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#3179: Violence follows funeral for slain Haitian journalist (fwd)
Published Sunday, April 9, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Violence follows funeral for slain Haitian journalist
Radio station, opposition party office targeted BY DON BOHNING
PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Demonstrations turned ugly Saturday in the wake of a
national funeral service for Jean Dominique, Haiti's best known
journalist, as offices of an opposition political party were set afire
and tires were burned throughout downtown streets. Dominique, 69, was
gunned down by an unidentified assassin Monday as he arrived at Radio
Haiti Inter, the station owned and operated by his family.
Witnesses said demonstrators responsible for the post-funeral violence
were many of the same ones who had chanted ''Aristide or death'' during
Dominique's funeral and had called for the death of Evans Paul, the
opposition leader whose party offices were burned down. They were
identified as members of a so-called popular organization that has
been linked to former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family
political party, although party spokesmen have denied it. During the
service at the Port-au-Prince soccer stadium, Aristide sat stoically
with his wife, next to President Rene Preval and his wife, as
demonstrators chanted threats against his presumed enemies.
Paul, in a telephone call to Radio Metropole after his party office was
set afire, claimed Aristide and Preval were responsible for sending
people to burn it down. He said the demonstrators also accused him of
involvement in the killing of Dominique, which he said was not true.
The demonstrators also targeted Radio Vision 2000, a frequent critic of
Aristide and the Preval government, burning tires in front of the
station and throwing rocks at its offices on a main downtown street.
Saturday's events dramatized rising tensions in the country, as the
Preval government continues to resist international pressure to hold
parliamentary elections soon, and the economy is in a tailspin.
Until it was marred by the violent demonstrations, the day was intended
to belong to Dominique, whose death silenced Haiti's most prominent
radio voice. The meek and the mighty, the poor and the powerful began
pouring into the 18,000-seat stadium before the 7 a.m. start of the
service for Dominique. Led by Preval and Aristide, thousands gathered
under intense security for an emotional three-hour ceremony under a
gentle breeze that eased the harsh effect of a bright morning sun.
''You died for Haiti,'' Dominique's sister, Madeleine Paillere, said
tearfully over his casket. ''You died because you told the truth.''
''He struggled to change the system radically,'' said Sony Esteus, who
worked at Dominique's radio station. ''If he was killed it is proof that
the system has not changed.'' The journalist's slaying, ''coming in the
midst of an electoral campaign, is an attack on freedom of the press in
Haiti as well on democracy,'' the Organization of American States
electoral observation mission said.
Such was the stature of Dominique, Haiti's loudest voice for free
speech for four decades, that Preval declared a rare national funeral
and honored Dominique with a three-day period of mourning that began
Thursday. Security for the funeral was heavy. Pierre Denize, chief of
the Haitian National Police, said the department's mobilization almost
matched that of Carnival a month earlier, one of Haiti's biggest annual
events. Riot police with full gear were positioned around the perimeter
of the soccer field an hour before the service. Mourners filed by to
pay their respects to Dominique, whose open casket was displayed under a
white canopy in the middle of the soccer field, along with the
casket of a station guard killed in the same attack. Beginning with
Roman Catholic Bishop Willy Romelus of Jeremie, speaker after
speaker, representing various sectors of society, paid tribute to
Dominique. Preval posthumously granted Dominique the country's National
Medal of Honor and Merit, Haiti's highest honor, ''for his contribution
to the defense of individual liberties and as a leader of free
expression . . . his enormous contributions for the development of
agrarian reform as well as for justice and democracy. . . . '' Dominique
had become, as one of his colleagues noted, an institution in a country
that has few of them.