August 17, 1995
By John Tierney
Opposition to President Clinton's boldest foreign policy
initiative -- U.S. military intervention in Haiti last year with
21,000 troops at a cost of $3 billion -- has now come full circle.
With the defection of former president Jimmy Carter as an
uncritical supporter of the administration's effort to "restore"
democracy to the Caribbean island, the White House's touting of
Haiti as its greatest foreign policy "success" is sounding pretty
The former president, who provided crucial political cover last
year for Clinton's decision to dispatch U.S. forces to Haiti,
recently issued a devastating critique of the political process
imposed under the lethal protection of U.S. guns by Haitian
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The report, issued by the Atlanta-based Carter Center, exposes
Aristide's one-party "Lavalas" rule, with its widespread
corruption, mismanagement and ballot manipulating, particularly in
the June 25 election. Aristide's allies swept local and
parliamentary seats in that balloting.
President Carter's critique of Aristide is especially startling,
considering the long political association between the two. When
Aristide won Haiti's 1990 presidential election, the Carter Center
was at the forefront of groups supporting the results.
But relations began to sour within months after Carter
personally helped pave the way for Aristide's triumphant return in
October 1994. By year's end, it was apparent to all but the most
ideologically driven that Aristide was personally turning Haiti
into yet another one-man dictatorship -- his own. This should
surprise no one, considering Aristide's political personality and
his Marxist beliefs.
A critical part of Aristide's plan for seizing total power in
Haiti has been his illegal and authoritarian command of the
Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) that conducted the fraudulent
June election. Sensing trouble in March, Carter visited Haiti and
was formally rebuffed by Aristide. Unofficially, he was greeted by
hostile crowds and vicious graffiti, all engineered by Lavalas
street gangs intent on embarrassing the former U.S. chief
The Carter Center report on the ensuing election -- written by
Carter confidant and former National Security Council advisor
Robert Pastor -- documents the disgraceful conduct of the Aristide
government and his Lavalas party. "Of the 13 elections I have
observed, the June 25 Haitian elections were the most disastrous
technically, with the most insecure count," Pastor said in the
report. "I personally witnessed the compromise of one-third of the
ballot boxes in Port-au-Prince."
According to the report, the election was riddled with graft,
fraud and chaos, with widespread irregularities, ballots burned,
hundreds of voting stations never opened and tens of thousands of
people never able to vote.
As an observer of the election on behalf of the International
Republican Institute, I also observed the burning of ballots,
counting irregularities and intimidation of people seeking to vote
by Lavalas groups. This was indeed a sham, a complete denial of
As might be expected, former President Carter is still looking
for ways to "fix" Haiti. His report includes several constructive
suggestions, including criteria for re-running the June election
under a revised CEP that includes more members who are independent
of Aristide, improved ballot worker training, and creation of a new
national task force on political reconciliation.
All of these are good ideas. But recent experience and a long
history of corrupt Haitian politics indicate that the problems
encountered by the Clinton-led U.S. intervention are deeply
embedded in Haiti's political culture.
Thus, if nothing else, Aristide's rigged elections may at least
have served the useful purpose of magnifying Haiti's long-standing
problems for the rest of the world to see in something closer to
their true light.
As another former president said more than a century ago,
"democracy is not created by aspirations or by new faith." Rather,
said Woodrow Wilson, democracy "is built up by slow habit." By this
time-tested measure, Haiti can hardly be called a democracy.
John Tierney is a former visiting fellow specializing in Latin
American affairs at The Heritage Foundation.
ED081795a: Now Even Carter Sees Through Aristide's Haiti
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