As the last of the departing American soldiers leaves Haiti by Sunday, there are signs that the order they established is already unraveling.
The U.N. peacekeeping force now in place has been left a powderkeg of diminishing hope and building rage.In a sign of growing instability, Haitians who for weeks have been begging for jobs at a side entrance of the U.S. Army base here erupted in anger Friday, yelling at U.N. peacekeepers, throwing rocks and blocking a main thoroughfare.
A U.S. Embassy official said he feared the incident was only the beginning of a deterioration in control as Haitians see their hopes for a better life grow dimmer with each passing day.
"Down with elections! We need jobs!" the men shouted, shaking their fists at the line of Bangladeshi peacekeepers nervously holding them back across the airport road from Camp Democracy. Several Haitians darted past the peacekeepers and pulled concertina wire out across the road.
"We know you need a job so you can eat," a Haitian-American soldier told the crowd in Creole from atop a truckbed across the road. "We have a lot of Haitians working here. But we can't give a job to everybody."
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the incident never would have happened before the United States turned over control of the multinational force to the United Nations on March 31. Even the protesters said that U.S. soldiers had sprayed pepper gas to quell more minor flareups.
On Friday, the protesters weren't calmed until two officers from the U.S. Army, Majors Bob Shepherd and Rick Spearman, arrived to listen to their complaints. All they could do was ask the Haitians to be patient.
The Haitians' plea - that they need jobs more than democracy - reflects the fact that their lives have not improved since U.S. soldiers landed in September to dismantle the ruling army and restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Many thought the foreign troops would rescue them from poverty. Instead, food prices keep rising and unemployment still runs at 75 percent. Hundreds of short-term support jobs with the U.S. troops have dried up as it downsized from 21,000 to the 6,000-member U.N. force, which includes 2,400 Americans.
Pierre Paul Guittro, 25, explained his frustration. "There is no unemployment office. There is nothing we can do but block this road. Then maybe they will hear us."
The arrival of the U.S. troops did end a three-year terror spree in which more than 3,000 people were killed by the army and its paramilitary squads. At first Haitians rejoiced at their newfound freedom from fear.
But now there's another kind of insecurity: rampant and increasingly brutal crime. Ninety people were killed in the capital in March, up from about 20 in February, said U.S. Embassy spokesman Stan Schrager. About half of those slayings were the result of mob justice against thieves.
Opposition leader Mireille Durocher Bertin, assassinated March 28, had predicted a descent into chaos.
In a newsletter she distributed in January, she said that "even though the occupation is unacceptable, we have come to fear that the U.S. soldiers will leave too quickly. That would leave the door open to plunder and mass murder in the absence of any structure or impartial law enforcement."
An unarmed, barely trained interim police force of vetted former soldiers assisted by international police monitors is trying to keep order while a new police force is trained.
Meanwhile, instability perpetuates Haiti's vicious cycle of joblessness. Camp Democracy was set up in an industrial park where 30 assembly plants were closed down by the total trade embargo in May 1994.
The assembly industry had employed about 40,000 Haitians, embroidering tablecloths, assembling fishing lures and sewing dresses. Only about 7,000 jobs have returned as many employers wait for signs of stability or have relocated.
138 Haitians repatriated
A U.S. Coast Guard cutter returned 138 sick, hungry Haitians to their homeland Saturday, two days after taking them off an overflowing boat off Miami Beach.
It was the largest single interception of Haitians since the Oct. 15 return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted in a September 1991 army coup.
"We spend all day long in bed or play dominoes and cards. What else was there to do but to take our chances on the sea?" asked 22-year old Kenel Augustine, wearing a T-shirt with a photo of Aristide.
Augustine and 139 others had left the north coastal city of Cap-Haitien on March 27 in a 45-foot vessel. They sailed in rain squalls and 9-foot waves before being intercepted.
A man and a woman were airlifted to Miami for treatment. They will be permitted to seek legal residency; the others will not.