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From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Dec 21 (IPS) -- The violence and attempted coup that rocked
Haiti this week have dimmed hopes that eight months of political
negotiations brokered by the Organization of American States (OAS) will
bear fruit.
   Several deaths, mostly of opposition supporters, were reported on Dec.
17 and police have issued contradictory accounts of the events and death
toll, currently put at eight, including two police officers.
   The offices of three political parties were set ablaze, as were the
homes of numerous government and opposition figures. Threats against media
outlets and journalists have surged.
   All this has many leaders of the Democratic Convergence coalition
doubtful that the OAS talks will resume.
   "The coup was staged to eliminate the opposition. We are afraid of the
Lavalas party, afraid that they will go so far as to assassinate us on the
negotiating table," said Reynold Georges, a member of one of minor
Democratic Convergence parties.
   "As far as I'm concerned, Aristide has put an end to the negotiations.
We're taking steps to stay alive, but I don't see how we can negotiate with
a government that is so intractable. I speak for myself, not for the
Democratic Convergence, whose parties need to talk among themselves to
decide. But I think that the time is not right to resume negotiations, just
so Lavalas can reduce us to dust," declared Convergence leader Paul Denis.
   "There's an attempt going on to reduce the country to silence. That's
what explains the attacks on the press. The democratic struggle continues.
The issue of negotiations in this context calls for a collective response.
The Democratic Convergence will provide that response in the very near
future," added coalition spokesperson Evans Paul.
   Canadian and U.S. diplomats have called on the government to ensure
basic rights and guarantee the safety of persons and property.
   U.S. ambassador Brian Dean Curran urged President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
to take concrete action to restore confidence in his government.
   "The United States has condemned the attacks," Cohen said. "The looting
of political party offices and private homes are completely unacceptable. I
find it especially grave that during the course of the day Monday (Dec.
17), the crowd was able to attack several party offices and several private
homes without effective police intervention. I emphasize once again that
the United States forcefully condemns what has happened here."
   "It is up to the head of state to restore peace and confidence through
concrete action, so that it can continue to work with the OAS to find a
solution to the crisis, which has gone on for months," the diplomat added.
   The Haitian Episcopal Conference issued a harsh denunciation of the
violence on Dec. 19.
   "Serious things have happened. It is our duty to say it. We viewed
unacceptable scenes, such as children 12 and 13 years of age with guns.
This complicates the negotiations. The people who lost their homes are now
disaster statistics. They will certainly not be happy about sitting down to
negotiate," declared Monsignor Hubert Constant, Conference chairperson.
   The government has not yet responded to the idea of resuming
negotiations. But on Dec. 19, some parliamentarians allied with the
government called for dialogue among Haitians and the resumption of talks
to resolve the crisis.
   Meanwhile, the government's assertion that a coup was attempted and
aborted itself has come under suspicion.
   "It's impossible to talk about a coup d'etat. Thirty-nine men cannot
pull off a coup d'etat. Thirty-nine men aren't forceful enough to bring off
a coup. They would be overtaken and quickly forced to surrender. The event
was more like an assassination attempt against the president," said
opposition politician Benjamin Dupuy.
   Paul Cozigon, a Caribbean representative of the Socialist International,
also rejected the coup thesis. "You can't stage a coup d'etat with two
panel trucks," he said.
   In light of the week's violence, Cozigon accused Aristide of talking out
of both sides of his mouth: pleading for peace while at the same time
inciting his supporters to retaliate.