The United States is partially lifting a fifteen-year old arms embargo to allow the export to Haiti of controlled items, including weapons and body armor, for use by Haitian law enforcement authorities and the nine-thousand member United Nations stabilization force. The goal of this policy change is to assist the government of Haiti to restore order and suppress criminal gangs and others responsible for violence.
The embargo was put in place in 1991 after the overthrow of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. When Mr. Aristide returned to power in 1994, the U.S. rejected his request to have the weapons ban lifted. U.S. officials cited Haitian police ties to cocaine trafficking and the murder of Mr. Aristide's political opponents.
Violence broke out in February 2004 when rebels called for President Aristide's resignation, accusing him of massive corruption. Mr. Aristide was forced into exile. But armed gangs with political and criminal motives continued to wreak havoc in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. In April 2004, the United Nations Security Council ordered a stabilization force be sent to Haiti.
An interim government headed by President Boniface Alexandre and Prime Minister Gerard Latortue took over until elections were held in February of this year. The victor, Rene Preval, took office in May. He has urged an end to violence, the creation of jobs, and the rebuilding of roads and hospitals.
Sheila Manyam, a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince, says the partial lifting of the arms embargo is being done "in recognition of Haiti's return to democracy":
"Since the arms embargo was imposed in 1991, it is clear that Haiti has made great strides toward democracy, stability, and peace."
Ms. Manyam says, "This is definitely a step forward for Haiti to help restore security in the country."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.