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From editor@haiti-progres.com Tue Jul 3 16:51:24 2001
Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 22:56:35 -0500 (CDT)
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Subject: This Week in Haiti 19:15 6/27/2001
Article: 122149
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Negotiations drag on as economy and justice founder

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 19, no. 15, 27 June - 3 July 2001

Deadlines have generally proven to be pretty ephemeral over the past decade of political crises in Haiti, and that of June 25, 2001 was no exception to the rule.

It was the date by which President Jean-Bertrand Aristide promised the Organization of American States (OAS) he would appoint a new Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) to organize elections for 7 Senate seats voluntarily vacated earlier this month by Aristide's party, the Lavalas Family (FL) (see Haoti Progrhs, Vol. 19, No. 12, 6/6/2001). The gesture was part of a package of concessions Aristide proposed to the OAS to unblock Haiti's political deadlock and frozen aid.

On June 25, the government claimed that it had all candidates for the 9-member council lined up except for one, which was of course the most important: that of the Democratic Convergence (CD) opposition front.

The CD objected among other things to the formula allowing the executive, judiciary, and the legislature to each name members to the new CEP. Since all three government branches are FL controlled, this would allow the body to be stacked with pro- Aristide members, the CD argued.

The CD, in truth, was never favorably disposed towards the OAS deal. Ever since the OAS General Assembly in San Josi, Costa Rica passed a resolution Jun. 5 supporting Aristide's concessions of forming a new CEP and holding new elections, the CD has denounced the plan as a snake we will not swallow.

In an attempt to get the CD on board before the deadline, OAS Secretary General Cisar Gaviria arrived in Haiti on Jun. 24 with his deputy SG, Luigi Einaudi, and new OAS Haiti specialist, Sergio Romero Cuevas, as well as Albert Ramdin from CARICOM. But the delegation failed to budge the CD, which refused to name their representative to the new CEP.

At the last minute on Jun. 25, Gaviria produced a letter asking Aristide to extend the deadline to Jul. 1. This short delay should facilitate fuller consultations in which the OAS/CARICOM mission will continue to act as mediator, the letter read.

Despite the delay, there are growing signs of dissension among the 15 tiny groups which make up the CD. The neo-Duvalierist components, such as the MRN of Hubert Deronceray, the RDNP of Leslie Manigat, and ALAH of Reynold Georges, favor the hard-line zero option, whereby the entire Lavalas government, from Aristide on down to the lowliest rural councilperson, would be removed and new elections held by a provisional government. In fact, they are holding out for another coup d'itat, which could only be accomplished with foreign support, of which they have plenty, and possibly another foreign military intervention.

The CD's social democratic currents, however, like the KONAKOM of Micha Gaillard and Victor Benoit and the OPL of Girard Pierre- Charles and Paul Denis, appear to be ready to abandon the zero option, which they previously espoused, in favor of trying to carry out an electoral coup d'itat, meaning elections under complete foreign control.

An electoral coup d'itat attempted on May 21, 2000 was unsuccessful when the Haitian people defeated attempts to marginalize their vote. That is why Washington and the OAS have been making a fuss about those elections ever since they were swept by the FL. More than likely, in the coming week the OAS will try to give guarantees to the CD, and wring more concessions from the FL, so that a new electoral coup d'itat can be attempted and, this time, successfully carried out.

Mr. Gaviria has come, and we are going to discuss with him, Pierre-Charles explained, despite the protests of Manigat's RDNP, which pulled out of negotiations. As we have said before, we were not agreed with the San Josi resolution, but since it is already done...

Pierre-Charles also clearly hopes that there will be more concessions, saying the accord is not made of marble.

The question remains: where does Washington stand? Does it back the OAS/CARICOM initiative? Clearly, some Washington Republicans are more partial to the zero option than the electoral coup d'itat. But one does not preclude the other, and they may be giving Aristide plenty of rope to hang himself. Although he is clamoring to do their bidding, it is unlikely Washington strategists will ever fully trust him because he has double- crossed them in the past and has a strong base in the Haitian masses. But, already, the former firebrand priest has lost much of his political credibility by integrating Duvalierists into key government posts and preparing to embrace Washington's neoliberal economic plan.

Despite all these concessions, the U.S. and European Union, the key players in the consortium of Haiti's friends, have not let up on the economic pressure. The government is still forced to pay interest -- over $4 million monthly -- on some loans which have been granted but not released. Meanwhile food and housing costs are soaring, as an already dire economic scenario worsens.

The governor of the Central Bank, Fritz Jean, confirmed on Monday that the persistence of the political crisis is accelerating the aggravation of the country's economic situation, the Haitian Press Association reported.

The Central Bank is putting the entire financial system in danger, cried Radio Metropole's resident economist Kesner Pharel. It is asphyxiating the Haitian economy by maintaining too lax a monetary policy which is fueling inflation. The government is engaged in wholesale deficit spending, Pharel said, having already spent 1.4 billon gourdes ($56 million) financing the deficit in the first six months of the Oct. 2000 to Sep. 2001 fiscal year, while only 1.2 billion gourdes ($48 million) was budgeted for the entire year.

The economic crunch has of course brought its usual hand-maiden: increased crime. The population has long called for more effective police action and speedier court judgements against zenglendos (violent criminals). But in a move which might make a bad situation worse, Aristide appeared this week to endorse summary executions of zenglendos caught red-handed. If it's a zenglendo, zero tolerance, Aristide said in a speech at Haitian National Police (PNH) headquarters. If a zenglendo stops a car in the street, puts his hand on the key to make the driver get out so he can take the car, he is guilty, because the car is not his. You do not need to lead him to the court to have him judged because the car is not his... he is guilty. If a criminal grabs someone in the street by the collar and puts him on the ground to beat him or shoot him, [the police] do not need to wait to go to court with him to prevent him from doing that.

Human rights groups reacted to the statement with dismay. We can't believe that such a declaration was made by a chief of state, who should measure everything he says, said Serge Bordenave of the Human Rights Platform, because we don't think that summary executions are going to fix things in our society. Crime is rooted in problems of continuing impunity, unemployment, and political intrigue, he said.

Pierre Esperance of the National Coalition of Haitian Rights also warned that the directive could spawn not just summary executions but also acts of personal vengeance and political assassinations.

How will you know when they execute somebody during an arrest as a zenglendo if that person really was a zenglendo? Esperance asked.

A host of FL deputies and spin-masters undertook damage control after the statement, arguing, like spokesman Jacques Ambroise, that Aristide meant that the police did not need to wait for a juge de paix (justice of the peace) to get an arrest warrant. He was saying that if you catch someone in the act of committing a crime, you don't have to go get a warrant before arresting him, you can arrest him on the spot, Ambroise deadpanned.

Despite the tough talk about zenglendos, impunity remains entrenched. For example, Commerce Minister Stanley Thiard remains in his post despite revelations last month that he was indicted in 1986 for embezzling $4.5 million from the Haitian treasury. The association of parents of over 200 children killed by poisonous medicine distributed by the Pharval Laboratories of businessman Reginald Boulos called on the government to be consistent in its application of zero tolerance.

If there is going to be zero tolerance for street thieves, that's fine, said one parent, but there also has to be zero tolerance to uproot thieves in the state apparatus, to find justice for the victims of Pharval, and to condemn those responsible for the killing of Jean Dominique.

Indeed the case surrounding the Apr. 3, 2000 murder of Radio Haoti Inter director Jean Dominique has become one of Haiti's most explosive issues, embroiling the prominent FL Senator Dany Toussaint and spotlighting the strange conduct of Justice Minister Gary Lissade. We will return to for a look at this dossier next week.