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From editor@haiti-progres.com Thu Dec 21 11:36:17 2000
Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2000 23:07:05 -0600 (CST)
From: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Haiti_Progr=E8s?= <editor@haiti-progres.com>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 18:40 12/20/2000
Article: 111585
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Haitian opposition escalates its provocations

Haiti Progres, This Week in Haiti,
Vol. 18, no. 40, 20-26 December 2000

A comedy in the making, or a tragedy?

This is the question one had to pose on hearing of the Haitian opposition's project to form a parallel government to challenge that of Haitian President-elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who takes office Feb. 7.

Despite giant demonstrations by tens of thousands in support of Aristide and his Lavalas Family party (FL) and Aristide's repeated appeals for reconciliation and dialogue, the Democratic Convergence (CD), a small consortium of neo-Duvalierist and social democratic parties, continues to loudly and daily assert on Haiti's airwaves that the country is in the grips of a Lavalas dictatorship which the Haitian people reject.

The Convergence is now organizing itself as an alternative power, declared Sauveur Pierre Etienne of the CD's Struggling People's Organization (OPL). We won't take power by ourselves. We will establish a provisional government with civil society organizations and other opposition parties. So everybody should be clear that on Feb. 7 there will be a provisional government which will have the mission of organizing a general election in the country... in no more than two years.

Etienne said that the CD now had a directorate which was meeting with a series of personalities from civil society each day to choose a president, ministers, and a consultative council for the provisional government.

We cannot yet say exactly how we are going to set it up concretely, clarified former Duvalierist minister Hubert De Ronceray, the leader of the CD's ultra-rightist Patriotic Movement for National Salavation (MPSN). The CD is now conducting an intersectorial forum, De Ronceray said, and people are very favorable to the idea. The 95% to 98% of the population which followed the opposition's call to boycott the Nov. 26th elections, they are awaiting us, De Ronceray explained. We do not have the right to betray them, to abandon them.

Most Haitians chuckle at the opposition's claim that less than 5% of population voted in November's election. The Provisional Electoral Council (CEP), an independent international observer mission, and a Haitian observer group all assessed participation as 60% to 65%.

Before this opposition, this political minority, creates a government, it better think about creating a country to put it in and creating a people to govern, quipped Lans Fanfan, a Lavalas Family member.

Popular support for the incoming government was underlined by huge rallies on Dec. 16, the tenth anniversary of Aristide's first election. Thousands rallied at Delmas 16 in the capital, in the southern city of Cayes, and in other provincial cities.

The opposition does not have the legitimacy to establish a government without going through elections, declared one demonstrator at the Delmas rally. That's precisely what the Dec. 16 struggle was all about: to guarantee the Haitian people's sovereignty to choose their leader. The opposition cannot come and rule the Haitian people without the consent of the Haitian people.

Aristide is also internationally recognized as Haiti's legitimate president-elect despite a bitter propaganda barrage from the mainstream media and certain foreign officials who sought to discredit the summer's electoral process leading up to his November victory. Although pressed by Washington to shun or at least scold his neighbor, new Dominican president Hipolito Mejia said he recognized Haiti's elections as a matter of national sovereignty. Last week, Venezuela, the Philippines, and Taiwan all sent new ambassadors to Haiti, another sign of support. Multilateral lenders such as the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank say they are ready to activate aid packages as soon as they are ratified by the Haitian parliament. The Parliament ratified three of the five agreements last week.

Perhaps the biggest blow to the opposition was a Dec. 1 letter U.S. President Bill Clinton sent to President-elect Jean- Bertrand Aristide, explicitly recognizing the Haitian leader. Now, as I prepare to leave office and you prepare to return, I believe we have an opportunity to set the basis for a strengthened relationship in the years to come, Clinton's letter reads.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Daniel Whitman clumsily tried to obscure the letter's import, claiming that it would be going a little far to call it a note of congratulations, even though no FL spokesperson had called it that. Whitman said that Clinton called on Aristide to pursue all possible ideas for finding a solution to the electoral impasse known since May 21, 2000 (when nationwide parliamentary elections went overwhelmingly to the FL), but the letter says nothing of the sort. Apparently losing all his diplomatic senses, Whitman called the CEP's calculation of 8 to 10 Senate seats wrong and said that it is necessary that Haitian authorities restore, with a new Electoral council which would have credibility, its electoral process so as to restore the trust of the Haitian people and of the international community. Of course, in light of the U.S. election fiasco, such admonishments are more than ever ridiculous.

But the oppositon did get some solace from a Dec. 8 statement issued by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), and Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL). These three ultra-right Republicans, who have been at the forefront of most U.S. Congressional attacks on Haiti, called Nov. 26 a sham election with the sole purpose of delivering absolute control over Haiti's government to Mr. Jean-Bertrand Aristide. They contended that Aristide is not fit to join the democratically elected leaders at the Summit of the Americas in April 2001 in Quebec, Canada and called on the U.S. to deny or rescind visas, review the green card status, and freeze the assets of the narco-traffickers, criminals and other anti-democratic elements who surrounded Jean-Bertrand Aristide. With Republican George W. Bush now set to assume the U.S. presidency in January, such virulent language may indeed spell trouble for the Lavalas.

Accordingly, Aristide has been extending olive branches everywhere. He held meetings with his old nemesis Marc Bazin, the former Duvalierist Finance minister and World Bank official who was his chief contender in 1990. He also nominated three lawyers -- Garry Lissade, Pierre C. Labissière and Calixte Délatour - to a special commission to evaluate the May 21 elections. The opposition still refuses to nominate anyone.

Meanwhile, another sector claims it wants to bridge the gap created by the CD's rejectionist posture. Loose-cannon politician Turneb Delpé of the PNDPH proposed yet again a national conference, a call he has made with astounding persistence at every political juncture over the past decade. Delpé has joined forces with representatives of Haiti's traditional bourgeoisie like Gérard Gourgues and Odette Roy Fombrun to form the Initiative Committee for Civic Action for Reconciliation of the Nation with Itself or CIRENE. After presenting pages upon pages of declarations, the Committee concluded, through sheer force of rhetoric, that reconciliation of the nation with itself imposes itself today as an historical necessity. The CIRENE equates the CD and the FL as two extremes, both at fault. Do they offer a third way? That remains a mystery, as does their choice of name. Apparently the CIRENE does not realize that its acronym denotes a creature in Greek mythology which lured sailors onto rocks with beautiful songs.