The Bush Administration on Tuesday toughened U.S. sanctions against the military regime in Haiti by imposing an embargo on all trade between the two nations, except for certain food products and humanitarian assistance.
The order, effective at midnight next Tuesday, was issued in Madrid, where President Bush is attending the opening of the Middle East peace conference.
It marked the implementation of a resolution adopted unanimously by the Organization of American States on Oct. 8, calling on all member states to cut commercial ties with Haiti until ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is restored to power and the Sept. 30 coup against him is reversed.
Exempted from the ban are such staples as rice, beans, flour and cooking oil and "donations intended to relieve human suffering" in Haiti, the hemisphere's poorest country. But the embargo is intended to put intense pressure on the military junta that has seized control.
Bernard Aronson, the top State Department official on hemispheric affairs, said in Washington that Haiti depends on the United States as a market for 85% of its exports, while 65% of Haiti's imports come from the United States. Last year, Haiti exported $339 million to the United States and imported U.S. goods worth $447 million.
"We recognize that Haiti is vulnerable to this kind of embargo," Aronson said, noting that "fuel stocks are very, very low" in Haiti as a result of oil embargoes imposed at OAS urging by Haiti's main suppliers, Venezuela and Mexico.
In addition, Aronson said, the State Department had begun even before Bush's order Tuesday to discourage U.S. oil companies from selling oil or petroleum products to Haiti. "So I think that's going to begin to bite very quickly," he concluded.
In a parallel move, the State Department on Tuesday ordered home all dependents and non-essential personnel from the U.S. Embassy and the department's Agency for International Development mission in Port au Prince. It also repeated an earlier call for all American citizens not on official government business to leave the country.
About 3,000 of the estimated 8,300 Americans registered with the embassy already have left. But Aronson cautioned that other dual-citizenship Americans who have not registered may still be in Haiti. The embassy and AID mission, normally 159 officials, is to be reduced to about 30, he said.
Several times in recent days, Aristide called publicly for a wider embargo on trade with Haiti. He repeated the request Tuesday in Brussels, calling for a total international ban on trade with the military regime.
"In the face of the violence of these criminals, we can respond with nonviolence--that means a complete embargo . . . of everything except humanitarian aid," he said. "We are convinced the embargo will lead to a solution."
Aristide has been accused of sanctioning violence by his supporters in Haiti, even to the point of encouraging mob attacks on political adversaries, including executions with South Africa-style "necklaces" of burning tires. But Aronson reasserted Tuesday that the formal U.S. view is that the only acceptable resolution in Haiti is the restoration of Aristide's full powers as president.