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a460: Rice in the Street (fwd)

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

>From January 18 to January 20, 2002

Parliamentary Life/Chérestal's Resignation

Rice or Street  Scandal
(Scandale de Riz ou de Rue)

Translated by Max Blanchet

The latest episodes of the saga related to the resignation of the head
of government, Jean-Marie Chérestal *), are dragging the reputation of
the Lavalas government into the streets. A battle for the control of public
administration and more specifically the National Port Authority (APN
in French) and rice quotas are at the root of the brouhaha surrounding
Jean-Marie Chérestal's resignation according to the deputy of Grande
Rivière du Nord, Nahoum Marcellus *), who voiced his support for the
embattled head of government.

In the news broadcast of Radio Vision 2000, Info Vision, he revealed
that all the senators hostile to the Prime Minister are autorized to import
through APN 1000 bags rice of 110 pounds each. Less zealous senators
are entitled to a quota of 400 bags and the lukewarm to 200 bags, according
to information given by Nahoum Marcellus, who claims that members of the
lower house are not involved in that racket.

As we understand it, Deputy Marcellus is proclaiming loudly what was
whispered in business, trade and import circles. He lanced the abcess and
to quote a wag, he punctured a bag of rice whose contents will splash the
members of the network.

There is a rice-importing network -- comprising MPs and high officials of
the Lavalas regime -- who bypass normal procedures thereby causing a
substantial shortfall in state tax revenues.

For more than 7 months, an unprecedented practice has been observed
in the rice market. A firm, whose members are close to the Lavalas regime,
have been importing large quantities of rice relative to the size of the
Between May and November 2001, this firm imported 1,385,000 bags of
110 pounds -- representing 70,000 metric tons -- without paying any import
duty and tax. According to our sources, the tax shortfall for that period
amounted to 117,541,644 Gourdes, including 100,089,644 Gourdes as
sales tax and 17,452,000 Gourdes as custom duty. [At 25 Gourdes per
dollar, this amounts to $4,701,666, $4,003,586, $698,080 respectively.]

According to the information contained in the national budget for
2001- 2002 submitted to parliament, this sum -- misappropriated
from the fiscal department -- is greater than the budget allocated to the
Ministry of Planning (89 million Gourdes;) the combined budgets for the
Ministries of Haitian Living Abroad, Religions, and Women's Affairs
(39, 20 and 24 million Gourdes respectively;) the Literacy Secretariat
(76 million Gourdes;) and quarterly salaries for the 17,000 teachers of
the public sector.

Info Vision's guest, Deputy Marcellus, mentioned the names of Senators
Louis Gérard Gilles, Lans Clonès, Prince Sonson Pierre *) -- whom he
characterized as the young wolves -- who in partnership with Senator
Fourèl Célestin *) are settling personal accounts with the resigning PM.

In a letter sent to President Aristide last Thursday, the PM submitted his
resignation and that of his government. Neither YvonNeptune, national
spokesman for Fanmi Lavalas, nor Gustave Flaubert, Minister of Finance,
would deny or confirm his resignation.

In so doing, the PM has avoided his interpellation by the National
Assembly. Deputy Marcellus had not been informed either about the
PM's decision. He rejected the accusations levelled at the PM by
pro-Lavalas popular organizations and the rebellious senators.

According to Marcellus, the country has accumulated a deficit of 2 billion
Gourdes (about $80 million). For his part, the Chérestal Government
incurred a deficit of only 700 million Gourdes over a period of 8 months
according to Marcellus. The social difficulties that the country is
experiencing  are linked to the political crisis and the resulting freeze
of international assistance to Haiti.

The state-of-the-nation report presented by the PM to the National
Assembly (joint session of parliament) last Monday to launch parliament's
2002 session was incoherent and full of lies according to Senator
Louis Gérard Gilles, one of the more hostile MPs vis-à-vis the PM.

None of the 11 laws proposed during the extraordinary session of
parliament that ended last Monday were voted by the senate, according
to Deputy Marcellus who challenges the senators who criticised the PM's
report. How many laws have they approved? In this period of acute
economic crisis, the goverment made great sacrifices to give each senator
a Nissan Patrol SUV. Several even received two SUVs according to
Deputy Marcellus.