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7221: Haiti's new PM faces divided country (fwd)
From: nozier <email@example.com>
Haiti's new PM faces divided country __TIMES OF INDIA
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Supporters of Haiti's new prime minister,
Jean-Marie Cherestal, say he can heal Haiti's political wounds and
regain international aid suspended after disputed elections.
Critics say Cherestal, confirmed as prime minister by the Parliament on
Thursday, was nominated solely because of his strong loyalty to
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the opposition accuses of
instituting a creeping dictatorship. An economist and former finance
minister, Cherestal acknowledges that the Caribbean nation is riven by
bitter feuding and that reconciling Haiti's opposition with Aristide's
governing Lavalas Family Party will be no easy task.
"Haiti is a divided nation," he said in an interview last week. "It
has to be reconciled with itself. I know how to reach out, and people
say I am a rallying point." Opposition politician Herve Denis disagreed,
saying "Cherestal will serve his leader blindly, and his leader is no
democrat." Legislators gave an overwhelming vote of confidence to
Cherestal's policy plan on Thursday. In the Senate, 17 voted in favour
and one abstained. In the Chamber of Deputies, the vote was unanimous.
Cherestal pledged to reduce unemployment, promote investment and bring
greater stability to Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western
Hemisphere.Aristide was elected president in a November landslide
boycotted by all major opposition parties, who charged fraud in May
legislative elections. The Organisation of American States said 10
Senate races won by Aristide candidates should have gone to
second-round runoffs. As a result, other countries have suspended or
rechannelled hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. In a radio
address to the nation Thursday, Cherestal said patching relations with
foreign donors was a priority: "We will speak to the international
community and help them understand the political situation better."
On the home front, he had promised to include opposition members in
his Cabinet, but nominees released Thursday did not include anyone from
the 15-party opposition alliance Convergence. The opposition is
demanding new elections and has named an "alternative" president.
Aristide became Haiti's first democratically elected president in 1990,
catapulted to power by a political movement called "Lavalas," the Creole
word for a flash flood, symbolising the irresistible force of the
A bloody military coup ousted Aristide in 1991, but he maintained a
government-in-exile, and Cherestal served as his planning minister from
1993. After a US military invasion restored Aristide to power in 1994,
Cherestal continued in that role. In November 1995, Cherestal became
finance and economics minister and retained that post under Aristide's
chosen successor, President Rene Preval, until March 1996. In 1998,
Cherestal was put in charge of international development funds.
Born like Aristide in the small south-coast town of Port Salut,
Cherestal has been a trusted collaborator for years.
Robert Malval, Aristide's prime minister during the 1991-1994 exile,
wrote in his 1996 memoirs that Cherestal is "a mirror in which he
(Aristide) gazes to comfort his soul." (AP)