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Europe

European Press Review: Aristide's Exit Won't Stop the Violence

European papers on Monday reacted to the resignation of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide with speculation about how the crisis might develop.

President Aristide has left Haiti. That’s the good news, wrote Germany’s Handelsblatt. The bad news, it said, is that there’s no sign that Aristide’s departure will put an end to the violence. The paper described the idea of the victorious rebels becoming the new rulers as an absolute horror scenario. It warned that establishing political stability in Haiti would be impossible without outside assistance, and said the U.S. and France had a duty to help.

Danish paper Berlingske Tidende agreed that leaving Haiti was the right thing for Aristide to do, but it also warned of the dangers of a power vacuum and pointed to the need for an international peacekeeping force.

De Volkskrant in the Netherlands praised Aristide for avoiding a bloody battle for the capital Port-au-Prince, but said that this was the only ray of hope in the Caribbean drama. It too called on France and America to make good their talk about sending peacekeepers, but it stressed they would have to do more than that. They must help with nation building in order to enable what the paper described as "this accursed country" to make a new start.

Aristide’s departure probably prevented a bloodbath, was the assessment of Madrid's El Mundo. But the Spanish paper was more ambivalent in its reaction than others. It commented that, once again, a violent coup had been successful in Latin America. For Haiti, this was the 33rd in its 200-year history. The daily pointed out that Haiti had no strong leaders and, with the exception of the Catholic church, no real institutions either. The paper emphasized that foreign peacekeepers would need to stay in the country for a long time if Haiti was not to become just another black hole on the map.

Switzerland’s Berner Zeitung focused on the need to elect a parliament and a president as a first step. If this were not done, it said, things in Haiti would carry on as before -- military chiefs being promoted to president, playing the hero, giving themselves increasingly wide-ranging powers, refusing to obey the rules of the game -- and still enjoying support from the people. That didn’t help Aristide, either, though, the paper commented.

Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza described Aristide as one of many leaders who came to resemble the tyrants they toppled. Aristide represented the people’s hope for change, the paper recalled but went on to say that he compromised democracy and gave his people further proof that things can always get worse.

Britain’s Financial Times condemned the weekend’s developments. It described the crisis in Haiti as "another case of brazen U.S. manipulation", and wrote: "What should happen now is unlikely to pass. The United Nations should help restore Mr. Aristide to power for his remaining two years in office, making clear that yesterday’s events were an illegal power grab. Second," it wrote, "the U.S. should call on the opposition...to stop the violence immediately and unconditionally. Third, after years of literally starving the people of Haiti, the long-promised...aid flows...should start immediately. These steps," the paper concluded, "would rescue a dying democracy and avert a possible bloodbath."