AFTER A very bad month, the violence in Haiti seems to be diminishing. The dangers to the election process are obvious, but they are not unmanageable. It's still very possible that the presidential election will take place on schedule in November and will produce leadership capable of running the country.
The referendum in March establishing the new constitution was a precedent for success. It proceeded smoothly and honestly, in a country that is destitute of any experience with democratic government. The procedure ran off the track in late June when Gen. Henri Namphy, who heads the interim governing council, tried to seize control of the elections from the civilian agency that the new constitution had set up. Perhaps it wasn't a grab for power, but merely a gesture of irritation with the inexperienced, new elections agency. Gen. Namphy is not an adept politician.
But the response was an outburst of fury. After 10 days of strikes and rioting in which a dozen people are reported to have died, Gen. Namphy reversed himself and backed off. By that time some of his opponents were demanding the general's removal, and the fighting continued. It was encouraged, as you would expect, by the various extremes of right and left, which have every interest in preventing an orderly election. When a popular uprising forced Jean-Claude Duvalier to flee 18 months ago, most of his family's supporters and beneficiaries -- many of them smarter and tougher than he -- remained behind, and some have been paying thugs to keep up the rough stuff in the streets.
Haiti is attempting a desperately difficult feat. It is attempting to break a pattern, almost as old as the country itself, of uprisings that lead to chaos on a scale that eventually drives a terrified people to welcome another despot and the kind of peace that he brings. For more than a year Haiti has been moving through a complex schedule of constitutional preparations that culminates in the November election. That is its opportunity for a better life.
The United States is going to some lengths to emphasize to everyone in Haiti, including the friends of the Duvaliers, that these elections are crucial to their country and to its future relations with its neighbors -- especially this one. That's a useful contribution, but after the election it will get harder. Americans will then have to decide whether they are prepared to rise above the current squalid quarreling over the foreign-aid budget to provide significant help to the hemisphere's poorest nation, and its newest democracy