PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — WITH the political ground shifting under their feet, right-wing opponents of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide are scrambling to find surer footing.
Following Lt. Col. Michel Francois's departure Tuesday for the Dominican Republic, rumors are circulating here that Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras may soon follow. General Cedras says publicly that he will not leave the country, but that he will resign by Oct. 15.
Haiti's parliament was to meet yesterday to debate a draft amnesty law that could shield Cedras and other military leaders from arrest if it is passed before the country's exiled president returns.
And the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, a paramilitary group created by Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby after Father Aristide's 1991 ouster, is trying to find a new foothold in Haiti's changing political situation.
At a press conference this week, FRAPH leader Emmanuel Constant told his members to reject violence but to stay mobilized. The FRAPH has been linked to much of the violence against pro-Aristide supporters in the past year.
Stepping out of his truck to give his conciliation speech, Mr. Constant was asked whether his action was coerced by the Americans. ``Not at all,'' he responded. ``It's the reality of the nation.... We'll be back.''
In an article scheduled to be published today, The Nation magazine charges that US intelligence agencies actually helped to create FRAPH. Stanley Schrager, US Embassy spokesman in Haiti, responded yesterday that ``to the best of my knowledge, the US had no role in the formation of FRAPH.'' The liberal weekly, in a copy of the article sent Wednesday to the Associated Press, says Constant once was an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. Constant said that US officials wanted a force ``that could balance'' Aristide's pro-democracy movement.
Last year, the CIA circulated a report claiming that Aristide was mentally ill. But President Clinton indicate he did not believe the report, and CNN later reported that the doctor cited as its source didn't exist.
THE US has been insisting that the coup leaders will leave even though it is not written in the terms of the agreement.
One possible exception is Army Chief of Staff Biamby. He is considered the most stubborn of the three and, thus, unlikely to leave. Biamby, a source close to him says, is afraid of being extradited to the United States on drug trafficking charges.
He was jailed previously in the United States on immigration charges after being expelled from Haiti in 1989. His cousin was recently extradited from the Dominican Republic and is serving a 32-year prison sentence for drug trafficking.
Lynn Garrison, a Canadian who has served as an adviser to the Haitian military since the crisis began and expresses the views of many Haitian conservatives, is opposed to Aristide but has moderated his views. Mr. Garrison says he now accepts that Aristide will return, but worries that he will completely dismantle the Army. Garrison has also been urging Cedras to step down.
Many right-wingers do not believe Aristide is capable of governing. ``We cannot say anything now,'' says a well-to-do shopkeeper. When Haiti is drowning in problems, the Americans will again look to the elite to solve them, he says.
Several right-wing politicians are adapting a similar lay-low posture. Bernard Sansaricq, who has served as de facto president of Haiti's Senate, is furious with the presence of US troops here. Mr. Sansaricq was critical of President Clinton's speech several days before deploying US troops, saying the US was dictating Haitian politics. But since Aristide convoked parliament last week, Sarsaricq has not attended any of the sessions.
There is clearly an element among the right that does not accept the reality of Aristide's imminent return. The ``country won't be safe,'' says a right-wing architect, furious the US is trying to bring him back. ``He's not a democrat. He'll have the people revolt against those of us who have kept the county running.''
If this mentality is widespread among Haiti's business community, it could undermine Aristide's economic reforms and undermine his attempts to work with the business community. Grass-roots organizers of Haiti's masses certainly expect the business community to continue their resistance to Aristide.
``They have the economic and political power,'' says one organizer from northern Haiti who has been in hiding since the coup three years ago. ``They will do what they've done before. They'll raise the price of rice.''