Haiti's opposition speaks out: wants elections and more purges
Port au Prince, Haiti — A little more than a week after Haiti's coup, the country's democratic opposition has broken its silence and made demands on the new government. It wants: Presidential elections within six months.
A return to the liberal democratic constitution written in 1987.
An electoral commission independent of all government control.
A complete purging of all those who abused their power under past regimes.
These demands were spelled out by Jean-Claude Bajeaux, a human rights activist who was in exile in Puerto Rico until his return late last week. He issued the demands after meeting with other opposition figures.
Haiti's new President, Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril has not responded to these demands, although he has said that he expects to take 2 years to organize an election.
But many in the opposition say that is too long to wait, and the purges of the military since the coup began have not gone far enough. Fifty-seven key officers have been ousted.
``The mistake we made with [ousted leader Lt. Gen. Henri] Namphy was giving him too much time,'' said Mr. Bajeaux. ``We should put some pressure on for trials, at least of known murderers.''
Louis Dejoie, another opposition leader and presidential candidate in last November's aborted election, complained that the new government was only purging the ``small fry.''
A similiar message was put out by the Roman Catholic Church. Sunday morning sermons across this deeply religious, largely Catholic country told people that the nation must continue to purge itself.
For the first time since the coup, Haiti's 10 bishops issued a statement Sunday demanding the ``disarming of all Tonton Macoutes and their exclusion from public office.''
``We insist on justice to break the infernal cycle of hate and vengeance,'' the bishops' statement read.
The Macoutes are former members of the paramilitary force created by Fran,cois Duvalier in the 1960s. The infamous group was officially disbanded after Duvalier's son, Jean-Claude, was overthrown in February 1986. But many of these brutal, armed men were allowed to continue acts of terror under the regime of Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy.
Even after last week's purges, during which noncommissioned officers ousted senior officers, important, well-armed Macoute leaders remained untouched.
On Sunday, for the first time since the coup, there was also a demonstration. A group of nearly 2,000 marched across the capital and demanded to see Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, an outspoken critic of the Namphy regime. He had not been seen since unidentified thugs killed 13 people and wounded 77 in his church on Sept. 11.
Fr. Aristide is still visibly shaken. This priest who is Haiti's most riveting public speaker spoke for only two minutes. He, too, called for the purge to continue. ``The time will come when we can go forward together.''
[Reuters reported yesterday that only minor disturbances occurred Monday. Radio Soleil reported shooting Sunday night in the northwestern town of Port-de-Paix where a rebellion of young soldiers against unpopular officers appeared still to be under way.]