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#3203: Haitian government sanctions violence, opposition says (fwd)


Posted at 1:58 p.m. EDT Monday, April 10, 2000 
 Haitian government sanctions violence, opposition says

 PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- (AP) -- Opposition politicians accused Haiti's
government today of sanctioning violence in an alleged effort to derail
overdue elections and impose a dictatorship on the Caribbean nation.
``It is clear: Lavalas wants to restore dictatorship in Haiti,'' Serge
Gilles, head of the opposition Space for Concord coalition, said of
former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party. Gilles'
statements, broadcast on radio, followed the razing of an opposition
party headquarters on Saturday by Aristide supporters. The attack came
after a funeral for journalist Jean Dominique, a supporter of Aristide
and Aristide's hand-picked successor, President Rene Preval. Dominique
was assassinated April 3. Prominent Haitians have reported receiving
death threats amid rising uncertainty over whether Preval's government
will hold legislative and local elections that have
 been postponed three times. The opposition claims Preval and Aristide
want to postpone elections until a presidential vote in December, when
Aristide will seek a second term. That way, pro-Aristide candidates can
ride Aristide's coattails to victory, opponents argue. Aristide last
week said he supported separate elections for the legislature and
presidency. He also denied his supporters were responsible for recent
political violence that has killed at least nine people. Preval insists
that Haiti won't hold elections until its elections council is organized
 enough to run them.
 At Dominique's otherwise peaceful funeral Saturday, a few dozen
Aristide activists threatened to kill opposition leader Evans Paul.
Aristide and Preval remained impassive during the outburst. Afterward,
about 100 Aristide supporters set ablaze the headquarters of Paul's
Confederation of Democratic Unity, which also housed the Space for
Concord office. Heavily armed police did not intervene. Militants then
stoned the headquarters of the opposition Struggling People's
Organization and threatened to burn down the anti-government Radio
Vision 2000. The radio station has urged police to protect its reporters
after repeated death threats. Aristide militants also threatened to
attack the Haitian Chamber of Commerce, whose president, Olivier Nadal,
fled Haiti two weeks ago after persistent death threats. The activists
later appeared on state television to boast of their deeds. After
repeated death threats, Paul called on a foreign diplomatic mission this
 weekend to provide safe haven in Port-au-Prince for his family and
dozens of orphans who are his wards. He also said Aristide activists
were forcing Paul's partisans to flee their homes in Port-au-Prince's
slums. ``They can eliminate me at any moment. I'm beginning to wonder
whether Dominique's death isn't part of a diabolical plot to have a
pretext to muzzle the opposition,'' Paul said in an interview.
 The Canadian, French and U.S. embassies did not send representatives to
 Dominique's funeral because they did not want to endorse a government
attempt to capitalize on his death, a diplomat told The Associated Press
on condition of anonymity. Aristide was elected president in 1990 but
was overthrown in a 1991 army coup. A U.S.-led intervention ousted the
army-backed regime in 1994 and restored Aristide to power. Haitian law
prohibited Aristide from seeking a consecutive term as president in 1995