January 14, 1999
Haitian Congress struggles to survive in battle with president

                  PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Its lawmakers afraid and its coffers
                  empty, Haiti's embattled Congress is struggling to survive after being
                  effectively written off by President Rene Preval.

                  "I don't even have a cent to buy a bottle of water" for the legislature, Senate
                  President Edgard Leblanc said Thursday in his office at the seaside
                  Legislative Palace.

                  Using the palace's only working telephone, Leblanc urged his colleagues to
                  report to work and show the world that one of Haiti's few democratic
                  institutions was still alive after Preval bypassed it Monday and said he would
                  rule by decree.

                  Leblanc said he wants everyone to see that Parliament is functioning. "It's a
                  psychological strategy that is extremely important."

                  Haiti has had no effective government since June 1997, due to a power
                  struggle between the opposition Struggling People's Organization, which
                  dominates Parliament, and Preval, who is backed by former President
                  Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

                  On Monday, moving to end the stalemate, Preval declared that he no longer
                  recognized Parliament.

                  Preval's Finance Ministry had already cut off money for Parliament's running

                  Few legislators showed up in the building Thursday and Leblanc admitted
                  that not all the ones he spoke to were buying his argument.

                  "Some legislators have not come back because they fear for their personal
                  safety," Leblanc said. "There's a climate of fear and intimidation."

                  Rep. Vasco Thernelan, leader of the lower House of Deputies, agreed. "I
                  have spoken to certain deputies who ask if I can guarantee their security if
                  they come here. They say they're afraid."

                  Both sides declare they are the champions of democracy, and both have
                  resisted numerous international attempts at mediation. The stalemate has
                  robbed Haiti of millions in much-needed foreign aid dollars and jeopardizes
                  a democratic government restored by a 1994 U.S. invasion that ended three
                  years of military rule.

                  Thernelan claimed that Preval long had been plotting the demise of

                  Many ordinary Haitians, embittered by poverty that they had hoped
                  democracy would alleviate, are antagonistic to both Preval and the

                  A lone agitator outside the Legislative Palace Thursday hurled epithets at
                  anyone coming in or out of the gate, yelling that lawmakers "only are
                  interested in fattening their own bellies."

                  Leblanc and Thernelan said there seemed little likelihood that Haitians will
                  rise up to demand that Preval reinstate the legislators. Most Haitians,
                  Leblanc said, "are more concerned with whether they will find something to
                  eat from one day to the next."

                  Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.