From Fri Mar 23 16:06:59 2001
Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2001 22:22:22 -0600 (CST)
From: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Haiti_Progr=E8s?= <>
Subject: This Week in Haiti 19:1 3/21/2001
Article: 117192
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Anti-opposition demonstrations rock Haiti

This Week in Haiti, Haïti Progrès, Vol.19 no.1, 21–27 March 2001

After months of provocations from Haiti's oppostion coalition, the Democratic Convergence (CD), pro-Lavalas popular organizations finally rose up this week to demand that the Haitian government arrest key opposition leaders, in particular parallel president Gérard Gourgue.

Political tensions escalated after a march two weeks ago by several hundred former soldiers through downtown Port-au-Prince. Then opposition and pro-government demonstrators clashed outside the headquarters of the Organization for American States on Mar. 14. Another confrontation took place in the northern city of Cap Haïtien.

On Saturday, Mar. 17, demonstrations erupted all over the country, but above all in the capital. Burning tires barricades went up all over the city along arteries in Delmas, Lalue, Petion Ville, Canapé Vert, Martissant, and downtown.

We demand that they arrest Gérard Pierre Charles, Gérard Gourgue, Evans Paul, and Reynold Georges, said one demonstrator, referring to several opposition leaders. If they don't arrest them, we will fire the Justice minister.

Gunfire from unidentified assailants wounded at least two people in Delmas on Saturday. Sunday also saw barricades and sporadic violence.

In February, the CD declared that it had formed a parallel government headed by educator and former presidential candidate Gourgue. The Constitution expressly forbids the usurpation of the title of president. But so far, the elected government has demurred from arresting the self-proclaimed one, apparently fearing the wrath of the opposition's principal backer, Washington. But pressure from the streets is now forcing the issue.

On Monday, Mar. 19, a mobilization gripped the capital. Starting at dawn, there was a buzz throughout the city as the smoke from burning tire barricades curled up into the blue morning sky. Once again, some demonstrations seemed to be infiltrated by provocateurs who broke car windshields, threw rocks at pedestrians, and threatened motorists and passengers of both private cars and public buses. The city was completely blocked by 9 a.m. Four people were wounded that day, three by gunfire. One was a child.

The mobilization continued on Tuesday, Mar. 20, when even more people joined the throngs of popular organizations demanding that the government take action against the CD. In the early morning, barricades went up at many point. By midday, several groups assembled in front of the CD headquarters at Pont Morin in the Bois Verna section of the capital, across from the headquarter of Teleco, the state telephone company.

According to witnesses, people in the CD headquarters started to throw rocks at the demonstrators and the demonstrators riposted. Then shots rang out. At Pont Morin, there was a clash between the Convergence group and the popular organizations, said police spokesman Jean Dady Siméon on Radio Haiti. There were 2 people wounded, and the shots came from the Convergence's compound.

Despite this police statement, at press time the government still had not arrested any opposition leaders or alleged gunmen. Ironically, all during the day on Mar. 20, CD spokesman Sauveur Pierre Etienne told radio listeners that the CD compound was being set ablaze and machine-gunned. But now numerous radio reports corroborate the police version that CD partisans fired on the Lavalas demonstrators.

With the same meddling impropriety as his predecessors, U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran called on the government and National Police of Haiti to respect and protect the democratic and constitutional rights of all citizens and to allow them to peaceably assemble and express their political opinions. Mr. Curran would do better to address his suggestions to his own government rather than trample diplomatic conventions by opining on Haiti's internal affairs.

We note that there are many people who have denounced the comportment of a citizen, in particular Mr. Gérard Gourgue, who was proclaimed provisional president of Haiti, said Information Minister Henri Claude Ménard in a Mar. 20 statement. We heard demonstrators asking for his arrest. We believe that this denunciation is supported by Articles 217 and 218 of the Penal Code which deals with such an infraction. And we in the Justice and Interior Ministries warn all concerned parties that the public power is obliged to intervene as quickly as possible to avoid all excesses. But they have not intervened quickly enough to avoid excesses: the casualties for Monday and Tuesday are no less than 20 wounded.

It is time for the government to act courageously and put an end to all the trouble the Convergence is causing in the country, one demonstrator in front of the CD compound declared. Delaying is just making things worse.