Aristide makes little headway

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Reuters

Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has made little headway during his first 100 days back in power in dealing with a political crisis and heightened worries about crime, academics and opposition politicians say.

Since taking up a second term on Feb. 7, Aristide remains the impoverished Caribbean country’s most popular politician and has unveiled a U.N.-backed plan to battle AIDS in Haiti, where some 333,000 of 7.8 million people have the disease.

Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, has renovated public parks and the airport and has been working on carrying out political reforms agreed with the United States.

The president, who was returned to office by U.S. troops after a coup during the ‘90s, has also said he hopes to resolve a political impasse stemming from tainted legislative elections a year ago before Friday, a national holiday and the 100-day mark of his second term.

“If the judgment is based on expectations, I think he fell a bit short,” said Planning and External Cooperation Minister Marc Bazin, a government opposition member.

“But the political crisis to a large extent prevented him from meeting the expectations of a lot of people. I think he’s overwhelmed with the political crisis.”

Academics and analysts, while acknowledging the drag from his disputes with Democratic Convergence, an opposition bloc which runs a counter-government as a symbolic protest, said the fruits of Aristide’s labors have yet to be seen.

“The first 100 days may be only memorable in that he’s achieved very little, except maintaining what appears to be a stalemate,” said Georges Fauriol, a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“I think he’s engaged in negotiations of attrition with the international community, primarily with the Organization of the American States (OAS) at this point — at the moment, there are very little results.”

The OAS sent a delegation to help the government and its opponents hammer out a solution to last year’s contested legislative election. The Caribbean Community and the Carter Center were also in the delegation.

The head of the OAS delegation, Assistant Secretary General Luigi Einaudi, told Reuters on Sunday before leaving Haiti it was unlikely other high-level visits would come quickly.

“We can help, but Haiti needs to make the first step,” he said. “Everybody knows that there are a lot of things that need to be fixed to move forward.”

Last year, an OAS electoral mission concluded a faulty counting method had unfairly given 10 Senate seats to Aristide’s party. The government’s decision not to recount led to the suspension of more than US$500 million in loans and aid.