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3/11/04 - SUPPORTING HAITI - 2004-03-11

A council of prominent Haitians has selected Gerard Latortue as Haiti’s new prime minister. Mr. Latortue is an economist and former United Nations official and was Haiti’s foreign minister in 1988, when the military overthrew the civilian government. Mr. Latortue will join Boniface Alexandre, Haiti’s interim president, in forming a government to replace the one headed by departed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Mr. Aristide went into exile in the Central African Republic when armed rebels marched on Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. By all accounts, Mr. Aristide failed to govern democratically, resorted to violence against political opponents, and was responsible for the fraudulent parliamentary elections in Haiti in 2000, which left many Haitians embittered.

Troops from Canada, France, Chile, and the U.S. are now in Haiti to provide security. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega says, “The rule of law must be upheld. Those responsible for crimes and abuses must be punished. Gangs and thugs cannot be allowed to hold sway.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says that more countries may become involved:

“We’re already working on the follow-on force that we’re hopeful will come within ninety days. This is, of course, a U-N-authorized multinational force that we’re leading.”

President George W. Bush has called for a “break from the past” in Haiti. That break will not come in the form of rule by tyrants. The Haitian people “deserve leaders worthy of their trust and respect, who favor the common good over personal gain,” says Assistant Secretary of State Noriega. Mr. Latortue “is someone who has a vision and is someone who can put everybody together,” says Haitian council member Anne Marie Issa.

As Mr. Noriega pointed out, the U.S. and others can help, “but the long-term job of building Haitian democracy is up to the Haitians themselves.”