Haiti Archives 1995-1996
15/11/95 HAITI: Violence Underlines Fragile Political Situation By Ives Marie Chanel

Copyright 1995 InterPress Service, all rights reserved. Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Nov 15 (IPS) – With seven people killed in the last four days, political instability is again casting a shadow over Haiti a month before the holding of presidential elections.

The murder last week of two Members of Parliament from the Lavalas Political Platform (LPP), which is loyal to president Jean Bertrand Aristide, triggered widespread protests by pro-government demonstrators – and retaliation against their opponents.

Protestors were particularly angered by the killing of MP Jean Hubert Feuille, formerly part of Aristide’s security detail. In Cayes, Haiti’s third largest city, 153 kms south of the capital, there were reports of looting and fires were set to houses belonging to persons suspected of being linked to government opponents.

The contingent of the National police stationed in this regional capital – hometown of the two murdered Members of Parliament – failed to restore order. That was particularly disconcerting for authorities: less than three months remain before peacekeeping troops from the U.N. Mission to Haiti (MINUHA) are scheduled to leave.

The riots worsened when it was reported that the MP for Cayes, Jean Gabriel Fortune, had died in hospital in the capital. He had been wounded by unidentified gunmen travelling in taxis in a residential quarter of east-central Port-au-Prince.

Barricades were erected and set on fire, and the movement of traffic was restricted by hundreds of demonstrators blocking the streets and demanding justice.

The murders set off a chain reaction in the Haitian Parliament. MPs and senators demanded that the government punish those guilty of the crimes. The two killings have raised questions about the policy of reconciliation advocated by President Aristide since his return to power from exile in October 1994.

Dozens of angry demonstrators threatened that they would resort to the torture of ‘’the necklace’’ known as ‘’dechoukaj’’ here (strangulation by gradually tightening a collar placed around the victim’s neck).

They said this was necessary to thwart the right-wing extremist groups, whom they accused of committign numerous acts of violence.

‘’We agreed to follow President Aristide’s national reconciliation policy, but if this reconciliation is going to cost us our lives at any moment, then we say ‘no’ to Aristide,’’ said one demonstrator.

Last week, gunmen opened fire in broad daylight on the residence of the chief of cabinet of the presidency, Lesly Voltaire, wounding a guard.

Monday, in the course of a session devoted to the ratification of the new prime minister, Claudette Werleigh, several members of parliament expressed fears at the numerous firearms known to be circulating throughout the country.

The MPs said they were dissatisfied with the way foreign forces, mainly American, had managed the situation in the first few months following their landing in September 1994.

This concern was equally shared by various social strata of the population, who fear a return in force of the paramillitary forces of the extreme right.

They are especially apprehensive about the real possibility of a recurrence of violence after the departure of the U.N peaceceeping forces next February – just after a new president is sworn in.

A spokesman for the United Nations in the Haitian capital revealed this week that a possible reduction in the MINUHA forces before the February deadline was being studied at U.N. headquarters in New York.

National and interim police forces have arrested three taxi- drivers whose vehicles are suspected of having taken part in the murder attack.

The former chief of the presidential guard, ex-Col. Christophe Dardompre, as well as two sons of ex-general and president Prosper Avril have been arrested by the Haitian police. Avril’s residences in Port-au-Prince and in Thomazeau, 30 kms east of the capital, were also searched.

According to declarations made by a policeman who took part in the search, arms and compromising documents relating to the assassination in August 1994 of Jean Marie Vincent, a priest close to President Aristide, were found in Avril’s home.

President Aristide has condemned the murders, saying it was the work of extremists. Aristide also declared that he was determined to intensify the disarming process.

One of the leaders of the Lavalas Political Platform, Gerard Pierre Charles, believes that those sectors hostile to the elections might be implicated in the murders.

The main right- and left-wing political parties have reaffirmed their refusal to take part in the coming presidential elections, if no change has been made in the organisation of the electoral apparatus. (END/IPS/IMC/TT/95)

Origin: Amsterdam/HAITI/ ----

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