By Clara Germani, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
THE United States ratcheted up the trade embargo on Haiti this week in what is becoming a test case of hemispheric enforcement of democracy.
It will be a difficult test case.
The embargo is aimed at reinstating the Caribbean nation's first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted in a military coup Sept. 30.
It is the first exercise of a new Organization of American States (OAS) mechanism, modifying the group's longstanding principle of nonintervention, that permits it to confront violent overthrow of democratic governments in the region.
The embargo, banning all commercial trade except basic food and airline service, is expected to bring the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation to a painful economic halt in short order.
But diplomats at the OAS, where the international effort is centered, are struggling to gauge how and at whom to aim the negotiating efforts accompanying the embargo.
"One of the actually difficult aspects of Haiti is that a lot of different people will give a different answer to the question of who exactly is in charge here. There are situations where sometimes no one is fully in charge," says Luigi Einaudi, US Ambassador to the OAS.
Indeed, the roil of Haitian politics with its blend of flash-fire violence, shifting loyalties, raw greed, and even earnest, if naive, visions of democracy makes negotiation a fragile and dangerous process.
Recent Haitian history is littered with the names of those who held power and the agreements they made. Since dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier was ousted in February 1986, seven governments - five the result of coups - have laid claim to "democratic" ambitions. Only President Aristide was democratically elected, and even he has come under international criticism for condoning - even inciting - mob justice.
So international efforts to support the nation's democratic experiment are frequently frustrated by the dynamics of the Haitian political scene - and the current situation before OAS negotiators is no different, observers say.
There have been two OAS missions to Haiti since Sept. 30. A third OAS civilian observer mission, headed by former Colombian Foreign Minister Augusto Ramirez Ocampo, has been invited by the Haitian Senate to go there within the next week.
The embargo is calculated to break the resolve of the military and many members of the Haitian civilian elite who have vowed not to allow Aristide to be reseated.
But what then? Scenarios bandied about by observers of Haiti include negotiated settlements that involve Aristide returning to power only so that he can leave it in a constitutional way; restoring him to power with a long-term international civilian observer group or an armed international force to keep the peace while a new police institution is built. …