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6964: NYTimes.com Article: Haiti's Aristide Takes Presidential Oath (fwd)

From: bwharram@umich.edu

Haiti's Aristide Takes Presidential Oath

February 7, 2001


Filed at 8:23 p.m. ET

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Populist former priest
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted from Haiti's presidency in a
military coup and then restored by a U.S.-led invasion in 1994,
returned to the presidency on Wednesday facing internal political
dissent and international isolation.

In a solemn ceremony at Parliament, Aristide placed his hand on a
bible and swore to serve his country during his five-year term. He
exchanged hugs with outgoing President Rene Preval, who removed the
blue and red sash of office and placed it across Aristide's chest.

With that, Preval became the first president of Haiti, which
overthrew French colonial rule in 1804, to be freely elected, serve
an entire term and give up power voluntarily.

Aristide later addressed thousands of ebullient supporters in front
of the National Palace, saying: ``I am the president of all
Haitians without distinction, and the only road to deliverance is

A hundred school girls dressed in white marched in the front lawn
and released dozens of doves and red-and-blue balloons, Haiti's
national colors.

Streets in the capital were papered with flyers depicting white
doves and blocked with mounds of rubble to prevent drive-by
shootings. Businesses and schools closed, leaving the freshly
red-and-blue painted streets empty of the usual traffic. Aristide
supporters danced through the capital.

``Today is a confirmation of Aristide's victory,'' said Michel
Fritzner, 28, wearing a headband bearing Aristide's campaign slogan
-- ``Peace in the belly, peace in the mind.''

Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest from the slums of
Port-au-Prince, rose to power in 1990 in a grass-roots movement
that helped crush decades of dictatorship. Seven months into his
term, he was ousted by a military junta and went into exile until a
U.S.-led invasion restored him to power.

Barred by Haiti's constitution from seeking consecutive terms,
Aristide handed power to his protege, Preval, in 1996.

Aristide returns to the helm of a deeply impoverished nation of 7.8
million people, 80 percent of them unemployed and two-thirds of
them suffering from malnutrition, according to a recent United
nations survey.

The U.N. closed its police training and human rights mission on
Tuesday, citing a lack of funding and an inability to function in a
``climate of political turmoil.''


Angry over
irregularities in last year's parliamentary elections, Haiti's
opposition political parties boycotted the November election that
returned Aristide to power. They refused to recognize his
legitimacy as president and hold that a constitutional void exists
with Preval's departure.

An opposition party coalition, Democratic Convergence, is forming a
``parallel government'' to pressure Aristide for new parliamentary
elections. They held a separate ceremony on Wednesday to inaugurate
their ``provisional president,'' lawyer and human rights activist
Gerard Gourgue.

``We don't consider Aristide as the president of Haiti,'' said
opposition leader Evans Paul, a former Port-au-Prince mayor. ``He's
a de facto president, a contested president.''

The opposition parties and international election monitors said
results were miscalculated in Haiti's May 2000 parliamentary
election, giving Aristide's Lavalas Family party more senate seats
than they deserved.

But Aristide, 48, extended an olive branch, saying, ``In a
democratic system, we need the opposition and I intend to work with
the Haitian opposition to solve the political situation.''

He promised to create 500,000 jobs, build more than 500 public
schools and complete a review of disputed senate seats.

Aristide also pledged to strengthen relations between the public
and private sectors, fight corruption and drug trafficking, and
restructure Haiti's health care system.

Neighboring heads of state snubbed the inauguration, sending only
resident ambassadors or lower-level dignitaries, in protest at
Aristide's refusal to compromise with the opposition parties and
call new parliamentary elections.

Attending were Canadian Ambassador Gilles Bernier; U.S. Ambassador
Brian Dean Curran; Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Hugo
Tolentino Dit; Luigi Einaudi, assistant secretary general of the
Organization of American States; Belize Prime Minister Said Musa;
former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez and a Taiwanese

In an attempt to reach out to the international community, Aristide
delivered his inaugural speech in English, French and Spanish as
well as Haiti's native Creole.

Haiti's constitution sets Feb. 7 as inauguration day to commemorate
the day in 1986 when President Jean-Claude ``Baby Doc'' Duvalier
fled into exile, ending 29-year family dictatorship that ruled
Haiti with an iron fist. 



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