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6057: Threats make tight security vital, Haitian opposition , politician says (fwd)
Published Wednesday, November 29, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Threats make tight security vital, Haitian opposition politician says
BY YVES COLON
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Two men stand guard before Herve Denis' house in the
hills above this city, one cradling a shotgun and the other with a
.45-caliber pistol on his hip. Denis doesn't leave the house without one
of them. The guards are on high alert this week, in the aftermath of
Sunday's presidential elections. Denis said he is a target because he is
a member of the coalition of political parties that boycotted the
elections, denouncing them as fraudulent. While official results have
not been announced, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is expected
to claim victory in the coming days. With six of nine districts
reporting, Aristide had 91 percent of the vote, Haiti's electoral
council announced Tuesday.
The council also said that 60 percent of Haitians participated in the
elections, while the opposition maintains that fewer than 10 percent
voted. Such a low turnout would be a sharp rebuke to Aristide and his
Family Lavalas party. ``I was told it was not too smart to show too much
of myself,'' Denis said, sitting in the shaded courtyard of his home
overlooking the valley leading to the ocean below. Denis is one of the
most visible members of the opposition coalition, which is
made up of several political parties, unions and other organizations.
Many of them were once close to Aristide or President René Préval, also
a Lavalas member. Denis, for example, was minister of information under
Aristide, and on two occasions in the late 1990s was picked by Préval to
be prime minister but never received confirmation from the parliament.
``Lavalas made it clear they want to eliminate me, those who are
opposed to them, those who question all their enterprises,'' said Denis,
60, a former academic. ``That's why I'm a target.'
Dismissing those allegations, Yvon Neptune, a senator and spokesperson
for Lavalas, said opposition representatives ``are on the radio everyday
saying this is what they are going to do with Lavalas, threats that we
ignore. . . . They are giving the same propaganda as former supporters
of the military dictatorship and supporters of the dictatorship of
François Duvalier and his Tonton Macoutes,'' or secret police.
Aristide said on Monday that opposition has a role to play and that he
and the party were ready to work with them. Another Aristide opponent,
Evans Paul, once a popular radio personality who joined in the political
struggle during the military dictatorship, was also also a close ally of
Lavalas. Lately, though, he has fallen so far out of favor that crowds
of Lavalas supporters celebrating the elections carried a coffin with
Paul's name in bold white letters on the side.
Several other leaders of another opposition group, including Gerard
Pierre Charles, are former allies of Lavalas. Denis said coalition
members supported Lavalas when Aristide was first elected
in 1990, and maintained their support after he was overthrown and sent
to exile. But as time went on, Denis said, their minds began to change.
``We started to realize that Lavalas was not what we thought,'' he
said. ``There was no improvement. The state was falling apart,
corruption was never so established.' Ruefully, Denis said, ``Aristide
brought us together.''
At this moment, he concedes that the opposition is motivated largely by
hatred for Aristide, less by a desire to solve Haiti's problems of
illiteracy, poverty, hunger and inadequate health care for the poor who
make up the majority of Haiti's eight million people.
``I would say that 90 percent of the coalition's energy is spent saying
no to Lavalas while the other 10 percent is spent on putting together a
plan of action,' he said.
Denis said Haiti's people are hungry for an alternative, which the
coalition cannot provide because of what he calls the ``terrorists of
the state'' who break up opposition meetings and rallies. That's why the
opposition cannot show the number of people the leaders have behind
them, he said. ``If there had been a confrontation of ideas, I'm sure
Aristide would not have won these elections,'' he said. ``On the
contrary.'' Meanwhile, Aristide's effort to reach out to those who have
criticized the election received a setback Tuesday when U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the General Assembly that the United
Nations mission in Haiti should be terminated because of the unstable
political situation. In a report that was written in early November,
Annan said that Haitian political leaders, whom he did not name, had
violated democratic norms. He also drew attention to the violence
against international workers trying to help Haiti establish
police and justice systems and teach human rights. There has been scant
success. The mandate of the Haitian mission is due for renewal in
February. The secretary general recommended ending it.
Most international organizations and many nations, including the United
States, concluded that parliamentary elections last May were seriously
flawed and refused to monitor the presidential vote last weekend.