Haitian Priest’s Slaying Provokes Anger of U.S.
The assassination in Port-au-Prince of a prominent supporter of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide sharply increases the probability of a U.S.-led invasion of Haiti to restore democracy to the impoverished Caribbean nation, the Clinton Administration said Monday.
“Make no mistake, outrages such as these reinforce the determination of the international community to take all necessary means to bring about the early restoration of democracy in Haiti,” State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said, employing diplomatic language for the use of military force.
McCurry referred to the killing Sunday night of the Rev. Jean-Marie Vincent, a Roman Catholic priest and a longtime supporter of Aristide, himself a populist priest who was deposed by the military after winning the only internationally recognized free and fair presidential election in Haiti’s modern history.
In a statement issued from his exile headquarters in Washington, Aristide said Vincent’s death was only the latest of more than 5,000 killings by the military since it seized power in September, 1991.
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Deputy Defense Secretary John Deutch headed for Jamaica and a meeting today of Caribbean nations to discuss ways of dealing with the Haitian military junta. U.S. officials said Talbott and Deutch hope to line up governments willing to contribute at least token forces to a U.S.-led invasion army.
McCurry dismissed as baseless speculation a spate of reports that the Administration, beset by a Cuban refugee crisis, had shifted to the back burner the planning for a Haiti invasion, postponing the earliest possible date from mid-September to sometime in the late fall.
“The planning has continued,” McCurry said. “The diplomacy to build the force that would be capable of (invading) has continued. . . . We prefer to see a peaceful resolution to this crisis. But events such as . . . the murder of an innocent cleric and the types of human rights abuses that continue do lend urgency to the need to put together those measures that are defined by the United Nations in Security Council Resolution 940,” which authorizes the use of force.
“We do expect to see support within the region,” he added, insisting that several Western Hemisphere countries will join the potential invasion force, although none have announced such plans.
“Human rights are being pervasively violated in Haiti,” McCurry said.
“Our message to those who continue these inhuman and senseless assassinations is clear: You cannot intimidate the international community. Your crimes only increase our outrage and strengthen our resolve to rid Haiti of your abuses.”
Despite the Administration’s strident rhetoric, the military regime of Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras has given no indication that it plans to step down. Nevertheless, the Agency for International Development is working on an economic recovery plan that would be triggered by the restoration of Aristide to the presidency.
A senior AID official said Monday that the world’s rich nations must contribute $550 million in the first 12 months after Aristide regains power to ensure that the restoration of democracy produces tangible benefits for the Haitian public.
“Haiti has been a non-functioning country for decades,” the official said. “It has never had a government that is worthy of the name.” But, he said, all that must change dramatically if democracy is to have a chance to establish itself in the hostile Haitian environment.
Of the $550 million that Washington thinks Haiti needs in the first year, about $450 million seems readily available, including $100 million from the United States, $151 million from the World Bank and other international lending institutions and $200 million from other donors, most of it from the European Union.
As a result of a conference sponsored by the World Bank last week in Paris, the official said, it appears likely that the $100-million shortfall will be made up as soon as it becomes clear that Aristide will regain power. The official said that Washington will make “a substantial contribution” toward the shortfall but he declined to offer a precise figure.
AID said that almost half of the $550 million for the first year will be required in the crucial first three months. That includes money to create 75,000 short-term public works jobs to combat the island’s unemployment and to start restoring its devastated infrastructure.