From Sat Feb 8 09:00:18 2003
Date: Sat, 8 Feb 2003 07:14:08 -0600 (CST)
From: Bob Corbett <>
To: Haiti mailing list <>
Subject: 14737: (Chamberlain) Haiti-Bitter Anniversary (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <>

Haiti-Bitter Anniversary

By Michael Norton, AP, 7 February 2003

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Feb 7 (AP)—Haitians marked the anniversary of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s toppled dictatorship on Friday, searching for a way out of their latest political and economic crisis.

Some say the country is better-off than in the days of brutal dictatorship under Duvalier, nicknamed Baby Doc. Others point bitterly to Haiti’s mounting problems.

At least under Duvalier, we could make ends meet and send our kids to school, said Rosegard Lundi, 51, a former Duvalier henchman and now a struggling electrician. I’d campaign for him if he returns.

The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere faces increasing challenges as President Jean-Bertrand Aristide struggles to win back support from the poor and lift his ailing country out of the political and economic morass that has dogged it since his Lavalas Family party swept flawed legislative elections in 2000.

International donors froze $500 million in aid because of irregularities in the vote, leaving people poorer than ever.

Aristide promised Friday to push a bill through parliament that would raise the minimum wage from less than $1 a day to about $1.60. But that has little resonance in a country where two-thirds of the work force is unemployed or fighting to survive with just two or three days’ work a week.

Hang in there, was the weak message Aristide offered his people Friday, on a visit to a duty-free industrial zone where factory workers make garments, plastic tubs and electronic items.

Haitians have lost faith in Aristide, the former slum priest whose fiery rhetoric fueled the uprising that toppled Duvalier in 1986.

Duvalier had been named president for life at age 18 following the death in 1971 of his father, Francois, known as Papa Doc. Tens of thousands were killed during the 29-year Duvalier dynasty and hundreds of millions of dollars stolen.

Accused of human rights violations and stealing at least $120 million from the national treasury, Duvalier fled to France in 1986.

Aristide’s betrayal of hope cannot make us forget Duvalier’s atrocities, said opposition activist Frandley Denis Julien.

Aristide says he wants to break with Haiti’s violent past.

In an interview last week, he blamed the country’s chronic woes on a global economic and political system that smacks of racism—going back to France’s fight to prevent its colony from rising up against slavery. Following their revolt, Haitians founded the world’s first black republic in 1804.

Aristide called the freeze in foreign aid a form of economic apartheid to keep blacks down.

For two years, the Organization of American States has endeavored unsuccessfully to mend Haiti’s tattered democracy and get Aristide’s party and an incoherent opposition coalition to agree on new elections.

The window for democratic elections in 2003 ... has narrowed drastically, OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria warned last month.

On Thursday, he told a conference on migration that Haiti is in crisis and its people are using migration as an escape valve from the country’s problems.

To many, today’s atmosphere is reminiscent of the one that preceded Duvalier’s ouster. Since mid-November, dozens of anti-government demonstrations have called for Aristide’s resignation. At least four people have been killed and more than 350 injured in clashes.

In December, Duvalier said he wanted to return to Haiti.

There is chaos in Haiti. There are no available means to govern the country, he said from his Paris home.

As the situation deteriorates, Duvalier’s supporters dare to dream.

I think Jean-Claude ought to be allowed to return, said street vendor Solienne Louis-Jean, 61. We should give him a chance.

Others say the answer is elsewhere.

I was full of hope when Jean-Claude fell and full of hope when Aristide came to power, said Ely Merisier, a 38-year-old wedding photographer. Now neither Aristide, nor the opposition, nor the international community can save us—only God.