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8639: HEM: The crisis leaves both adversaries equally weakened (fwd)

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

Haiti: Politics

The crisis leaves both adversaries equally weakened

Haiti en Marche

Translated by Max Blanchet

PORT-AU-PRINCE: June 30, 2001 - Radicalism is the only winner. The two sides
(the administration and the opposition) are likely to lose feathers, and not
minor ones, in this fight. Without the vigorous intervention of the
international community, nobody would venture to guess how long this crisis
could last that has no ideological, political or moral basis but is
consuming the country, as a parasite undermines a tree, till death ensues.

Neither Fanmi Lavalas nor Democratic Convergence will, however, come out of
it whole. One does not engage in that kind of trench warfare - ferocious,
lengthy and in which all blows are allowed - and expect to come out of it
smelling like a rose.

Aristide's power in 2001 is no longer that which was described in elegant
theories elaborated in Tabarre during the many seminars for the party
faithful and meetings with new allies: business community, professionals.

As for Convergence, it is nothing but an opportunistic alliance composed of
odd pieces which will crumble when confronted with the brutal political
reality: personal ambitions, power struggles, elections, especially the
presidential one, ultimately.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced to multiply concessions. Three electoral
councils in 5 months. A government whose composition is similar to that of
Convergence with members from sectors as diverse, that is the least we can
say. And this is certainly not all.

Vanitas, vanitatis.

But the crisis, gradually abandoned to the care of international mediation
and once the Haitian parties had exhausted their flimsy arguments, focused
on the stars. As claimed by Andy Warhol, any individual has the possibility
of being famous for at least 5 minutes of his or her life so long as he or
she knows how to seize the opportunity. Gérard Gourgue, 75 years old, seized
his chance. Léon Manus also. Some younger folks as well. But today, we have
reached the end of the trip. Everyone must step down. Vanitas, vanitatis.

What about the secondary players? This is the major problem Aristide must
deal with in his own camp. Although many of his followers are genuine
supporters, they are not simply lead soldiers.

What will the new government look like? Nobody can say for sure, not even
President Aristide.

Furthermore, in the heat of battle, everyone fights side by side. But once
the battle is over, the settling of accounts takes center stage. Who lost
the war? By tradition, Haitians are sour losers. Who made you king? Who made
you prince?

Interests speak more loudly than other factors.

Concessions translate into frustration because they produce victims.
Accusations are multiplying. For the moment behind the scene. New forces are
emerging, especially when one considers that militancy is no longer what it
used to be. Lavalas 2001 is no longer the Lavalas of the heroic struggle
against the Cédras/François military regime. Interests - very powerful
interests at that! - speak more loudly than other elements.

In this regard one can identify at least 6 competing factions within Fanmi
Lavalas; all watching one another closely. All the more so given that no one
can accuse anyone else of treason since the historic leader can no longer
run for the presidency according to the constitution.

While Lavalas may at times indulge in excesses due to the youthfulness of
its partisans, on Convergence's side age is, on the contrary, a liability.
The average age within Lavalas is approximately 35; within Convergence it is
more than 60. Gourgue is 75. Leslie Manigat is as old. Gérard
Pierre-Charles, Serge Gilles, etc. are no longer in their prime. Another
facet of the tragedy that we are living through: those with the most
experience are all on one side, but have no roots in an electorate whose
average age corresponds to that of the current leadership.

Not withstanding what Mr. Marville says today!

The biggest handicap the anti-Aristide opposition faced during the May 2000
elections stemmed from its division. This explains the formation of
Convergence: regroup the opposition in order to give it real clout.
According to reports in the American press, IRI or the international branch
of the Republican party took the initiative. It is easy to imagine that it
took guarantees mixed with pressures and dollars as well.

If the Republican Party agreed to undertake such an effort, it is more
because it recognized implicitly Fanmi Lavalas' victory in the elections of
May 21, 2000 and less because it attached importance to the concerns raised
by the electoral observation commission of the OAS. Orlando Marville of
Barbados, who headed that commission, recognized that fact in his final
report. Notwithstanding what he says today, Mr. Marville noted the weakness
of the opposition and the fact that Fanmi Lavalas was the only party with a
national presence.

It is one thing to resist in the struggle involving the leadership of the
parties, it is another to confront electoral reality. It is not clear that
Convergence is ready for that fateful electoral test. All the more so since
the strategy pursued has been so long and cruel that it might have produced
the opposite effect: in certain popular sectors, Convergence means curse.

All the same.

This is not the most important factor. Certain fissures are becoming more
and more visible within the opposition. Some reflect the differing
approaches to this or that situation. At times, it is a word or a gesture.
To date, all of this was carefully hidden, contained or suppressed.

When Gérard Pierre-Charles finds it necessary to issue a communiqué to
explain the position of his own party, OPL, regarding President Aristide's
statement on the "zero tolerance" policy (regarding the struggle against
insecurity which the opposition denounces as a signal towards a general
crackdown), this is not a coincidence.

Or when Leslie Manigat (RDNP) raises hell, accusing other members of
Convergence of negotiating on the sly and threatens to storm out of the

But, according to other sources, Manigat has his own little strategy and it
is all the same.

In a text prepared by an American consultant Georges A. Fauriol, who is
close to Convergence, it is written that the coalition has done a good job
of checking Aristide's drift towards "absolute power" but that the moment
has arrived to produce a real alternative to Lavalas. Some see in the word
"alternative" the emergence soon of a "providential" leader.

Last but not least, we should not forget that according to the current
constitution, the president of the republic must have a majority in
parliament if he is to implement his program. Thus, the capital importance
of the next elections, which are being negotiated at the Montana Hotel under
the guidance of the secretary general of the OAS, Cesar Gaviria. And the
Republican party will have its hands full in order to prevent the implosion
of Convergence under the pressure of so many announced "providential

The transfer of Alexander's mantle

The same challenge is awaiting President Aristide in his own party in which
the transfer of Alexander's mantle will have to take place well before the
presidential elections of 2005. The same problem there.

What condition will Fanmi Lavalas be in after these negotiations? Will party
discipline be stronger than the siren songs? Will Aristide find the stroke
of genius to glue the broken pieces together and win the coming decisive
electoral contests lest his second term simply be a parenthesis?

It is to be noted that the initial political program of the leader of Fanmi
Lavalas, which was based on the near complete control of parliament, is
practically beyond reach, unless Fanmi Lavalas can achieve, without contest,
a victory as massive as that of May 21 under the scrutiny of the whole
world. This is what Hugo Chavez in Venezuela was forced to do to cut short
the criticism coming from the same international community.

But as we said before, there has been much water under the bridge. Already,
it is clear that Lavalas 2001 has, in many respects, only the name in common
with Lavalas of old. And if current trends continue, Lavalas runs the risk
of being reduced to a useful notion that one finds only in the attacks and
critique coming from the opposition. And in the nostalgia of the wild dreams
of February 1986 and December 1990.

Furthermore, the major role played by the international community to end
this crisis guarantees that it will have even more power to meddle in
Haitian affairs and destroy the social agenda of the system for which the
vast majority voted massively on December 16, 1990, when they elected
Lavalas in a victory that no power in the world dared challenge at the time.
What a retreat! What a relapse?

We can only conclude that this crisis has done even more to remove Haiti
from the control of Haitians