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17560: This Week in Haiti 21:40 12/17/2003 (fwd)

"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
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                           HAITI PROGRES
              "Le journal qui offre une alternative"

                      * THIS WEEK IN HAITI *

                      December 17 - 23, 2003
                         Vol. 21, No. 40


With less than two weeks until Haiti's Jan.1, 2004 Bicentennial
celebrations, reactionary forces are redoubling their efforts to
overthrow the popularly elected government of President Jean-
Bertrand Aristide.

After politicians, "civil society" representatives, bourgeois
activists, and infiltrated rabble-rousers, university students
have become the latest contenders in a tag-team-like effort to
knock Aristide and the Haitian people from the ring of Haitian
politics. But as in professional wrestling, after each body-slam,
the defending champion groggily gets up, summons strength from
some inner reserves, and repels the attack.

The latest spate of dueling demonstrations and counter-
demonstrations began after protesting students and pro-government
popular organizations (OP) clashed on Dec. 5 at the National
Institute of Administration, Management and International Studies
(INAGHEI) and the State University's School of Human Sciences
(FASCH). Although students calling for Aristide's resignation had
demonstrated with police protection on several occasions in prior
weeks including Dec. 3, the stage was set for violence after
students went on the radio the night of Dec. 4 and taunted
popular organization members as "car washers"and "delinquents."

The next day, OP members arrived in front of the two schools,
ready to counter-demonstrate. Things turned ugly when a group of
students returning to the FASCH attacked a vehicle supposedly
belonging to an OP member. FASCH students and OP members began
throwing rocks and bottles at each other. Then someone from the
roof of the FASCH shot and wounded an OP demonstrator in the leg.
This set off a frenzy in which OP members invaded the university
grounds at both INAGHEI and FASCH, destroying books, furniture,
and equipment. Several people were wounded in the skirmishes
including University rector Pierre Marie Paquiot, whose knees
were fractured. While the bourgeois press solely blamed the OP
for the rampage, the role of provocateurs cannot be discounted.

Haitian government officials say that many of the students have
been encouraged to take part in protests with the promise of
foreign visas. Secretary of State of Communications Mario Dupuy
said police had to break up students fighting over the
distribution of visas outside an embassy recently. "The police
had to take these two students to a police station to calm them
down," he said.

The Washington-backed Democratic Convergence opposition front and
the Haitian bourgeoisie's "Group of 184" civil society front
(G184),  led by a U.S. citizen and sweatshop magnate André "Andy"
Apaid, Jr. (see Haïti Progrès, Vol. 21, No. 35, 11/12/03), have
been quick to embrace, foment and urge on the student

So on Dec. 11, about 10,000 students, with the G184 and
Democratic Convergence leaders in tow, marched through the
streets of the capital. (Bourgeois radio stations inflated the
demonstration up to 5 fold). On hand were Apaid, former Haitian
Army colonel Himmler Rébu, Convergence leader Evans Paul, writer
Gary Victor, the head of the Civil Society Initiative (ISC) Rosny
Desroches, and dissident Lavalas senators Prince Sonson Pierre
and Dany Toussaint. Later that day on Radio Kiskeya, Toussaint
virtually called for a coup by saying that the "international
community" was reluctant to remove Aristide from power only
because they feared anarchy would result.  But, he reassured
them, he could "restore order within 48 hours" due to his
connections in the police and former army.

Lavalas partisans rushed from all corners of the city to gather
in front of the National Palace to thwart any coup attempts. The
opposition demonstrators repeatedly tried to break through police
lines protecting the Palace but were repulsed with tear-gas.

"The countdown for the end of this regime started," declared
Convergence spokesman Paul Denis. "It said that it would not
leave, but it will leave. The cup is full. It's too much.
Aristide must leave power and quickly."

But starting that evening and the following day, Friday, Dec. 12,
tens of thousands of Haitians, including pro-government students,
flooded into Port-au-Prince's streets demonstrating and setting
up barricades. The capital was effectively shut down. OP members
vowed a state of "permanent vigilance" to prevent any coup.

Michelle Karshan, foreign press liaison at the National Palace,
issued these "rough notes" about events. "Thursday night popular
organizations came out to stand vigilant in front of the National
Palace, to guard the people's choice. Cars circulated Thursday
night and Friday morning (again when pro-government masses were
taking to the streets) shooting indiscriminately into crowds,"
Karshan estimated that about ten people were shot, and seven of
them killed.

"Nevertheless, in sharp contrast to the violent demands of the
opposition for the immediate overthrow of the government, the
people took to the streets by the tens of thousands Friday to
call for respect of the constitutional mandate of President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide.... With both hands thrust in the air
displaying all five fingers on each hand to represent the
five-year presidential term and the people's will to see the
President finish his term, people chanted, 'Elections, YES!  Coup
d'etat, NO! Aristide for FIVE YEARS!' People said if the
opposition thinks they are the majority then why don't they go to
elections to prove it... Some people addressed the university
students who were working with the opposition, asking them not to
allow themselves to be manipulated by the opposition by gifts of
visas or money.  They also said they don't want ambassadors to
visit universities anymore because they are luring people with
offers of visas.

"Some people interviewed said that former military and FRAPH [a
coup-era death squad] members had infiltrated the 'student' march
the day before (on Thursday) swelling the numbers of persons in
their march...

"I spoke with three journalists who each visited the hospital on
Friday at different times during the day. They interviewed
persons (two of the journalists told me they were persons who
identified themselves as militants who were taking to the streets
in support of the government) who were shot either Thursday night
or Friday morning by cars circulating (some said without license
plates) and shooting indiscriminately at people.  One person was
shot by the marketplace downtown, one on Rue Pavée, one woman was
injured when she fled from a car that was speeding at people."

Karshan highlighted the case of André Jean-Marie, a literacy
worker shot dead in front of the Palace. According to filmmaker
Kevin Pina, cited in Karshan's notes, Jean-Marie was killed "by
unknown assailants who apparently followed his vehicle and waited
for him to leave his car. André had gone to the Palace for a
literacy campaign meeting earlier that same evening but had
returned to lend his presence to the thousands of supporters
camped in front of the palace to defend their constitutional
president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide."  Jean-Marie, who had a wife
and two young sons, was the coordinator of the government's
literacy program in Pétion-Ville. "His only crime was that he was
committed to teaching the poor majority how to read and write,"
Pina wrote.

The U.S. embassy has also added fuel to the fire. "On the eve of
the commemoration of the bicentennial of Haiti's independence, an
event which still resounds today as the symbol of victory over
oppression, it is regrettable to note the deplorable state of
human rights in Haiti," said U.S. Ambassador James B. Foley in a
Dec. 12 statement. "During the past months, the government, in a
constant way, has failed in its mission to protect the civil
rights of citizens demonstrating peacefully and expressing their
opinions freely."

The same day the U.S. embassy closed its doors citing violence,
and the Department of State has warned its citizens not to travel
to Haiti for safety reasons. This warning appears more than a
little suspect, coming just days before the January 1, 2004
festivities when Haiti is due to receive many Haitian-Americans.


Police issued a statement Monday reiterating that protest
organizers must notify them of any planned demonstration 48 hours
in advance. "The government is attempting to cow protesters,"
said lawyer and former Sen. Samuel Madistin. "Political problems
can't be solved with repression... We are in a situation of
general revolt."
Associated Press, Dec. 16, 2003

Sunday evening, in a communiqué Haitian authorities reminded
demonstration organizers of their obligation to notify the police
48 hours in advance of the intention to demonstrate, the chosen
itinerary, and the names and addresses of the organizers. This
communiqué was considered by one of the opposition spokespersons,
Evans Paul, as the installation of a "disguised state of siege."
Agence France Press, Dec. 16, 2003

The police authorities must be notified in advance of assemblies
outdoors in public places.
1987 Haitian Constitution, Article 31.2

Both AP and AFP insinuate that Haitian authorities are preventing
demonstrations. In reality, Haitian authorities have a far more
lenient approach to demonstrations than their U.S. and European
counterparts, which demand a permit and fees, usually one week in
advance, for any protest. The 48-hour notification rule has been
in effect  since 1987 and is nothing new. The police were simply
reminding protestors of the law.

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