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#5146: Events in Haiti over the past 10 days (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

(from the weekly newsletter Caribbean Insight, 22 Sept 00)


The government has indicated willingness to talk to the Organisation of
American States (OAS) about the internationally-criticised May 21
parliamentary elections, the US State Department said on September 13.  The
change in position came after what a US official said was a "very tough"
meeting between President René Préval and US secretary of state Madeleine
Albright during the Millennium Summit in New York.  The US has warned it
will impose sanctions if Haiti does not review the inaccurately-counted
election results, which exaggerated the victory of former President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas party.  Four top US officials
visited Port-au-Prince on September 15-17 for a new round of talks with all
sides in the dispute.
        Several thousand demonstrators led by the country's biggest peasant
organisation, the Mouvement Paysan de Papaye (MPP), marched nine miles from
MPP headquarters to the town of Hinche, in central Haiti, on September 18
in the biggest anti-Lavalas protest in the 10 years since Lavalas was
founded.  MPP leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, once a top aide to Aristide
and Préval, denounced what he said was "Lavalas dictatorship."   He called
on people not to pay Duvalier-era taxes which he said the government had
        Prime minister Jacques Édouard Alexis was unanimously confirmed in
his post by parliament on September 19, more than two years after being
nominated and 18 months after being unilaterally appointed by President
Préval, who declared parliament's mandate at an end after its refusal to
approve Alexis.
        The government began talks with fuel distributors on September 13
after they had shut down petrol stations nationwide for three days in
protest against the government-imposed 44% fuel price increase.  The
distributors threatened to resume their protests if they were not allowed a
bigger profit margin.  But trade minister Gérald Germain said this would
not be possible because of the huge cost of past subsidies. 
        The US Congress' General Accounting Office (GAO) said on September
19 that US aid of $70 million to build a new Haitian police force and $27
million to strengthen the legal system had largely been wasted over the
past six years because of the Haitian government's "lack of commitment" to
tackling major problems in these two domains.  The police were ineffective,
corrupt and politicised, the GAO said, and the legal system was hampered by
corruption, government control, a large case backlog, an outdated legal
code, poor facilities and by the fact that it conducted business in French,
instead of the country's majority language, Creole.
        Chief justice Clausel Debrosses, who was appointed in 1994 after
Aristide was restored to power, died on September 18, aged 85.  He was
criticised in 1998 for calling for the return of the death penalty, which
was abolished in the 1987 constitution.
        The central tax office has estimated tax revenue for the 1999/2000
fiscal year will amount to $300 million.  No new taxes or tax increases are
planned for the coming fiscal year and the authorities will aim to raise
$400 million by improving collection.