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#5351: Events in Haiti (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
(The part about the negotiations was obviously written before the latest
(from Caribbean Insight, 20 Oct 00)
Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas (FL) party and the
opposition Convergence Démocratique coalition made concessions during a
week of shuttle mediation by the Organisation of American States (OAS) to
get the two sides to the negotiating table.
The FL said it would discuss possible revision of the
incorrectly-counted Senate results which exaggerated its victory in the May
21 legislative elections and suggested that four of the nine members of the
Conseil Électoral Provisoire (CEP) could be replaced by two people
nominated by the FL and two nominated by the non-FL candidates in the
November 26 presidential elections. However, the parties in Convergence
are boycotting the elections and the six candidates besides Aristide are
virtually unknown figures of no political significance.
Convergence leaders dropped their demand for annulment of the May
21 elections, but insisted on discussion of the results, an entirely new
CEP and the presence of Aristide and President René Préval at any talks.
The two men have refused to take part personally and Préval was absent
from Haiti during most of the latest negotiations, led by OAS assistant
secretary-general Luigi Einaudi.
Rumours of an impending coup d'état spread in Port-au-Prince during
the talks. The government-controlled television made much of the rumours
and said an unnamed businessman had imported a shipment of weapons and that
foreign-trained former soldiers were planning a coup next month. Gunmen
fired on the car of FL Sen. Lans Clones in the capital on October 14.
Opposition figures said any coup would be the work of the FL itself to
create an excuse to break off the negotiations.
Foreign aid to improve prison conditions has been "gravely
undermined" by the continued dysfunction of the criminal justice system,
the independent UN human rights investigator, Adama Dieng, reported on
October 18. The prison population had nearly tripled in three years to
4,000, people were illegally being held for years before a court appearance
and drug-related corruption was widespread among police and judges, he
Employees of the local councils of Port-au-Prince's two main
suburbs, Carrefour and Delmas, blocked streets with burning barricades on
October 10 and 11 to demand payment of up to two years of salary arrears.
The state auditing board said last February 26 that the affairs of both
municipalities were in chaos.
The Carrefour demonstrators rejected a government offer to pay half
their arrears, while the Delmas employees protested against the mayor's
sacking of all of them without paying them the arrears. Elected "town
delegates" who are supposed to monitor local government operations accused
Port-au-Prince municipal officials of barring them from the city hall, even
though they and the officials are members of the same party, the FL.
Twenty-eight Haitian "boat people" were feared to have drowned on
October 11 when their vessel, sailing without lights, was hit by a Bahamian
mail boat some 50 miles northest of Great Exuma island. Eighty-seven
Haitians were rescued.
Haiti is the third most undernourished country in the world, after
Somalia and Afghanistan, according to the UN Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO), using a benchmark of the calorie deficit of the
undernourished segment of the population.
After successfully campaigning to get the French parent company of
the northern Haiti firm that prepares the bitter oranges essential for
Grand Marnier liqueurs to increase wages and improve poor working
conditions, the grassroots organisation Batay Ouvriyè has begun a similar
campaign to support such demands at a factory that prepares the ingredients
of Cointreau liqueur.