Congress proposes aid block to Haiti

The Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aristide asserted Haiti's independence yesterday in the face of a U.S. threat to cut off aid.

The Republican-led U.S. Congress last week introduced legislation intended to block aid to Haiti for fiscal year 1996, which begins Sunday and includes $3 million for the December presidential election.

Some Republicans questioned Haiti's progress in human rights and democracy after mismanagement made legislative elections chaotic in June.

President Clinton opposes the move, which some see as an attempt to tarnish his biggest foreign policy success: the intervention that ended three years of brutal army rule and restored the elected Aristide a year ago.

Republican leaders have long been critical of Aristide, once a popular leftist slum priest who often denounced CIA meddling in Haiti.

''It's an internal American affair and has nothing to do with Haiti,'' U.N. mission chief Lakhdar Brahimi said in an interview.

''Haiti has many friends,'' he said, indicating that others would provide money for the elections if U.S. aid was revoked.

The U.S. legislation still is being debated.

''We have heard (the threat). But we continue to do whatever we think is right as a sovereign nation,'' Aristide told reporters in response to a question about the threatened cut.

Aristide's non-renewable five-year term ends Feb. 7, 1996. The presidential race to choose his successor should take place in December.

On a visit to Haiti last week, U.S. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake praised the Caribbean nation's progress toward democracy.

''The human rights situation is simply much, much better'' he said so much so that the U.S. Agency for International Development's human rights program had been ''cut back simply for lack of business.''

U.S. assistance to Haiti this year is $235 million. Congress has already reduced it to $90 million for 1996.

In the year following the February 1986 ouster of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, it was $120 million.

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