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6965: NYTimes.com Article: Vowing Peace, Aristide Is Sworn in Again , as Haitian President (fwd)
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Vowing Peace, Aristide Is Sworn in Again as Haitian President
February 8, 2001
By DAVID GONZALEZ
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Feb. 7 — Jean-Bertrand Aristide was sworn in
today as president of this poor republic for the second time in a
decade, promising not only to build a peaceful and viable future
but also to reach out to the very opposition that defiantly
installed its own alternative president this morning.
Speaking at the Presidential Palace, where he was serenaded by
schoolchildren and cheered by crowds who pressed their faces
against the mansion's green gates, Mr. Aristide touched on a
conciliatory but firm note. Opposition groups, who failed to reach
a political accord with Mr. Aristide and his Family Lavalas party
over the weekend, have refused to acknowledge him as president.
"I open my hands and my heart to all political parties," Mr.
Aristide said during his 50-minute address, speaking in Creole at a
podium flanked by murals of a dove and the words "peace" and
"unity." "I am the president of all Haitians. And I will be the
president of everyone without exception. There is only one way to
take us, and that is the road of peace. Between the opposition and
Lavalas, we are the same. We are from the same mother. Haiti is our
Speaking briefly in English, he pledged to support eight points
that he outlined in a December letter to President Clinton,
including resolving the dispute over last May's legislative
elections, establishing a new electoral council and including the
opposition in the government.
"Here in Haiti we are committed to dialogue," Mr. Aristide said.
"It is the ballot and not the bullet which proposes the way to
change and leads to a better life."
But ballots have brought no peace since May, when a disputed
counting method gave Lavalas an overwhelming majority that the
opposition and the international community considered questionable.
The opposition boycotted November's presidential election, where
voter turnout was low, and considers the resulting government
Mr. Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest who became Haiti's
first democratically elected president in 1990, was overthrown
seven months into his first term and was restored by an
American-led invasion in 1994. At the end of his term, he was
succeeded by René Préval, who today became the first Haitian
president to serve a full term.
This morning, Mr. Préval smiled broadly after he removed the red
and blue presidential sash and draped it over Mr. Aristide's slight
shoulders. It was as if he was letting go of the troubles that had
beset him for much of his term, which was marked by intense
partisan fighting. The result was governmental paralysis, as
economic and social problems festered.
About the same time as the ceremony in Parliament, Gérard Gourgue,
a professor of law who was a leading candidate in 1987 elections,
addressed the nation. He said the country was worse off than the
day exactly 15 years ago, when Jean- Claude Duvalier fled the
country with his entourage and ill-gotten fortune. Mr. Gourgue said
he would extend his hand to all who were willing to work for
While Mr. Aristide managed to return to power without making
concessions to the opposition, the results of the dispute were
evident. Although few appeared to have heeded the opposition's call
for a peaceful protest today, the crowds for Mr. Aristide were
nowhere as intense as they were during his first inauguration, when
jubilant throngs crammed the streets from the Cathedral to the
Those lining the streets had little patience for the opposition.
"They are just trying to have a psychological coup d'état," said
Jean Souverain. "There is no reason for it."
The support Mr. Aristide enjoys among the millions of the poor is
as much as burden as a boon.
During his inaugural address, Mr. Aristide vowed to create a
half-million jobs, especially by focusing on labor-intensive public
He also said that poverty could not be eliminated without
attacking corruption, and he promised to bolster the police force,
which observers said was weak and suffering from low morale and
Foreign dignitaries were few, since most countries limited
representation to their ambassadors. In a statement released before
the inauguration, a spokesman for the French government echoed the
concerns of the European Union, which recently stopped almost $50
million in aid in protest over the failed negotiations with the
Speaking on a radio program after the inauguration, Serge Gilles,
an opposition member, was skeptical of Mr. Aristide's promises,
saying the opposition had been hearing such talk for years.
"The sweet talk is for the international community," he said. "We
are still here waiting on the field."
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