News from Haiti

Haitian Strike Steps Up Protest Against Aristide

Haitian Leader Says He Won't Step Down

Après les Manifs, la Grève Générale

General Strike in Haiti Closes Businesses

Haitian Businesses Close in Protest Against Aristide

Supporters of Aristide Assault Anti-Government Marchers

Police, Government Supporters Break Up Demonstrations Across Haiti, At Least 16 Injured

Anti-Aristide Protester Shot and Wounded During Demonstration in Petit-Goave

 

Haitian Strike Steps Up Protest Against Aristide

Marika Lynch, Miami Herald

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Government opponents here tried to paralyze commerce with a general strike Wednesday, yet many Haitians went about their business.

Supermarkets, clothing stores -- most of the capital's big businesses shuttered up. But small shopkeepers welcomed customers, as did the poor who make their living selling goods off the sidewalks.

''I don't care about the strike. I have to sell something to get food for the kids,'' said Lauvenia Delrandus, who sells socks and underwear on a downtown street.

Delrandus wasn't in luck, though, Wednesday. By afternoon the street bustled, but she hadn't sold one pair of boxer shorts, a slump she blames on the country's sagging economy.

Eighteen private sector groups called the strike, after supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide attacked protesters as they prepared to march Tuesday, hitting them with rawhide whips, scrap metal and rocks.

The opposition had gathered in the United Nations Plaza downtown to remember a slain journalist and call for Aristide's resignation.

Government supporters preempted them by attacking them and chasing them on foot, witnesses said.

U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran said the United States regretted that government opponents weren't given their right to protest Tuesday. But Haitian Justice Minister Calixte Delatour diminished the clash at a press conference Wednesday, saying the confrontation was part of the ``democratic game.''

Delatour said the Aristide government will continue to push for elections next year, which are proposed to rectify the 2000 parliamentary elections that observers said were fraudulent.

The Justice Minister swore he would resign if he can't provide a safe environment for the elections.

He also diminished the impact of Wednesday's strike.

''I will go with you after this press conference to the iron market to see if the strike is growing. We'll go to the [the business district], to Petionville to see what's going on. The little people, not the rich people, the merchants in the street selling food, the small boutiques, the taxi drivers, are functioning normally,'' Delatour said.

``Haiti is divided between two groups -- the rich group and the poor group.''

Yet the strike organizers said their effort was a success because the majority of the formal sector businesses closed, said Mischa Gallard, spokesman for the opposition group Democratic Convergence.

The organizers couldn't expect to get small merchants to respect the strike. Many live on less than a dollar a day.



Haitian Leader Says He Won't Step Down

Michael Norton, 2002-12-05

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP)--President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has rejected calls for his resignation, accusing his opponents of sabotaging progress in Haiti and downplaying a general strike called to oppose his government.

``It's not President Aristide they don't like. It's the Haitian people they don't like,'' Aristide told a crowd in the southern coastal city of Les Cayes on Wednesday.

The speech coincided with an anti-Aristide strike by businesses in the capital, Port-au-Prince. Banks were closed, gas stations empty, and many students returned home when they found their schools shut. Similar strikes were held in tandem in Cap-Haitien, Gonaives, and Jacmel.

Wednesday's strike came after an eruption of anti-government demonstrations on Tuesday that left at least 16 people injured. During many of Tuesday's clashes, Aristide's supporters attacked demonstrators with whips and rocks. Protesters are demanding better living conditions and an end to Aristide's government, which they accuse of being autocratic and anti-dissident.

``The strike was a unanimous reaction of the people to the criminal violence of the government,'' said former army officer Himmler Rebu, one of the leaders in Tuesday's anti-government march in the capital.

Aristide's allies called the strike a failure. The call was only followed by the wealthy minority, said lawmaker Rep. Simpson Liberus. ``The vast majority of the people did not respect'' it, he said.

Fifteen major business associations participated in the strike. In a written statement, the associations accused the government of ``contempt for the most basic democratic norms.''

About 2,000 Aristide supporters broke up Tuesday's Port-au-Prince march using stones and rawhide whips to drive away protesters. Police fired tear gas Tuesday at a crowd in Petit-Goave, where ten teenagers were injured in an opposition protest last week.

The government blamed Tuesday's violence on the opposition. ``We reject violent confrontations,'' government spokesman Mario Dupuy said. He accused the opposition of polarizing the country and said Aristide wants a ``peaceful environment.''

At least three people have been killed and scores injured in three weeks of anti-government protests in Haiti. Opposition leaders said they are only seeking change.

``The people don't stage coup d'etats. But they know how to chase dictators like you (Aristide) from power,'' said opposition politician Evans Paul.

Pressures have been mounting on Aristide's government, which has been stymied by a lack of international aid and investment and growing poverty in Haiti.

``The international community still supports ... the setting up of a provisional electoral council in order to hold elections,'' said Organization of American States special representative David Lee, who deplored ``the intimidation that marred'' Tuesday's demonstrations.

Although parliamentary elections are planned for next year, presidential elections aren't planned until 2005. Some of the country's leaders say they won't participate in elections unless the climate for democracy improves.

 

Haïti - Après les Manifs, la Grève Générale


Le Devoir, 2002-12-05

Port-au-Prince - Les activités ont été ralenties hier à Port-au-Prince, où le grand commerce a suivi un mot d'ordre de grève générale de l'opposition et du patronat mais où le commerce, les transports populaires et certaines écoles n'ont pas observé la consigne, selon un journaliste de l'AFP.


Aucun incident n'avait été signalé à la mi-journée dans la capitale et les principales villes de province. Outre le grand commerce, les banques privées et le parc industriel avaient fermé leurs portes alors que les banques d'État et l'administration fonctionnaient à Port-au-Prince.

À Cap-Haïtien, deuxième ville du pays, à 260 kilomètres de la capitale, où la police avait dispersé mardi avec des grenades lacrymogènes deux manifestations rivales, hostile et favorable au président Jean-Bertrand Aristide, la situation était la même, comme à Jacmel (sud-est) et aux Gonaïves (nord-ouest).

Aux Cayes, troisième ville d'Haïti, à 200 kilomètres au sud-ouest de la capitale, une foule importante de partisans du chef de l'État s'était réunie pour une visite du président Aristide.

L'opposition avait lancé son mot d'ordre à la suite de la dispersion brutale mardi par des membres d'organisations populaires (OP), à coups de pierre, de bâton et de rigoise (nom haïtien d'un fouet de cuir de boeuf), d'un début de manifestation pour demander la démission du président Aristide.

Conseil électoral bloqué

Ces violences avaient fait une dizaine de blessés.

Le gouvernement, par la voix du secrétaire d'État à la Communication, Mario Dupuy, avait condamné la violence tout en estimant que l'opposition «devait tenir compte du décalage entre son attitude et les aspirations du peuple qui souhaite des élections».

L'opposition, toutes tendances confondues, a jusqu'à prsent refusé de désigner des représentants au nouveau Conseil électoral provisoire (CEP), chargé d'organiser des élections en 2003, estimant qu'elle ne peut faire confiance au chef de l'État.

Le patronat, de son côté, avait appelé dans un communiqué à une journée de grève générale «en guise d'avertissement au pouvoir et pour dire une fois de plus non à l'intolérance, non à l'inacceptable, non au bain de sang, oui au respect des principes démocratiques».

«Les associations patronales, poursuit le texte, face à l'utilisation de groupuscules et de bandits opérant à la manière d'une milice à la solde du parti au pouvoir [...], demandent à la communauté internationale de constater l'insécurité grandissante, institutionnalisée, entretenue par le pouvoir en place, et d'admettre que le processus démocratique est sérieusement mis en péril».

Pour sa part, l'Église catholique a estimé dans un communiqué de la Conférence épiscopale que «tout nous donne l'impression d'assister au naufrage imminent d'un navire» et se demande s'il n'est pas «opportun de s'interroger» sur un renoncement volontaire «au pouvoir pour le plus grand bien de la nation ou bien écourter magnanimement la durée du pouvoir pour appeler à des élections générales anticipées».

L'Église estime en conclusion que le CEP «est une nécessité» et qu'il représente «une balise pour le vaisseau en détresse».

 

General Strike in Haiti Closes Businesses

By Paisley Dodds, Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Shops and schools were bolted shut Wednesday during a general strike called to protest President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government a day after police and mobs broke up anti-government demonstrations.

Nearly 200 businesses, including banks and gas stations, closed in the capital of Port-au-Prince, while others in the northern provinces were shuttered in solidarity. Business leaders said other strikes would follow if government reforms weren't made.


The call for the general strike came hours after whip-wielding Aristide partisans and police firing tear gas broke up anti-government demonstrations across the country Tuesday.


U.S. Ambassador Brian Dean Curran pleaded for calm in the impoverished nation besieged by growing instability.


"The solution to Haiti's problem is not in the street but through elections," Curran said. "We urge people to refrain from violence. People have the right to demonstrate freely and the United States regrets that that right was denied Tuesday."


Pressure has been mounting on Aristide to step down, but he has refused. Parliamentary elections are slated for next year, but presidential elections aren't scheduled until 2005. Some leaders say elections are impossible given the current political instability.


At least 16 people were injured in Tuesday's protests — during a third week of steady demonstrations against Aristide's embattled government.


"The strike was a unanimous reaction to the criminal violence of the government," said opposition leader and former Haitian Army Col. Himmler Rebu, who participated in a 1989 failed coup against then-dictator Prosper Avril.


"There can be no fair elections as long as Aristide is in power, but we will not use violence to resolve the problem of violence," he said.


Traffic was light on the streets Wednesday, but the airport stayed open. Many informal merchants who couldn't afford to close remained open.


"I don't have the luxury of not working," said Pesan Claude, a 50-year-old florist in the suburb of Petionville. "I'm not interested in anything else except taking care of my family."

Aristide, whose Lavalas Family party swept what observers said were flawed elections in 2000, has blamed the opposition and the international community for deserting the country in its greatest time of need. Since the flawed elections, foreign aid has come to a halt.

Fifteen major business associations were participating in the strike. In a written statement, they expressed concerned that "the democratic process is in grave danger."

Rebu, who closed his fitness centers for the strike, said if the government doesn't respect opposing points of views, leaders will present a declaration that could ask for Aristide's resignation and the establishment of a provisional government. A similar declaration helped push then-President Paul E. Magloire from power in 1956.

Rebu urged the international community to recognize what he called Aristide's unwillingness to govern democratically.

The United States helped restore Aristide to power in 1994 after he was ousted in a coup in 1991. Facing a term limit, Aristide ceded power to chosen successor Rene Preval in 1996. Aristide won a second five-year term in November 2000.

In the last few years, poverty has deepened in this Caribbean nation and investment has dried up.

"Production has declined, tourism has disappeared, and we have lost many assembly jobs to the Dominican Republic," said one businessman and strike organizer who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation.

 

Haitian Businesses Close in Protest Against Aristide


Michael Deibert, Reuters

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Businesses were shuttered and many schools and banks closed in the capital Wednesday as Haiti's private sector heeded a call by the opposition for a general strike in protest against the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Businesses called the strike a day after Aristide supporters attacked anti-government protesters during demonstrations in several cities.

``The general strike of Wednesday, December 4, 2002, is a protest to say 'no' to intolerance, 'no' to the unacceptable,'' said a statement by 12 business organizations late on Tuesday. ''We must ... save our country from chaos, anarchy and prevent the return of dictatorship.''

Government officials had no immediate comment on the strike.

The impoverished Caribbean nation of 8 million people has been rocked by a series of demonstrations and counter-protests in the last three weeks, including an anti-Aristide rally in Cap Haitien on Nov. 17 that attracted more than 10,000 people.

A former Roman Catholic priest, Aristide rallied Haiti's poor at the end of a 30-year dictatorship in the mid-1980s and was elected president in 1990, only to be overthrown in a military coup seven months later.

U.S. troops helped restore him to power in 1994 and he won a second term as president in November 2000. Since returning to office he has been mired in a dispute with Democratic Convergence opposition coalition over contested May 2000 legislative elections.

The stalemate has stalled foreign aid and Haitians have seen prices soar, the value of their currency slump and political violence escalate.

On Tuesday, several thousand Aristide supporters attacked hundreds of anti-Aristide demonstrators and journalists with stones and bottles in Port-au-Prince. Police, though present, did not stop the violence.

Anti-government protesters were also attacked in the northern city of Cap Haitien and the southern city of Petit Goave, where five protesters were shot, residents said.

Riot police raided the public State University of Haiti, and local television showed police beating students and hoisting a flag the students had lowered to half-staff in protest.

``We condemn violence,'' said Secretary of State for Communications Mario Dupuy on Tuesday. ``But people, including government supporters, may take part in any march they want to.''

Tuesday's demonstrations were held in memory of Brignol Lindor, news director for Radio Echo 2000 in Petit Goave, who was hacked to death one year ago, allegedly at the hands of a pro-Aristide group.

``Everyone now realizes that Aristide must go, and now together we will make him go,'' said opposition politician and former Port-au-Prince mayor Evans Paul, one of Aristide's leading critics.

Supporters of Aristide Assault Anti-Government Marchers

By Jane Regan, Miami Herald

Anti-government marchers demanding President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's resignation and justice for a journalist hacked to death a year ago were attacked by Aristide supporters Tuesday, and at least a dozen were injured. Four people in Petit-Goave were shot.

In response, organizers of an anti-Aristide march in the capital called for a 24-hour general strike today.

''Jean-Bertrand Aristide is holding us hostage with his thugs who hit us with clubs and throw rocks at us!'' said Carline Simone, head of the Sun Rising Women's Organization, at a news conference held by 20 organizations, unions and political parties after their march had been broken up.

''My friends, today Lavalas [Aristide's party] showed us its weakness,'' said Rene Theodore, head of the National Revolutionary Movement and a former presidential candidate. ``This is a government that does not accept any kind of protest. There is no other name for that than dictatorship.''

Mario Dupuy, secretary of communication in the Aristide government, said in response to the day's events, ``We deplore the few aggressions that occurred against a few people. This government is seeking a climate of peace.''

Late Tuesday, 18 private-sector organizations announced support for the strike, although they stopped short of seeking Aristide's resignation. The Crisis Committee at the state university also backed the strike. The Catholic Church released a statement saying it would be better if Aristide resigned or reduced his term.

In the southern coastal town of Petit-Goave, a march of an estimated 10,000 students, journalists and supporters demanding justice for journalist Brignol Lindor, who was killed by Aristide supporters on Dec. 3, 2001, and Aristide's resignation was attacked with a hail of rocks as it passed the home of a Lavalas parliamentarian.

''Some of the marchers threw rocks back, and then the Lavalas people fired on us,'' said journalist Louis Jean Pierre, who replaced Lindor at Radio Echo 2000.

FEW OFFICERS

Jean Pierre said police were barely present at Tuesday's march, although he said they had protected a pro-Aristide march on Monday.

''It is clear that we cannot trust this government to give us justice or security,'' he said.

The march followed a Mass for Lindor. A Catholic priest refused to open his church, so the Mass was held outdoors.

Only two low-level arrests have been made in the Lindor case, despite the fact that Assistant Mayor Dumey Bony called for ''zero tolerance'' against Lindor, because he had allowed opposition politicians on his radio program. Lindor was hacked to death with a machete a few days later.

In the capital, about 2,000 pro-Aristide demonstrators filled United Nations Plaza in front of the Haitian Parliament early Tuesday to block the anti-Aristide demonstration, dancing and singing to street bands as they held color posters of Aristide that said, ``Peace in the head, peace in the stomach.''

SURROUNDED GROUP

As anti-Aristide marchers assembled, about 100 Aristide supporters wielding rawhide whips, hunks of scrap metal, clubs and rocks attacked them, surrounding their cars or chasing those on foot.

''They surrounded us. They smashed my window with this,'' said Daniel Supplice, a Senate candidate in the contested 2000 elections, as he held up a large flat spring. ``The police didn't do anything. They just stood by and watched.''

For two hours, pro-Aristide demonstrators occupied the plaza, screaming ''Down with Americans!'' and ''Down with George Bush!'' Aristide supporters claim the United States is behind the increasingly broad anti-Aristide movement.

In Cap Haitien, Aristide supporters set up burning barricades to try to stop an anti-government march. Opposition supporters later took to the streets, and pro-Aristide crowds attacked them with rocks and clubs. Police broke up the clash with tear gas.

 

Police, Government Supporters Break Up Demonstrations Across Haiti, At Least 16 Injured


Paisley Dodds, 2002-12-03

PETIT-GOAVE, Haiti - Police fired tear gas to break up demonstrations Tuesday by thousands of anti-government protesters, as President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's supporters wielded whips and hurled rocks to drive away government opponents. At least 16 people were reported injured.

Witnesses said two men were shot by Aristide backers in the town of Petit-Goave, where police lobbed tear gas canisters into about 2,000 marchers.

Thousands more protested in other cities, clamoring for immediate elections and better living conditions. But police and crowds of Aristide supporters broke up the protests.

The demonstrators paraded through the streets demanding an end to Aristide's government and justice in the death of journalist Brignol Lindor, who was hacked to death a year ago by Aristide supporters.

"I came to shout 'Down with Aristide!'" said 12-year-old David Merisier, a student in Petit-Goave, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, the capital. "We can't eat. We can't go to school. We're tired of Aristide."

Meanwhile, about 2,000 Aristide supporters broke up a demonstration in Port-au-Prince, wielding whips and throwing stones to drive away protesters. Witnesses said at least a dozen people were injured.

Police also fired tear gas as they disrupted a march by some 2,000 people in northern Cap-Haitien and wielded batons to break up a 500-person protest in northwestern Gonaives, witnesses said. At least two protesters were reported arrested in Gonaives.

Pressure has been mounting on Aristide's government, which has been stymied by a lack of international aid and investment and growing poverty in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Although parliamentary elections are planned for next year, presidential elections aren't planned until 2005.

Classes were canceled and businesses closed for protests marking the one-year anniversary of Lindor's killing outside Petit-Goave.

Lindor was slain after he allowed opposition politicians on his talk-show program. On Tuesday, many of the same opposition leaders spoke on the air, demanding justice.

"Lindor's death is something that has affected the national consciousness of Haiti," said Arbrun Alizy, 31, director of Radio Echo, which Lindor once ran. "There still has not been any justice."

At least 10 teenagers were injured last week in Petit-Goave after demonstrators called for Aristide to step down. At least three people have been killed in three weeks of protests in Haiti.

On Tuesday, protesters hung photos of Lindor's mutilated body on storefront doors. Some later set fire to shacks in Petit-Goave.

Hundreds more remembered Lindor at a Mass in the capital, while outside the church, government backers shouted: "If Aristide isn't there, who will replace him?"

Opposition leaders in Port-au-Prince said their motorcade was attacked by hundreds of rock-throwing Aristide supporters while police did nothing. No one was injured, but cars were damaged in the hail of rocks.

"Today, the consciousness of the Haitian citizen has been scandalized by the barbarity of Lavalas," said opposition politician Evans Paul, who was in the motorcade.

The government blamed the violence on the opposition, saying new legislative elections planned for next year are the only solution.

"We reject violent confrontations," government spokesman Mario Dupuy said. He blamed the opposition for polarizing the country and said Aristide wants a "peaceful environment."

The opposition says it wants the government to guarantee a peaceful climate before a vote is held.

In the capital's streets Tuesday, people who refused to accept fliers with Aristide's photo were lashed with small, rawhide whips. Aristide supporters beat one man who was wearing an opposition T-shirt and police rescued one opposition supporter from a group of Aristide backers who had wrapped a whip around his neck.

Opposition politician Rene Theodore called for a nationwide general strike on Wednesday.

"This government accepts no form of dissent. That's what is called a dictatorship," Theodore said.

Businesses in the capital will close on Wednesday, chamber of commerce (news - web sites) president Maurice Lafortune said. "The strike is a warning strike because of what happened today," he said.

Aristide won the presidency in 1990, but was overthrown in a coup after less than a year in office. He lived in exile in Washington until U.S. troops helped restore him to power in 1994, then ceded power to chosen successor Rene Preval in 1996. Aristide won a second five-year term in November 2000.

Anti-Aristide Protester Shot and Wounded During Demonstration in Petit-Goave

Michael Diebert, 2002-12-03

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Several thousand supporters
of Haiti's President Jean-Bertrand Aristide hit anti-Aristide demonstrators
with metal bars and chased them away with stones and bottles in
Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.


In the southwestern city of Petit Goave, an anti-Aristide protester
was shot and wounded during a demonstration there, private Radio Metropole
reported, but did not give details.


The unrest, the latest in a series of demonstrations and counter-protests to hit the impoverished Caribbean nation, took place on the anniversary of the murder of a Haitian journalist whose death --allegedly at the hands of Aristide supporters -- was one of the sparks for
growing opposition to the president.

Hundreds of anti-Aristide marchers near the United States embassy in
downtown Port-au-Prince were stopped by a much larger crowd of young
Aristide supporters.


"Now is not the time to be afraid, now is the time to be brave," said
one woman in the anti-Aristide crowd, as bottles shattered at her feet and
rocks were pelted at cars.


"Aristide or death!" shouted one young man carrying a poster of the
president. Police did not intervene and no serious injuries were reported.


"This is democracy: People, including government supporters, may take
part in any march they want to," Secretary of State for Communications
Mario Dupuy told reporters.


An anti-government march in the northern city of Cap Haitien was also
broken up, Radio Metropole reported.


Members of the political opposition said they planned a general strike
on Wednesday in their efforts to oust Aristide, who has said he has no
plans to step down.


A tide of protests has hit Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas,
recently as opposition and student groups decry a deteriorating economy and
what they charge is government corruption and Aristide's increasingly authoritarian rule.


Aristide, a former Catholic priest, rallied Haiti's poor in the mid-1980s at the end a 30-year dictatorship and was elected president in 1990 only to be ousted in a coup months later.


U.S. troops helped restore him to power in 1994 and he won a second
term in Nov. 2000, but since then he has been mired in a dispute over May
2000 legislative elections, which has stalled foreign aid for his 8 million
people as prices soar and the value of the country's currency, the gourde,
slumps.