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17990: (hermantin)Miami-Herald-Haitians find a common foe (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Sun, Jan. 18, 2004
Haitians find a common foe
The campaign to oust Haiti's president has produced an unlikely alliance
among Haitian immigrants in South Florida.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
RADIO HOST: Aristide foe Louis Ernest Menard has been trying for years to
rally government opponents. DONNA E. NATALE PLANAS/HERALD STAFF
Not long ago, Louis Ernest Menard would try to organize his fellow South
Florida Haitians to rally against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
and see only 20 faces.
Now Menard, a radio host and Aristide friend-turned-foe, attracts hundreds.
''I feel satisfaction knowing more people have come to realize what we have
been saying all along,'' says Menard, who has turned his Radio Fasafas
Madoken Internet site into a billboard campaign demanding Aristide's ouster
before his second presidential term ends in 2006.
The open opposition to Aristide in South Florida has not only grown in
recent months, but it has brought together an unlikely alliance of Haitian
immigrants who differ in skin color, class and political ideology.
Some are motivated by personal agendas and business interests in Haiti.
Others are driven by the desire to put an end to the political and economic
collapse that has dogged Haiti for most of its 200-year history.
They include those who supported the 1991 bloody coup that unseated Aristide
and sent him into exile during his first term in office and those who
marched on his behalf, calling for his return to the presidency; those who
backed the Duvalier dictatorship and those who fled in fear of it.
The unusual alliance reflects the coalition of business owners,
intellectuals, students and politicians that has recently formed in Haiti,
where many Aristide opponents want to create a ''new social contract'' among
Haitians of all classes and colors.
Only by pulling from a cross-section of Haitian society, anti-government
activists argue, can they succeed in toppling the president and create a new
''Everyone must get involved in order to change Haiti,'' said Samir G.
Mourra, a Miami Lakes mortgage lender and long-standing Aristide foe who was
once married to ex-dictator Jean-Claude ''Baby Doc'' Duvalier's
sister-in-law. ``It cannot be done by one group of people.''
Mourra, a Haitian of Palestinian descent who says he supports democracy in
Haiti, is one of those leading the South Florida opposition movement with
its nearly weekly marches.
DRIVEN BY THE PAST
Among the demonstrators attracted to the marches is Klosa, who uses only one
name. She declines to give many personal details because she says she has
been threatened by the pro-Aristide Lavalas party.
Raised in exile in New York, the Creole-language translator who hosts a show
on the Haitian Television Network was born in Haiti's bourgeoisie. Her
cousin, Herve Denis, served as culture and information minister under
Aristide from 1993 to 1995. He and Aristide eventually parted ways, with
Denis accusing Aristide of having dictatorial tendencies.
'When my cousin died, his last breath was, `Do not forget Haiti,' '' Klosa,
50, said of Denis, who briefly contemplated running against Aristide before
his death in 2002.
When she learned on Dec. 5 that pro-Aristide gangs had barged into the State
University of Haiti in Port-au-Prince, held students at gunpoint and broken
both the university president's legs with iron bars, she remembered those
''I am fighting for a state of law and security for the people,'' said
Klosa, who, like many here, dreams of one day permanently living in Haiti.
``Haitians just want the basics of life: health and education and work.
Those are the three priorities of any Haitian family.''
Klosa, who says she isn't aligned with any particular anti-Aristide group
here, is disappointed in the former Catholic priest.
''I still had hope. When he spoke, they listened,'' she said of the Haitian
people. ``Families were divided over this guy.''
NOT YET CRITICAL MASS
While their numbers do not rival the tens of thousands in Haiti calling for
Aristide's resignation, government opponents here say it's the diversity of
the faces in the crowd that counts: doctors, lawyers, business owners;
black, white and mulatto.
But whether that crowd is enough to sway U.S. policy toward Haiti is
''If you have the massive demonstration you have when he was overthrown,
then it's noticeable and makes a bigger impact in terms of U.S. perceptions
and policy,'' said Alex Dupuy, a Haitian-American scholar at Wesleyan
Dupuy, who is advocating a referendum on whether Aristide should leave as an
alternative to the current crisis, said Aristide still maintains
considerable support in Haiti.
Most comes from Aristide's core base: the Haitian poor. And while some have
joined the anti-government fray, many remain on the sidelines, wary of an
opposition mainly led by the middle class and elite.
''While he may no longer represent their interest, the majority may not have
seen an alternative to him from the elite,'' said Dupuy, noting that the
opposition has failed to present an economic agenda for a post-Aristide
Haiti. ``They are hanging on to Aristide because they don't see anybody
While Haitians in the diaspora currently have no say in elections, their
frustrations are not lost on the Aristide government. It argues that their
concern is caused by economic problems created by the international
community's refusal to provide aid to the Haitian government.
''Now what we are seeing is that after seven years of financial embargo,
Aristide has not been delivering his promise because he was lacking the
funds so badly needed from the international bank,'' said Leslie Voltaire,
Aristide's minister for Haitians living abroad.
``You are seeing a lot of frustration. Those who did not vote for him are
calling for his resignation, and some of those who voted for him are not
happy with the result of democracy. In Haiti, what we are seeing is the
emergency of democracy in Haiti.''
Still, there is no turning back, say Aristide's opponents, many of whom cite
the Dec. 5 university incident as the turning point in their struggle. It
resulted in one of the largest anti-Aristide marches in a decade in both
Haiti and South Florida.
''Kids are dying,'' said Mourra, 48, who blames the president and his
supporters for putting him out of the shipping business in Haiti. ``He was
the only president who came to Haiti with the full international support and
the support of his people.''
Though married into the Duvalier family, Mourra said he never supported the
He contends Aristide has taken the worst of the dictatorship and created a
state that is now worse than under his former brother-in-law.
''Today it's worst, it's anarchy, it's tyrant,'' Mourra said. ``We need to
restore law and order.''
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