THE United States ratcheted up the trade embargo on Haiti this
week in what is becoming a test case of hemispheric enforcement of
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
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. …