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9864: This Week in Haiti 19:38 12/05/2001 (fwd)

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                           HAITI PROGRES
               "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                    * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                        December 5 - 12, 2001
                             Vol. 19, No. 38


Will there soon be an agreement to end Haiti's 19-month
"electoral crisis"? That was the question raised by last Friday's
visit to Haiti of César Gaviria, secretary general of the
Organization of American States (OAS) .

Gaviria stayed in Haiti only a few hours on Nov. 30 but managed
to meet with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, representatives of
the multi-party opposition front, the diplomatic corps, and the
church hierarchy. "We came to say to the government, to the
opposition, to civil society and to the church, how concerned we
are and how necessary it is to conclude an agreement without
delay," said Gaviria, adding that he had delivered no ultimatums.

After repeatedly failing to broker a deal, Gaviria was invited
back to Port-au-Prince this time by Aristide, who finds himself
in dire political straits. The OAS left Haiti last October after
long-stalled talks between Aristide's Lavalas Family party (FL)
and the Washington-inflated Democratic Convergence opposition
front (CD) broke down after only two days (see Haïti Progrès,
Vol. 19 No. 32, 10/24/01).

This time, however, Aristide must have handed Gaviria his sword.
The OAS secretary general announced before leaving that his
number two, Luigi Einaudi, who arrives in Haiti Dec. 5, will
hammer out the fine-points of some kind of deal. Einaudi would
not be dispatched to Haiti lightly, having participated in close
to 20 failed mediation missions. Now, Gaviria seemed so confident
of Einaudi's success that he predicted a settlement before the
end of December.

Originally, Gaviria's visit was "exploratory," according to an
OAS spokesman. Aristide wanted to discuss with him how to
reestablish normal relations between Haiti and international
funders, who, under Washington's lead,  have blocked aid to Haiti
until the dispute between the FL and CD over last year's
municipal and legislative elections is resolved.

FL leaders believe that the sanctions should have been lifted
long ago due to the many concessions they have already made,
including: 1) the resignation of seven senators following
questions of whether they won in the first round; 2) term
reductions for senators elected May 21, 2000; 3) two-year term
reduction for many deputies; 4) the reholding of the legislative
elections in Nov. 2002; 5) the formation of a new provisional
electoral council (CEP). "Following all these concessions, the
President wrote to [the OAS] asking that relations with the
international financing institutions be normalized," said
Information Minister Guy Paul. "It was clearly said during the
[OAS] meeting in Costa Rica [last June] that when these steps
were taken, they would begin to regularize the economic situation
with Haiti. But up until now, this has not been done." Paul
accused the OAS, through its laxity, of being responsible for the
lack of progress in negotiations.

Meanwhile, the CD claimed to want to return to the negotiating
table, but hedged, saying it didn't know if it could due to
government "repression" against its militants. Their excuse: a
Nov. 29 demonstration in St. Marc where one person was killed and
several others wounded when pro-CD demonstrators clashed with
pro-FL ones. The CD gave Gaviria a list of alleged human rights
violations against its partisans around the country.

"We spent an hour discussing the negotiations and the violations
of human rights, of journalists' rights, of the rights of the
opposition, of the rights of the civil society which today the
Lavalas is trampling." said Micha Gaillard, a CD leader.

Some Convergence leaders seemed a little put out by the idea of
returning to negotiations, apparently feeling that their real
goal -- the overthrow of Aristide -- might soon be accomplished
by capitalizing on and fanning the flames of recent large
demonstrations against the FL's corruption, extravagance, and
broken promises. "I don't have much hope that the Lavalas will
show itself to be reasonable or sufficiently wise to obtain a
compromise with us on the basis of a political accord," said
another CD leader, Paul Denis. "So, while we are negotiating, we
will continue our work of mobilization."

However, the Haitian masses are not enamored of the CD's
"mobilization" either. For example, last week the front attempted
to organize a general strike in the southern city of Cayes.
Despite large media backing, the action was a failure.

The "electoral crisis," which the OAS today proposes to solve, is
an artificial crisis, completely created by Washington and its
allies in the OAS and Europe. All the electoral missions
observing the May 2000 elections, including that of the OAS, had
declared them to be "free and fair." One week later, when an FL
sweep was apparent, the OAS challenged how the CEP calculated
first-round victories in seven Senate races. Instead of
denouncing the OAS's meddling in a domain where the CEP was
supreme judge, the FL began to bargain with the Haitian people's
vote and today has bargained it practically all away.

Will we now see the unconditional surrender of Aristide? The only
thing which he has not yet conceded is the 7,000-odd  posts held
by mayors and "territorial collectivities," a collection of town
and rural councils. "Other than the five-year term of the
president, everything else is negotiable," Ben Dupuy of the
National Popular Party (PPN) archly remarked. The PPN had
repeatedly warned Aristide of the slippery slope he was heading
down when he bowed to foreign pressure and accepted to
"negotiate" the outcome of last year's elections, violating the
principles of national sovereignty, vote inviolability, and
Constitutional process.

Now the FL faces multiple crises. National and international
outcry is growing over government obstruction of the judicial
investigation of the May 3, 2000 assassination of progressive
radio journalist Jean Dominique and his employee Jean-Claude
Louissaint. The aid cut-off, official corruption, and FL
wastefulness has brought about unprecedented misery, which is
crumbling away the FL popular base. Street demonstrations are
calling for the resignation of prime minister Jean-Marie
Chérestal, and sometimes even that of Aristide himself, an
unthinkable call just three months ago.

Perhaps Aristide now thinks it prudent to give some ground once
again in an attempt to calm things down. In his usual metaphoric
language, he said in a recent radio statement that he would
prefer "to lose a point that to be knocked out." This is likely
why he summoned Gaviria. The FL seems ready to completely

But such an agreement between the FL and the CD will only
accelerate the deeper structural crisis which Aristide was
originally elected in 1990 to redress with a democratic
nationalist program. Today, under the goading of the OAS and
Washington, the FL and CD are vying to be the chosen agents of
just the opposite: neoliberal reform and political
reconciliation. These are the very policies which have deepened
economic crisis and political injustice in Haiti and against
which the Haitian people once thought Aristide would fight.

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