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9290: This Week in Haiti 19:31 10/17/2001 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
October 17 - 23, 2001
Vol. 19, No. 31
OCTOBER 15, 2001:
SEVEN YEARS AFTER ARISTIDE'S RETURN,
THE LAVALAS GOVERNMENT MARRED BY CORRUPTION AND DIVISION
Monday, October 15, 2001, marked the seventh anniversary of
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's return to power after 36
months in exile following a Sept. 30, 1991 military coup d'état.
He was reinstalled in 1994 via a military intervention of 22,000
U.S. soldiers, whose proclaimed mission was to reestablish
"democracy" in Haiti.
At the time, progressive sectors within the Lavalas movement
vigorously protested Aristide's move to invite foreign
intervention and meddling in Haitian internal affairs. "Our
mission in Haiti was to stop a revolution, not a coup d'état,"
wrote former U.S. Special Forces Master Sergeant and "Operation
Uphold Democracy" veteran Stan Goff in his memoir of the period,
Hideous Dream (Soft Skull Press, 2000).
Once foreign powers were given license to "direct" Haiti down the
road to democracy, it would be very difficult to revoke that
license, the opponents of intervention argued. It would allow
Washington's military-intelligence-media "laboratory" to
infiltrate, corrupt, bully, and subvert the Lavalas movement,
The justice of these objections is evident today. Seven years
later, the Lavalas regime is infiltrated by Duvalierists, pecked
at by "opposition" opportunists, hamstrung by international
lenders, pock-marked by corruption, and rent by feuds within its
Doubtless, much of this grim scenario is the result of low-
intensity war and mischief from Washington. But not all the blame
can be placed there. Aristide and other leaders in his party, the
Lavalas Family (FL), were blithely ready to "play the game," to
accept the helicopter rides and fancy all-terrain vehicles, the
clever re-education seminars and ego-stroking backroom meetings.
Slapping each other's backs, they foolishly, lazily, and
recklessly took the bait, thinking that they could outwit the
bait-givers with their "intelligence" and own duplicity. But now
they are snarled up in all the strings attached to the gifts, and
the Haitian people are losing patience.
Corruption and waste have struck the deepest popular nerve.
Several scandals have erupted in recent weeks. Topping the list:
the cash-strapped government purchased a mansion-- subsequently
declared an official residence -- for Prime Minister Jean Marie
Chérestal in Canapé Vert for $1.734 million. Questions have also
been raised about the state's purchase of a house for the Haitian
Embassy in Italy (hardly a critical post) for about $5 million
during the watch of former Foreign Minister Fritz Longchamp (see
Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18 No. 29, 10/4/2000).
Meanwhile, Lavalas legislators and officials all over Haiti are
accusing each other of graft. On the Central Plateau, Senator
Michel Renard has accused the mayor of Hinche, Dongo Joseph, of
embezzling 400,000 gourdes (US$16,000). Dongo has heatedly denied
the accusation, accusing in turn a departmental director of the
National Education Ministry, whom he says embezzled money from a
governmental project for "universal education." Interior Minister
Henri Claude Ménard claims to have sent a commission to Hinche to
investigate the matter.
Renard also accused Dongo of hiring a hit-squad to assassinate
him when he went to Hinche to investigate. Dongo arranged for a
"commando unit from Port-au-Prince" to ambush Renard on Oct. 8
when he left from Hinche to return to the capital at 1:30 a.m.,
the senator claimed.
Petty wars and power-struggles are breaking out from the lowest
state offices to the highest, as well as within Lavalas party
ranks. Recently, the police arrested four employees of Interior
Minister Ménard with four boxes of flyers denouncing Prime
Minister Chérestal. Since then, it has been a war between the two
ministers. (Ménard may have Aristide's backing since Chérestal
has refrained from firing him.) On walls around Port-au-Prince
are spray-painted slogans like "Down with Chérestal, Long Live
Ménard as Prime Minister." Several Lavalas-aligned popular
organizations, such as the Little Church Community (TKL) of Paul
Raymond and the Youth Political Power (JPP) of René Civil, have
strongly denounced Chérestal, equating his evil to that of the
hated U.S.-backed opposition front Democratic Convergence (CD)
and the "international community."
In the Northwest, there is a war between Senator Evalière
Beauplan and Jean Rabel's deputy, Dominique Philor. Beauplan has
accused Philor of dumping human excrement on the town's
courthouse. "He is always talking on the radio," Beauplan
charged. "But now he is frustrated because he cannot keep all the
promises he made to the people and he can't yet get out of that
difficult situation. Now pride has gotten the better of him and
he is attacking the police and justice, which is why there was
fecal matter in the Jean Rabel courthouse."
One of the most bitter battlegrounds, however, is the Port-au-
Prince Mayor's office, which is presently being audited by
Haiti's general accounting office. The review, it has been
leaked, is not very favorable. Marie-Yves P. Duperval, the lead
mayor of the three-person mayoral cartel, is being implicated in
"mismanagement," a condition found in many other town halls
In Port-au-Prince, all three mayors are enemies. Each has accused
the other of corruption. Each has their own stamp with which to
conduct their own business. The cartel never even meets,
according to Lionel Bernard, the general accounting office
As a result, the most mundane city business has been hobbled. For
example, Mayor Duperval recently named the former head of the
Front of United Militants (FMR), Eddy Moïse, as the new director
of the Port-au-Prince cemetery, replacing Felix Bien-Aimé. But
Moïse's Oct. 10 inauguration was stymied by a demonstration and
the no-show of the official to do the swearing-in.
Perhaps it is just as well because Félix Bien-Aimé refuses to
turn over direction of the cemetery. "No, I am not leaving my
post," Bien-Aimé said. "I am remaining in my post. Because the
law says that the three mayors must meet together. If the three
mayors can't meet together, then two have to meet and take a
decision, and then the decision can be implemented. But Madame
Duperval took that decision by herself... I am not rebelling, I
am simply standing on a legal framework." Bien-Aimé added that
Duperval didn't even have the right to fire a security guard
given the general accounting office's on-going audit of the
Some popular organizations like the Support Group to Save Haiti
(GOSA), which is close to the Lavalas, condemned the Lavalas
internal strife and called upon Aristide to put order in the
ranks of his party. "We ask that President Titid, who has the
mandate of the people as head of state, take his responsibility
in hand before it is too late," they said.
In the face of these crises, Senator Yvon Neptune, president of
the Senate and interim national representative of the FL,
admitted: "In the Lavalas Family, we recognize that there are
some elected officials who do not have a normal conduct in the
framework of state administration."
But what sanctions have been taken against them? Is it business
as usual? In fact, the example has been set by the Lavalas
leadership itself in the way it has composed the current cabinet.
Commerce Minister Stanley Théard embezzled $4.5 million during
the Duvalier dictatorship, according to a 1986 Haitian government
report. Planning Minister Marc Louis Bazin acted as Prime
Minister for the military putschists during the coup. Justice
Minister Garry Lissade was the lead lawyer for coup leaders. Is
it any mystery more and more Lavalas officials figure that crime
Last week, we reported that an opposition leader, "Serge Gilles,
speaking on Radio Metropole,... reminded the listeners that 'the
U.S. Congress voted a law on [Haiti's] May 21st [parliamentary]
elections and we are obliged to respect that law.'... [T]he 'U.S.
Congress' did not pass a 'law' but a non-binding Concurrent
Resolution, sponsored by the arch-conservative Sen. Jesse Helms
(R-NC), which merely expressed the Senate's dismay at the FL's
electoral victory (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 18, No. 17, 7/12/00)."
Reader Charles Arthur wrote: "Perhaps the US law to which Gilles
refers is the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related
Programs Act, enacted in November 2000, which stipulates that no
U.S. assistance can be made available to Haiti's central
government until two conditions are met. One is that the
government resolves the continuing dispute over last year's
(2000) parliamentary election results. The other is that it fully
cooperates with U.S. efforts to interdict illicit drug traffic
through Haiti. (see 'Raising the stakes - Haiti: Between Mayhem
and Decertification' in NACLA Report on the Americas, July/August
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