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8121: This Week in Haiti 19:11 5/30/2001 (fwd)
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
May 30 - June 5, 2001
Vol. 19, No. 11
OAS "MEDIATORS" THREATEN HAITI TO ACCEPT TERMS
After months of backroom threats, the Organization of American
States (OAS) openly began siding this week with Haiti's
opposition Democratic Convergence (CD) as "last ditch" talks to
force the Haitian government to reverse last year's election
results got under way in Port-au-Prince.
OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria and the former Prime Minister
of Dominica, Eugenia Charles, who is representing CARICOM,
arrived in Haiti on May 29 for three-days of negotiations. During
April's Summit of the Americas, Washington and Ottawa managed to
have the gathering deputize the two as some sort of "super
mediators," since the OAS's Deputy Secretary General, U.S.
diplomat Luigi Einaudi, has been unable to broker a deal despite
eight visits to Haiti since last August (see Haïti Progrès Vol.
19 No. 6, 4/25/2001).
Einaudi made clear before Gaviria's arrival that the OAS backs
the proposal of the U.S. State Department-supported right-wing
business association CLED (Center for Free Enterprise and
Democracy) to annul the May 21, 2000 legislative and municipal
elections, which were swept by candidates from President Jean-
Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party (FL). The CLED and other
businessmen have inserted themselves in the negotiations as self-
anointed impartial mediators representing "civil society," while
in reality, they are merely extensions, if not the puppeteers
(along with Washington), of the CD.
"There are a lot of issues but only one that counts and that is
doing something about the May 21 elections," Einaudi said.
Ironically, the OAS deemed the nationwide May 21 elections "free
and fair," but later challenged the method by which Senate
victories were calculated, claiming that 8 seats should have gone
to run-off votes. Now all 110 Senate and Deputy seats are being
put in question, plus over 7,000 municipal posts.
"There has been talk about the calculation method, that some
senators are contested and should have gone to run-offs," said FL
Senator Gérald Gilles. "If that is the sacrifice which must be
made, we in the Lavalas Family are ready to make it. But we can't
talk about the annulment of the May 21 elections. That would
simply be contradictory because the OAS has already accepted them
as credible and honest with massive participation of the
Control of Haiti's parliament is key to controlling Haitian
politics. Last year Washington sought to help Haiti's opposition
capture the parliament by encouraging the issuing of photo ID
voting cards (which were difficult for many peasants and slum-
dwellers to obtain) and the staggering of legislative and
presidential elections, so as to minimize Aristide's coat-tail
But the Haitian people deciphered the strategy and turned out to
vote for the FL en masse. Now Washington and the CD are working
to turn back the clock and rehold the vote, whose outcome they
might, on the second try, more effectively engineer.
Such a reversal might not be so difficult, since Aristide's FL in
the last three months has alienated many of its former allies and
supporters by placing Duvalierists in key government posts and
embracing the neoliberal policies dictated by Washington, thus
becoming politically indistinguishable from the CD.
"We see clearly that neither the Convergence nor the Lavalas
represent an alternative for the popular movement because neither
now champions popular causes," said Marie France Joachim of SOFA
(Haitian Women Solidarity), an influential progressive women's
group which runs a health clinic in the capital. "The popular
movement has to regain its confidence and offer an alternative on
the political scene."
Perhaps in a bid to reignite political passions, perhaps in
search of a bargaining chip, the Haitian government sent hooded
policemen to arrest former dictator Gen. Prosper Avril in a
Pétionville restaurant on May 19 during a book-signing for his
just released title "The Black Book of Insecurity 1995-2000."
Once the "eminence grise" of President for Life Jean-Claude
Duvalier, Avril was briefly part of the neo-Duvalierist junta
which took power when Baby Doc fled the country in Feb. 1986. He
lurked in the background of various juntas until engineering a
coup against Gen. Henri Namphy in Sep. 1988. He ruled as
"provisional president" until Mar. 1990, when a popular uprising
(and U.S. Embassy prudence) forced him from power.
In one particularly vicious Nov. 1989 crackdown, Avril tortured a
number of political opponents and paraded three of them (Evans
Paul, Marino Etienne, and Jean-Auguste Mesyeux) swollen, bruised,
and bloodied on National Television. The attempted intimidation
only deepened popular disgust with his rule, accelerating his
In 1994, the U.S. Southern District Court ordered Avril, then
goldenly exiled in Boca Raton, FL, to pay $41 million in damages
to six of his torture victims. But the U.S. government helped
Avril sell his sumptuous home, evade the court judgement, and
flee back to Haiti.
Soon Avril was involved in plots to overthrow the government,
according to authorities, but remained free due to U.S. Embassy
protection. Avril, who played a guest star role at a CD meeting
three weeks ago, was arrested on an outstanding 1996 warrant for
plotting a coup. The next day, three of his 1989 victims --
Etienne, Mesyeux, and Patrick Beauchard -- renewed their 1991
complaint suing him for torture.
The CD's Paul Denis called Avril's arrest "persecution" which was
only aimed at "intimidating the population."(Ironically, Marino
Etienne says that many CD members are his "intimate friends" and
Meanwhile, in the southern city of Cayes, on May 21 police
arrested CD-affiliated politician Gabriel Fortuné, a former
deputy, after Convergence and Lavalas partisans clashed during a
would-be anti-government rally on the anniversary of last year's
elections. Four FL partisans were wounded.
Fortuné's lawyer, Yves Jean, was killed in a car accident May 26
on the national highway when driving to Cayes to bail out his
client. Fortuné's brother, Moïse, a law student who was
travelling with Jean but survived the accident, claims that the
crash occurred because they were fleeing a white jeep which was
The CD's "parallel" president Gérard Gourgue said last week he
would not participate in negotiations with the OAS and FL until
Fortuné and imprisoned Haitian former soldiers were freed.
The arrests will surely become part of the negotiations. Already
the mainstream press has sought to put the Aristide government on
the defensive, despite its giant concessions. "The BBC
correspondent in the region says President Aristide appears to
have done very little to find a solution despite a promise to the
United States," the BBC reported, referring to an 8-point list of
dictates Aristide accepted from President Bill Clinton (see Haïti
Progrès, Vol. 18 No. 51, 3/7/2001).
If the Haitian government does not strike a deal, it will face
sanctions, OAS officials say. For sure, some in Washington even
are planning another military intervention or contra war. "The
[Democratic] Convergence was formed as a broad group with help
from the International Republican Institute, an organization that
promotes democracy that is closely identified with the U.S.
Republican Party," explains the Feb. 2 Washington Post. "(...)
The most determined of these men [in the CD], with a promise of
anonymity, freely express their desire to see the U.S. military
intervene once again, this time to get rid of Aristide and
rebuild the disbanded Haitian army. 'That would be the cleanest
solution,' said one opposition party leader. Failing that, they
say, the CIA should train and equip Haitian officers exiled in
the neighboring Dominican Republic so they could stage a comeback
There are other harbingers of intervention. Eugenia Charles, it
will be remembered, was the front-person for the U.S. invasion
of Grenada in 1983. Does her presence in this "final" OAS/CARICOM
delegation send a message?
At the last two Summits of the Americas in Santiago, Chile (1998)
and Quebec last month, Washington has sought to give the OAS
executive powers to intervene in countries to protect
"Threats to democracy today take many forms," reads the
Declaration of Quebec City. "To enhance our ability to respond to
these threats, we instruct our Foreign Ministers to prepare, in
the framework of the next General Assembly of the OAS, an
Inter-American Democratic Charter to reinforce OAS instruments
for the active defense of representative democracy." Seeing the
interventionist danger of this clause, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez
refused to endorse it. Aristide should have been as
Finally, signs from the neighboring Dominican Republic are not
encouraging. Last week, President Hipolito Mejia met with members
of Haiti's opposition. Repeatedly, he and other Dominican
authorities have called on the "international community" to "take
into hand the matter of Haiti," which can also be interpreted as
calls for intervention.
Finally "at the Radisson Hotel in San Salvador where he is
staying, Mejia met with brothers Cesar and Rafael Lopez,
Dominican nationals who are working for the US Attorney General's
office in a program to help the Salvadoran government restructure
its police force," reports "Weekly News Update on the Americas"
drawing from the May 26 Dominican daily Hoy. "The Lopez brothers
previously worked for the US Special Forces "Delta" unit, based
in Panama. Mejia did not confirm or deny rumors that the two
might be invited to the Dominican Republic as advisers to help
implement a reform process in the National Police." Training
police is often a cover for Special Forces, which primarily
specialize in insurgencies and counter-insurgencies, again
suggesting Haiti. Furthermore, according to Narciso Isa Conde,
leader of the Dominican front Fuerza de la Revolucion, Mejia
recently renewed an accord with the Washington, originally drawn
up during the coup in 1991, whereby U.S. can use any Dominican
port, airfield, or territory to launch actions against Haiti.
Whatever deals are made or not made in the next days, the Gaviria
mission will report to the OAS General Assembly in Costa Rica
from Jun. 3-5, where Haiti promises to be high on the agenda.
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