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6957: Aristide faces a tense inauguration today (fwd)

From: nozier <nozier@tradewind.net>

Published Wednesday, February 7, 2001, in the Miami Herald
 Aristide faces a tense inauguration today BY YVES COLON

 PORT-AU-PRINCE -- When Jean-Bertrand Aristide becomes president of
 today, he will inherit a country traumatized by centuries of poverty,
 violence and frequent lawlessness. He will also face an opposition
alliance that
 continues to insist that his presidency is illegitimate because the
elections that
 led to his victory were fraudulent. Although the opposition appears the
lesser of his problems, it may be the one he has to confront first
because talks between the ruling parties and the anti-Aristide forces
broke down at 3 a.m. Tuesday. Convergence, a 15-party opposition
coalition, accused Aristide of vote fraud and declared former
presidential candidate Gerard Gourgue to be the country's provisional
 A Convergence leader, Evans Paul, called for the people ``to rise up''
and peacefully demonstrate their rejection of Aristide today in front of
the National Palace, where he is to give his inaugural address. Any
demonstration was likely to trigger confrontations with Aristide
supporters, who appear to be in control of the streets. With brooms and
singing traditional Vodou songs, they have been sweeping away garbage,
painting monuments and the sidewalks the blue and red of the Haitian
flag in anticipation of the
 inauguration. ``There might be some trouble if there's a
demonstration,'' said Leslie Voltaire, an advisor to outgoing President
René Préval. ``The few policemen we have will be everywhere providing
protection. Anything can happen if we can't control it.''
 Many of Haiti's international neighbors, including the United States,
 expected to send only resident ambassadors to the inauguration -- a
 snub triggered by Aristide's refusal to compromise with his political
 who want new national elections. President Hipólito Mejía of the
Dominican Republic had been expected to be the only head of state to
attend, but he canceled Tuesday.
 ``We can't have a normal relationship with the government until
problems with the
 May elections are resolved,'' U.S. Ambassador Dean Curran told
reporters, noting
 that America has already suspended nearly all of its assistance to the
 government as a protest.


 As president and leader of the Family Lavalas party, Aristide is the
focus of Haitians' hopes that a solution can be found to the myriad
challenges facing the country. They include a crumbling infrastructure,
an almost nonexistent public education system, little health care and a
minimum amount of foreign investment. The cost of living has risen
sharply in the past year, with price of gasoline going up by 40 percent.
The gourde, the local currency, is barely recovering from losing half of
its value, making staples such as rice and beans much more expensive to
the average Haitian.
 Aristide was first voted into office in 1991, but he was overthrown by
a military
 coup and sent to exile by the military. He returned after 20,000 U.S.
 ousted the military leaders, and spent the past five years awaiting the
Nov. 26
 elections, which the Electoral Council said he won with 92 percent of
the votes.
 The groups and political parties that make up the Convergence formed
after the
 May 21 legislative elections last year, when they challenged the way
the Electoral
 Council counted 10 senate seats awarded to Lavalas candidates without a
 They also asserted that candidates from other parties than Lavalas
could not
 campaign openly for fear of violence. Several opposition candidates,
indeed, were
 shot dead. In addition, groups of youths, claiming to be close to
Lavalas and
 called chimeres, or ruffians in Creole, disrupted political meetings.
 Lavalas candidates overwhelmingly won those elections, leaving only
seven seats
 for the other candidates in a Parliament of more than 100 members.
 ``Their legitimacy was suspect from the beginning,'' said Gerard
 head of the party Organisation du Peuple en Lutte, OPL, and a leader of


 The Organization of American States backed the opposition's claims. The
 States agreed, urging Aristide and Lavalas to review the parliamentary
vote before
 they help unblock half a billion dollars in foreign loans and grants
that have been
 awaiting parliament's signature. The talks broke down Tuesday after
both sides failed to come up with a power-sharing agreement sought by
the Convergence leaders.
 The inauguration of Aristide this week coincides with the departure of
the United
 Nations, whose civilian forces have been working in Haiti for five
years on a variety
 of programs, from digging wells to building schools and helping set up
 professional police force after Aristide returned from exile in 1996.
For many average Haitians, public safety remains the most pressing
concern, and the biggest challenge.
 ``If there is security, there will be political stability,'' said
Clement Normil, 46, an
 Aristide supporter and a 15 year-employee of a car rental agency.
 ``There will be jobs. No one will be afraid to invest here. If the
leaders have the will
 to make the country change, then safety must be at the top of the