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#5080: Events in early September (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

(from Caribbean Insight)

(8 September 2000)


The US government may oppose Haitian loan requests from international
lending institutions unless there is "meaningful change" towards correcting
the country's flawed electoral system, US ambassador Luis Lauredo told a
meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) permanent council on
September 5.
        It would also bypass the Haitian government and channel virtually
all bilateral aid through NGOs or private organisations and would not
support the November 26 presidential and partial legislative elections,
financially or with observers, if the government did not budge on the
issue, he said.  The US habitually provides the bulk of the $20 million
cost of Haitian elections.
        "We have reached a crossroads," Lauredo said, because of the
government's refusal to consider the "serious irregularities and
deficiencies" in the election's aftermath, when the counting procedure
exaggerated the victory of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi
Lavalas Party.  The "elation" of millions of Haitians who had "demonstrated
their trust in the ballot box and democratic elections has turned sour," he
        Earlier, a senior US official said Washington wanted to "send a
strong message, but not punish the Haitian people."  The US was seeking
changes in the Conseil Électoral Provisoire, which miscounted the votes and
is in charge of organising the November election.
        A State Department spokesman said on August 30 that the new
parliament had been "prematurely seated, which calls its legitimacy into
question" and that the US would "not pursue a collaborative relationship"
with it.
        The US special Haiti coordinator, Donald Steinberg, said on August
30 after a three-day visit to Haiti that he had found Aristide, President
René Préval and opposition figures willing to talk to each other about
solving the dispute but that "the notion of what that dialogue encompasses
is different."  The US has suggested a referendum to gauge Haitians'
opinion on the vote-counting.
        Former prime minister designate (1998) Hervé Denis, an ex-Aristide
supporter, accused the government and the FL on August 25 of working "to
set up a dictatorship" and said "a regime of repression and terror" was
developing.  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."
        A fragmentation grenade hurled at the state television studios on
September 4 damaged equipment but caused no casualties.
        Petrol and fuel prices rose an average of 44% after the government
ended its subsidy of petrol prices on September 2 in response to soaring
world oil prices.  The subsidy has amounted to about $47.5 million this
year.  Prices of other goods, including food, rose in the wake of the fuel
price increase.  The government had agreed to align Haitian fuel prices
with those in the Dominican Republic, also recently increased, to
discourage cross-border smuggling..
        The central bank increased its reserve requirement ratios on
September 1 from 28% to 30% for gourdes and from 17% to 20% for dollars,
with a further 1% rise set for each on September 16.  The bank also raised
its 91-day bond rate from 22% to 25% and other banks announced similar