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#743: Top security official resigns, leaves Haiti_ (fwd)


Published Thursday, October 14, 1999, in the Miami Herald 
 Top security official resigns, leaves Haiti____ by DON BOHNING

 The resignation of Haiti's top security official has stirred foreign
and local concerns over the potential politicization of the country's
fledging national police force. Robert Manuel, undersecretary of justice
for national security since 1996, who had come under intense pressure
earlier this year from partisans of former President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, resigned without comment last week. He left the country
Saturday under heavy security escort. Manuel, a longtime confidante of
President Rene Preval, had been named to the post after Preval succeeded
Aristide in February 1996. Along with Pierre Denize, chief of the new
6,000-member national police, Haiti's only security force, Manuel
 was seen by foreign diplomats and Haitian observers, as a bulwark
against politicization of the force. ``The greatest fear with his
departure is to what extent it will open the door to
 politicizing the police,'' said a foreign diplomat in Haiti. ``We'll
have to wait and see who is designated to replace him.'' Among those
rumored as Manuel's possible successor was former army Col.
 Jean Lamy, an Aristide loyalist who served as a police consultant. He
was gunned down by unknown assailants Friday evening on a main
Port-au-Prince thoroughfare shortly after leaving Manuel's house.
 As a result of Lamy's assassination, said a Haitian analyst, Preval
``may have trouble finding anybody'' to replace Manuel. ``The job is not
too inviting.''


 The events come amid a deteriorating security situation in the country
and an apparent rift that had developed between Preval and Manuel,
according to both Haitian and foreign sources. In addition to his role
as the ministry official responsible for security, Manuel had
 been Preval's chief negotiator earlier this year with the country's
political parties in an effort to reach an agreement on a new government
and parliamentary elections. An agreement was reached on both, and
elections are now scheduled for March 2000. At the same time, an intense
campaign for the resignations of both Manuel and Denize was being waged
by Aristide partisans, who apparently saw the two as
 hostile to their interests. The public pressure for the resignations
had eased some months ago. Subsequently, however, according to a Haitian
source, Preval began giving Manuel ``the silent treatment. . . . They
started talking again in September but the relationship wasn't the
same.'' Preval reportedly asked him to resign.


 ``Manuel was perceived as a potential threat by the former [Aristide]
president,'' said the same source, ``and the current president felt it
was best to let him go.'' Among areas of rumored disagreement between
Preval and Manuel, said a foreign diplomat, were police targeting for
arrest ``with cause, people who are close to Tabare [where Aristide
lives].'' The concern now is that Denize, too, may soon depart.
 ``I can't see him staying,'' said a diplomat. ``Manuel was a lightning
rod that took a lot of the hits that would have been directed at