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,
resolution will be found,'' it said Tuesday in a statement.
Disgruntled legislators, even more unpopular than Preval, appear unable
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