Haitian Prime Minister Robert Malval, a respected businessman chosen by exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to lead an interim government, resigned in December in a four-page letter that denounced Aristide in harsh terms. Though he agreed to stay on as caretaker until Aristide found a replacement, in fact Malval is not doing so. Haiti is now without a government.
Malval's indictment, the exiled president's failure to return home on Oct. 30 as promised and the devastating effects of a U.N. economic embargo on ordinary Haitians have combined to erode Aristide's popularity. Even his fanatical "Lavalasse" (Creole for avalanche) movement seems to be growing disenchanted. Haitian residents of the United States returning from holiday visits to their country are virtually unanimous in reporting that Aristide is finished as a leader.
The Clinton administration seems to be showing concern. Friendly critics warn that its obsession with restoring Aristide to power at all costs may turn out to be, like its fixation with Russian President Boris Yeltsin, a no-win policy. A straw in the wind may be the blast against Aristide delivered by Rep. Robert Torricelli, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, just before Christmas. Upon learning that Aristide had planned a conference in Miami to "explore alternatives" to the U.S. policy of repatriating Haitian refugees, he stormed: "Raising the threat and encouraging a mass exodus from Haiti exposes the cynical side of Aristide. Keeping in mind that thousands of lives could be lost, this is not a good indication of Aristides commitment to his people."
Malval already had discovered that Aristide's image does not square with reality. He sought funds from Aristide to pay teachers' back salaries and repair some old school buildings to "insure the opening of the school year without problems." But, he reveals in his resignation letter, "We never received those funds, neither were we given an explanation for that action."
Aristide receives $1.8 million a month, made available to him by the U.S. Treasury from Haitian assets in the United States frozen by Washington after the military coup in September 1991. The money is not disbursed by the Haitian Finance Ministry, however, but by Aristide's ambassador in Washington, Jean Casimir, according to Malval. This enables Aristide to maintain personal control over government money and to operate a government-by-crony consisting of a coterie of prsonal friends and American lawyers.
Aristide actually created a "duality of power," charges Malval. By inviting the "ministers who were your friends to Washington without respect for the government I led, in contempt of constitutional rules, you personally encouraged them to set up their offices in Washington. …