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17955: This Week in Haiti 21:44 01/14/2004 (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 *

                      January 14 - 20, 2004
                         Vol. 21, No. 44


The images are sickening.

Opposition demonstrators savagely kick and pummel a government
partisan with fists, rocks, steel bars and broken bottles during
a march through Port-au-Prince on Jan. 7. The victim desperately
clings to the edge of a bridge as the assailants beat him in the
head. Finally he falls 15 feet into a sewage stream at the bottom
of a garbage-strewn ravine. The whole scene was captured and
broadcast by Haitian National Television (TNH).

The viciousness of the attack outraged viewing audiences. The
young man reportedly died from his injuries.

Despite shrill opposition cries that Haiti is a dictatorship,
Haitian police vigorously protected the same march from forays by
pro-government crowds who feared the opposition demonstration
would storm the National Palace. Police shot dead two government
partisans. One other person was killed and 15 wounded, four of
them policemen. Ten cars had their windshields smashed.

Earlier that day in Gonaïves, opposition thugs burned down the
home of Alina Sixto, a leader of President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide's Lavalas Family (FL) party chapter in metropolitan New
York. Neighbors rescued her blind mother, who was in the house at
the time.

Sixto was instrumental in organizing the Jan. 1 bicentennial
celebrations in Gonaïves.

The day before, opposition thugs had burned down the Gonaïves
home of Charles Josué, another FL militant,.

Butteur Métayer, the mercurial renegade brother of mysteriously
slain Gonaïves leader and Aristide ally Amiot "Cubain" Métayer,
gave Aristide a deadline of Jan. 15 to leave Haiti. If the
president stays on, Butteur said, his opposition organization
will begin killing FL partisans.

The Haitian bourgeoisie's "Group of 184," headed by North
American sweatshop magnate André Apaid Jr., called for general
strikes on Jan. 8 and 9. As during past opposition strikes, the
bourgeoisie's big stores, factories and gas stations in the
capital closed, but the rest of the city went about its business
as usual. Public transportation and informal-sector commerce were
practically normal. The "nationwide strike" had absolutely no
effect on activities in Haiti's provinces.

"It's not really a strike," commented Ben Dupuy, secretary
general of the National Popular Party (PPN) on TNH. "It's more
like a lock-out."

Exasperated, the bourgeoisie extended the strike for an
additional two days. This mainly caused gas shortages and price
hikes, which created frustration for motorists and resentment
among the masses.

On Jan. 11, the opposition held one of its largest marches to
date. Some 20,000 demonstrators marched from Pétionville to Port-
au-Prince. The police provided robust security and there was only
one minor incident. Opposition demonstrators beat up a man
wearing a T-shirt bearing Aristide's picture.

But in the southern town of Mirogoâne the same day, opposition
members killed one FL militant and seriously wounded another
during a demonstration calling on the opposition to respect
President Aristide's five year term and to agree to elections.

The night before, unidentified gunmen shot and killed Edner
Jeanty, the newly appointed police chief for the North
department, as he was returning home in the Vertières district of
Cap Haïtien.

On Jan. 13, the opposition's Struggling People's Organization
(OPL) called for a demonstration on Jan. 16 in front of the
National Palace, which pro-government masses have encircled in
recent months during opposition marches to protect from any


Radio Métropole is the most powerful and influential radio of the
Haitian bourgeoisie. Although most Haitians speak Creole, it
broadcasts almost exclusively in French and many foreign
journalists rely on it for their dispatches.

On January 1, 2004, Métropole broadcast the following report from
Gonaïves, the city where Haiti's independence had been declared
200 years earlier and to which President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
traveled to make a speech:

In Studio Anchor: So who accompanied [Aristide] during his

Correspondent Jean Alfred: During his speech it was only the
delegate to the Artibonite Dr. Billy Racine who was there along
with members of the government.

In reality, the stage in Gonaïves was packed with local
dignitaries, priests, parliamentarians, representatives from
Haiti's diaspora, artists and other VIPs.

In Studio Anchor: Was the South African president there?
Jean Alfred: Certainly he was there and we noticed that the South
African president's knees were shaking at the moment when a lot
of gunfire was fired at the stand where the Head of State was
giving his speech.

First, there was no gunfire around or near the podium during
Aristide's speech. Some shots were heard after the president had
left. Secondly, South African President Thabo Mbeki did not
travel to Gonaïves.

Jean Alfred : Today truly there is a big, big tension, and guns
are firing in the entire city and at this moment in the Dekawo
section gunfire continues. It was there that they took hostage
the presidential cortege, which has headed towards Port-au-

At no point was the presidential cortege "taken hostage" or
attacked. From behind houses in the Dekawo neighborhood,
opposition hooligans did stone and fire at the departing south-
bound cars and buses of celebrants.

Other opposition-aligned Haitian media and the international
press echoed Radio Métropole's version of events, including
Mbeki's imaginary attendance of the Gonaïves ceremony.

Perhaps it is not ironic that Radio Métropole is financially
supported by the government of France, Haiti's former colonial
ruler. On the "Politics" page of Métropole's website
(www.metropolehaiti.com) is an advertisement thanking the French
embassy for its "assistance."

Radio Métropole called Haiti's massively attended, smoothly
conducted and overwhelmingly peaceful bicentennial ceremonies a

Times Issues Corrections

The following is a letter written to the New York Times by the
Haiti's general counsel, Ira Kurzban

Ms. Lydia Polgreen
New York Times
New York, New York

Dear Ms. Polgreen:

I write to you and your editors because of numerous factual
errors contained in your story on the January 1st celebrations in
Haiti marking the 200 anniversary of that country's independence.
I assume that the factual errors arose from your lack of
familiarity with the political situation in Haiti or because you
have been provided a good deal of misinformation. The article
that I will address below was published on Friday, January 2,
2004 in the International section of the New York Times.

First, your article states that: "Mr Aristide was re-elected to
the presidency in voting that many observers said was flawed" and
that as result "the country had been locked in political crisis."
You further stated that: "The dispute led international donors to
suspend $500 million in aid." These statements are inaccurate.
Such erroneous statements regarding Haiti often arise from the
common confusion between the May 2000 parliamentary elections and
the November 2000 presidential election. In May, 2000, there were
30,000 candidates who ran for 7,500 positions ranging from mayors
and department representatives to Senators and members of the
lower chamber. Of the 7,500 elections, the Organization of
American States challenged the methodology used in counting 8
senate seats. While the independent electoral council (called the
"CEP" in Haiti) claimed that the methodology used in counting the
victors in those elections had been used in previous elections,
the OAS observers disagreed. The OAS report is clear that there
were no credible allegations of widespread fraud in the

In any event, no responsible international organization or
observers contended that Mr. Aristide's election which occurred
in November 2000 was invalid or tainted in any manner as you
suggested in your article. I invite you to review the OAS
reports. It was clear in November 2000 that Mr. Aristide's
election was not marred by fraud or allegations of impropriety.

As soon as Mr. Aristide took office in February 2001 he used the
power of his Presidency and as the head of his party to encourage
the senators from the 8 contested seats to step down and pave the
way for a new election. The seven senators from his party,
Lavalas, agreed to do so. The eighth senator, who came from an
opposition party, declined to do so.

The second error in your article is the claim that the
international embargo was the result of Mr. Aristide's election.
Again, this is erroneous. The international embargo began toward
the end of Mr. Préval's term and had nothing to do with Mr.
Aristide's election. Indeed, the United States government has
repeatedly taken the position that Mr. Aristide is the
democratically elected president of the nation. The embargo was
continued under President Aristide's term under the claim that
funds would not be released until a settlement was reached with
the opposition, notwithstanding the fact that the seven senators
had resigned. The embargo, which continues to exist today, and
makes it impossible for the government to have any success in
alleviating the poverty you address in your article, is therefore
not in response to solving the political impasse. That impasse
was solved when the senator's stepped down. Nor can the financial
embargo be seriously linked to progress in making the country
more democratic, because the World Bank, the United States,
France and the European Union, who today refuse to provide any
direct assistance to the Government of Haiti, provided financial
assistance to the Duvaliers during their dictatorship, as well as
the military governments that succeeded Duvalier. I leave it to
your judgment and good sense as to the true reasons for the
embargo. In any event, they are completely unrelated to President
Aristide's election.

The third error in your article is simply baffling. I assume you
attended the January 1st ceremonies at the National Palace in
Port-au-Prince based upon the information contained in your
story. The Miami Herald stated that there were "hundreds of
thousands" of Haitians at the National Palace. Even the most
minimum reasonable estimate of the number of supporters at the
National Palace on January 1st, had to range conservatively from
50,000 to 100,000 people. Your description that Aristide spoke to
a "small but enthusiastic crowd" simply blinks reality. I have
taken the liberty to send photographs to a professional service
that will provide me and your editors with a true count as to the
number of people who appeared at the National Palace. Although
the numbers game can be tricky and I am not assuming you had any
bias in writing your article, one would literally have to be
blind to say that there was a "small" crowd at the National

Your article also states that President Mbeki was the only head
of state to attend the ceremonies. Your article states: "But it
was a measure of Mr. Aristide's political isolation and Haiti's
persistent troubles that only one [head of state] showed up."
Your own article contradicts this assertion as you state later
that the Prime Minister of the Bahamas attended the ceremonies.
Indeed, as you were at the National Palace, I am sure you heard
Prime Minister Perry Christie state that this was an historic
occasion because it was the first time a head of state from the
Bahamas had visited the Republic of Haiti. I understand that this
may not detract from your general statement, but it certainly is
misleading to single out Mr. Mbeki, to ignore Prime Minister
Christie, and to ignore the scores of delegations from around the
world who attended the celebration.

Finally, there is the question of violence. Your article was
remarkably silent on the violence perpetrated by the opposition
on January 1st and before that date. Opposition members burnt a
police car on January 1st. They blocked all three major roads
into the center of Port-au-Prince by setting fires in the road
and placing boulders throughout the city. I am sure you witnessed
all of these events if you were in Port-au-Prince. Yet your
article makes the opposition appear as law abiding
democratically-motivated individuals who are subjected to
tear-gassing by the police on one hand and violence by Aristide
supporters on the other. Had you inquired sufficiently, you would
have learned that more supporters of Lavalas have been killed
since December 5, 2003 than in the opposition. I am not condoning
violence on either side. However, it is misleading to suggest
that the violence is simply directed at one side as opposed to
the other.

In light of the numerous errors in the article and as the counsel
for the Government of Haiti in the United States, I kindly
request that these errors be corrected publicly in a manner the
New York Times deems appropriate.

As I am certain there was no intention on your part to be biased
in the presentation of the facts, I would be honored to have the
opportunity to discuss with you any of these or other matters
that are of interest to you concerning the Government of Haiti.


Ira J. Kurzban, Esq.

In response to Kurzban's letter, The New York Times attached the
following correction to the Web version of its Bicentennial

"An article on Friday about the bicentennial of Haiti's
independence misidentified the election that outside observers
called flawed, a finding that led to the suspension of $500
million in foreign aid to Haiti and contributed to the current
political crisis there. It was the May 2000 legislative election,
in which the Organization of American States disputed the
counting method used in eight Senate races " not the November
2000 election of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which the
O.A.S. said was not fraudulent."

"Because of an editing error, the article also referred
imprecisely to the size of the crowd that attended the
bicentennial celebration outside the presidential palace. While
the government estimated it in the hundreds of thousands, and
outside journalists' estimates ranged as low as 15,000, the crowd
was not small."


On Jan. 27, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark,  Haitian
poet Paul Laraque, Haitian trade union leader Ray Laforest and
others will launch the new book Haiti: A Slave Revolution at the
New School University in Manhattan.

Laraque, one of Haiti's greatest living poets, will read his
poetry, followed by discussion and book signing with the authors
and editors of A Slave Revolution.

Contributors to the book include Haitian-American novelist
Edwidge Danticat, renowned political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal,
former U.S. Special Forces soldier Stan Goff and Haitian
political leader and editor Ben Dupuy.

Drawing on historical texts such as a lecture by famed
abolitionist Frederick Douglass at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair,
the new book challenges cultural myths from the 19th century as
well as misconceptions about Haiti today.

The book launching will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the
New School's Wollman Hall, 5th Floor, 65 West 11th Street in New
York City.

It is sponsored by the Haiti Support Network (HSN), the
International Action Center (IAC), along with the New School's
Diversity Committee and Graduate Program in International

For more information call the IAC at 212-633-6646 or the HSN at

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