OAS Mission Arrives in Haiti Hours after Bomb Blast
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ A large, high-level international mission arrived Tuesday seeking talks aimed at reinstating President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
The delegation will try to break an 11-month-old stalemate between the army-backed government and Aristide, Haiti’s first freely elected president, who was driven into exile by a bloody military coup last September.
Late Monday night, a small bomb exploded in a park across the street from Prime Minister Marc Bazin’s home, in the latest incident of growing violence in the desperately poor Caribbean nation of 6.4 million people.
The nearly 50 delegates, led by Secretary-General Joao Baena Soares of the Organization of American States, include representatives from the United Nations, the European Community and the Caribbean Community. They will meet with government officials, the army high command, community leaders and a commission chosen by Aristide to pursue negotiations for his return.
The first man off the chartered jet that flew from Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C., was Luigi Einaudi, a veteran diplomat for Latin America and the U.S. ambassador to the OAS.
Many Haitians believe the diplomatic mission to be futile. The army-backed governments that have ruled in Aristide’s place despite a hemisphere-wide trade embargo have shown little willingness to allow Aristide’s return.
″The OAS mission is not a fact-finding mission but a face-saving mission. It already knows the facts, and one fact is that the OAS has already failed″ to bring Aristide back, said former Information Minister Gerard Bissainthe.
Bissainthe, a member of the far right, opposes any negotiations with Aristide representatives.
Aristide’s camp is divided. Some are eager for him to negotiate with Bazin, while others oppose Aristide’s making any compromise to return.
The pro-Aristide exile newspaper Haiti Progres editorialized this week that it is better for Aristide to remain in exile for now ″rather than to return to the country and become a new Aquino″ - referring to the Manila airport assassination of returning Philippine dissident Benigno Aquino.
Aristide supporters say the security forces have stepped up repression.
On Monday, assailants broke into the house of Clifford Larose, a former Information Ministry official in Aristide’s government, gravely injuring him.
Soldiers on Monday broke into the rectory of Roman Catholic Bishop Willy Romelus in Jeremie, saying they were searching for weapons. Romelus declared in a radio address last week: ″It is time to rid the country of these wild beasts and of military governments, and return to constitutional power.″