The Clinton administration has dropped hints that it may be backing off its support for exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, but members of the U.S. peace movement have promised that they have not yet given up the fight for Aristide's return.
In its December 17 edition, The Los Angeles Times quoted "official sources" who claimed that "any chance of restoring democracy in Haiti is over." The U.S. ambassador to Haiti, William Swing, denied the rumor, saying that the United States was "firmly committed to restoring democracy [in Haiti] and the return of President Aristide."
But many Haitians feel that the Clinton administration has been only lukewarm at best in its support of Aristide. In December, administration officials expressed "irritation" that Aristide would not accept an arrangement in which he would be forced to share power with those who overthrew him two years ago. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of Haiti's largest peasant organization, told the U.S.-based Quixote Center there was evidence that "the Clinton administration, like the Bush administration, does not want to see Aristide return to Haiti."
An important piece of that evidence has been Clinton's handling of a CIA disinformation campaign against Aristide. The CIA's national intelligence officer for Latin America, a hard-line right-winger named Brian Latell, was summoned by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) in October to reprise old charges that Aristide had undergone psychiatric treatment in a Canadian hospital. The Miami Herald investigated the charges and proved them false, but the damage had been done to Aristide's reputation and to efforts to increase U.S. support for Haitian democracy.