U.S. troops called saviors by many of Haiti's poor U.S. INTERVENTION IN HAITI

September 22, 1994|By Knight-Ridder News Service

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- In the verdant courtyard he tends for a living, gardener Jean Lubin looked up at the low-flying U.S. military helicopters breaking the morning calm and saw beneficent gods.

"I feel delivered, as if a prophecy for redemption were coming true," said Mr. Lubin, his hair gray and his body hard from a life of work. "We look up and we see them and we can sleep in peace. They will deliver us."

His almost religious view of the American troops are shared by many Haitians. U.S. officials have pledged that American forces will not engage in "nation building." But conversations with nearly two dozen Haitians revealed that most see the soldiers as their nation's saviors, not only bringing peace but also creating jobs, opening schools and hospitals and providing utilities, food and water.

Others -- for the most part well- educated reformers or affluent allies of the current military government -- have more critical views of what U.S. officials have optimistically dubbed "Operation Restore Democracy."

But in a country where beatings and killings by those representing authority are the norm, many Haitians see the U.S. troops as their best hope for safety. In a country where very little works, they look at the awesome U.S. military power arrayed before them and invest it with magic powers to transform their impoverished and violent country to one of prosperity and peace.

*

Regally beautiful and five months pregnant, Aneve Destine, 22, sat in the shade of a street stall in Croi Basal, the maze of muddy, littered streets that make up Haiti's central market, and reflected on the presence of U.S. soldiers.

"It's under the responsibility of God to decide our destiny, and I am

thinking, maybe they come from God?" Ms. Destine said, calmly knotting a bit of lace in her hair.

"We find relief with them here. They come in peace. With their help now, we can talk freely and feel more comfortable."

*

George Joseph says he hasn't worked a job he can give a name since 1959. But the lanky 61-year-old Haitian puts on his favorite tweed hat every day despite the tropical heat and gets Mr. Joseph sells this and that, here and there. He usually brings in a dollar or so a day. For Mr. Joseph, the peaceful U.S. intervention in Haiti was a blessing because the soldiers didn't come in firing.

"They sent them to accomplish, not to abolish," said Mr. Joseph. And he has high hopes of what they will accomplish.

"They sent them to create work, to send children to school, to give us food, to give us light, water, hospitals and work everywhere in the country," he said.

*

Sitting comfortably in his new Toyota, Herby Cherry, a young man who has gotten rich by smuggling gas across the Dominican border, turned up the air conditioning and explained why he doesn't want the Americans here.

"We don't accept them here," Mr. Cherry said. "We're a free country, and we don't have any problems here that U.S. troops can solve. I agree that the Americans should help us, but not occupy us."

Mr. Cherry, according to his own account and that of acquaintances, didn't have much of a business until he made friends with some Haitian army officials who smoothed the way for his goods across the border.

"The way it is right now, I prefer that they come in and invade outright," Mr. Cherry said of the U.S. troops. "Then we'd know we're dying outright."

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