WASHINGTON – The United States is disappointed with Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and regrets that there is little to show for the military intervention that returned him to power, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States said Wednesday.
"Any regret that I might have is that we did not make the most of that opportunity," Roger Noriega told an audience at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank. "I think that opportunity was absolutely squandered."
"We did not expect any kind of gratitude from Mr. Aristide," Noriega added, "But we are disappointed in the results, that nothing has come out from that international effort."
Aristide won the presidency by a landslide in 1990, receiving 67 percent of votes in a process international observers declared fair and free. The military overthrew him after less than a year in office, and Aristide lived in exile until he returned to office in September 1994. He completed the remainder of his five-year term, then ceded power to Rene Preval, who won a popular vote.
Aristide returned to office in 2000 after his Lavalas Family Party swept a vote that international monitors said was plagued with irregularities. Once he was back in power, Aristide refused dialogue with opposition leaders and started a repressive campaign against political rivals, irking the U.S. administration.
Since Aristide's return, "We are stopped in the mud," Noriega said. Aristide, he said, "is on his way to being treated as a pariah state, if not by OAS, by the United States."
The OAS approved two resolutions asking Aristide to engage in talks with Haitian opposition, but Aristide has not responded to them. He did agree to form an independent electoral council by Nov. 4 for the 2003 local and legislative elections.
"I have very serious doubts that Mr. Aristide would do anything the international community has asked him to do," Noriega said. "I have serious doubts that he would even meet any of his commitments."
President Clinton ordered a military operation to restore Aristide to office mainly because Aristide's democratically selected government was undermined by a military coup, Noriega said.
The operation cost about $2 billion, Noriega said. Now, there is a sense of disappointment "because we got almost nothing out of those $2 billion," he said.