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6600: Pina on the 10th Anniversary of the Coup (fwd)

From: KEVIN PINA <kevinpina@usa.net>

Pina's Notes 10th Anniversary of Lafontant Coup

January 7th, 2001
Port au Prince, Haiti

Today is the tenth anniversary of the attempted coup of Roger Lafontant,
former head of the Ton Ton Macoutes. Ten years ago, Aristide had just been
elected president with an overwhelming majority when Duvalierism and its
supporters in the wealthy elite attempted to forestall the upcoming
inauguration of the new president by seizing power. Lafontant and his cronies
seized the presidential palace without a fight as Provisional president Ertha
Pascal Trouillot announced on national television that she had capitulated
was handing over power to the plotters. Lafontant then took to the screen
announcing the coup as necessary to overturn what he called ?sham elections?
and a ?masquerade? of democracy. 

The nation was in a state of shock as Haiti?s first free and fair elections
186 years appeared to be on the brink of being discarded without so much as a
shot being fired. The plotters congratulated themselves and held a party in
the palace that evening to celebrate their apparent victory over the upstart
priest turned president and his so-called Lavalas movement. They made plans
for a return to ?business as usual? in Haiti. As they received reports of
token resistance, by people banging pots and pans from their homes, they
looked forward to the ?clean-up? campaign they would begin the next day to
consolidate power and ?fix? the country.

The next morning at about 6 am, thousands of people began spontaneously
over the streets to protest the new dictatorship while demanding that
take office. Large demonstrations were also reported in Jeremie, Gonaives and
Cap Hatien. Literally hundreds of thousands of Haitians marched to the
national palace and the military headquarters to challenge Lafontant and the
effrontery of his coup. With the prospect of violence on a scale never seen
before, the army had no choice but to put down the coup arresting Lafontant
and his supporters. 

It is especially interesting to revisit these events in light of the current
attempt by the so-called Democratic Convergence to create a parallel
government in Haiti. The transparent and provocative timing of their project
combines with their statements questioning the validity of the last
presidential elections in such a way as to remind Haitians of Lafontant?s
attempted coup ten years ago. A representative of the Convergence was quoted
yesterday, on Leopold Berlanger?s USAID funded Radio Vision 2000, comparing
the parallel government concept to the loading of a huge cannon. When pressed
he refused to rule out the use of violence and stated quite calmly that the
country is headed toward civil war. 

Meanwhile, the resolve of Lavalas supporters, apparently a majority based on
interview samples, is hardening as the inauguration of February 7th
approaches. There remains a great amount of fear and anticipation of what
might happen before then. Lavalas supporters in the street point out that the
country suffered under a campaign of violence and terror leading up to the
last election. Two weeks prior, the population was terrorized by random
drive-by shootings in the capital which was followed the next week by a
sophisticated bombing campaign that targeted children in buses as they rode
school. They cite these examples when asked to respond to the claims of the
Convergence that a low voter turnout represented a boycott and hence popular
support for their parallel government. One Lavalas supporter put it this way,
?We only risked what we had to in order to get him elected under those
conditions. The people who did not vote do not support the Convergence any
more then you can say that people who did not vote in the US supported George
Bush. The majority is clearly Lavalas but many people were afraid to vote
after that. Still, enough took the risk so that we can say that Aristide is
the people?s choice. We deserve a chance and are ready to fight again to
protect our democracy. We are tired but committed , we deserve a chance.? 


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