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|Special Report, Democracy v. Dictatorship: Odious photographs of notorious criminal Amiot Metayer's body after he was brutally murdered by his uncommonly pantomime chief bandit Jean-Bertrand Aristide; protests, murders, burning and much more (updated on Jan. 30, 2004) *January 1-14, 2004 News & Analysis We urgently need your help|
|Posted Saturday, January 31, 2004|
|Tyrant Aristide's militants hurling rocks and bottles halt Cap-Haitien protest demanding Haiti's president resign|
|By The Associated Press|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 31 - Police firing in the air and militant supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide hurling rocks halted an anti-government protest in Cap-Haitien city Saturday, following a pattern that has critics complaining of repression.
Two bystanders a 13-year-old boy and a woman were shot and wounded, Radio Vision 2000 reported from Haitis northern port city. It was not clear who fired the shots or what condition the victims were in.
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People were hurt by the hail of rocks and bottles hurled by Aristide supporters, but it was unclear how many, the independent radio station reported. One police officer was injured by a rock.
"Aristide must go whether he likes it or not," hundreds of demonstrators chanted as they marched under police protection for a mile (1.5 kilometers) in downtown Cap-Haitien before being attacked by about 20 Aristide partisans armed with guns, Radio Vision said.
Police then fired in the air and the protesters ran away.
The march was called by a coalition of opposition parties and civil groups that have organized numerous strikes and demonstrations since December.
At least 50 people have been killed since mid-September in clashes between protesters and police, and protesters and Aristide supporters.
On Friday, the U.S. State Department ordered its nonessential diplomats and family members to leave the impoverished Caribbean country.
The State Department warned Americans against visiting a place where the government "has not been able to maintain order ... and in some instances has assisted in violently repressing the demonstrations."
Haiti has been in turmoil since Aristides Lavalas Family party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000.
Aristide has pledged to hold new elections, but the opposition coalition refuses to participate unless he steps down. Aristide refuses. He was elected in a separate 2000 election marred by an opposition boycott and poor voter turnout for a term that ends in 2006.
Haitis leader has condemned the violence that erupts during protests, even as critics accuse him of egging on his supporters and police of sometimes attacking anti-government protesters. "No one has the right to throw rocks at people," Aristide said Friday.
The opposition coalition also called Saturday for the release of jailed political activists and the reopening of Cap-Haitiens opposition Radio Maxima, which police shut down Dec. 17 after smashing equipment.
Police officers who searched the station with a warrant said they seized two assault rifles, a pistol and grenades and arrested 11 people on allegations of plotting to overthrow the government. Seven of them later were released.
Elsewhere in Haiti, a policeman was shot and killed Friday night when an altercation broke out at the wake of an Aristide partisan killed during a protest, Radio Vision reported. It was unclear what the mourners were fighting about, or who might have fired the shot.
Despite a new police ban on street demonstrations in Port-au-Prince, Haitis capital, the opposition coalition plans a mass protest march on Sunday.
|Posted Friday, January 30, 2004|
|US moves to reduce diplomatic presence in Haiti|
|By Agence France-Presse|
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (AFP) - The United States moved to reduce its diplomatic presence in Haiti and warned its citizens against travelling to the country as political unrest continued to roil the Caribbean nation.
"This travel warning is being issued to inform American citizens that, due to continued political demonstrations and ongoing civil unrest," the State Department said in a statement.
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"The Department of State has authorized the departure of family members and non-emergency employees of the US Embassy on a voluntary basis," it said.
It said US government will pay stipends and airfare for family members and non-essential diplomats of the US embassy in Port-au-Prince who chose to leave the country on a voluntary basis.
"The Department of State warns US citizens to defer travel to Haiti," the statement said. "Private American citizens should evaluate their own security situations and should consider departing the country."
It said the Haitian government "has not been able to maintain order in Port-au-Prince or in other cities and in some instances has assisted in violently repressing the demonstrations."
Six leading Haitian industry groups on Friday called for a campaign of civil disobedience against President Jean Bertrand Aristide amidst mounting international convern over unrest in the impoverished nation.
The Haitian opposition also called for a "peaceful mobilisation" against Aristide who was to go to Jamaica on Saturday to meet the head of the Caribbean group of nations for talks on the crisis in his country which claimed more lives in the past week.
The State Department warned of the potential for "spontaneous demonstrations and violent confrontations" between anti-government protestors and pro-Aristide loyalists.
The US embassy in Port-au-Prince has been forced to close several times in recent weeks due to ongoing violence.
Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse
|Haitian educator beaten up, but not beaten down|
|By Nora Boustany, Washington Post Writer|
Pierre-Marie Michel Paquiot does not know when he will walk again. The rector of the State University of Haiti, who was beaten by marauding thugs on campus last month, now must use a wheelchair. But he used his vocal cords effectively yesterday to signal that Haitian society is fed up with the tumultuous and contested presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
With his legs stretched out stiffly on extensions from his wheelchair, Paquiot spoke slowly and gravely about the situation. Aristide is the problem and no longer the solution, he said, adding that "the United States and other countries should stop pretending they don't know what is going on in Haiti."
Paquiot was among those who spoke out against a military coup that ousted Aristide in 1991. Aristide returned to office in 1994, but turmoil has swept Haiti since 2000, when Aristide's political party won legislative elections that observers have said were flawed.
The drumbeat of protest has risen steadily ever since. Riots have rocked Port-au-Prince, the capital, almost daily, and sit-ins and strikes are increasingly frequent. Paquiot sees it as his mission to publicly condemn the erosion of civil liberties.
On Dec. 5, thugs who support the government stormed the halls of the university, shooting and trampling students. Paquiot said he went to see what was happening and was in a room talking to students when the thugs stormed in, carrying clubs, bars and shotguns. One put a gun to his head, Paquiot said, and two others started beating his legs with metal bars. He fell to the ground and could not get up.
"I was hurt, I was a victim, but this is not an isolated case. What happened to me was nothing," he said. "They stomped on a girl student lying next to me, kicking her and walking over her body." A student who was in a melee the previous day was hit in the stomach with a tear gas canister, Paquiot said, and while the student was in the hospital, the canister "exploded inside of him."
Paquiot, who had been in hiding, was operated on in Haiti. He traveled to the United States on Jan. 12, stopping in Miami before heading for New Orleans with the help of the Miami-based Haitian Resource Development Foundation, a group of Haitian Americans. He was due to meet with the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, Roger F. Noriega, and others yesterday.
Paquiot's injury and the spread of violence into the inner sanctum of higher education have united Haitian civil society against the arbitrary violence used by Aristide to crush opponents of his monopoly on power, according to several Haiti experts.
Paquiot, a mathematician and physicist, has vowed to return to Haiti as soon as he can walk and resume his job as an elected university official.
"I cannot tell you what kind of role I will play in the future," Paquiot said in an interview yesterday after speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "In life sometimes you have to take responsibilities you never thought of before. You just go ahead and carry out what you see is your duty."There is a university council, we are not a political party. But we are called upon to use our moral authority. . . . If something goes wrong, we say it, and if something is done right, we say it," he said.
"There is no point in being for or against someone. This is about principles. The university has to be respected, and we had addressed a letter to the nation asking Aristide to leave office. This violence is no longer acceptable. The most important thing we intellectuals can do is to denounce what is going on."
"Haitian society is so suspicious and so politically charged that they believe and trust no one," said Almami Cyllah, Haiti director at the International Foundation for Election Systems. The inflexible position of Haitian opposition leaders contesting Aristide's presidency and his refusal to conduct a second round of elections has bedeviled negotiations for a resolution by the Organization of American States.
James R. Morrell, executive director of the Haiti Democracy Project, said at CSIS that the "critical job of nation-building and building up institutions in Haiti was left unsupported and unprotected" as gangs slowly took over in the late 1990s. The professionally trained police force became politicized, and Haiti's "national chief of police was driven out of the country by death threats in 1999," Morrell said.
Paquiot said that "Aristide might be a dictator, but he cannot keep you from talking.
"When he was ousted by the military in 1991, as a matter of principle we asked for his return," Paquiot said. "We demonstrated. I had strong hopes in 2001 when I met him that things would change. Now we have the right to talk, he cannot stop that. It is a process."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company Haitian educator Pierre-Marie Michel Paquiot is in the United States for medical treatment after pro-government thugs smashed his legs. (Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
© Copyright 1996-2004 The Washington Post Company. Reprinted from The Washington Post of January 30, 2004.
|Haiti's neighbors are pressing Aristide for reforms|
|By Richard Lezin Jones, The New York Times|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 29 At 24, David Jonathas is barely old enough to remember the political revolution that eventually placed a Catholic priest named Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the presidential palace. And yet, Mr. Jonathas hopes to be part of another movement, equal in determination to that earlier campaign waged in the late 1980's but with opposite results.
"As long as Aristide is in power, there will be no democracy," said Mr. Jonathas, a student at the University of Haiti, wiping his brow moments after he and a few hundred other students finished a march through the winding, pockmarked streets of the capital here calling for Mr. Aristide's ouster. "He must go. We need a new system."
After a nearly four-year deadlock with critics and opponents, Mr. Aristide has faced increasingly frequent protests over the past few months; in the last month, opposition leaders have called for demonstrations almost daily demanding that he step down. Leaders of neighboring Caribbean nations are pressing him to defuse the situation.
Further complicating matters was the dissolution of Haiti's bicameral legislature earlier this month. Partly because of a boycott by the opposition, the government failed to hold parliamentary elections last year. As a result, the terms of all 83 members of the lower house and about two-thirds of the nation's senators expired, meaning that Mr. Aristide effectively rules by decree.
The protests have grown in size as well on Tuesday more than 15,000 people marched on the capital and clashes between antigovernment marchers, supporters of Mr. Aristide and the police have sometimes turned violent. About 50 people have been killed in protests during the past several months, including a university student who was shot by a tear gas canister not far from the United States consulate.
The situation has prompted the leaders of 15 neighboring islands nations that are part of the international group known as the Caribbean Community, or Caricom to demand that Mr. Aristide reform the police force, disarm violent gangs of supporters and step up efforts to work with opponents.
Opposition leaders, who met with Caricom leaders in the Bahamas this month, have said that they are willing to continue discussions. Mr. Aristide, who has said he agrees with most of the group's proposals will meet with the organization on Saturday.
Meanwhile, demonstrators continue to take to the streets of Port-au-Prince, in recent days stepping up requests for diplomatic intervention by the United States. "We all want to tell Bush to meet his responsibility," said Hervé Santilus, of the Student Federation at Haiti University, who, like many here, reasoned that because the United States helped restore Mr. Aristide to power in 1994 after a coup three years earlier, it should also assist in resolving the current crisis.
"We're just going to keep demonstrating to push Bush and the State Department to come get this toxic garbage out of here as fast as they can," Mr. Santilus said.
But with a full menu of international affairs at the moment including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continuing campaign against terrorism not to mention the November elections at home the Bush administration is unlikely to add Haiti to its plate.
While some level of diplomatic intervention is possible, experts say that the United States and other nations that are closely watching the situation may also be experiencing a level of "Haiti fatigue" after the military and financial resources that have been poured into this impoverished nation without many demonstrable results.
"They're sort of really tired that they have to come and rescue these people all the time," said Professor Marc Prou, executive director of the Haitian Studies Association at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, who nonetheless said that outside intervention is necessary before the crisis escalates.
He and others questioned the prospects of a successful mediation by Caricom or anyone else unless the main figures in Haiti's own political struggles do something first.
"There's no doubt that the situation is becoming more tense and more divisive and in need of genuine mediation and other concrete steps by the Haitian actors," said David Lee, chief of the Organization of American States mission here.
Many say that the first step must begin with the national police force, which critics have said that Mr. Aristide uses as a weapon to punish political enemies, and the band of armed gangs known as chimeres after a fire-breathing monster from Greek mythology that many say cause much of the violent lawlessness.
Although he has denounced the gangs, Mr. Aristide has been widely criticized for not doing enough to stop them.
Another priority, experts say, is for the president and the opposition who have traded accusations about who has instigated the violence to begin talking to each other, but the divisions between them are deep.
Two of the main opposition groups are the Democratic Convergence, led by former supporters of Mr. Aristide, and Group 184, a coalition of students, businessmen and other professionals whose name is derived from its original membership tally.
Many members of both are former Aristide supporters who fell out of favor. "He marginalized all those people," Professor Prou said. "So now it's payback time."
The retribution is being meted out daily in the protests in Port-au-Prince, where demonstrators chant in Creole, "Vle pa vle, fou'l ale," which roughly translates as, "Whether he wants to or not, he must go."
Mr. Aristide himself has often noted how in the turbulent 200-year history of his sad and beautiful nation, Haiti has endured 32 political uprisings or coups. But experts say his ouster is unlikely as long as he has the support of the national police.
As for another possible resolution to the crisis, Mr. Aristide's resignation, experts say that is even more remote.
"Aristide is a real hard head," Professor Prou said. "He's not going anywhere."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company. Reprinted from The New York Times, International, of Friday, January 30, 2004
|Posted Thursday, January 29, 2004|
|Mourners of slain high-school student demonstrate against Haitian government|
|By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 29 - A funeral for a high-school student slain after an anti-government demonstration turned into a heated protest Thursday with mourners blaming embattled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide for the death of the teenager.
"Arrest Aristide !" about 100 mourners shouted as they accompanied a hearse from a Roman Catholic church to the capitals municipal cemetery.
Police accompanied the procession, which ended without incident.
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The student, Emmanuel Colastin, 15, died Jan. 18 when gunmen opened fire from a car and hit him as he was walking on a boulevard after an anti-government demonstration in the capital. Colastin had not participated in the demonstration.
Haiti has been in turmoil since Aristides Lavalas Family party swept 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed. In the past four months of protest, at least 50 people have been killed.
Aristide partisan Lionel Victor, 29, was killed Wednesday after a tear gas canister struck him in the back. Police fired warning shots and tear gas when a group of Aristide supporters confronted students holding a demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate.
Saying they want to prevent fresh outbreaks of violence, police on Tuesday ordered demonstrations in the capital be held in a seaside square, kilometers (miles) away from the National Palace.
Caribbean Community leaders have been trying to help Haiti out of its three-year political impasse, meeting in the Bahamas last week with Haitian opposition members and with Aristide in Haiti on Sunday.
Aristide was planning to meet regional leaders Saturday in Jamaica, the regional blocs Assistant-Secretary General Colin Granderson told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The opposition said it would not hold talks with the government or participate in new elections unless Aristide resigns. Aristide has said he plans to serve out his term, which ends in 2006.
|Patterson warns Aristide he could face sanctions|
|By The Jamaica Observer|
JAMAICA, Jan. 29 - In the toughest language yet from a Caribbean Community leader on Haiti, Prime Minister P J Patterson yesterday raised the possibility of regional sanctions against Haiti President Jean Bertrand Aristide, if he stonewalls on Caricom proposals to end the political crisis in his country at talks planned for Jamaica within days.
Patterson, speaking on the Power I06 FM morning talk show, Independent Talk, also called for the release from prison of a number of people in Haiti, including students who he said were held in "arbitrary detention" on the island since December, after the eruption of daily demonstrations in the country against Aristides rule.
Haiti has been under international pressure to reform its political process and hold free legislative elections following what was acknowledged to have been a flawed vote for some members of the national assembly in 2000.
But the government and the Haitian opposition have been unable to agree on how to reform the election machinery, and violent protests broke out late last year as time drew near for the expiry of the life of two-thirds of the Senate, for which Aristide has said an election will be held within six months.
However, the Opposition has said that Aristide, too, should go, two years ahead of the end of his term.
Earlier this month leaders of Caricom, a political and economic group of 14 Caribbean countries, met with the Haitian opposition to discuss proposals to end the crisis and Patterson, the Communitys chairman, is to now meet Aristide hoping to take the process forward.
The earlier meeting was the first time that the Haitian Opposition had had direct dialogue with Caricom, which they believe gives uncritical support to Aristide whom his opponents cast as a despot.
But Patterson warned yesterday that Caricom could end up holding Aristides government at arms length if the Jamaica talks fail to achieve tangible results. "We are .making it clear that the consequence of a failure (by Aristide) to respond positively to the proposals we have made would result in our considering whether Haiti is in compliance with (Caricoms) Charter for Civil Society," said Patterson.
Additionally, if Haiti failed to implement the resolution of the Organisation of American States resolutions - calling for a legitimate election council and democratic elections - then, Patterson said, "we certainly would have to be looking within that body (for) what sanctions should be applied, and President Aristide in those circumstances could not count on the support of Caricom".
Caricom has in the past strongly criticised the withholding of economic aid from Haiti by multilateral institutions, which claim that the government has not done enough to reform its economy and to strengthen civil society. But more recently, statements by Caricom, which Haiti joined in 1997, have grown sharper on the need for Haiti to solve its problems although they have not been condemnatory of Haiti.
Yesterdays remarks by Patterson have been the most forthright yet.
Referring to critics of Caricoms policy on Haiti, Patterson said : "There has been a perception in certain quarters in Haiti that Caricom backs President Aristide, regardless. This is not so. Haiti is a member of the OAS. They have passed resolutions in the OAS, and we expect President Aristide to comply with them."
Patterson, in what amounted to an unprecedented criticism of a fellow Caricom member, also made a pointed reference to rights abuses in Haiti.
"We. are insisting that those who are held in arbitrary detention should be released, and particularly a number of students who have been held in custody since the events of the 5th of December, we also feel that they should be released," he said.
|Posted Wednesday, January 28, 2004|
|Haitian student shot and killed as demonstrators burn coffin in front of U.S. Consulate|
|By The Associated Press|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Angry students protesting against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide burned a coffin in front of the U.S. Consulate on Wednesday. One student was shot and killed.
|A pro Aristide supporter throws a rock on a car in front of the U.S Consulate in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Wednesday, Jan 28, 2004. Police fired warning shots and tear gas to break up a confrontation between Haitian protesters and their foes in front of the U.S. Consulate on Wednesday. One student was killed, apparently when he was struck by a tear-gas grenade. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)|
Riot police fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse students and Aristide partisans who were pelting the demonstrators with rocks.
One student was shot and killed near the consulate, apparently by a tear gas canister that punctured his back and caused internal bleeding, said Dr. Eric Cantave, who removed the canister from the students back.
|SCENARIO - Mass murderer dictator, chief terrorist Jean-Bertrand Arisitide in his coffin, where Haitians in growing large numbers today say he belongs. The letters under the top cover of the coffin say: 'I have interred, destroyed Haiti' (File Photo) More photos|
Dozens of students and parents crowded into the capitals main Canape Vert Hospital, sobbing and shouting anti-government slogans.
"Well continue lighting the torch of the movement !" University of Haiti student leader Herve Saintilus said. "The United States is an important factor in the crisis. It has to assume its responsibility."
|SCENARIO - The burial of uncommonly chief bandit Jean-Bertrand Aristide. One of the Bishops presiding over monstrous Aristide's burial is François Wolf Lingondé, whom the tyrant nearly burned alive, in January 1991 (File Photo)||SCENARIO - Primitive tyrant Jean-Bertrand Aristide is dead, dead, dead and interred. Extremely happy citizens take to the streets. The white building, foregroung, is the Haitian wedding-cake national palace. All democracy protests were banned in front of it. (File Photo)|
Officials temporarily shut down the U.S. Consulate because of the unrest, said Judith Trunzo, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy, which remained open and is about a mile (kilometer) away from the consulate.
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Police have ordered demonstrations in the capital be held in a seaside square, miles away from the National Palace. The new regulation came Tuesday as 15,000 people turned out for an anti-government protest.
There was no immediate police comment about Wednesdays shooting.
Haiti has been in turmoil since Aristides Lavalas Family party swept 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed. In the past four months, at least 49 people have been killed.
Caribbean leaders have been trying to solve the countrys three-year political impasse, meeting in the Bahamas last week with Haitian opposition members and with Aristide on Sunday.
Aristide will meet with regional leaders on Friday in Jamaica.
The opposition says it will not hold talks with the government or participate in new elections unless Aristide resigns. Aristide has said he plans to serve out his term until 2006.
"Aristide is pitting the police against the people," opposition politician Evans Paul said.
Police broke up three student demonstrations last week with tear gas, saying they werent complying with a 1987 decree requiring protesters to submit plans two days before and to give names of participants.
Few pro-government demonstrations have been disrupted, prompting criticism from rights groups who say Aristides government is trampling on a constitutional guarantee that protects freedom of assembly.
|Posted Tuesday, January 27, 2004|
|More than 15,000 protest mass murderer Aristide dictatorship|
|By The Associated Press|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 27 - More than 15,000 people demonstrated peacefully against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Tuesday, in what has become a near daily show of popular defiance.
The protesters marched from the suburb of Petionville to a square in midtown Port-au-Prince.
Please see also:Related photos
The impoverished country has been in turmoil since Aristides party swept 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed. In the past four months, at least 49 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded during protests.
"Aristide promised this year would bring a better life, but its worse than ever," said Emmanuel Dorfeuille, a 22-year-old unemployed car mechanic. "If I dont demonstrate, I might as well drop dead."
Police on Tuesday ordered that future demonstrations in the capital be held in a seaside square far away from the National Palace, saying it would prevent violent street clashes.
The opposition says it will not hold talks with the government or participate in new elections unless Aristide resigns, but the president has said he wont step down until his term ends in 2006.
Meanwhile, witnesses said a bystander was shot and killed Monday in a skirmish between police and anti-government demonstrators in the west coast town of Gonaives.
|The girls next door|
|Posted Monday, January 26, 2004|
|Haiti's Aristide agrees to meet opposition|
|By Amy Bracken, Reuters Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 25 (Reuters) - Responding to peace-making efforts from Caribbean leaders, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Sunday agreed to meet with Haiti's opposition to try to ease an increasingly violent standoff. Aristide Supporters Turn Out In Haiti (Reuters Video) But it was unclear whether his foes -- a disparate coalition of businessmen, church and civic groups, political opponents and students -- would also agree to the meeting being brokered by the Caribbean Community regional bloc.
The potential encounter in Kingston, Jamaica, would take place "some time in the very near future," said Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, representing CARICOM.
Christie was in Haiti for talks with Aristide after the Caribbean group met the president's opponents in the Bahamas to try and halt the further descent of the poorest nation of the Americas into confrontation and bloodshed.
Aristide, who recently called for new elections within six months, said at a news conference on Sunday that he accepted CARICOM's invitation to the talks in Jamaica.
"I will be with you in Kingston, Jamaica, (where I hope) all of my brothers and sisters of the opposition, civil society and Lavalas (ruling party) will work toward a solution because that solution is indispensable to the future of Haiti," he said.
Dozens have died in clashes between protesters who have been taking to the streets in increasing numbers and armed Aristide supporters. Both sides blame each other for the violence, but most attacks appear to be carried out by backers of the president.
A former Roman Catholic priest, Aristide became Haiti's first democratically elected leader. A coup, U.S. invasion and re-election later, his popularity has waned amid allegations of corruption and political thuggery.
The crux of the standoff with the opposition is a disputed parliamentary election in 2000, the year of Aristide's re-election. The impasse has prevented a new ballot from taking place and the terms of most Haitian legislators expired this month, immobilizing parliament.
The opposition, which has rejected Aristide's call for new elections because it said conditions did not exist for a free and fair vote, did not immediately respond to the talks proposal.
At the meeting last week with opposition leaders in the Bahamas, CARICOM presented a proposal in which it called on the Haitian government to disarm gangs and allow free and safe demonstrations.
Members of the opposition broadly mistrust the Caribbean group, but many came away from the Bahamas meeting feeling that it had become an ally.
|Posted January 24, 2004|
|Haiti murderous thugs block, with incomparable brutality, anti-uncommonly totalitarian dictatorship protest|
|By Agence France-Presse|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan. 23 (AFP) - Haitian authorities banned a protest by students demanding the resignation of President Jean Bertrand Aristide, while giving the go-ahead to a pro-government march.
Students who back the Caribbean nation's opposition parties were not allowed to take to the streets and instead were forced to stay in the Medical School's courtyard or in front of the building, where riot police cordoned them off.
The riot police use teargas to keep government supporters away from the student protesters.
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But 5,000 pro-Aristide students were allowed to march through the capital, demanding that schools remain open and that the president complete his term, set to end in 2006.
The opposition has called for closing schools and has encouraged parents to keep their children at home until Aristide resigns.
Meanwhile, in the northwestern coastal city of Gonaives, shooting broke out between police and armed militants from the Arbonite Revolutionary Resistance Front, but no one was injured.
The opposition has been demanding that Aristide step down since legislative elections in May 2000, which opponents said were fixed by his Lavalas party.
The Organization of American States and Caribbean neighbors have tried to mediate, without success.
Aristide has been accused of corruption and mismanagement.
The Haitian church has proposed setting up a special council made up of representatives from political parties, religious organizations and human rights groups to help Aristide organize elections.
Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse
|Posted Friday, January 23, 2004|
|Arisitide's brutal tactics further inflame Haitians|
|Posted Thursday, January 22, 2004|
|Haitian police block student marchers as opposition vows more protests against Aristide|
|By The Associated Press|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Dozens of police prevented a crowd of students from marching Thursday in a protest demanding President Jean-Bertrand Aristides resignation, while his supporters demonstrated freely just blocks away.
Riot police cut off the protest route with trucks and stood in the way of some 200 protesters, who milled about outside the State University medical school chanting "Aristide must go !"
Police fired tear gas to keep back about 100 Aristide supporters, some of whom threw rocks and bottles at officers. No one was reported injured, and student protesters dispersed peacefully after a few hours.
About 1,500 students who support Aristide marched a few blocks away, calling for new legislative elections, which the opposition has refused unless Aristide resigns.
It was the latest in a series of surging protests and the third time in a week that police have blocked a student demonstration. On Monday and Wednesday, police fired tear gas and warning shots near the university to keep back students.
Haiti has been in turmoil since Aristides party swept 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed. In the past four months, at least 47 people have been killed during increasing protests calling for Aristide to step down.
Aristide has said he will not step down before his term ends in 2006.
The State University has been closed since Dec. 5, when at least two dozen people were injured in violence that erupted as police separated dozens of government supporters from students protesters.
The pro-government crowd on Thursday chanted "Reopen the schools," as they sought to counter an anti-Aristide student movement that has led many recent protests.
Police told student protesters their march was illegal because they didnt file the proper papers. Organizers disputed that, and one held up a mail receipt, saying the documents were delivered to police.
A doctors association known as the Haitian Physicians Struggle called the protest. Mixed in with the crowd were medical students and doctors from the university hospital, where fewer patients are seen lately due to the unrest.
The latest protest came after Haitian opposition leaders concluded talks with Caribbean leaders in the Bahamas and vowed to press on with more protests.
Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie, who played host to the two-day talks that ended Wednesday, plans another meeting with Aristide in Haiti on Saturday, Bahamian officials said.
|Disarm gangs, Haiti is told|
|By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald Writer|
NASSAU, Jan. 22 - Leaders of the 15-nation Caribbean Community called on Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Wednesday to immediately dismantle armed gangs, provide clear rules for protest, and seek opposition backing for the country's next prime minister.
|Police launch tear gas canisters against students during anti-government demonstrations while Haiti's mass murderer Jean-Bertrand Aristide's thugs are allowed to demonstrate Wednesday, Januanry 21, 2004 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AFP Photo/Thony Belizaire) More photos|
The requests were among a half-dozen proposals that leaders of the Bahamas, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago agreed to during two days of talks in the Bahamas to help solve Haiti's political crisis.
A 14-member delegation representing the country's opposition attended the talks. Aristide did not send representatives (if so what Brown and Baussant were doing with the prime ministers. see picture above) , but Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie was expected to travel to Port-au-Prince in the next few days to present the proposal to Aristide.
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''We believe that Haiti is at a perilous juncture,'' said P.J. Patterson, prime minister of Jamaica, who led the talks. ``Opposing positions have hardened, and what is really a fight for political power is taking place in the streets with ensuing confrontations and incidents of violence. The potential for greater violence and instability we regard as very elevated.''
A spokeswoman for Aristide said late Wednesday that the government would have no comment until it had received the proposals.
''It seems to me that any proposals made by CARICOM would need to be actually communicated with the government before it could make an informed comment in response,'' said Michelle Karshan, the government spokeswoman.
The opposition delegation that attended the talks planned to hold a news conference today to respond to the proposals. But Evans Paul, one of the leaders of the Democratic Convergence, a coalition of political groups opposed to Aristide, said Wednesday that his group would not accept any proposal that does not include Aristide's resignation.
''This is the position of the opposition,'' Paul said in Haiti. ``Aristide must go because Aristide is not credible. He has not respected any accords.''
Paul said Prime Minister Yvonne Neptune is not the problem.
''We don't want to change the prime minister, we want to change Aristide,'' said Paul, a former mayor of Port-au-Prince and one-time Aristide supporter. ``We don't want to get rid of Neptune. We want to get rid of Aristide. Aristide is the problem.''
While the heads of government said they were under no illusions that all of Haiti's problems could be solved with one meeting -- especially one at which the government is not present -- they still hailed the meetings as a success. Patterson led the discussions along with Christie and Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago.
During the closed-door talks, several opposition leaders said they wanted an international police force in Haiti to help prevent Haiti from becoming a criminal state. The leaders support the idea of a security force, but it was unclear Wednesday how many troops would be needed and for how long.
''The outcome of this meeting cannot be an agreement between CARICOM and the leaders of the opposition groups,'' said Patterson, chairman of CARICOM. ``They have to take back to their groups and report to them certain proposals that we have put on the table.''
After Christie meets with Aristide in the next few days, the leaders said they hope to schedule a subsequent meeting in Kingston, Jamaica.
Meanwhile, about 20,000 Aristide supporters marched in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday after police fired tear gas into Haiti's state university, halting an anti-government demonstration, the Associated Press reported.
Students were about to leave for the anti-government march when police blocked them, telling them to take another route.
Several minor injuries were reported, and one medical student was arrested for disturbing the peace, the AP reported. PS: (Remarks in blue and red are from the sender)
|U.N. rights envoy says Haiti not ready for elections|
GENEVA, Jan 22 (Reuters) - A United Nations rights envoy said on Thursday rising violence and insecurity meant Haiti was not ready for quick elections, echoing warnings of opposition groups.
Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, facing violent street protests and opposition charges of corruption, announced earlier this month that parliamentary elections would be held within six months.
But his opponents, who accuse the former Roman Catholic priest of rigging the last elections in 2000, say any new ballot would also be fraudulent. "
(There is) a climate of insecurity such that a return to peace through elections seems unrealistic as long as there is an absence of real political will to fight impunity," said French legal expert Louis Joinet.
Joinet, a former legal adviser to late French President Francois Mitterrand, said the authorities made little attempt to investigate acts of violence committed by armed pro-government groups against opponents and journalists.
In a report to the Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights, the U.N. independent expert on human rights in the Caribbean state urged the government to reform the police and judicial systems.
He also called for the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights to open an office in Haiti, one of the worlds poorest nations, with a long history of coups and political violence.
Several people have been killed in recent months after increasingly large anti-government marches were attacked by pro-Aristide gunmen. The government blames the opposition for the bloodshed.
|Posted Wednesday, January 21, 2004|
|Haitian opposition, Caribbean leaders meet|
|By The Associated Press|
NASSAU, Bahamas, Jan. 20 - Caribbean leaders met with Haitian opposition members Tuesday in a move to resolve a lengthy political impasse in Haiti that has led to a surge of violence in recent months.
The 14-member Haitian delegation was from the Democratic Platform (its presentation, in French) a coalition of opposition political parties, clergy, students and business leaders. It refuses to participate in new elections unless Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide resigns.
No one from the Haitian government attended the meeting. It was supposed to include members of Aristide's government but the opposition refused to hold talks with anyone from the government.
Pressure has been building on Aristide since his party swept 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed. Poverty has deepened and unrest has risen. In the past four months, at least 47 people have been killed in demonstrations.
Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said he hoped the meetings would help relations between Aristide and the opposition. He also said that the 15-member Caribbean Community wants to hold discussions with the embattled leader.
"If a solution is to be reached both sides have to really give some," Patterson said.
The opposition says Aristide must step down and be replaced by a transitional governing council. Aristide has refused calls for his resignation, saying he will serve out his term which expires in 2006.
Trinidadian Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie also attended the talks.
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press
|Posted Tuesday, January 20, 2004|
|Mbeki in the hot tub, DA submits questions over Haiti trip|
SOUTH AFRICA, Jan. 20 - The official opposition Democratic Alliance has submitted written parliamentary questions to the presidency requesting a breakdown of costs incurred by the South African taxpayer for President Thabo Mbeki's recent visit to Haiti.
Democratic Alliance finance spokeswoman Raenette Taljaard also submitted the questions to the ministers of foreign affairs, safety and security, intelligence and defence.
Mbeki recently attended Haiti's bi-centenary celebrations.
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Taljaard said: "In particular, I have submitted a question to Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota about the costs of sending the SAS Drakensberg and SANDF personnel to Haiti to protect the President."
This one aspect alone had probably cost - "at a conservative estimate" - at least five million rand.
"Add to this the ten million rand contribution to the Haitian government for its bicentenary celebrations, and the costs quickly escalate into the financial stratosphere."
South African taxpayers have had to fork out tens of millions of rands "for President Mbeki's propping up an undemocratic regime, which today is an international pariah. Our president was one of only two heads of state to attend the Haitian celebrations."
Taljaard argued that South Africa had many pressing needs that demanded the attention of the president and his government.
"The symbolic significance of the liberation of Haiti might be important to President Mbeki and the political elite, but it has little relevance to those for whom life is a struggle. Millions of ordinary South Africans are living with HIV/Aids; are forced to deal with unacceptably high levels of crime; cannot find jobs; and are struggling to put food on the table."
Taljaard said expenditure on foreign relations should focus on increasing trade and investment in South Africa while advancing democracy and human rights. I-Net Bridge Tuesday 20 January 2004.
BDFM Publishers (Pty) Ltd disclaims all liability for any loss, damage, injury or expense however caused, arising from the use of or reliance upon, in any manner, the information provided through this service and does not warrant the truth, accuracy or completeness of the information provided. BDFM Publishers 2002 Back to the top
|Posted Monday, January 19, 2004|
|Haiti thugs break up students protest|
|By Michael Norton, Associated Press Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 19 - A student demonstration turned violent Monday when police fired tear gas and bullets into the air to break up a protest against embattled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
|Haiti's notorious primitive chief bandit Jean-Bertrand Aristide murders children too. (AP Photo) More photos|
Within five minutes of the march's start at the University of Haiti, police told the group they would have to take another route to avoid clashes with government supporters.
The students refused, sparking clashes between protesters and police, who witnesses said hit some of the students with clubs and fired tear gas and warning shots. Angry students then threw stones at private schools that had stayed open despite a request to close in solidarity.
"We asked the schools to close," said Jacques Toussaint, a 22-year-old university student.
During the mayhem, a canister of tear gas landed in a Roman Catholic girls school, sending children into a panic and leaving them gasping, radio stations reported. Worried parents hurried to pick up their children and schools quickly closed.
On Sunday, the death toll rose to 47 in violent street clashes that have been steady since mid-September. More than 100 others have been wounded. Danis Louis, 13, was shot and killed during an anti-government demonstration in the Central Plateau District's capital of Hinche, private Radio Galaxie reported.
Pressure has been building on Aristide's government since his party won 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed.
The Democratic Platform a coalition of opposition political parties, clergy, students and business leaders refuses to participate in new elections unless Aristide resigns.
The opposition has refused to meet Aristide or his representatives, saying he must be replaced by a transitional governing council. Leaders in the Democratic Platform are to meet with members of the 15-member Caribbean Community in the Bahamas on Tuesday.
Aristide became Haiti's first freely elected president in 1990, was overthrown in 1991 and restored in a 1994 U.S. invasion. Forced to step down in 1996 due to a term limit, he was re-elected in 2000 and says he plans to serve until his term ends in 2006
|Six shot in anti-government march in Haiti|
|By Amy Bracken, Reuters Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jan. 18 (Reuters) - One person was shot dead and five were wounded on Sunday when gunmen took to the streets to break up an anti-government demonstration in Haiti's capital.
People hiding in allies and on rooftops threw rocks and bottles and fired shots as thousands of anti-government demonstrators marched through the streets of Port-au-Prince. The demonstrators were protected by dozens of police officers, and most of the damage occurred before and after the protest.
Five people were shot in the street outside a state-owned television station along the route of the marchers but before they had arrived on the scene, according to witnesses. A local radio station said at least two of the wounded were merchants.
After the demonstration, groups of marchers retraced the route to return to their homes and cars, while armed men in trucks drove around the city, firing their weapons. One demonstrator was hit and killed by a bullet, witnesses said.
A local hospital confirmed that one person had been fatally shot and three others were treated for gunshot wounds.
The protest, like many in recent weeks, was organized by leaders of a coalition intent on forcing President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign.
Several thousand students and others walked and ran up and down the capital's hilly streets for almost four hours, chanting anti-Aristide slogans.
The police, recently criticized by demonstrators and the international community for failing to protect anti-Aristide demonstrators, were repeatedly applauded by protesters as they chased and arrested attackers.
Some chanted, "Down with Aristide; long live the police!" and "Down with Aristide; long live the students!"
One demonstrator, a student and off-duty police officer who feared the consequences if his name was revealed, said he marched because "Aristide leads a country in which impunity and criminality rule."
He said: "Police can provide security if Aristide wants them to. If he doesn't want them to, they can't."
Aristide, Haiti's first democratically elected president, has seen his popularity plummet in recent years amid a worsening economy and charges of corruption and human rights abuses. Demonstrations, strikes and gatherings calling for his resignation have dominated the local news in recent months.
|Posted Friday, January 16, 2004|
|Haiti Police break up funeral procession|
|By Michae Norton, Associated Press Writer|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 16 - Firing warning shots and tear gas, police stopped mourners on Friday from approaching the presidential palace with the coffin of a protester killed during a demonstration against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Two people were slightly wounded by police fire, witnesses said.
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The clashes occurred during the funeral of Maxime Deselmour, 33, shot during a Jan. 7 protest. As the funeral procession marched toward the National Palace, with mourners shouting "Down with Aristide!" police fired into the air and Aristide supporters hurled rocks.
Witnesses said Aristide supporters also fired shots as mourners fled past a government office, hitting one person in the arm and grazing another's head. Three were struck by stones.
Pressure has been building on Aristide's administration since his party swept 2000 legislative elections that observers said were flawed. Poverty has deepened and unrest has risen. In the past four months, at least 46 people have been killed in demonstrations.
Witnesses say Deselmour was killed when police and Aristide partisans were firing shots to intimidate protesters. The shooting was under investigation.
"Maxime was committed to change, and he died fighting for it," said Bernard Leveque, 29, a student and close friend of Deselmour.
Opposition is mounting against Aristide's embattled administration. A movement made up of political parties, clergy, students and business leaders, refuses to participate in new elections unless Aristide resigns.
But it remains unclear whether any of the movement's leaders has the international backing and popular support to lead the country out of its deepening morass.
This week at a special Summit of the Americas in Mexico, Aristide said government representatives would meet in the Bahamas next week with the opposition and members of the 15-member Caribbean Community. He said international observers, including Canada, would monitor talks over setting up a nine-member electoral council to set a date for new elections.
So far, the opposition was refusing to talk to Aristide.
"The opposition will not negotiate with Aristide but is ready to discuss with Caribbean Community leaders," said Serge Giles, an opposition leader.
Aristide is Haiti's first freely elected leader. He says he plans to serve out his term until 2006.
|Haiti govt blamed for station attacks|
|By The Associated Press|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 15 (AP)--Three anti-government demonstrators in Haiti were shot and wounded in the westcoast town of St. Marc on Thursday when partisans of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide allegedly attacked them from cars, several radio stations reported.
In reprisal, the anti-government demonstrators reportedly burned the home of Freneau Cajuste, a district attorney they accused of unjustly persecuting anti-government activists, and torched privately owned Radio Pyramide, saying the station was running government propaganda.
Meanwhile, in Port-au-Prince, university students held a demonstration Thursday, accusing Aristides administration of having a hand in an attack that forced several radio stations off the air.
Vandals armed with sledgehammers smashed radio antennas, forcing seven radio stations and one television station off the air on Tuesday.
"The government wants to muzzle the press because it wants to stop the movement," said Herve Saintilus, a student leader that led Thursdays march of about 2,000 people. "But more people are joining the struggle."
Aristide condemned the attack, saying, "The press should be able to work without hindrance...We will not tolerate these actions."
Privately-owned stations Radio Galaxie, Radio Kiskeya, Radio Melodie, Radio Magique-Stereo, Radio Plus, and Radio Signal-F.M. went off the air. Radio and Television Ti-Moun, which are owned by Aristides Foundation for Democracy, were also silenced. The damage caused in the attack could suspend broadcasts for more than a week, owners said Thursday.
Witnesses said the attackers tried to force the security guards to identify the antenna of Radio Caraibes, which government partisans have accused of anti-government bias in its reporting.
Pressure has been building against Aristides administration. In the past four months, at least 46 people have been killed in demonstrations.
U.S. Ambassador James Foley denounced the attack on the radio and television stations, calling it "an attempted assassination of democracy."
Two all-terrain vehicles used by the attackers had been identified, Radio Kiskeya co-owner Sony Bastien said. He said the nine-man commando was led by an Aristide grass-roots leader.
One of the vehicles was an Avis rental vehicle, allegedly rented to a member of the National Palace security police. The driver was allegedly a chauffeur of an Aristide adviser.
Bastien said the gang was working under the orders of Aristide party member, former Rep. Simpson Liberus.
Liberus, in an interview with the state-run Radio Nationale, denied the charges : "Ive always been an advocate for peace," he said.
|Aristide's last chance, says Bush|
TRINIDAD and TOBAGO, Jan. 16 - Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Affairs Minister Knowlson Gift said this was outlined by Bush and US Secretary of State Colin Powell at the special Summit of the Americas in Mexico this week.
Gift said Aristide had been told : "This is about your last chance. You cannot let this opportunity slip by."
Gift revealed this during yesterdays post-Cabinet news conference at Whitehall.
Gift said President Bush had "literally" asked Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning, at a meeting in Washington last month, to "see what initiatives could be taken to bring the Haitian situation under some kind of understandable control".
Gift said the US leader "was quite pleased" at Mannings promptness in assisting with the establishment of a Caricom fact-finding mission to Haiti. Gift said the mission had already reported and, as a result, a team of Caricom prime ministers would be meeting with members of the Haitian public-particularly the Opposition-in Nassau, Bahamas, next Wednesday.
Among the leaders scheduled to attend that meeting are the Prime Ministers of Jamaica, St Lucia, Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago.
|Posted January 15, 2003|
|Haitian military chief arrested in Florida|
|By The Associated Press|
ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 15 - A former Haitian military officer linked to human rights violations in his homeland was arrested Wednesday and will be deported, federal officials said Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. Jean-Claude Duperval has been connected to the April 1994 massacre in the Haitian beach-front community of Raboteau.
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In the raid, soldiers and paramilitary personnel burst into dozens of homes, beating and arresting people. Those who fled to the sea were shot. No one knows how many people were killed because soldiers prevented the victims' families from retrieving bodies.
Duperval entered the United States in 1995 as a visitor, lived in Orlando and worked for Walt Disney World's watercraft department until 2002.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said Wednesday that Duperval has exhausted all legal avenues for relief and will be removed from the country.
Formerly second-in-command in Haiti, Duperval was one of the leaders of the 1991 coup that overthrew Haitian President Jean Bertrand-Aristide. When Aristide returned to power in 1994, Duperval briefly served as interim army commander until he was replaced and transferred to a diplomatic post in Brazil.
Duperval is the fifth person arrested by immigration agents in Florida with links to the Raboteau massacre. Three others have been removed from the United States. Immigration officials said the fourth is being detained and will be removed.
|Caribbean leaders to meet with Haitian opposition|
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Jan. 15 (Reuters) - Leaders from several Caribbean nations will meet with Haitian opposition leaders next week to try to resolve Haiti's increasingly tense political stalemate, Trinidad's foreign minister said on Thursday.
"We are hoping that we will be able to persuade the opposition to shift from their very hard-line stance, namely that President Jean-Bertrand Aristide must go before anything moves forward again in Haiti," Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Minister Knowlson Gift said.
He said Haiti's opposition leaders had agreed to meet in Nassau on Wednesday with the prime ministers of the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago. The meeting was organized by the Caribbean Community regional bloc, which recently sent a fact-finding mission to Haiti.
Several people have been killed in recent months when increasingly large anti-government marches were attacked by pro-Aristide gunmen.
The government blamed the opposition for the bloodshed while demonstrators accused Aristide of corruption and human rights violations and have called for his departure.
Aristide, a former Roman Catholic priest, was hugely popular when he became Haiti's first democratically elected leader in 1991. He was deposed soon afterward but restored to power by a U.S.-led invasion after three years in exile.
He was re-elected in 2000 but his popularity has waned because of allegations his party committed fraud in that ballot, and because of accusations of corruption and violence.
The unresolved dispute over the 2000 vote has prevented a new ballot from being held. The terms of most Haitian legislators expired on Monday, immobilizing parliament.
On Wednesday, Aristide called for new parliamentary elections within six months, but opposition leaders said there were inadequate safeguards to assure free and fair ballot.
Aristide met with CARICOM officials and with President Bush (news - web sites) and Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) during last week's Summit of the Americas in Mexico. Gift said the group urged Aristide to be more accommodating "in listening to the other side."
Gift said the other leaders told Aristide, "You've got to do something, this is about your last chance. You cannot let this opportunity slip by."
|Opposition mounting but none of its leaders seen as strong challenger to Haitian president|
|By The Associated Press|
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Jan. 14 - One is a businessman barred from the presidency because of his dual nationality. Another led a failed coup attempt. A third managed President Jean-Bertrand Aristides campaign.
Opposition is mounting to Aristides embattled administration, but its unclear whether any of the movements leaders has the international backing and popular support to lead the country out of its deepening morass.
None has presented themselves as alternatives to Aristide, and few have offered real solutions for Haitis worsening poverty or unrest.
"The opposition is out for the kill," said Larry Birns, director of the Council for Hemispheric Affairs in Washington. "The problem is theres no natural substitute leader."
The opposition coalition of political parties, businesses, civic organizations, students and clergy has demanded Aristides resignation, saying he should be replaced by a nine-member transitional governing council until new elections are held within two years.
"It should be reassuring that were proposing a collective leadership since Haitian history has been filled with so many cults of personalities," said Rosny Desroches, 60, a soft-spoken leader in the coalition who is a former school principal.
Due to disparate views, the coalition has often struggled to find one voice, slowing its efforts to gain international recognition.
But it has managed recently to organize strikes and bring huge crowds to demonstrations. Less than a year ago, anti-government strikes and demonstrations often fizzled before they began.
Its most outspoken leader, but unlikely messiah, is Andy Apaid Jr. A factory owner born in the United States.
With pressed pastel shirts and gold-rimmed glasses, Apaid looks more like a Miami businessman than a political activist in the Western Hemispheres poorest nation. Without a constitutional amendment, he will never become president because of his dual nationality.
"I am just as much a part of this country as anyone," said Apaid, 51. "Thats why I am saying we must choose another path for the country."
In contrast, coalition member Evans Paul, 48, once helped put Aristide in power by managing his election campaign.
A playwright and journalist under Jean-Claude Duvalier. Years later, he managed Aristides campaign in 1990 but broke ranks after Aristide left him out of his inner circle.
Following violent protests that have left at least 45 people dead in the past four months, U.S. officials have raised concerns over the deteriorating situation and urged both sides to find a solution.
Meanwhile, the International Republican Institute, a U.S.-funded group whose mission is to train political groups, has been working with sectors in the opposition coalition _ not with Aristides Lavalas Family party.
"Were trying to create a level playing field," said Thayer Scott, spokesman for the group. "(Lavalas) is well-entrenched in power."
Aristide, Haitis elected president, was ousted in a 1991 coup and restored to power by U.S. troops in 1994. He refuses to step down until his second term ends in 2006 and accuses the opposition of fomenting another coup.
Himler Rebu, another voice of the opposition, was a former Army colonel who commanded a battalion that in 1989 attempted to overthrow Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril. The coup attempt failed and Rebu, 53, went into exile. Rebu, who now owns a health club, last year helped organize an opposition protest that assembled tens of thousands in Cap-Haitien, Haitis second-largest city.
In the 1990 elections that Aristide won in a landslide, the U.S. government backed Aristides main opponent, Marc Bazin, a former finance minister and World Bank official. Bazin won barely 12 percent of the vote.
The outcome could be similar if the international community backs another contender who is unable to win the support of Haitis masses.
Most of its 8 million people are poor and live in the countryside, isolated geographically and politically, but important for popular support. Aristide, a former parish priest, managed to win the trust of the masses by using the churchs expansive network of parishes.
Student leader Herve Saintilus, Protestant Federation leader Edouard Paultre and businessman Charles Henry Baker have also emerged as leaders in the opposition coalition.
But all suffer from the same problem : none has offered a prescription to Haitis many ills, says J. Christopher Kovats-Bernat, a cultural anthropologist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., and an observer in the 1995 elections.
"The opposition isnt saying anything except theyre not Aristide," Kovats-Bernat said. "This time Haitians wont elect a personality but will rather choose a system that will guarantee their survival."
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