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17171: This Week in Haiti 21:34 11/05/2003 (fwd)
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"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
November 5 - 11, 2003
Vol. 21, No. 34
OPPOSITION'S "ARMED WING" MOVES OFFENSIVE FROM MOUNTAINS TO
by Kim Ives
(Second of two articles)
Last week, Ives reviewed the most recent confrontations in
Gonaïves and explained how the primary suspect in the killing of
that city's most prominent popular organization leader, Amiot
"Cubain" Métayer, appears to be a government foe, not agent, as
the mainstream media has reported.
In addition to trying to blame the Haitian government for
Métayer's murder, the mainstream and opposition-aligned press
have sought to portray the provocations of a handful of armed men
in the Gonaïves as a popular insurrection.
In fact, most residents of Gonaïves are weary of the violence
that has gripped their town since Métayer's killing. "I would
like to hear the voice of the 200,000 inhabitants of Gonaïves,
who have been taken hostage every morning by 15 armed bandits,"
said Jocelerme Privert, Haiti's Interior Minister, who visited
the city on Oct. 22 with a delegation which included Agricultural
Minister Sébastien Hilaire, Education Minister Marie-Carmelle
Paul Austin and Public Works Minister Harry Clinton.
But one is unlikely to hear the voice of those residents on
Haiti's airwaves, which are dominated by the bourgeoisie's
conservative anti-government stations. "What we are seeing is not
a popular uprising but a media uprising," Mario Dupuy, Haiti's
Secretary of State of Communications recently quipped.
Terrorist violence, like torching government offices, is
presented by this media as "protest" while the government's
sporadic efforts to restore order or repulse attacks is
"Each time the situation normalizes a little, there is a
terrorist action," Privert noted during an Oct. 27 press
conference. "These actions are purely and simply to create
Emboldened by their media support, the destabilizers based in the
Gonaïves neighborhood of Raboteau have openly declared war on the
Haitian government. Winter Etienne is a spokesman for the
Raboteau-based insurgents, many of whom are from out-of-town and
who now call themselves the Resistance Front for Aristide's
Departure. "We are giving [President Jean-Bertrand] Aristide
until Nov. 4 to leave power," Etienne declared last week. "After
that, we will begin uprooting him."
Haiti's slum and countryside-based popular organizations (OP),
the majority of which critically support the government, have
become fed up with such brazen subversion and the "armed
opposition"'s ceaseless violent provocations as the country tries
to prepare for its bicentennial commemorations. They are now
mobilizing to thwart the opposition's destabilization efforts.
"We have no problem with them demonstrating peacefully," said
Nahoum Marcellus, an OP-linked Lavalas Family (FL) deputy from
Grande Rivière du Nord, "but we are going to counteract any forms
of activity aimed at overthrowing President Aristide."
Meanwhile an FL deputy from Cap Haïtien, James Desrosin, appealed
to the opposition to suspend their destabilization campaign
during the bicentennial celebrations which begin on Nov. 18, the
anniversary of the Haitian revolution's final Battle of
Vertières, and extend through Jan. 1, when Haiti's independence
was declared in Gonaïves in 1804. "We want to exhort the
opposition to observe a political truce so we can all, as
Haitians, celebrate Vertières and the bicentennial, because it
belongs to all of us," Desrosin said.
Most likely, his appeal will go unheeded. In an Oct. 27 debate on
Radio Métropole, FL senator Gérald Gilles defended the popular
organizations. "It is the perfect right of Lavalas OPs to
counter-demonstrate, a Constitutional right," he said. "If you
assemble 10 people, while facing you I can assemble 10,000,
that's my right."
Micha Gaillard, a spokesman for the Washington-supported
Democratic Convergence opposition front, responded that "in a
democracy, demonstrations are done separately; one day it's one
sector, another day it's another sector." Gaillard did not
specify in which "democracy" he had observed this practice.
Gaillard, whose Convergence allies include Duvalierists and
supporters of the 1991 coup d'état, concluded by calling Gilles
"a little fascist."
In a demonstration of their new impatience, popular organizations
in Cap Haïtien threw up barricades on the roads leading into that
northern city on the weekend of Oct. 25-26, when opposition
leaders held a conclave and planned a march. Over local Radio
Maxima, the opposition leaders had issued various calls to
violence, which has flared during opposition actions several
times there in recent months. Last month, the police intercepted
a car belonging to Maxima's owner and local opposition leader
Jean-Robert Lalanne. It was filled with assault weapons. Lalanne
refused to respond to a warrant to appear in court for the
matter, although he sent his lawyer.
Although the police kept clearing away the barricades, the
opposition called the action a government plan to block their
protest. "We want to stop the flow of guns into Cap," one
barricade protestor said. "We are tired of the violence and
"They have to give the country a chance," said Gracius Laguerre,
a local community official in Cap, on Radio Métropole. "Children
have to go to school, President Aristide has to have a chance to
serve out his five year term. If after five years the opposition
wants to take power, let them do so through elections."
But increasingly, Convergence leaders are calling outright for
Aristide's overthrow, just like their counterparts in the "armed
opposition." "The solution to the country's crisis cannot be
found with this government in power," declared Convergence leader
Paul Denis last week. "So it is necessary to work, to mobilize
for the overthrow of the Lavalas government."
With ceremonies commemorating Vertières approaching, the
government this week issued a ban on "political demonstrations"
in Cap Haïtien both pro and anti-government through Nov. 19.
The opposition has said that it will not respect the ban.
The police have also announced that they are stepping up their
disarmament campaign in Cap Haïtien and Gonaïves. "It is the
disarmament of everybody, including those in Raboteau," said
Minister Privert during his Gonaïves visit. "The day before
yesterday, we arrested two people, and one of them was already
implicated in burning down the Gonaïves appeals court. Both were
already implicated in the criminal events in Pernal." Pernal is a
town on Haiti's Central Plateau, which anti-government guerillas
have used as a base of operations.
On Nov. 3, President Aristide urged government authorities to
redouble their efforts to see that local and parliamentary
elections are held within the next two months. The terms of many
elected officials expire Jan. 14. The Convergence still refuses
to take part in the polling, the realization of which will surely
provide a new window for "armed opposition" roguery.
Meanwhile, officials of Washington and the regional grouping it
dominates, the Organization of American States, have increased
their declarations decrying the "deterioration of the political
climate," never pointing their finger at the "armed opposition"'s
terrorist actions but only at the Haitian government's and
people's response. The opposition, both armed and not, are duly
It is clear that the coming weeks are likely to be as turbulent
and eventful as those leading up to Haitian independence two
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