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#5000: Events in Haiti in August (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

(from Caribbean Insight, of Sept 1, 2000)  

(published in London)


Defying national and international charges of fraud and threats of boycott,
Haiti's new parliament, firmly controlled by former President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide, convened on August 28 to begin setting the stage for his expected
return to the presidency in November.  
        Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas (FL) party won 72 of the 83 seats in the
chamber of deputies and 18 of 19 seats to be filled in the 27-member
senate, according to final results of the May 21 legislative and municipal
elections.  The results were officialised one day before the arrival in
Port-au-Prince on August 17 of Organisation of American States (OAS)
secretary-general Cesar Gaviria to try to negotiate a compromise solution
to the election crisis "to strengthen and preserve democratic
        Gaviria warned that if there was no "national dialogue," Haiti
would be "severely affected" and the November 26 presidential election
would be in jeopardy.  But he said opposition demands for annulment of the
May 21 vote and the resignation of President René Préval were unrealistic. 
The opposition and many foreign countries and international bodies have
accused the authorities of exaggerating the victory of the FL by illegal
vote-counting methods.  The OAS said the second-round of the election on
July 9 was "fundamentally flawed" as a result.  One suggestion being made
is that FL candidates abstain to allow the opposition to win all eight
senate seats up for re-election in November.
        The US government, which criticised the vote counting, closed a
police training programme in Haiti at the beginning of August, officially
for lack of funding.  The European Union began a review on July 25 that
could lead to suspension of a $200 million five-year aid package.  Japan
however denied reports attributed to its chargé d'affaires in Haiti that it
had suspended aid.
        President René Préval retorted on July 26 that if international
sanctions were imposed, "we will tighten our belts to continue building
democracy" and prime minister Jacques Édouard Alexis said Haiti would make
investments "with our own money."  The paralysis or absence of parliament
for more than three years has held up disbursement of about $400 million in
foreign aid.  
        An Inter-American Human Right Commission delegation reported on
August 28 that "the climate of intimidation" had "intensified" in recent
months and that there seemed to be "no consensus about building democracy."
        UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said on August 9 that the elections
had only "deepened" the political crisis and "increased tension and
violence."  Failure to observe the electoral law in the vote-counting "cast
a shadow" over the new parliament's "democratic legitimacy" and any early
resumption of foreign aid, he said.  
        Annan said the work of the UN Civilian Support Mission to Haiti
(MICAH) "risks being jeopardised by the current climate of political
turmoil and intolerance."  Police and legal officials had been "passive or
even complicit" with violence by "so-called popular organisations" against
the opposition, the press and the general public.  "Reliance on street
violence to impose objectives at every crucial juncture in the political
process has set dangerous precedents that bode ill for the future," he
         A group of 193 intellectuals, artists, priests and former Lavalas
officials warned in early August against what they called a drift to the
"irreparable disaster" of a dictatorship.  They included former ambassador
to the US Jean Casimir, left-wing priest William Smarth and sociologist
Laënnec Hurbon.  They said the current climate of fear and repression,
forcing people to flee the country, was similar to that under the old
military regimes.  Meanwhile, the grassroots NGO Batay Ouvriyè said its
members were still being attacked and harrassed around the country by FL
supporters who it said were "acting like Macoutes."
        Since the elections, the value of the gourde has fallen from its
long-standing rate of around 17 to the US dollar to 22, the lowest level
since the economic embargo against Haiti was lifted in 1994.
        Carlos Botero Asprilla, a major figure among the many Colombian
drug lords living in Haiti, was deported to the US on August 8 for trial. 
He was the first drug trafficker Haiti had handed over to US officials.
        The trial of former Port-au-Prince police chief Coles Rameau and
five other policemen accused of executing 11 unarmed people in May 1999
began on August 21.