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6533: This Week in Haiti 18:42 1/3/2001 (fwd)
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* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
January 3 - 9, 2001
Vol. 18, No. 42
ANOTHER COUP IN THE MAKING?
The Haitian opposition is trying to topple the government of
President-elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide before he even takes
office, just as Duvalierists tried to do a decade ago.
That is the assessment outgoing Haitian Prime Minister Jacques
Edouard Alexis made on the eve of a Jan. 3 “forum” called by the
opposition’s Democratic Convergence (CD), a coalition of neo-
Duvalierist and social-democratic political parties. The “forum”
is billed as a preliminary step in the formation of a
“provisional government” to supplant that of Aristide, who takes
office Feb. 7.
«This forum will take place on Jan. 3 starting at 8:30 a.m. and
will last all day,” said Gérard Pierre-Charles of the
Organization of People in Struggle (OPL), a CD member. “We plan
to organize forums to touch on certain fundamental questions
linked, let’s say, to what form of government we will have.»
Meanwhile, one of the OPL’s neo-Duvalierist allies, Hubert
Deronceray made it clear that the opposition’s government might
very well not be “parallel,” as previously billed. He spelled out
a vision that could occur only through a coup d’état. «We cannot
say that our government will not be installed in the National
Palace [Haiti’s presidential residence], because we don’t know
what’s going to happen tomorrow,’ De Ronceray said ominously.
“There is a strong possibility that it will be installed in the
National Palace, just as at any other address in Port-au-Prince».
“It shows that the opposition is dreaming in technicolor,” Alexis
said of the CD’s threats. “I think it is a bunch of crazies. They
have a delusional project which has no chance of being carried
On Jan. 7, 1991, Roger Lafontant, the former head of Duvalier’s
militia, the Tonton Macoutes, led a small band of confederates in
a short-lived takeover of the Palace. Tens of thousands of people
poured into the streets, forcing the vacillating Army to arrest
“We remember the people’s reaction to [Lafontant’s coup],” Alexis
said, pointing out that once again large crowds of Haitians have
been milling about the Champ de Mars, the large square in front
of the Palace. “These guys [in the opposition] are now filling in
for Lafontant in trying to also make a coup d’état.”
Alexis chastised the Convergence leaders for “taking foreign aid
to deploy security at their homes.” He did not reveal which
foreign government was paying for the opposition’s “protection.”
“I want to take this opportunity to say something to the
opposition and the people financing them,” Alexis said. “As Prime
Minister and Interior Minister, I am not going to tolerate this
thing, and since the people are already mobilized, it is behind
and together with the people that we are going to foil the coup
attempt they want to make.”
President René Préval stood by Alexis during the remarks. When
questioned, Préval called the CD initiative “political madness,
but we are taking it very seriously.” He added sarcastically that
the CD is “in a bigger hurry than Lafontant who at least waited
until Jan. 7 [to make a coup], while they are starting on Jan.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Consulate in Haiti has issued warnings to
U.S. citizens to avoid the area of Pétionville around the swank
Montana Hotel, where the conference will be taking place, saying
that there was a likelihood of violence.
ARCAHAIE: DEADLY CHRISTMAS BRIDGE COLLAPSE IN MONTROUIS
Built in 1941, the old bridge at Montrouis collapsed on the
afternoon of Dec. 25 with more than 300 people on it. At least
seven people were killed, and more than 50 injured. The bridge
had been used as a market since it was condemned over two decades
Many merchants were set up on the bridge when it collapsed,
dumping them and thousands of dollars worth of merchandise into
the ravine and stream below.
A team of doctors and three ambulances were dispatched to the
town to take people to hospitals in Port-au-Prince and St. Marc,
according to Health Minister Michaële Amédée Gédéon.
There had been several accidents on the old bridge before the
Haitian government was forced to close it and construct a new one
22 years ago.
After the old bridge was closed to vehicles, it was used as a
market place and for foot traffic, much like its counterpart in
Pont Sondé, a few kilometers north of St. Marc.
MACHINE-GUN FIRE ON RUE PAVÉE
Four people were wounded when a carload of men opened fire on a
crowd along the sidewalk around EDH on Rue Pavée in the capital
on Dec. 26.
“We had just finished work and were gathering, and while we were
standing there a little red car pulled up and started firing at
us,” said one of the witnesses to the shooting.
“It was a red Honda,” another witness added.
Of those wounded, one was a car washer, who was hit as he ran
away, and another a Haitian lottery salesman, who was shot in the
back as he was riding by on a bicycle.
GANG VIOLENCE IN CITÉ SOLEIL
Violence broke out between rival gangs in the capital’s sprawling
slum of Cité Soleil on Dec. 27, leaving two dead, six wounded,
and four houses burned. The trouble occurred between individuals
from the neighborhoods of Ray and Boston. Partisans of the
Lavalas Family party (FL) were pitted against those of Barbara
Guillaume, a progressive artist who was a candidate in recent
elections. On some Port-au-Prince radio stations, the FL
partisans complained that the police did nothing to calm the
other group. Until Dec. 30, the situation remained very tense in
Cité Soleil, during which time many people abandoned their homes.
LA TORTUE: ANTHRAX KILLING LIVESTOCK AND HUMANS
In the last three months, anthrax, known in Haiti as the
“charcoal disease” (maladi chàbon), has ravaged the rocky island
of La Tortue, off Haiti’s northwest coast. In addition to 60
animals, at least three people have died, and 21 others are sick
with the disease, according to Haiti’s Agriculture Ministry.
Haitians call anthrax the “charcoal disease” because it often
causes a blackened tongue on infected animals and black-scabbed
boils on human victims. Humans contract anthrax by eating the
undercooked meat of infected animals or by inhaling the anthrax
spores given off their hides. The disease can also be transmitted
through the skin when humans handle infected animal products. The
disease can effect cattle, pigs, goats, and dogs.
In recent days, the Agriculture ministry has sent three
veterinarians to La Tortue to begin a vaccination campaign in
People in the northwestern towns of Port de Paix, St. Louis du
Nord and Anse-à-Fouleur purchase meat from La Torture and also
risk contracting the disease.
Although the Agriculture Ministry is alarmed by the outbreak,
Health Minister Michaële Amédée Gédéon attempted to minimize it.
“Anthrax is cured very easily,” she said. “Someone with anthrax
should go to a dispensary or a health center and with a quick
antibiotic, they will be correctly cared for.”
A few years ago, anthrax struck Haiti’s northwest hard, leaving
four people and 30 animals dead. Six people were ill.
“As an expert in epidemiology, at this time I cannot call this an
epidemic, since I haven’t yet had any report of more than one or
two cases more than the last time,” Gédéon said. “I don’t know
when was the last time there was an anthrax epidemic. Anthrax is
an endemic disease.”
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