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By Stewart Stogel
UNITED NATIONS – Fresh from a visit to the troubled nation of Haiti, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is telling Security Council members Washington is not happy with events on the Caribbean island.
“Political stalemate threatens hard-won gains. Haiti’s politicians need to temper their partisan interests, put aside winner-take-all politics and work together in a spirit of compromise,” she said.
Rice recently led the 15-member council on a four-day field survey of Haiti.
The council conferred with President Michel Martelly and Prime Minister Gary Conille during the visit.
The diplomats also toured several hospitals and refugee camps around the nation.
Two weeks later, Conille, frustrated in his dealings with Martelly, decided to resign.
Just who might replace him has become a political football. Of concern to the U.N., recent parliamentary elections have led to a stalemate in appointing a new prime minister.
That stalemate has not set well with Rice:
“Haiti cannot afford further gridlock. Effective Haitian leadership is critical…Serious problems remain, most notably a lack of Haitian political consensus and resolve.”
Rice insisted that:
“The government needs to hold its next round of elections for local government positions and for one-third of the Senate as soon as possible.”
The gridlock has begun to stunt the development of the Haitian National Police, which the U.S. and the U.N. believes is central for Haitian recovery.
Martelly is pressuring for a green light to create a new Haitian army.
That has created a domestic backlash, with many fearing that such a military could be used for political repression, as was the case under the junta of Gen. Raul Cedras and prior to him by former President Jean-Claude Duvalier.
“We urge the parliament and the executive branch to commit the resources and demonstrate the political determination needed to strengthen the Haitian National police so it has the right quality and quantity of personnel to assume full responsibility for Haiti’s security,” Rice said.
With police growth stalled, prison facilities are again having a difficult time coping.
Rice lamented, telling the council:
“As we saw ourselves, prison overcrowding remains a grave problem. … Haiti and its international partners have built a new prison at Croix de Bouquet, but the prison is un-utilized because the Haitian government has avoided some key decisions that would enable the prison to open.”
The economic picture is no brighter.
With the on-going political infighting and growing allegations of government corruption, critical foreign aid is beginning to fall.
“For now, political friction and weak rule-of-law institutions may in fact deter investors from coming to Haiti. … The government of Haiti needs to set clear reconstruction and development priorities.”
Rice’s concern was echoed by most of the other 14 members.
Said German ambassador Peter Wittig:
“Haiti and the Haitians simply cannot afford to wait any longer for effective government. We join the Secretary-General in his call on all political actors in Haiti to engage in constructive political dialogue. Haiti’s political leaders must work together in a spirit of compromise.”
Two unresolved issues confronting U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon are a continuing investigation related to more than a dozen charges of sexual abuse/rape by U.N. peacekeepers and recurrent allegations that U.N. personnel introduced cholera into the nation, which had previously been free of the disease.
More than 7,000 Haitians have died since the cholera epidemic first surfaced in October 2010.