USA Today
January 12, 1999

Haitian president, government in crisis

                   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - Bypassing a hostile Parliament, Haitian
                   President Rene Preval told the nation he will create a new government by
                   decree. Hours later, motorcycle gunmen launched an attack Tuesday on
                   Preval's sister, shooting her and killing her driver.

                   Preval's announcement late Monday aimed to break a 17-month stalemate
                   that has left Haiti without a budget or a functioning government and halted
                   the flow of aid to this impoverished Caribbean nation. But it also ignited
                   fears that Haiti's fledging democracy has failed, leaving the country on the
                   road to dictatorship once again.

                   The motive for the shooting Tuesday afternoon in Bois Vern, near
                   downtown Port-au-Prince, wasn't immediately known, and there were no

                   Two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire a vehicle carrying Marie-Claude
                   Calvin, wounding her and killing her driver, local Radio Quisqueya
                   reported. She was being treated for two gunshot wounds to the chest at
                   Port-au-Prince's University Hospital.

                   Preval rushed to the hospital, accompanied by Haiti's police chief. Her
                   condition was not immediately known.

                   Preval's announcement on the government came in a nationally televised
                   broadcast late Monday, and dealt a blow to Haiti's flagging experiment
                   with democracy. Haiti has suffered four military coups since 1986, when a
                   popular uprising brought an end to the Duvalier family's 28-year

                   Monday was the original end-of-term date for the legislature, dominated
                   by foes of Preval and his mentor, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
                   Preval says lawmakers' recent vote to extend the term indefinitely until
                   unscheduled elections in the future had no legal validity.

                   ''I have neither the authority to prolong their terms nor to dissolve
                   Parliament,'' Preval said.

                   Parliament had failed to ratify four Preval choices for premier, and Preval
                   said Monday that once his latest nominee - Education Minister
                   Jacques-Edouard Alexis - names a Cabinet, he will decree it the new

                   ''Preval has staged a coup against our democratic institutions,'' Senate
                   President Edgard Leblanc told The Associated Press after Preval's

                   ''Preval has become a dictator,'' added Rep. Arry Marsan, also from the
                   majority Struggling People's Organization party.

                   Haiti has not had an effective government since June 1997, when Premier
                   Rosny Smarth resigned to protest elections allegedly rigged with Preval's
                   complicity to favor Aristide loyalists.

                   Now Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican
                   Republic, appears destined for another bout of uncertainty.

                   The U.S. State Department was not pleased with Preval's announcement,
                   noting with ''regret'' the further gaps between Preval and the legislature.

                   ''We hope with continuing good faith and effort by the parties concerned, a
                   resolution will be found,'' it said Tuesday in a statement.

                   Disgruntled legislators, even more unpopular than Preval, appear unable to
                   muster much protest from ordinary Haitians, who are struggling simply to
                   deal with their own grinding poverty.

                   ''The lawmakers brought this down upon their own heads. They don't
                   represent the people's aspirations,'' said artist Mathieu Painvier.

                   Like many Haitians, Painvier still believes in the charismatic Aristide.

                   In 1994, President Clinton sent 20,000 U.S. soldiers to Haiti to restore
                   Aristide to power after three years of repressive military-backed rule. But
                   Aristide, who has already begun his re-election campaign for the 2000
                   presidential election, now stands accused of shady machinations.

                   Alexis' Cabinet is likely to be dominated by Aristide loyalists. And
                   Aristide's Lavalas Family party, founded before he handed over power to
                   his handpicked successor in February 1996, probably will sweep elections
                   - if the sides ever agree on how to hold a vote.

                   ''Preval has executed the anti-democratic plan that he and Aristide have
                   been preparing for a long time,'' Marsan, the lawmaker, declared.

                   Others agreed with that assessment.

                   ''A totalitarian government is just around the corner,'' said Haitian
                   Chamber of Commerce president Olivier Nadal.

                   By The Associated Press