Haiti Coup

May 03, 1994

The result of Clinton policy on Haiti to date is that its architect, Lawrence A. Pezzullo, has fallen while the strong man of that godforsaken nation, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, has not.

Ambassador Pezzullo's strategy of brokering a compromise between exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the military was rejected by both parties and failed. It was President Clinton's and Secretary of State Warren Christopher's strategy, too, but they won't resign over it. Taking the fall, as the scapegoat for failed policy, is one of the things a retired ambassador who goes back to run a high-risk, high-profile program is for.

Mr. Pezzullo, who as executive director of Catholic Relief Services brought that important non-government organization to Baltimore, had initial apparent success with Haiti. High-water mark was the Governors Island accord of July 1993, under which General Cedras agreed to turn power over to President Aristide. The general welshed, and official Washington began to leak that his antipathy to Father Aristide might be justified.

By accepting Ambassador Pezzullo's resignation, the president and secretary of state appear to be rejecting any need for President Aristide to broaden his government to mollify the military. They also seem to be accepting the Aristide premise, shared by the pressure group TransAfrica, Father Aristide's counselor-spokesman (former Maryland Rep.) Michael Barnes, and 100 legislators, that ousting the thugs and restoring the president is Mr. Clinton's responsibility whatever it takes.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Christopher are betting that all it takes is greater economic sanctions than before, which they are initiating. Let us hope so.

Meanwhile, General Cedras' goons are murdering President Aristide's supporters; Randall Robinson, the respected head of TransAfrica, is on a hunger strike over returning fleeing Haitians to a dire fate; six congressman including Rep. Kweisi Mfume sought arrest for protest; and increasing numbers of critics of administration policy are calling for a U.S. invasion of Haiti.

Accepting the Pezzullo resignation does not solve the Haiti problem. It does commit Mr. Clinton more firmly to achieving a solution.

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