Haiti's Prime Minister Offers Resignation
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) - Haiti's embattled prime minister,
Jean-Marie Cherestal, who had faced a growing tide of
accusations of corruption and incompetence, has offered to resign, local media said on Friday.
Cherestal, under mounting criticism even from members of the ruling
Lavalas Family party, sent a letter of resignation to President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Thursday, said private Signal FM radio and the daily Le Nouveliste.
There was no word on whether his resignation had been accepted by Aristide,
who appointed Cherestal a year ago soon after taking office
for his second term as president.
Cherestal's offer to resign capped a year in office that witnessed further
deterioration of the economy of the impoverished Caribbean nation
of 8 million people, and a continuing dispute over legislative elections 21 months ago that has held up much-needed international aid to Haiti.
On Monday, Cherestal defended his record before the Lavalas-dominated
Senate. Speaking to reporters afterward, senators were divided
on the government's performance. Senate President Yvon Neptune was supportive, but Lavalas Sen. Prince Pierre Sonson dismissed
Cherestal as ``a liar ... whose corruption has done nothing for the country.''
In the poorest country in the Americas, Cherestal has been accused of
enriching himself at the nation's expense. One point of criticism was
the purchase of a $2 million home for the prime minister. Cherestal has said the house was bought as the official prime minister's residence,
not for him personally.
His offer to resign comes at a troubled time in Haiti.
About 30 armed men attacked the National Palace on Dec. 17 in what the
government described as a failed coup attempt by disgruntled
former members of Haiti's disbanded armed forces.
Thirteen people died in the attack and in street violence that followed
in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other Haitian cities. Opposition
politicians accused the government of using the attack as a pretext to crack down on critics.
The attack came on top of a long-running political crisis that began
with parliamentary elections in May 2000. Critics at home and abroad
charged that the method of calculating the results gave Lavalas more outright wins in Senate contests than it was due.
The ruling party and the main opposition group, Democratic Convergence,
have since been in a deadlock that has held up international aid
worth hundreds of millions of dollars.