnes said. "The only hope that the people of Haiti have now is that the world will not let these thugs get away with this."

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