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7474: Rival leader challenges Aristide to arrest him (fwd)
From: radman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Published Friday, March 23, 2001
Rival leader challenges Aristide to arrest him
BY YVES COLON email@example.com
PORT-AU-PRINCE - Gerard Gourgue walks into the backyard of his home, and
the men who are watching over him, his family and his students, snap to
attention. They salute and refer to him as "Your Excellency."
The 75-year-old Gourgue has been named the provisional president of Haiti
by a coalition of political parties that accuse President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide of stealing the office. Aristide supporters, members of the
president's Family Lavalas party and Haiti's Senate have called for
Without naming his rival, Aristide said Wednesday that the Convergence
Democratique, as the opposition coalition is called, was violating the law
because it is acting as if there were two presidents in the country.
"Arresting me would be the most beautiful gift Aristide could give me,"
Gourgue said Thursday, as several supporters stopped by to pay their
respect and speak with him. "This would be the drop of water that breaks
The violations of law cited by Aristide, usurping titles and functions, do
not apply, Gourgue said.
"I have no function," he said. "I'm a symbol. You don't arrest a symbol."
Lavalas officials are misinterpreting the law, he said.
"They can't come here and tell me what the laws are," said Gourgue, a
former professor at the national law school who counts Prime Minister
Jean-Marie Cherestal and Justice Minister Gary Lissade as former students.
"I've spent 30 years teaching law. I'm an encyclopedia."
SCHOOL AND HOME
Gourgue's home, which is also the location of a secondary school he runs
with 400 students attending, came under attack Tuesday from Aristide's
supporters, while another group was attacking the coalition's headquarters
not far away.
Gourgue showed three bags of large rocks, he calls them painful memories,
collected after the riots. He pointed out an eight-inch diameter steel pipe
the crowd used as a battering ram to break down the walls.
"The assault lasted two hours," said Paula Castor Gourgue, the opposition
leader's wife of 45 years. "We called everywhere without results."
Some children were able to escape by climbing a ladder that allowed them to
jump over the wall into neighbors' yards. The riot police came later and
escorted the other children out of the school.
Gourgue was calm as he toured his property, showing off the scars from the
attack. He wasn't afraid, he said.
He is no stranger to political controversy. He has a long past in Haiti's
political history, beginning in 1956 when he supported a candidate who ran
against François "Papa Doc" Duvalier.
In 1986, Gourgue was one of two civilians on a seven-member military
council that replaced Jean-Claude Duvalier. Gourgue spent 45 days on the
Gourgue's wife has her own political lineage. She is the sister of Suzy
Castor, the wife of Gerard Pierre Charles, who broke away from Aristide's
Lavalas party years ago and whose Organization of People in Struggle is the
dominant member of the opposition coalition.
In 1979, Gourgue, his wife and four daughters were attacked while Gourgue,
as head of the Haitian League of Human Rights, was giving a lecture on the
presidency-for-life of the younger Duvalier. "We have paid with our blood
for human rights in this country," Gourgue said. "This is not something
we're just starting."
CANDIDATE IN '87
The National Front of Concertation picked Gourgue in 1987 as its candidate
for the presidency but those elections were called off after dozens of
voters were murdered by thugs backed by the military.
"You know I was elected president with a huge majority," said Gourgue, a
twinkle in his eyes.
Daniel Supplice said Gourgue became the opposition's choice for provisional
president because of the respect he commands as someone who knows the law
and who is widely regarded for his integrity.
"He's a man everyone knows and respects," said Supplice of Generation 2004,
another participant in the coalition. "He makes everyone comfortable. He's
not an extremist. He's a symbol of old Haiti, people with morality."
Said Gourgue, "I'm above it all."
It is hard to gauge Gourgue's popularity because only few of the
coalition's supporters have taken to the streets to march, unlike Lavalas,
which can mobilize hundreds of supporters within hours.
"The 50 people who were inside the headquarters of the coalition two days
ago under siege were just there," said Firmin Jean-Louis, an aide. "If we
wanted people around, we could have had hundreds, thousands. People are
afraid to come out because they know what will happen to them."
Haitian police officials said Thursday that shootings reported at the
coalition offices were coming from inside the building and rejected charges
that the crowds were responsible for any gunfire. They also denied that
police officers aid the Aristide supporters.
Gourgue has called for the return of the Haitian army that Aristide
disbanded. He dismisses the charge that the coalition represents only
well-to-do Haitians who are said to be afraid of an Aristide presidency
because his political base is among the poor blacks who want to see a
redistribution of the country's meager resources.
"I'm the president of all Haitians," Gourgue said.
WAITING FOR ARISTIDE
Although Aristide repeated on Wednesday that he was open to dialogue,
Gourgue said he was waiting for the president to take the first step.
"Acta, non verba,"acts, not words, said Gourgue, who sprinkles his
conversations with Latin quotes and verse from 17th Century French
playwrights. Aristide "should write a letter to the Convergence and tell
them that he wants to meet again," he said. "He should be doing it because
he's the power."