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5985: One-Time Aristide Ally Says Haitians Must Fight New Dictatorship
>From Bob Corbett:
Nov 26, 2000 - 08:21 PM
One-Time Aristide Ally Says Haitians Must Fight New Dictatorship
By Michelle Faul
Associated Press Writer
PAPAYE, Haiti (AP) - Deep in the Haitian mountains, on a farm accessible
only by a road ground down to bedrock, one of the architects of Haiti's
crumbling democracy languishes in hiding, contemplating the ruins of the
revolution he helped create - and calling for another.
Peasant leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste was once like a brother to
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former priest widely expected to be restored
to Haiti's presidency in Sunday's election. But that was before he saw
Aristide as another in a string of despots and the Lavalas movement they
set up together as the instrument of a budding dictatorship.
"We created Lavalas to fight corruption, not to create more corruption ...
We did not create Lavalas for Haiti to become the biggest depot for drugs
en route to the United States," he said Saturday, interviewed at his
hiding place. "We had come up with Lavalas to combat dictatorship, not to
create another dictatorship."
In this land of mystery and manipulation, claims such as these are put
forth with little proof - and they are denied by Aristide, who many still
view with admiration. But it's clear democracy has not lessened Haiti's
crushing poverty. Political violence continues, and the Lavalas victory in
May's legislative election was widely attacked as rigged.
Jean-Baptiste, a graying 53-year-old intellectual with glasses and a
crooked smile, has been in hiding since a Nov. 2 machine gun attack on a
democracy conference in the mountain town of Hinche in which eight people
were wounded, including his brother, Dieugrand, who is hospitalized in
Cuba with a punctured lung and intestine.
Jean-Baptiste says the attack was an assassination attempt on him by
It was also in Hinche that Jean-Baptiste organized Aristide's first mass
rally, a 1990 spectacle that drew some 30,000 peasants. "We put him on a
horse with a rooster under his arm," he recalled. "That same day, he slept
in my bed." Aristide's symbol during the election was a rooster.
They met earlier when the Catholic priest was urging fellow slum-dwellers
in Port-au-Prince to overthrow the Duvalier family dictatorship, while
Jean-Baptiste was doing similar work in the countryside.
They became so close that "he used to call me brother and I called him
Some say the friendship disintegrated because Aristide chose Rene Preval,
Haiti's current leader, to run in his place in 1995, when he was
constitutionally forbidden from seeking a consecutive term.
"When Chavannes was not given the position he had been promised, he turned
his back on Lavalas," said Lyps Maitre, head of a regional electoral
Jean-Baptiste said he remains committed to the Papaye Peasant Movement -
probably the largest farmers' group in the Caribbean, which he started
while living in exile in Boston in the early 1970s with a $2 million grant
from the Ford Foundation.
"I believe that Haitian people have to resist this dictatorship," he said.
"The Haitian people will fight for democracy. It will continue."
Jean-Baptiste predicted a new wave of boat people to the United States as
well as an increase in the number of Haitians crossing into the
neighboring Dominican Republic as the economy, which is already in
freefall, deteriorates further and foreign investors continue to ignore
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