Letter: Haitians pay the price of sanctions-busting

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The Independent Online
Sir: David Usborne's report ('Assets freeze on Haiti military', 5 June) on new sanctions against the regime in Haiti inadvertently gives the impression that President Clinton is taking decisive action to restore democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The US, which is able to stop small boats carrying refugees, fails to interdict oil tankers. Businessmen in Port-au-

Prince can tell you their projected date of arrival and interdiction would be a simple matter.

The embargo is a farce. The Canadians have pressed for a naval blockade and been refused. I was struck during a visit earlier this month how many people assumed that the US was stringing out negotiations so that a minimum of time would be left for President Aristide's constitutional mandate as head of state if, and when, he returned.

Meanwhile, the country has turned into the drugs entrepot of the Caribbean with an estimated dollars 100m of 'unaccountable money' flowing through its economy. Peasants in the north-west whom I visited are on the verge of famine. A tiny elite comprising the military and big business benefit from the sanctions, while the vast majority suffer a tripling in prices of many imports. The export sector has virtually died with 30,000 jobs lost in the assembly factories and the dwindling coffee exports ended.

Despite the stirling work of the Mission Civile, time is not on the side of the Haitian people. President Clinton's indecisiveness may cost him percentage points in the US opinion pulls, but in Haiti, it costs lives.

Yours sincerely,


Catholic Institute for

International Relations

London, N1

7 June