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#3115: Death adds to Haiti's vote turmoil... (fwd)


Published Tuesday, April 4, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Radio commentator shot dead_____ Death adds to Haiti's vote turmoil

 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Gunmen ambushed and killed Haiti's best known
radio journalist early Monday, further fueling a deteriorating
 political and economic situation in the country. Jean Dominique, also
an informal advisor to President Rene Preval, was shot by two gunmen who
were waiting for him in what appeared to be a well-planned attack about
 6:10 a.m. (7:10 Miami time), after he pulled into the station grounds
and was preparing to park. The assassins hit him with at least seven
 bullets, then fled. Dominique died in an ambulance en route to a
hospital. A station security guard was also killed. It was the third
high-profile assassination in Haiti in a little over a year: 

 Yvon Toussaint, an opposition senator was killed in March 1999, and
Jean Lamy, a onetime Haitian army colonel and police advisor close to
former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was gunned down in October. No
one has been arrested in either of those killing. Dominique's death
comes at a time of increasing tension and uncertainty over legislative
elections, already delayed three times, despite intense international
 pressure on the Preval government to hold them as promptly as possible.
 Haiti has had no parliament since January 1999 when Preval effectively
dissolved it by declaring its term at an end. The lack of a parliament
to approve international assistance has cost the country hundreds of
millions of dollars in such aid. As a result, the international
community, including Washington, has become increasingly frustrated with
the Preval government and, what many see as the power behind it, former
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was restored to office in October
1994 by a U.S.-led invasion.
 At the same time, a new and probably final, United Nations mission to
Haiti with police, human rights and judicial system advisors, has yet to
become operational, even though its one year mandate began March 15.
 U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, in a letter to the General Assembly
on Friday, said that the new Haiti mission may have to be terminated due
to lack of funds. The United States, which promised a $7.5 million
voluntary contribution for the mission, has so far failed to come
through. Dominique's death also came after three days of sometimes
violent election-related street demonstrations last week, with some
demonstrators demanding elections and others protesting the rising cost
of living due to a deteriorating economic situation. Speculation
abounded Monday about who might have been responsible for
 Dominique's assassination and what its political implications might be
on an already volatile country, apart from the further intimidation of
local media. Dominique, 69, made no pretense of being an objective
journalist, and as an acerbic and opinionated commentator had made many
enemies across the political spectrum. Still, according to one local
journalist, his 7 a.m. radio program was a must because he was regarded
as the unofficial voice of the National Palace. In recent weeks,
according to observers here, he had become stridently anti-American,
perhaps as a result of the increasing pressure on the Preval
 government for legislative elections. But Dominique had enemies on the
left, including among Aristide supporters. In October, after the Lamy
assassination, Dominique had accused Danny Toussaint, a former interim
police chief after the U.S.-led invasion that returned Aristide to
power, of wanting to kill him. Toussaint is now an Aristide candidate
for Senate. But there were those on the right, including remnants of the
Duvalier dictatorship, who also had it in for the outspoken Dominique.
 Dominique, prominent in Haiti radio circles for 40 years, went into
exile under President Francois ``Papa Doc'' Duvalier, returned under his
son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, then was exiled again after he spearheaded a
freedom of speech movement in the late 1970s. He returned in 1986 when
Jean-Claude fled, reopened his radio station, only to be exiled once
more after the September 1991 coup that ousted Aristide. He came
 back for the last time in 1994. The United States, meanwhile, voiced
frustration over Haiti's stalled elections. State Department spokesman
James Rubin said significant further delays would undermine the
credibility of the electoral process and risk the current momentum
 toward holding an election soon. ``In our view, the government of Haiti
must publish new dates for elections soon, and lend full financial,
logistical and security support for the provisional electoral
 council to ensure those dates are met. Failure to constitute promptly a
legitimate parliament will risk isolating Haiti from the community of
democracies and jeopardize future cooperation and assistance,'' Rubin