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6606: Events in Haiti in the past three weeks (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

(from Caribbean Insight newsletter)

(12 Jan 01)

In an apparent attempt to head off a more aggressive US policy towards
Haiti by the new US Republican administration, President-elect
Jean-Bertrand Aristide has made overtures to the opposition and the
international community by promising to "rapidly rectify problems"
resulting from the disputed legislative elections of last May 21 and to set
up a broad-based government including "technocrats" and opposition members.
        The pledges, announced by Washington on December 28 after a visit
by two emissaries of US President Bill Clinton ? former national security
adviser Anthony Lake and Don Steinberg, the State Department's special
Haiti coordinator ? also included appointing a new and "credible" electoral
council, stepping up the fight against drug smuggling, preventing members
of parliament interfering with the police force, strengthening the
judiciary and democratic institutions and allowing foreign monitoring of
human rights, establishing a "new dialogue" with international financial
bodies and reaching an agreement for repatriating illegal Haitian
immigrants from the US.  The White House said these steps could mark "a new
beginning for Haiti's democratic future."
        Steinberg said he and Lake had "made clear to Aristide that he
needs to reestablish his relationship with the international community and
to recognise that these steps are fundamental to building confidence.  I
think he understands that the success of his presidency depends on the
cooperation of the Haitian people and the international community," he
        Gérard Pierre-Charles, leader of the opposition Organisation of the
People in Struggle (OPL), dismissed the promises as "warmed-over ideas the
opposition will never accept" and "just accomodations that will allow
Aristide to stay in power."  
        A conference of the Covergence Démocratique (CD) coalition on
January 3 repeated its call for a complete re-run of the May 21 elections
and the November 26 presidential poll and announced plans to set up a
provisional government of national unity that would hold new elections as
soon as possible to oppose the "small group of profiteers" it said had
gained power.
        President René Préval called the CD plan "political madness." 
Prime minister Jacques Édouard Alexis said the opposition leaders were "a
bunch of lunatics" and said the government would not tolerate attempts to
overthrow it.  A number of opposition figures refused to join the call for
an alternative government.
        Haiti's economic prospects have worsened, with slower growth,
higher inflation, a greater budget deficit (now 2.2% of GDP), decline in
government revenue (now 7.8% of GDP), a 20% fall in foreign reserves and
pressure on the gourde because of  political uncertainty, the IMF said in
its annual review of the Haitian economy.  The government should curb
discretionary ministerial accounts and wage increases so as to free up
funds for education, health, justice and security, it said
        President Préval, speaking on the 197th anniversary of independence
on January 1, blamed Haiti's plight on the French colonial powers and the
generals who led the independence struggle.  He told parliament on January
8 that Haiti was not responsible for the entrance of drugs into the US
because Haiti did not produce them.  Fifteen FL deputies voted on December
19 against the ratification of a 1997 "ship-rider" agreement, saying it was
an affront to national sovereignty.  
        The number of lynchings rose from 52 to 77 last year, according to
police figures, but murders and attempted murders fell sharply, as did
cases of drug-smuggling and seizures of weapons.  US customs officials
seized more than $2 million in cash, apparently drug money, hidden in a
ship about to leave Miami for Haiti on January 4.