Haitians Jockey for Power as a Blockade Is Proposed
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — WHEN Haitian Prime Minister Marc Bazin suddenly announced his resignation June 8, there was surprisingly little public reaction here. Except for a few road blocks, business proceeded as usual.
But on the political front, jockeying for the vacant post began immediately. An already disjointed country became even more divided as parties began to interpret the country's Constitution in their favor, seeking justification to take power.
On Wednesday, United Nations Special Envoy Dante Caputo announced plans to set up a meeting next week with the principal forces involved in the Haitian crisis, but not the country's powerful Army.
A prerequisite to the meeting is that parties must agree that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is the only legitimate president, a condition the military says it will not accept. The Army will likely remain an obstacle to any solution that may result from Mr. Caputo's diplomacy.
France, Canada, Venezuela, and the United States announced agreement Wednesday on a draft United Nations resolution that includes a blockade that would cut off Haiti's access to oil and gasoline - a measure designed to hurt the military.
Mr. Bazin took office last June under a consensus agreement between the Army, the parliament, and the executive branch. At that time, Joseph Nerette was president and Jean-Jacques Honorat was prime minister. They stepped in following the September 1991 military coup dtat that ousted Mr. Aristide.
Bazin's recent troubles started June 4 with his decision to replace four Cabinet members, several of whom were closely tied to the military. The four refused to relinquish office on technical grounds.
At the same time the US imposed sanctions against the de facto regime. Washington published a list of 83 people, including 29 military officers, the prime minister, his entire Cabinet, and 35 state institutions, which will have their assets seized and visas revoked. Bazin's resignation
Perhaps in an attempt to show the country he was in control, Bazin delivered a lengthy speech the evening of June 7 outlining new economic measures to help restore Haiti's destitute economy.
But the next morning he resigned, he said, because of threats against ministerial nominees.
Confusion followed on how to fill the void. While most parties are referring to the 1987 Constitution for guidance, each is interpreting the articles according to its interests.
Mr. Nerette called for his return to power because he never officially resigned. He wants to apply Article 149, which says that when the president no longer holds office, power defaults to the president of the Supreme Court, an office Nerette held at the time of the coup.
In the Senate, there is a pro-coup group debating the pros and cons of Articles 148 and 149. Article 148 says when the president cannot fulfill his duties, power is passed on to the Cabinet under the direction of the prime minister. These senators think the prime minister should be named from Bazin's Cabinet, which has remained in office. Senators debate constitution
Another block of senators, who remain loyal to Aristide, is calling for Article 148 to be applied, but with Aristide naming a new prime minister.
"What we are interested in is a return to democracy," said Chavannes Jean Baptiste, who among others represents the exiled president. "But we will not cohabitate with the putchists. Aristide must have their resignations before he names a new prime minister. That's not negotiable."
Therein lies the problem. The Army, responsible for the coup, has been unwilling to negotiate to restore democracy, which according to the negotiating team of the UN and the Organization of American States, means the elected president's return.
Because the Army is not officially in power, it takes no responsibility for the state of lawlessness prevalent in the country or the stalemate in negotiations.
Army officials so far have made no official statement in response to the prime minister's resignation.