The economic embargo against Haiti has taken a severe toll on the country's economy, but has failed in its objective to dislodge the military junta,
because other countries are sending in crucial supplies, officials close to exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide conceded this week.
Moreover, the U.S. Treasury Department grants exemptions from the embargo to some American companies involved in assembling export-oriented products in Haiti, the officials complained."This is a leaky embargo. If it was a real embargo, the de facto regime in Haiti would not survive for one month," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He pointed a finger at "some Middle East countries" that continue to supply fuel to Haiti, as well as Britain, France and Japan, which are conducting normal trade with the Caribbean nation. These countries have been able to fill the commercial void left by the United States because the embargo only covers trade with members of the Organization of American States, he said.
The embargo was recommended by foreign ministers of the Organization of American States in October 1991 after the Haitian army, led by Gen. Raoul Cedras, overthrew Mr. Aristide. The ministers called on all OAS states to ''suspend their economic, financial and commercial ties with Haiti and any aid and technical cooperation except that provided for strictly humanitarian purposes."
Since then, Haiti's exports to the United States plunged to $110 million in 1992 from $356 million in 1990, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Electrical apparatus assembled in Haiti for export to the United States, for example, fell to a value of $1.9 million in 1992 from $23.7 million in 1990, with other categories showing a similar or more drastic decline, Commerce said.
U.S. exports to Haiti were more than halved to $216 million in 1992 from $477 million in 1990.
The embargo's ineffectiveness in ousting the junta, plus the toll on the economy are responsible for the current Haitian exodus to the United States, according to Raymond Joseph, publisher of the prominent New York-based Haiti Observateur.
"These are economic refugees created by the (embargo) of the United States and its allies. They come here seeking economic opportunity because conditions have worsened," he said.
President Clinton must either accept the refugees or lift the embargo, he said, estimating that it costs about $1.5 million a day for Washington to maintain the "floating Berlin Wall of ships" that patrol off Haiti.
A major source of employment in Port au Prince, Haiti's capital, was the value-added industry of assembling manufactured products, mainly for the U.S. market. The embargo wiped out some 60,000 jobs in that industry alone, Mr. Joseph said.