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8498: Negotiations Drag On As Economy and Justice Founder (fwd)

From: Max Blanchet <maxblanchet@worldnet.att.net>

Haïti Progrès [HOME]
June 27 - July 3,  2001
This week in Haiti


Negotiations Drag On As
Economy and Justice Founder
Deadlines have generally proven to be pretty ephemeral over the past decade
of political crises in Haiti, and that of June 25, 2001 was no exception to
the rule.

It was the date by which President Jean-Bertrand Aristide promised the
Organization of American States (OAS) he would appoint a new Provisional
Electoral Council (CEP) to organize elections for 7 Senate seats voluntarily
vacated earlier this month by Aristide's party, the Lavalas Family (FL) (see
Haïti Progrès, Vol. 19, No. 12, 6/6/2001).

On June 25, the government claimed that it had all candidates for the
9-member council lined up except for one, which was of course the most
important: that of the Democratic Convergence (CD) opposition front.

The CD objected among other things to the formula allowing the executive,
judiciary, and the legislature to each name members to the new CEP. Since
all three government branches are FL controlled, this would allow the body
to be stacked with pro-Aristide members, the CD argued.

The CD, in truth, was never favorably disposed towards the OAS deal. Ever
since the OAS General Assembly in San José, Costa Rica passed a resolution
Jun. 5 supporting Aristide's concessions of forming a new CEP and holding
new elections, the CD has denounced the plan as "a snake we will not

In an attempt to get the CD on board before the deadline, OAS Secretary
General César Gaviria arrived in Haiti on Jun. 24 with his deputy SG, Luigi
Einaudi, and OAS Haiti specialist, Peter Romeo, as well as Albert Reinden
from CARICOM. But the delegation failed to budge the CD, which refused to
name their representative to the new CEP.

At the last minute on Jun. 25, Gaviria produced a letter asking Aristide to
extend the deadline to Jul. 1. "This short delay should facilitate fuller
consultations in which the OAS/CARICOM mission will continue to act as
mediator," the letter read.

Despite the delay, there are growing signs of dissension among the 15 tiny
groups which make up the CD. The neo-Duvalierist components, such as the MRN
of Hubert Deronceray, the RDNP of Leslie Manigat, and ALAH of Reynold
Georges, favor the hard-line "zero option," whereby the entire Lavalas
government, from Aristide on down to the lowliest rural councilperson, would
be removed and new elections held by a "provisional government." In fact,
they are holding out for another coup d'état, which could only be
accomplished with foreign support, of which they have plenty, and possibly
another foreign military intervention.

The CD's social democratic currents, however, like the KONAKOM of Micha
Gaillard and Victor Benoit and the OPL of Gérard Pierre-Charles and Paul
Denis, appear to be ready to abandon the "zero option," which they
previously espoused, in favor of trying to carry out an "electoral coup
d'état," meaning elections completely under foreign control.

An "electoral coup d'état" was unsuccessfully attempted on May 21, 2000,
because the Haitian people defeated attempts to marginalize their vote. That
is why Washington and the OAS have been making a fuss about those elections
ever since they were swept by the FL. More than likely, in the coming week
the OAS will try to give guarantees to the CD, and wring more concessions
from the FL, so that a new "electoral coup d'état" can be attempted and,
this time, successfully carried out.

"Mr. Gaviria has come, and we are going to discuss with him," Pierre-Charles
explained, despite the protests of Manigat. "As we have said before, we were
not agreed with the San José resolution, but since it is already done..."

Pierre-Charles also clearly hopes that there will be more concessions,
saying "the accord is not made of marble."

The question remains: where does Washington stand? Does it back the
OAS/CARICOM initiative? Clearly, some Washington Republicans are more
partial to the "zero option" than the "electoral coup d'état." But one does
not preclude the other, and they may be giving Aristide plenty of rope to
hang himself. Although he is clamoring to do their bidding, it is unlikely
Washington strategists will ever fully trust him because he has
double-crossed them in the past and has a strong base in the Haitian masses.
But, already, the former firebrand priest has lost much of his political
credibility by integrating Duvalierists into key government posts and
preparing to embrace Washington's neoliberal economic plan.

Despite all these concessions, the U.S. and European Union, the key players
in the consortium of Haiti's "friends," have not let up on the economic
pressure. The government is still forced to pay interest -- over $4 million
monthly -- on some loans which have been "granted" but not "released."
Meanwhile food and housing costs are soaring, as an already dire economic
scenario worsens.

"The governor of the Central Bank, Fritz Jean, confirmed on Monday that the
persistence of the political crisis is accelerating the aggravation of the
country's economic situation," the Haitian Press Association reported.

"The Central Bank is putting the entire financial system in danger," cried
Radio Metropole's resident economist Kesner Pharel. "It is asphyxiating the
Haitian economy" by maintaining too lax a monetary policy which is fueling
inflation. The government is engaged in wholesale deficit spending, Pharel
said, having already spent 1.4 billon gourdes ($56 million) financing the
deficit in the first six months of the Oct. 2000 to Sep. 2001 fiscal year,
while only 1.2 billion gourdes ($48 million) was budgeted for the entire

The economic crunch has of course brought its usual hand-maiden: increased
crime. The population has long called for more effective police action and
speedier court judgements against zenglendos (violent criminals). But in a
move which might make a bad situation worse, Aristide appeared this week to
endorse summary executions of zenglendos caught red-handed. "If it's a
zenglendo, zero tolerance," Aristide said in a speech at Haitian National
Police (PNH) headquarters. "If a zenglendo stops a car in the street, puts
his hand on the key to make the driver get out so he can take the car, he is
guilty, because the car is not his. You do not need to lead him to the court
to have him judged because the car is not his... he is guilty. If a criminal
grabs someone in the street by the collar and puts him on the ground to beat
him or shoot him, [the police] do not need to wait to go to court with him
to prevent him from doing that."

Human rights groups reacted to the statement with dismay. "We can't believe
that such a declaration was made by a chief of state, who should measure
everything he says," said Serge Bordenave of the Human Rights Platform,
"because we don't think that summary executions is going to fix things in
our society." Crime is rooted in problems of continuing impunity,
unemployment, and political intrigue, he said.

Pierre Esperance of the National Coalition of Haitian Rights also warned
that the directive could spawn not just summary executions but also "acts of
personal vengeance" and "political assassinations."

"How will you know when they execute somebody during an arrest as a
zenglendo if that person really was a zenglendo?" Esperance asked.

A host of FL deputies and spin-masters undertook damage control after the
statement, arguing, like spokesman Jacques Ambroise, that Aristide meant
that the police did not need to wait for a "juge de paix" (justice of the
peace) to get an arrest warrant. "He was saying that if you catch someone in
the act of committing a crime, you don't have to go get a warrant before
arresting him, you can arrest him on the spot," Ambroise deadpanned.

Despite the tough talk about zenglendos, impunity remains entrenched. For
instance, Commerce Minister Stanley Théard remains in his post despite
revelations last month that he was indicted in 1986 for embezzling $4.5
million from the Haitian treasury. The association of parents of over 200
children killed by poisonous medicine distributed by the Pharval
Laboratories of businessman Reginald Boulos called on the government to be
consistent in its application of "zero tolerance."

"If there is going to be zero tolerance for street thieves, that's fine,"
said one parent, "but there also has to be zero tolerance to uproot thieves
in the state apparatus, to find justice for the victims of Pharval, and to
condemn those responsible for the killing of Jean Dominique."

Indeed the case surrounding the Apr. 3, 2000 murder of Radio Haïti Inter
director Jean Dominique has become one of Haiti's most explosive issues,
embroiling the prominent FL Senator Dany Toussaint and spotlighting the
strange conduct of Justice Minister Gary Lissade. We will return to for a
look at this dossier next week.