UN Tries to Get Haiti Peace Plan Back on Track
But right wing continues ploys: proposing a new government, intimidating the population
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — DETERMINED not to be defeated by the failure to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power on Oct. 30, United Nations Special Envoy Dante Caputo insists that the July 3 Governor's Island Accord, signed by President Aristide and military chief Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, is still the best framework for transition from military to civilian rule. The UN has scheduled a meeting in Port-au-Prince tomorrow to get the plan back on track.
United States Information Agency spokesman Stanley Schrager agrees. ``The military may have won the battle this time, but they didn't win the war. Until someone comes up with something better, the Governor's Island Accord is our best hope for restoring democracy,'' he says.
About 20 small, right-wing political parties, however, demanded the immediate resignation on Sunday of the signers of the accord in order to install a new government.
Emmanuel Constant, leader of one of the parties, the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH), said that if the presidency is vacant, parliament can invoke Article 149, which places the president of the Supreme Court in power. New elections must then be held within 90 days.
The plan has multiple flaws, and the international community is not likely to accept it. The UN has been integrally involved in the negotiation process, and few think that members will allow this small group to set new demands.
Also, parliament would have to ratify this proposal, and it has been unable to reach a quorum for weeks, mostly because parliamentarians sympathetic to Aristide have been in hiding because of death threats.
Mr. Caputo said that replacing the president would be seen as a ``flagrant violation of the Governor's Island Accord.''
Caputo says the UN Security Council is ready to increase sanctions on Haiti. Two weeks ago, the UN froze the assets of several military leaders and those associated with the September 1991 coup that ousted Aristide. The UN's current arms and petroleum embargo could be expanded to include all commercial trade.
``I think it is criminal to hold 6 million people hostage with sanctions for only one person,'' FRAPH leader Constant said. ``Caputo will have to choose between his personal opinion of Aristide and the Haitian people.''
The local UN representative, clearly enraged by the group's demands, said, ``The truth about these people is that they don't represent anybody.
``The only importance they have is given to them by the media. They lack the power to do what they say,'' he added.
But they may have the arms to do it. During the day, they can be found in front of a local neighborhood restaurant, where they spend a lot of time parading around with their weapons in one hand and alcohol in the other.
During the evening, they have created conditions that resemble a war zone. In the capital, one might think a curfew has been imposed, with heavy gunfire forcing everyone off the streets by sunset.
In the morning, people in the slums open their shutters cautiously, hoping not to find a body dumped in front of their door.
The UN Security Council is banking on the threat of stiffer sanctions to send the military back to the negotiating table, as it did last June when a gasoline embargo nearly halted activity in the country.
The impact of this embargo has been immediate. Before, the de facto government forced the gasoline companies to deliver their stocks to the pumps. Now, the government of Prime Minister Robert Malval has urged the companies to keep their supplies in storage on the southern coast of Port-au-Prince.
Mr. Malval estimates there is enough gas left, in personal stock and on the black market, for about another week.
The UN has called for immediate talks in Haiti between General Cedras and Malval in a desperate attempt to get back on track. Malval maintains that peaceful dialogue is the only plausible solution.
``But if this is what they want, we have no means to prevent it,'' Malval responded, at the suggestion that Aristide resign. ``But I don't believe it will take them very far. You can't rule a cemetery.''