Date: Thu, 27 Aug 98 10:07:15 CDT
From: Haiti Progres <>
Organization: Haiti Progres
Subject: This Week in Haiti 16:23 8/26/98
Article: 41987
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Anti-Aristide campaign grows in sound but not strength

Haiti Progres, Vol.16 no.23, 26 August—1 September 1998

Right-wing political forces have dramatically stepped up their propaganda attacks against Jean Bertrand Aristide and his party, the Lavalas Family (FL), particularly since the former president formally repudiated the government of President Rene Preval earlier this month.

In the wake of the assassination of progressive Father Ti Jean Pierre-Louis on Aug. 3 (see Haiti Progres, Vol. 16 No. 20, Aug. 5–11, 1998), the Organization of People in Struggle (OPL), with the connivance of a handful of client popular organizations, has tried to accuse Aristide of masterminding the crime. Father Ti Jean died from a bullet in the mouth because they thought he was speaking out too much, the OPL asserted in an insinuation-laced Aug. 17 declaration. (Ti Jean was a critic of the 1994 U.S. military invasion of Haiti, which Aristide sanctioned and OPL ideologues also championed, but nonetheless he and Aristide, a former priest, remained close.)

The OPL and its grassroots affiliates tried to transform the Aug. 10 funeral for the priest into an anti-Aristide political rally, where a small contingent of provocateurs chanted slogans such as the Lavalas and the Macoutes are twins. But the hundreds of funeral-goers reacted strongly and rapidly to the venal attempt to capitalize on the tragedy, and several troublemakers were roughed up by the crowd. Trying to turn humiliation to their advantage, the OPL in its declaration likened the scuffle to the bloody repression during the three-year coup d'etat of the [police] attaches, [the death squad] FRAPH, and [Col.] Michel Francois and [Gen. Raoul] Cedras, who during funerals took hostages, beat people and disappeared them. Four years later, the OPL notes that the practice is exactly the same under the Aristide-Preval regime, the declaration said.

More absurd than this comparison was the clumsy and transparent attempt to glue Aristide's head onto Preval's government. It is particularly ironic since it was the OPL (along with Washington) which sponsored Preval's 1995 candidacy to thwart Aristide's bid to recoup the three years he spent in exile during the coup. Furthermore, OPL stalwart Rosny Smarth was Preval's prime minister for a year and a half before he resigned over a tactical dispute in June 1997. OPL sympathizers still dominate Preval's double-portfolioed de facto cabinet, and Preval and the OPL remain in lock- step agreement on the need to comply with economic dictates from Washington for privatization and neo- liberal restructuring, policies which the FL rejects. That is why the government is generally referred to as Preval/OPL.

However, until recently, the FL had never explicitly disavowed the government of Rene Preval, who was Aristide's first Prime Minister in 1991 and who holds the key to the former president's ever-tenuous security.

But on Aug. 7, FL spokesperson Yvon Neptune issued a stinging declaration to clear the confusion being spread in the country. He denounced the indifference with which the police have reacted to the assassination of Father Jean Pierre-Louis, when one knows how rapidly they brought repression down on Fanmi Lavalas partisans in Mirebalais, after a police chief was killed there in February (see Haiti Progres, Vol. 15 No. 47, Feb. 11—17, 1998). Today four [FL] party members still remain jailed in Port-au-Prince, while the police and the justice department know perfectly well who are responsible for the death of the former police chief of Mirebalais.

While one remembers that it is the people who demanded the dissolution of the army, which was thieving, bloody, and at the service of foreign powers, so as to give the country a police force which serves the citizenry, they are today hatching a plot to militarize the civilian police, the statement continues. If the government and the chief of state [i.e. the president] have no authority over the police, how can they guarantee peace and security in the country, as required by the Constitution and ceaselessly demanded by the people?

The FL declaration concluded that the people are suffering the consequences of the betrayal and ingratitude of a power which continues to hold in contempt the demands of Dec. 16, 1990, when Aristide was elected on an anti-neoliberal pro-justice platform based on popular participation.

The FL's demarcation has made the OPL and other right-wing parties livid because they can no longer create confusion by attributing Preval's unpopular neoliberal policies to Aristide.

Deprived of this weapon, they have grown desperate and now are resorting to far-fetched accusations to smear Aristide. The OPL calls on all sectors of civil society to demand that the state powers assume their responsibilities in the drug affair of Tabarre [the region of the capital where Aristide lives] if they do not want drug dealers to use state institutions to transform the country into a cocaine republic, said the OPL in its Aug. 17 declaration. Who is the owner of the 450 kilos of cocaine which disappeared on the Tabarre road? Who is the owner of the house where the drug load was stocked? Who sent 7 police inspectors to take the drugs from the depot where they were? and so on. If the party has reliable information to answer all these leading questions, why don't they just make it public or give it to the police?

In fact the oblique references were drawn from charges made by a judicial police director Pierre Fortin Jean Denis, who resigned two weeks ago because he felt that Police Inspector General Joseph Luc Eucher was trying to block investigation of the disappearance of the alleged 450 kilo drug cache. While the invisible hands, political motivations, and even the veracity of the intra-police charges and counter-charges remain unclear as we go to press, it is certain that the emergence of the scandal at this time is somehow aimed at Aristide. A witch-hunt or frame-up will likely be attempted, and Jean Denis is scheduled to appear before the OPL-dominated Senate on Aug. 26.

Meanwhile, the International Republican Institute (IRI), the right wing of Washington's National Endowment for Democracy (NED), continues to rally Duvalierist, putschist, and opportunist parties into an anti-Aristide front called the Haitian Conference of Political Parties (CHPP). Graffiti and radio show callers are increasingly asking for the expulsion of IRI from Haiti for its political meddling and its massive funding of what will surely be the FL's far-right opposition in upcoming elections. Although the OPL refrained at the last minute from openly joining the CHPP front engineered by IRI, still they know a good ally when they see one. Vasco Thernelan, the OPL president of the Chamber of Deputies, dismissed calls for IRI's expulsion last week and countered that the organization was undertaking very praise- worthy activities which should be encouraged.