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#5340: This Week in Haiti 18:31 10/18/2000 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
October 18 - 24, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 31
IS A COUP D'ÉTAT LOOMING?
Six years after the end of one coup d'état, Haiti today finds
itself threatened with another.
Ironically, signs of a new mutiny came on the Oct. 15 anniversary
of the 1994 return to Haiti of former President Jean Bertrand
Aristide, who spent three years in exile after a Sep. 30, 1991
coup. Rumors of assassination scenarios of Lavalas leaders raced
through Haiti's capital and diaspora. Prime Minister Jacques
Edouard Alexis publicly addressed the matter in remarks at the
opening ceremonies of a food fair on the capital's Champ de Mars
on Oct. 14. "I think that we must find a way to deal with our
differences and problems with dialogue, discussions, and
constructive criticisms and not look to create problems, to
introduce weapons into the country," Alexis said. "There are some
people attempting assassinations and a coup d'état. We think that
it is time to finish with such things in Haiti."
The same day, Senator Lans Clonès of Aristide's Lavalas Family
party (FL) was attacked by two individuals on a motorcycle. The
senator's bodyguards fought off the assailants, who fled while
firing on the senator's vehicle. "Luckily, nobody was wounded,"
Clonès said. "If it weren't for the vigilance of my bodyguards, I
don't know what would have happened."
The following day, Sun. Oct. 15, a similar attack occurred at the
Tertulien Guilbaud national school in front of the Port-au-Prince
cathedral, where Lavalas-leaning popular organizations meet each
week. "A group of well-armed men fired on the locale where we
were meeting," explained René Civil, leader of the Popular Power
Youth (JPP), who believes he was one of the gunmen's principal
targets. "This group of hit men started shooting at people and
creating havoc. My bodyguards fired back, which sent them
running... There were many victims; we have six or seven people
in the General Hospital and two in the French Asylum hospital." A
JPP member running errands was also ambushed and wounded by
gunmen in a separate incident.
President René Préval, who was visiting Taiwan during the
weekend, sought to allay fears when he returned to Haiti via
Miami on the morning of Mon. Oct. 16. He was to have been
assassinated at the airport on his return, according to rumors.
«Well, even if I wasn't here, I was abreast of all the rumors
circulating in the country," Préval said. "We are working on the
matter. I don't think there is anything to fear. One must take
all rumors seriously, especially when they are about this kind of
thing." FL senators Lans Clonès, Gérald Gilles et Sonçon Prince
Pierre also gave a press conference denouncing the coup plans.
On Monday evening, the National Television of Haiti (TNH) offered
an editorial which explained some of the weekend's events without
naming names. "There is a small group of policemen, former
soldiers, above all those who studied abroad, who had a meeting
on Oct. 8, 2000 with an official of a foreign embassy in Port-au-
Prince." The anchor also said that weapons were being smuggled
into the country by an unnamed "big industrialist" and that it
was time for authorities to investigate the lavish life-styles of
some police brass. "One example: how can a police chief
transferred to the provinces live in a hotel room which costs
about $1500 US for 6 to 7 months while at the same time he pays
for an apartment in this same province?" the anchor asked. The
program also said that the coup was scheduled to take place in
According to a police source requesting anonymity, the coup
attempt was the work of a group of officers known as the "Group
of 13" or the "Equadorians" because they had studied in Equador
before being recruited into the Haitian National Police (PNH).
These former soldiers are headed by the Cap Haïtien police chief,
Guy Philippe, who appears to be the well-financed officer to whom
TNH was referring. He has under his wing other police chiefs such
as Jean-Jacques Nau alias Jacky Nau of Delmas and another called
the Dragon of Croix-des-Bouquets, according to our source.
Nau was recently almost lynched after disarming a Lavalas street
organizer named Ronald Cadavre during an Oct. 2 pro-Aristide
demonstration in front of the Provisional Electoral Council on
The "industrialist" that TNH did not dare name, according to our
police source, is Olivier Nadal. Further clarifying the TNH
report, our source says that Guy Philippe lives in the Montjolly
luxury hotel in Cap Haïtien. He had served in the police in Port-
de-Paix and Delmas, before being transferred to Cap-Haïtien. An
arrest has been made at the National Palace in connection with
this matter, our source said.
The opposition was clearly gleeful at the reports of an attempted
coup, which at the very least could destabilize the situation
enough to delay the presidential elections scheduled for Nov. 26.
Despite a third visit this week to Haiti by Luigi Einaudi, a
mediator of the Organization of American States (OAS), the
opposition continues to exhibit complete intransigence in
negotiating an end to its hostilities with the FL and the Préval
government. However, Einaudi did manage to organize a framework-
seeking sit-down of low-level representatives of the opposition,
FL, and government on Oct. 17.
Opposition spokespeople deny any knowledge of or responsibility
for a coup, saying that the Lavalas controls the State
administration. "They are giving themselves a coup d'état" said
Reynold Georges of far-right ALAH-MPSN faction of the Democratic
Convergence, the opposition's front. Georges was an outspoken
defender of the 1991-1994 coup. "We will let them tear themselves
apart while we stand by watching."
In the course of an Oct. 16 press conference given by the
Convergence, Sauveur Pierre-Etienne of the Organization of
Struggling People (OPL) said that he considered the coup reports
as nothing but theatre. He even portrayed the coup targets as the
aggressors. "In fact, Aristide and Préval today are the real two
putschists, no different at all from [general Raoul] Cédras and
[colonel] Michel François," the leaders of the bloody 1991 coup.
What are the lessons to draw from this affair? The authorities
should not commit the same errors as in September 1991, by
calming the people while projecting a false picture of being in
control of the situation. TNH revealed there was a meeting at an
embassy. Which embassy? It spoke obliquely of arms-smuggling
businessmen. Who are they? It is this transparency which will
allow the Haitian people to foil such plots. The people must
remain mobilized and be vigilant. The shadowy military and
paramilitary forces which made the 1991 coup are today allied
with former "Lavalas" democrats, former so-called communists, and
the most reactionary sectors in the US, who are all opposed to
the masses having any role in directing Haiti. This convergence
of forces feels that the best way to crush Haiti's progressive
nationalist movement is to prevent the return to power of
It is clear: the opposition, with no popular support, has little
to gain from negotiations and has always made clear its
preference for the "zero option," that is the removal of Préval
before the end of his term on Feb. 7, 2001 and the scrapping of
last summer's parliamentary and municipal elections. This is
surely the ultimate goal of would-be putschists, who according to
other reports, had planned to execute some Lavalas leaders, put
others on trial, and then form a government of "national
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