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7438: This Week in Haiti 19:1 3/21/2001 (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 *
March 21 -27, 2001
Vol. 19, No. 1
ANTI-OPPOSITION DEMONSTRATIONS ROCK HAITI
After months of provocations from Haiti's oppostion coalition,
the Democratic Convergence (CD), pro-Lavalas popular
organizations finally rose up this week to demand that the
Haitian government arrest key opposition leaders, in particular
"parallel president" Gérard Gourgue.
Political tensions escalated after a march two weeks ago by
several hundred former soldiers through downtown Port-au-Prince.
Then opposition and pro-government demonstrators clashed outside
the headquarters of the Organization for American States on Mar.
14. Another confrontation took place in the northern city of Cap
On Saturday, Mar. 17, demonstrations erupted all over the
country, but above all in the capital. Burning tires barricades
went up all over the city along arteries in Delmas, Lalue, Petion
Ville, Canapé Vert, Martissant, and downtown.
"We demand that they arrest Gérard Pierre Charles, Gérard
Gourgue, Evans Paul, and Reynold Georges," said one demonstrator,
referring to several opposition leaders. "If they don't arrest
them, we will fire the Justice minister."
Gunfire from unidentified assailants wounded at least two people
in Delmas on Saturday. Sunday also saw barricades and sporadic
In February, the CD declared that it had formed a "parallel
government" headed by educator and former presidential candidate
Gourgue. The Constitution expressly forbids the "usurpation of
the title of president." But so far, the elected government has
demurred from arresting the self-proclaimed one, apparently
fearing the wrath of the opposition's principal backer,
Washington. But pressure from the streets is now forcing the
On Monday, Mar. 19, a mobilization gripped the capital. Starting
at dawn, there was a buzz throughout the city as the smoke from
burning tire barricades curled up into the blue morning sky. Once
again, some demonstrations seemed to be infiltrated by
provocateurs who broke car windshields, threw rocks at
pedestrians, and threatened motorists and passengers of both
private cars and public buses. The city was completely blocked by
9 a.m. Four people were wounded that day, three by gunfire. One
was a child.
The mobilization continued on Tuesday, Mar. 20, when even more
people joined the throngs of popular organizations demanding that
the government take action against the CD. In the early morning,
barricades went up at many point. By midday, several groups
assembled in front of the CD headquarters at Pont Morin in the
Bois Verna section of the capital, across from the headquarter of
Teleco, the state telephone company.
According to witnesses, people in the CD headquarters started to
throw rocks at the demonstrators and the demonstrators riposted.
Then shots rang out. "At Pont Morin, there was a clash between
the Convergence group and the popular organizations," said police
spokesman Jean Dady Siméon on Radio Haiti. "There were 2 people
wounded, and the shots came from the Convergence's compound."
Despite this police statement, at press time the government still
had not arrested any opposition leaders or alleged gunmen.
Ironically, all during the day on Mar. 20, CD spokesman Sauveur
Pierre Etienne told radio listeners that the CD compound was
being set ablaze and machine-gunned. But now numerous radio
reports corroborate the police version that CD partisans fired on
the Lavalas demonstrators.
With the same meddling impropriety as his predecessors, U.S.
Ambassador Brian Dean Curran called on "the government and
National Police of Haiti to respect and protect the democratic
and constitutional rights of all citizens and to allow them to
peaceably assemble and express their political opinions." Mr.
Curran would do better to address his suggestions to his own
government rather than trample diplomatic conventions by opining
on Haiti's internal affairs.
"We note that there are many people who have denounced the
comportment of a citizen, in particular Mr. Gérard Gourgue, who
was proclaimed provisional president of Haiti," said Information
Minister Henri Claude Ménard in a Mar. 20 statement. "We heard
demonstrators asking for his arrest. We believe that this
denunciation is supported by Articles 217 and 218 of the Penal
Code which deals with such an infraction. And we in the Justice
and Interior Ministries warn all concerned parties that the
public power is obliged to intervene as quickly as possible to
avoid all excesses." But they have not intervened quickly enough
to avoid excesses: the casualties for Monday and Tuesday are no
less than 20 wounded.
"It is time for the government to act courageously and put an end
to all the trouble the Convergence is causing in the country,"
one demonstrator in front of the CD compound declared. "Delaying
is just making things worse."
COMMERCE MINISTER STANLEY THÉARD CHARGED
WITH EMBEZZLING $4.5 MILLION
By integrating Duvalierists into his government, President Jean-
Bertrand Aristide thought he was making a master stroke. He
figured he would please the "international community" by
demonstrating his willingness to make overtures to his most
right-wing opponents, thereby turning the tables on the
opposition groups huddled in the Democratic Convergence
coalition. He thought he would beat them at their own game of
hypocritical posturing. He couldn't have been more mistaken.
Washington, Ottawa, and Paris (the big three of the
"international community" as far as Haiti is concerned) have
continued, without batting an eye, to demand that a deal be
struck with the Convergence. Meanwhile, Haiti's popular sector,
which has endured most of the sacrifices necessary to keep the
Lavalas movement alive over the past 10 years, has indicated its
refusal to accept "reconciliation" with Duvalierists until there
is justice and reparations for political and economic crimes
committed during the 30-year Duvalier dictatorship (see Haïti
Progrès, Vol. 18, No. 51, 3/7/2001).
In trying to defend Aristide's concessions, one pro-Lavalas
activist said last week that the inclusion of Duvalierists in the
government "is an overture, and even though it has been made with
citizens belonging to the previous regime, they don't have any
charges against them." He may have spoken a little too quickly.
In a Mar. 15 press conference, the National Popular Party (PPN)
revealed that new Commerce Minister Stanley Théard, who held the
same post under "President-for-Life" Jean-Claude Duvalier, was
implicated in embezzling. Judging from the audacity of his recent
remarks, Théard never suspected that his past might come back to
bite him."It is not right that companies must wait six to nine
months to be formed," Théard recently declared in the daily Le
Nouvelliste. "The country needs new investors and investments.
And often the weight of bureaucracy constitutes an impediment to
the interests of investors... We are going to look into the
possibility of enabling companies to be formed in less than 72
"Théard should know what he's talking about," said PPN general
secretary Ben Dupuy in the press conference. "He appears to be
past master in the rapid creation of fake companies."
The case in point: on May 14, 1983 Théard founded the Corporation
for Industrial and Food Production (SOPRINA), of which he was
President and General Director. Barely over one month later, on
Jun. 27, 1983, Théard landed a juicy contract with the Haitian
state represented by Frantz Merceron, then a secretary of state
in the Finance Ministry, who went on to become one of Duvalier's
According to Article 1 of this contract between Théard and
Merceron: "The State commits itself, through a special grant, to
pay a sum of 22,500,000 gourdes [$4.5 million US], repayable in
finished products from the factory, according to the procedures
stipulated in this contract."
According to Articles 2 and 3, SOPRINA had 24 months after the
last installment of this sum to furnish pasta to public
establishments such as hospitals, dispensaries and soup kitchens.
To sweeten the deal, Article 5 stipulates: "It is expressly
agreed between the parties that, notwithstanding the dispositions
in Article 3, the delivery of pasta to the State must never
compromise the commercial activities of the company or its
financial equilibrium." Dupuy noted the unusual character of this
clause which gives priority to all SOPRINA's other clients over
the Haitian state, even though the State was SOPRINA's main
investor and creditor.
Even more astounding: Merceron ordered the very next day, Jun.
28, 1983, that the governor of the Bank of the Republic of Haiti
(BRH), Jean-Claude Sanon, debit account #2634 of the state flour
mill, Minoterie d'Haïti and credit account #100046156 of SOPRINA
at the Bank of Boston for a sum of 7,921,543.70 gourdes or
The extraordinary terms of this contract impart its true purpose:
a fraud to steal state funds. SOPRINA had only $20,000 in capital
and obtained free round-the-clock electricity from the Minoterie.
After Duvalier's fall in 1986, a Commission of Administrative
Inquiry (CEA) was set up by then Justice Minister François
Latortue to investigate corruption. The CEA president Elie H.
Legagneur wrote on Oct. 15, 1986 to Haiti's equivalent of the
IRS, the General Direction of Taxes (DGI), to obtain SOPRINA's
tax returns from 1983 to 1986. In his response two weeks later,
DGI director Raymond Fourreau said that "the DGI has in its
records no returns for the designated company during the periods
The CEA had lawyer Alcan Dorméus draw up an "Examination and
Analysis of the Jun. 27, 1983 contract" between Haiti and
SOPRINA, which later changed its acronym to SPIA. Dorméus
concluded that the contract was completely illegal since it
"defies all the ordinary rules of the Civil Code" and was a
disgrace both "in form and in essence." Dorméus noted that, among
other things, the contract lacks notarization, a letterhead,
identity numbers, and publication in the government journal Le
"In Article 7 of the contract one reads 'It can be a debtor in
the case of suspension of payments,'" Dorméus wrote. "What does
'it' refer to? It cannot be the Haitian state. In saying 'it,'
can it mean SOPRINA?" Apparently, Merceron and Théard were so
imbued in the corrupt and arrogant Duvalierist culture that they
did not even feel the need to gussy up their huge swindle or
cover their tracks.
"It appears clear that the contract of Jun. 27, 1983 between Mr.
Frantz Merceron and the aforementioned company is a phantom
contract, a phoney contract which never existed and which was
only an excuse to justify the paying out of a value of 22,500,000
gourdes," Dorméus concluded.
There is also no evidence that Stanley Théard's SOPRINA ever gave
any pasta to any public institutions. In the course of its
investigations, the CEA "learned that the payrolls of the SPIA
operated from a special account 991-12 of Mme. Jacqueline Volel
at the Nova Scotia Bank: a) from Jun. 1, 1983 to Jun. 25, 1986,
the deposits in this account totaled $1,048,587; b) check #578
dated Apr. 29, 1985 for 500 thousand gourdes or $100,000 came
from the operating funds issued to Stanley Théard and endorsed by
him to the order of Mme. Jacqueline Volel,» according to its
After receiving the report, Justice Minister François Latortue
issued the following appeal: «The government of the Republic asks
the banks to cooperate with its efforts by refusing until further
notice all operations, and any banking transactions made by or in
the name of Mme Jacqueline Volel, M. Stanley Théard or Gilbert N.
Léger, all charged in embezzling funds from the Republic."
Théard fled the country and was never brought before justice.
Jacqueline Volel was briefly incarcerated but later freed by
Latortue's successor, Minister François St Fleur, who wanted to
bury the case. At the time, Haïti-Progrès (Vol. 7, No. 13, Jul.
1, 1987) wrote: «As for Jacqueline Volel Brisson, it is very
unfortunate that Gérard Pierre-Charles' book Radiographie d'une
dictature (Éditions Nouvelle Optique, Montréal 1973) was
dedicated to her as an 'heroic combattant who has fallen into the
hands of the enemy'». In fact, she accepted to collaborate, as we
can see, very deeply with the dictatorship. At the end of 1986,
she was implicated "in the business of embezzling public funds
from the Haitian state at the time of Frantz Merceron» in cahoots
with Gilbert N. Léger. The paper notes that «the two
aforementioned citizens were given provisional freedom" and then
concluded: "In liberating these two citizens, François St. Fleur,
the new justice minister, has just allied himself with a part of
Jacqueline Volel displayed particular impudence when she
denounced "the unspeakable injustice of M. Latortue» - an
«injustice» graciously redressed by François St. Fleur. She even
called the way she was treated «neo-macoutism». She would know.
She was one of the informers and police attachés affiliated to
Casernes Dessalines which was directed at that time by the
torturer-colonel Bréton Claude.
So one can see the results of the progressive capitulation of the
Lavalas Family: injustice and disgrace. "We demand that the
Justice Minister reactivate immediately this case and reexamine
Mr. Stanley Théard so that he explains what happened to that $4.5
million," Dupuy declared. "Haiti owes about $800 million, which
was siphoned off through just this type of business dealing. They
force us, with the knife to our throat, to reimburse $40 million
each year. How can we tolerate this individual to be Commerce
Minister today? Are wolves our new shepherds?"
Dupuy called on Justice Minister Garry Lissade to "put justice in
gear" as he has promised by addressing this question of
embezzlement. The opportunity is there for Lissade to put his
words into action.
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