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Under Siege

Under SiegeAs a rebellion threatens Haiti, Tufts graduate and US Ambassador to Haiti James Foley is working to bring a diplomatic solution to the beleaguered nation. Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.23.04] Less than a year after James B. Foley was sworn in as United States Ambassador to Haiti, the 46-year-old Tufts graduate finds himself in the international spotlight as he tries to prevent a civil war from breaking out in the beleaguered nation.

"We are calling for a truce," Foley - who earned his masters in law and diplomacy at the Fletcher School at Tufts in 1984 - said late last week as armed militias swept across the small Caribbean nation. "It doesn't mean that we want to maintain the status quo ... Haiti cannot continue living without a state of law, with politicized and demoralized police and armed gangs."

In just two weeks, rebel groups and leaders of opposition political groups have led a rebellion against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. More than 60 people have been killed - prompting many governments, including the U.S., France and Canada, to urge their citizens to flee the country.

"The uprising began when rebels took the city of Gonaives, and they have since pushed police out of more than a dozen towns in the north," reported the Los Angeles Times. "They accuse Aristide of breaking promises to help the poor and of driving the country into chaos while quietly supporting attacks on opponents - charges the president denies."

According to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher - also a Tufts graduate - Foley officially declared the situation in Haiti a disaster last week, enabling the U.S. to send humanitarian aid to the region. Foley also called for a team of Marines to help secure the U.S. Embassy in the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince.

"Now we're able to start moving on disaster relief," Boucher said in a State Department press briefing late last week. "There's an initial amount of $537,000 available for humanitarian assistance. We've allocated $50,000 of that so far to be used to purchase emergency relief supplies including 12 medical kits and three surgical kits [capable of serving 150,000 people over a three-month span]."

That's welcome news for some Haitians caught between rebel and government fighters.

"We need America's help," Augustin Francique - a resident of one of the towns taken over by rebels - told the New York Times. "If God has failed to protect us against Aristide's gangs, then only the Americans can do it."

But officials in the Bush administration are reluctant to send troops to the region - instead putting their faith in intense diplomatic negotiations aimed at finding a peaceful resolution.

"The problems of Haiti will not be solved by violence and retribution," Boucher told reporters. "Only through dialogue, negotiation and compromise can Haiti resolve its problems."

Faced with increasing violence and chaos, U.S. diplomats have their work cut out for them.

Foley and his counterparts, worried that the uprisings may lead to a civil war, have been quickly and carefully negotiating with both sides to end the violent standoff and institute government reforms.

"The U.S.-backed plan calls for shared power with political opponents, a new prime minister and fresh legislative elections," reported the Associated Press.

Aristide will not be forced to resign, but Foley has been firm in pressing the Haitian president to acknowledge his role in Haiti's unrest.

"The political crisis in Haiti did not begin yesterday. It certainly did not begin with this armed rebellion," the Tufts graduate said in a Voice of America report. "It has many root causes. It is not a simple matter at all. But the fact of the matter is that the nature of governance in the country over the last few years has contributed to the deterioration in the situation."

 

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