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6791: This Week in Haiti 18:45 1/24/2001 (fwd)
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
January 24 - 30, 2001
Vol. 18, No. 45
OPPOSITION PREPARES "EXTRA-CONSTITUTIONAL" POWER GRAB
Like opening salvos, four bombs exploded around Port-au-Prince on
Jan. 19, wounding five people, one critically. One was detonated
in Pétionville's central square, in front of the town's high
The timing seems far from coincidental: the weekend of new U.S.
President George W. Bush's inauguration. Lacking any popular
support, Haiti's opposition front, the Democratic Convergence
(CD), is hoping (or perhaps has already been told) that the
incoming U.S. Republican administration will help them sabotage
the Feb. 7 inauguration of Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was
elected with 92% of the vote in nationwide elections on Nov. 26.
Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis claimed that the police had
arrested one man, Etzer Cameau, who implicated unnamed opposition
figures in the bombings. "The names which have been cited have
among them certain names in the opposition," Alexis said.
"Someone has to be really desperate to take the initiative to
carry out such a crime. They must have no faith in the people and
no respect for democracy."
Victor Benoit of the CONACOM, a CD component, called Alexis'
remarks "psychological warfare," charging that it was a hallmark
of "fascist" and "totalitarian" governments to "manufacture a
terrorist action and then afterwards blame it on the opposition."
But most Haitians scoff at the notion that the Haitian government
is either dictatorial or destabilizing itself. The more
widespread view is that the government has been much too tolerant
of the threats and provocations coming from the opposition,
despite its tiny size. On Jan. 19, hundreds of people
demonstrated in the streets of Jérémie, denouncing the CD and
calling on the government to take a less defensive posture.
Last week the government finally did issue an order summoning
Sauveur Pierre-Etienne, a vitriolic spokesman for the CD's
Organization of People in Struggle (OPL), to appear in court for
his incendiary calls to overthrow the government. The summons
mirrored that issued the week before to Paul Raymond of the St.
Jean Bosco Little Church Community (TKL), who was accused of
threatening 130 people named on a list as members of a
"consultative body" of a "parallel government" to be established
by the CD (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18, No. 44, 1/17/2001). In
court, Raymond claimed that "we were only asking people on the
list to rectify it" if they had been named without their consent.
Pierre-Etienne has called his summons "an attempt to gag the
opposition." But Haitian radio airwaves are still awash in their
declarations. Feeling the Bush administration is with them, the
CD is hell-bent on continuing their "parallel government" plans
with a meeting on Jan. 27 at the Rex Theatre to define the "body
politic" to be set in place on Feb. 7. On Jan. 23, Benoit
ominously declared that the opposition might resort to "extra-
Constitutional" means to achieve their ends.
The opposition's all-but-official organ, the right-wing Brooklyn-
based Haïti Observateur, which has always had close ties with and
sources in the U.S. government, reported last week that "the
architects of the Bush administration's Haitian policy do not
rule out the possibility of events putting in doubt the seating
of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, emphasizing that such difficulties
could take the form of a 'postponement'" of the inauguration due
to "disturbances or violent confrontations."
New U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell may have lulled some in
the Lavalas camp by saying in Senate confirmation hearings last
week that an 8-point U.S. economic and political plan for Haiti,
drafted by the Clinton administration, was "an acceptable road
map." Aristide reportedly agreed to the plan in order to unblock
$600 million in international aid held hostage by Washington for
the past three years. But Powell also added that "we do not rule
out that we might have other conditions or other things we might
want to add" while admitting that "those are pretty demanding
All other signs are that a full-scale destabilization campaign is
underway in these weeks leading up to Feb. 7. Zenglendo (bandit)
attacks were widespread and ferocious. From Jan. 14 to 20, the
General Hospital reported 69 people were wounded, 21 of them by
gunfire. There were also 4 rapes and 5 people were burned to
death, reportedly zenglendos caught red-handed.
But crime did not spike just in the popular quarters, its usual
haunt. High profile members of the bourgeoisie were also
targeted. Well-known doctor Thony Ratton was shot to death at his
home in Petit-Goâve. Denis Balthazar, 75, a former Duvalierist
deputy, was shot three times and is in critical condition.
Patrice Bayard was fired on by zenglendos while driving his car
on National Highway 1 near the airport. He is the son of Marie
Claude Bayard, vice president of Haiti's Association of
Industrialists (ADIH). With him was Patrick Mangones, the son of
famed Citadel restorer Albert Mangones, and also a relative of
police chief Pierre Denizé.
Meanwhile, the "civil society" (code for the bourgeoisie) has
offered to act as a "mediator" in talks between the Lavalas and
the opposition, a proposal which was heartily and inappropriately
applauded by U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran, who said that
"the United States fully supports this initiative."
But the Lavalas sector was much more circumspect. "We have
noticed that this very civil society has been a little bit too
partisan," explained Lavalas senator Gérald Gilles. He recalled
that Rosny Desroches, Jean-Claude Duvalier's Education Minister,
was one of the civil society "leaders" who has publicly condemned
the May 21 parliamentary and Nov. 26 elections. "So personally I
give him a big fat zero," Gilles said. He said there were many
other civil society members who deserve zeros.
Given such offensives, both insidious and frontal, Alexis felt it
necessary to sound an alarm. "You the Haitian people, once again
I ask you to remain vigilant, to watch out above and below
because misfortune cannot continue to plague you," he said. "You
know the proverb which says that together we are strong. Well in
fact, we are strong and we will show it."
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