Haitian Group Attempts To Bar Aristide's Return
Military said to have role in disruption of transition to democracy
| PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI
WHAT many had hoped would be a relatively peaceful transition from military to democratic rule in Haiti has instead turned violent. In the past week alone, more than 16 people have been killed, victims of turmoil that may threaten the return of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
It is widely believed here that the perpetrators are a formerly fragmented group of corrupt soldiers and police, criminals, and drug dealers who have apparently combined forces. The group calls itself the Revolutionary Front for the Advancement of the Country, or FRAP, an acronym that means ``strike'' in Creole.
FRAP says it wants to prohibit Fr. Aristide from returning to office on Oct. 30, as outlined in a United Nations-brokered agreement signed by the Haitian military and Aristide on July 3.
FRAP has promised further violence if certain demands aren't met, such as the resignation of Aristide's hand-picked prime minister, Robert Malval. In a press conference held last Thursday, FRAP gave UN Special Envoy Dante Caputo 72 hours to leave the country.
But the situation is already turbulent. On Friday, approximately 100 ``attaches,'' armed civilians supported by FRAP, interrupted the investiture of Foreign Minister Claudette Werleigh, threatening Cabinet members, journalists, and Mr. Caputo.
On Sept. 11, wealthy businessman and Aristide supporter Antoine Izmery was dragged from a memorial mass and shot to death in the presence of international observers and foreign journalists.
Several days earlier, five people were killed during Port-au-Prince Mayor Evans Paul's installation. Mr. Paul, like most Cabinet members, has been unable to work because his office is being occupied by attaches. Complicity of Army
``The Army is holding the Aristide government hostage,'' asserts Chavannes Jean Baptiste, a member of the Presidential Commission, which represented Aristide before Mr. Malval's Aug. 18 ratification. ``Ministers can't get in to their offices. Cabinet members can't be installed without violence. All of the real militants working for change are in danger. How can you have the authors of the coup that ousted Aristide control the transition process?''
Human rights leaders, the international community, and Caputo have accused the Army of complicity in the violence. The White House said in a press release last Tuesday: ``We hold Haiti's military and police authorities completely responsible for maintaining order during this transition period.'' Senior aides of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff were expected to arrive here yesterday to evaluate the security situation in advance of a possible deployment of US peacekeeping troops in Haiti.
Haitian Armed Forces Commander Gen. Raoul Cedras, using the Army-controlled, state-run television last Friday, commended the Army for their work and urged them to ignore the ``flagrantly false charges'' of the international community.
The UN Security Council warned Friday it would reimpose the embargo it suspended several weeks ago if order is not restored. The Security Council also plans to deploy about 1,000 international police technicians over the next few months. They will help train a new police force here.
Early last week, Aristide requested an extraordinary parliamentary session to vote into law the legal separation of the police from the military, the seventh point of the July 3 accord. The vote was expected to take place yesterday.
Though it is not required that the 10-point plan in the July 3 accord be followed sequentially, conforming to the points in order has raised a heated debate in parliament because the law granting political amnesty for those involved in the coup, point No. 6, has not yet been addressed. Order of July 3 accord
``I prefer to vote on the law of amnesty before I vote on the separation of the Army and the police. It is very important for my life,'' said Deputy President Antoine Joseph, an outspoken critic of the Aristide government. ``Don't forget that for the last two years parliament has been working with the Army. They don't want trouble with their friends.''
``I think some people have their own interests in considering the amnesty law before the one that creates the new police force,'' said Senate President Firmin Jean-Louis, who has remained loyal to the Aristide camp.
Currently officials are working on point No. 5 of the accord, which deals with international aid for this country. As early as next week, the US Agency for International Development expects to begin a short-term job-creation program that will employ approximately 163,000 people for an average of two months each over the next year.
``Thirty-eight million dollars are ready to go with USAID projects,'' says Stanley Schrager, a US Embassy spokesman. ``We are working closely with the Malval government to help them get their finances secure. We want to help democratize the government, but for democracy to survive here you need tangible benefits.''