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From editor@haiti-progres.com Fri Jul 21 08:24:58 2000
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 22:58:22 -0500 (CDT)
From: Haiti_Progres <editor@haiti-progrescom>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 18:18 7/19/00: Another coup in the offing?
Article: 100902
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
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New rightist coup bid takes shape

Haiti Progrès, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 18, no. 18, 19-25 July 2000

A front of opposition parties this week openly called for the violent overthrow of Haiti's elected government, demanding the restoration of the Haitian Army which carried out the 1991-1994 coup d'état and the exile - once again - of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Launching what it called Operation Drain the Flood (Operasyon drenaj lavalas), the Group of Convergence, a congealment of six small right-wing parties and fronts, wants President René Préval and Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis to resign, the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to be disbanded, and this summer's elections, largely won by Aristide's Lavalas Family (FL) party, to be scrapped.

In a supposed show of force, the Convergence held a Jul. 15 rally in Petit Goâve with less than 300 people scraped together from all over Haiti. Organizers had predicted 10,000 participants.

In his speech for the occasion, Reynold Georges, a rabid supporter of the 1991-1994 coup and a principal Convergence spokesman, asked the foreigners to do two things: First: take Aristide and return him to Washington where you found him. Second: restore the Haitian Army for us... because those lumpen (chimè) [poor pro-Lavalas demonstrators]... I didn't see them around when [coup leaders Colonel] Michel François and [General] Raoul Cédras were there; they were all in hiding.

During the three-year coup d'état, the Haitian Army and its paramilitary arm killed an estimated 5,000 Haitians. It was disbanded by Aristide's presidential decree in 1995.

Another Convergence speaker even implied that the Duvalier dictatorship was better than the current government. The two or three roads that Jean-Claude Duvalier built, the Lavalas has destroyed with their burning tires, said Sauveur Pierre Etienne of Organization of People in Struggle (OPL). Since Duvalier's overthrow in 1986, protestors have commonly used burning tire road barricades to press their demands.

The night before the rally, Convergence partisans shot and wounded two FL members, Norbert Belange and Saintil Dorvil. According to witnesses, three unidentified men riding in the car of Jean Limonji, a local candidate of the Convergence's Espace de Concertation (EC), fired on demonstrators protesting the planned rally and the distribution of Convergence flyers calling on former Tonton Macoutes and FRAPH members to unite and launch a civil war at 10 a.m. the next day. The flyers also called for the Haitian Army to replace the Haitian National Police so as to finish with the Lavalas regime, all policemen, and all popular organization members, according to a Radio Haiti correspondent.

The EC's Evans Paul tried to make light of the shootings, saying the victims had shot themselves. There are several versions of what happened, he said. According to one version it was a question of manipulating firearms, which the men couldn't do very well.

He also claimed that Lavalas partisans had kidnapped Limonji's brother, Antoine Jean, on Jul. 14 for four hours from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and then smashed up his car. When questioned, Paul could not explain the precise purpose of the alleged kidnapping.

Earlier this year, Paul claimed that another of his party members was kidnapped by the Lavalas, a temporary disappearance which later appears to have been either a personal dispute, sloppy theater, or a complete hoax.

Despite the opposition's extremely poor showing in nationwide elections on May 21 and Jul. 9, a Convergence spokesman declared that the front expects a warm welcome for its popular uprising in towns across Haiti. We have lots of invitations, said neo-Duvalierist politician Hubert De Ronceray. Gonaïves is interested, Jacmel is interested, Les Cayes is interested. We are convinced that all the important towns and regions will decide to invite us and receive us positively.

The FL reacted angrily to the new provocation from Haiti's highly unpopular opposition. There are two or three politicians who have not only been threatening the Lavalas Family for a long time but now they are threatening to overthrow the government and to make President Préval leave, dissolve the CEP, and annul the elections, said Yvon Neptune, the FL's senator-elect for the West Department. They want to create a mess, to destabilize the country, destabilize the government... We have heard their declaration planning to go all over the country creating confrontations and asking for the bone-breaking, repressive, coup d'état-making army to be restored in the country.

Other factors might contribute to Haiti's destabilization. Prices are rising dramatically, only partly due to rising oil costs. Due to rumors of a possible embargo against Haiti, the class which controls commerce has not hesitated to add a few gourdes to the price of their products, explained Radio Galaxie.

People are panicking and trying to buy more American dollars to prepare for difficult times, Luc Especa, national coordinator for the Caribbean Export Development Agency, told Reuters. Inflation is getting higher and the purchasing power of the people is getting reduced.

Furthermore, it cannot be discounted that the Haitian bourgeoisie might be hiking prices to turn up the heat on the government and help the opposition. Previously, the bourgeoisie bankrolled the 1991 coup against Aristide's government.

Another pressure comes from foreign oil companies which have cut off the government's credit line and now demand cash on delivery, in U.S. currency.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has been returning to Haiti planeload after planeload of convicted felons which it says are Haitian citizens. Often the returnees are young men who left Haiti at an early age, have no family in the country, and don't speak Creole. In at least one case last year, a returnee was in fact a U.S. citizen.

On Jul. 17, the government received 57 men and 3 women, whom were provisionally placed in jail. It was just the latest transfer of about 500 returnees to be made in the upcoming weeks. U.S. authorities told their Haitian counterparts that 38% of the group had committed drug related crimes. But we don't know if they are traffickers or users, said Dr. Lubrène Bien Aimé, the Interior Ministry's general director. When we analyze the files of the groups we have been receiving we realize that some of the people were convicted of nothing serious and some of serious crimes... Fifteen percent committed armed robbery but there are others who didn't do much and one wonders if there is any justification in returning those people.

On top of all this, Washington and the European Community have been threatening to cut off aid to the country because they don't agree with recent election results. The EC said in a five-point declaration last week that it could be compelled to reconsider its policy in Haiti, in particular in the field of cooperation and development, should the democratic process be called into question... including partial or full suspension of aid. International donors had promised to restore the aid flow, which they stopped in 1997, with the installation of a new parliament.

Our government has been living through a difficult situation over the past three years, since all aid money was blocked by parliament, Préval said Jul. 14. We all know what kind of pirouettes we have been doing.