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#746: Tense Electoral Climate

From: Max Blanchet <MaxBlanchet@worldnet.att.net>


Haiti-Correspondence series 2/ No. 34/ October 11 1999
Haitian news from 
a popular and democratic perspective

The Tense Electoral Climate


Recent activity in Haiti has poisoned the country's electoral climate. 
The resignation of Robert Manuel as State Secretary for Public Security 
on October 7 serves as an example of such activity. Manuel left after 
Rene Preval demanded his resignation during a heated discussion. 
Officials did not release any statement about Manuel's subsequent 
departure from Haiti on October 9, a development that all of 
Port-au-Prince knew about.

Robert Manuel was appointed head of the State Secretariat of Public 
Security in 1996.

According to one source close to Robert Manuel, Manuel had been out of 
the loop in Port-au-Prince for about three months. Other sources pointed 
out that Manuel's forced resignation had something to do with Preval's 
recent visit to the United States.

Preval, accepting an invitation to the United States from John Conyers, 
had had meetings with President Clinton and Minister of Justice Janet 
Reno about the electoral process and drug situation in Haiti. Members of 
the opposition saw Preval's visit to Washington as a "summons" rather 
than an "invitation". Preval spoke of his "useful exchange" with the 
number one American.

Robert Manuel had the responsibility for a controversial file and 
understood the rising insecurity in Haiti as a challenge for the current 
government. Assassinations have multiplied across the country, including 
acts of banditry, the settling of scores between drug traffickers and 
politically motivated crimes.

Security is also an important element for the realization of the 
upcoming elections, scheduled by the CEP for March 19 and April 30, 
2000. In the electoral calendar published on October 6, the CEP expects 
electoral campaigns to being on January 10, 2000.

Robert Manuel had assured the coalition of the five opposition parties, 
"Espace de Concertation", that he would uphold the electoral rules 
during the next election. "This guarantee does not exist anymore," Micha 
Gaillard, leader of the National Congress of Democratic Activity 
(CONACOM) recently told the press.

Robert Manuel accompanied Rene Preval during every stage of negotiations 
with l'Espace de Concertation, which helped prevent a political crisis 
last March. Manuel, in the name of the executive, signed an agreement 
that provided for the formation of the government and the CEP.

Sauveur Pierre Etienne of the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL) 
predicted that the forced resignation of Robert Manuel would give those 
in power more control over the electoral process.

Yvon-Neptune, spokesperson for Fanmi Lavalas, controlled by the 
ex-president Aristide, did not want to "interpret" the departure of 
Robert Manuel. He did point out, however, that those in power felt it 
was necessary to take measures "to establish a sense of security in the 

About six months ago, a campaign was started that attacked the 
management of the police, namely Robert Manuel and the director general 
of the police, Pierre Denize. Graffiti appeared on walls in 
Port-au-Prince and pamphlets were distributed throughout the city, 
demanding the resignation of certain police and security officials. 
These officials had, coincidentally, received the support of the 
international community.

It was in this context that Lesly Faro, director of information at Radio 
Timoun, founded by former president Aristide, and member of the press 
service of the Presidency, was arrested and then released for possession 
of pamphlets that were hostile toward the former secretary of state and 
general director of the police.

Many popular organizations close to Fanmi Lavalas had placed barricades 
in the streets of the capital. One of these groups "Jeunesse Pouvoir 
Populaire" (JPP) celebrated upon receiving news of Manuel's resignation. 
JPP called upon Preval to choose a "bureaucrat" to take the place of 

The day following Manuel's resignation, the former colonel Jean Lamy, a 
consultant for the National Police and a man close to Fanmi Lavalas and 
the government, was assassinated on a busy street in Centre-Ville. He 
died in the hospital thirty minutes later after having been shot many 
times in the head. Jean Lamy was being considered as a possible 
replacement for Robert Manuel.

Preval, his wife and his advisors gathered around the victim's bedside 
and compiled a list of over a dozen people who had been killed by 
gunshot wounds in one week. A police inspector was among the victims.

Recently, Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis acknowledged that the 
insecurity was becoming "a serious problem". According to Alexis, the 
government would do well to lessen the sense of insecurity throughout 
the country.

The resignation of Robert Manuel occurred a few days after the launching 
of operation Columbus, an effort against drug and arms trafficking that 
includes the Haitian police, Dominican agents, Colombians and Americans. 
The West, North, South, South-East, and Artibonite Departments have 
received visits from agents of the bureau against drug trafficking.

Over a dozen people have been arrested under the scope of this 
operation. Hundreds of kilos of cocaine, thousands of American dollars, 
and cars were seized. The most spectacular seizure occurred in Frere, 
near Petion-Ville, where agents seized 275 kilos of cocaine, 41 thousand 
American dollars and five vehicles. Three people were arrested.