Dominican presidential candidate criticizes foreign pressure on Haiti

May 15, 1994|By New York Times News Service

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- With the United States pressing new efforts to isolate Haiti's military junta, the leading candidates in the Dominican presidential elections scheduled for tomorrow are strongly opposed to any foreign intervention next door.

They are also critical of the international embargo against Haiti. The Dominican president, Joaquin Balaguer, has long been scornful of any international efforts to force neighboring Haiti's army to abandon power and allow the return from exile of the elected president, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

When a rump group of Haitian lawmakers named a new Haitian president this week, a move strongly condemned by the United States and Latin American nations, the Balaguer government refused to take a position on the matter. The Dominican deputy )) foreign minister, Fabio Herrera Cabral, called it "an internal problem of Haiti."

Relations between Mr. Balaguer and Father Aristide have been severely strained since the priest harshly criticized the Dominican Republic for its treatment of migrant workers from Haiti in his 1990 presidential campaign.

Diplomats say that the Balaguer government's failure to enforce the embargo on oil sales to Haiti imposed by the United Nations in October has enabled the Haitian military to defy pressures for its removal.

Since the sanctions were widened to ban all trade and noncommercial air traffic to Haiti, the Dominican government has continued to allow Haitian charter flights to land in Santo Domingo.

Mr. Balaguer, 86, has served as president for six nonconsecutive terms.

Haiti has been the bitter focus of much of the campaigning

between the aged leader and his chief rival, Jose Francisco Pena Gomez.

Mr. Pena Gomez, 57, who has narrowly led in most recent opinion polls, has been more supportive of Father Aristide's efforts to return to office but has been silent on the sensitive dTC border question during the bitterly fought campaign.

Aides to Mr. Pena Gomez say that with contraband fuel and other goods sold to Haiti now the biggest source of income for many Dominicans in areas near the border, stopping the trade would be both impractical and highly unpopular.

The White House has stepped up pressure on the Dominican government to enforce the embargo and has begun to speak of a possible need for military intervention to unseat Haiti's military leaders.

But senior aides to Mr. Pena Gomez say they would only support a diplomatic initiative aimed at starting discussions between Father Aristide and the Haitian military that would require a compromise solution.

The United States intervened in the Dominican Republic in 1965 after the outbreak of civil war. Because of their own experience, most Dominicans would strongly oppose any armed intervention Haiti, said Hugo Tolentino, a close adviser to Mr. Pena Gomez.

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