Aristide foes set up provisional govt.

Peoples Weekly World, Feb 2001

Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere, now has two presidents. Jean Bertrand Aristide was inaugurated as Haiti's official president on Feb. 7, having been declared the winner of elections held last Nov. 26.

After the extremely fraudulent legislative elections of May 21, in which 60 percent of the Haitian electorate voted, parties in opposition to Aristide's ruling Lavalas Family Party refused to participate in the presidential election. The vast majority of the Haitian people abstained from voting as well.

Democratic Convergence, a broad coalition representing nearly every political organization in Haiti except the followers of Aristide, declared a provisional government on Feb. 6, proclaiming Gerard Gourgue provisional president for a period of two years, with the principal task of organizing truly fair and democratic elections. The coalition declared March as a month to mobilize support.

Democratic Convergence is a coalition comprised of 15 political parties of diverse ideologies. A mass assembly Jan. 27 in the capital, Port-au-Prince, attended by 5,000 activists of grassroots, labor and peasant organizations, prominent personalities and delegates of various political parties, endorsed the coalition's call to proclaim a provisional government of consensus and national unity.

The Haitian labor confederation, Independent Intersyndical Movement, called a general strike for Feb. 6 and 7 to support the provisional government, which is also supported by the Mouvman Peyizan Papay, Haiti's largest peasant organization. On Feb. 10, seven more Haitian parties declared their support.

Aristide once inspired the hope of an indisputable majority of the Haitian people. After the fall of the infamous Duvalier dictatorship in 1986, a massive electoral victory made him president in 1991, but he was overthrown by the Haitian military after only seven months in power.

The next several years were characterized by bloody repression and a massive exodus of refugees. The bodies of many Haitian boat people washed ashore in south Florida. In contrast to the official hospitality afforded those fleeing Cuba, Haitians were detained and deported by the thousands.

After a deal that allowed the coupmakers not only to escape justice but also to take millions of dollars with them, Aristide, on the condition that the three years he was out of power be counted as part of his term and that he not seek a consecutive term, was reinstated as president by the U.S. military in a peaceful invasion in 1994.

The next presidential elections were won by Aristide's associate Rene Preval, who eventually disbanded the nation's parliament. While many Haitians still believe in Aristide, for much of the population, rule by his Lavalas Family has been a severe disappointment.