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7456: Gourgue Eyes To Haitian Post (fwd)
From: nozier <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thursday March 22 6:54 PM ET
Gourgue Eyes To Haitian Post
By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Surrounded by schoolchildren and books,
75-year-old Gerard Gourgue looks more like a doting grandfather than an
enemy of the state or rival of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
But the lawyer and schoolmaster became one of the most wanted men in
Haiti when he assumed the post of ``alternative'' president last month.
``Morally, I'm the president,'' Gourgue told The Associated Press
Thursday at his secondary school, the target of an attack Monday by
Aristide militants who used firebombs and automatic weapons. Gourgue,
his family and 200 students were in the school at the time of the
attack, but nobody was hurt.
The violence followed an attack at the headquarters of Convergence, the
opposition alliance that formed the alternative government headed by
Gourgue. It set off a chain reaction of politically motivated
confrontations that have left at least three people dead, scores
wounded and many wondering what the next move will be.
The Senate passed a resolution Thursday calling for Gourgue's arrest.
Aristide supporters want Gourgue arrested for subversion, and the
government wants him arrested for what the justice and interior
ministers have called ``usurping the name of the president.'' Either
way, the crisis comes at a delicate time for Aristide, who is still
trying to regain the confidence of an international community that
suspended millions of dollars in aid after May elections gave
Aristide's Lavalas Family party a majority in the parliament. The
Organization of American States said 10 contests for Senate seats
should have gone to runoff votes, but Aristide's administration refused
a recount for months, saying only recently that it would hold new
``I am not the root of Aristide's problem,'' Gourgue said. ``The
problem arose through these fraudulent elections. Aristide now controls
everything in this country and that is not democracy.'' Aristide and
Gourgue were once friends who shared the same vision of
toppling the dictatorship of Jean-Claude Duvalier in the 1970s and
1980s. Aristide, a preacher in the slums, used the power of prayer,
while Gourgue, a human rights attorney, used the power of the law.
After Duvalier was ousted in 1986, Gourgue served as justice minister
in the new government for a few months. He hoped to someday become
president, that dream took a back seat to the school he established in
Port-au-Prince, his hometown and Haiti's capital. ``Above everything, I
am a professor,'' he said.
Even though he dropped out of politics, he and Aristide remained
friends. Aristide sometimes gave Masses at Gourgue's school
graduations. ``As far as social visions for the country, I never really
split from Aristide and his dreams,'' Gourgue said.
Aristide became Haiti's first democratically elected president in a
landslide in 1990. The army ousted him in September 1991, and a U.S.
military invasion restored him to power three years later.
Constitutionally barred from running for a consecutive term, Aristide
spent only a few months in office before stepping down in 1996 and
handing power to Rene Preval. Aristide was re-elected to the presidency
in November, capping his
party's clean sweep of local and legislative races denounced as
fraudulent by the opposition. ``I followed his government from afar but
I had doubts over his capacity
to be president,'' Gourgue said. Aristide's government has denied
orchestrating the demonstrations against Gourgue and has condemned
violence. But Lavalas party leader,
Senate president Sen. Yvon Neptune indicated his party supported the
demonstrator's demands of having Gourgue arrested. The international
community, including the United States, has called on the government to
respect and protect the rights of all citizens.
``I consider this some sort of guarantee on my safety,'' Gourgue said,
adding that he doesn't believe the government has legal grounds to
arrest him since he hasn't technically established a parallel
Gourgue, a frail man who is protected by three guards, says if he is
arrested, it will boost his popularity and weaken Aristide's. Asked if
he was afraid of being arrested, he said: ``At my age, I don't get
scared of such things.''