The Miami Herald
March 23, 2001

 Rival leader challenges Aristide to arrest him


 PORT-AU-PRINCE -- Gerard Gourgue walks into the backyard of his home, and the men who are watching over him, his family and his
 students, snap to attention. They salute and refer to him as ``Your Excellency.''

 The 75-year-old Gourgue has been named the provisional president of Haiti by a coalition of political parties that accuse President
 Jean-Bertrand Aristide of stealing the office. Aristide supporters, members of the president's Family Lavalas party and Haiti's Senate have called for Gourgue's arrest.

 Without naming his rival, Aristide said Wednesday that the Convergence Democratique, as the opposition coalition is called, was violating the law because it is acting as
 if there were two presidents in the country.

 ``Arresting me would be the most beautiful gift Aristide could give me,'' Gourgue said Thursday, as several supporters stopped by to pay their respect and speak with him.
 ``This would be the drop of water that breaks the dam.''

 The violations of law cited by Aristide, usurping titles and functions, do not apply, Gourgue said.

 ``I have no function,'' he said. ``I'm a symbol. You don't arrest a symbol.'' Lavalas officials are misinterpreting the law, he said.

 ``They can't come here and tell me what the laws are,'' said Gourgue, a former professor at the national law school who counts Prime Minister Jean-Marie Cherestal and
 Justice Minister Gary Lissade as former students. ``I've spent 30 years teaching law. I'm an encyclopedia.''


 Gourgue's home, which is also the location of a secondary school he runs with 400 students attending, came under attack Tuesday from Aristide's supporters, while
 another group was attacking the coalition's headquarters not far away.

 Gourgue showed three bags of large rocks -- he calls them painful memories -- collected after the riots. He pointed out an eight-inch diameter steel pipe the crowd used
 as a battering ram to break down the walls.

 ``The assault lasted two hours,'' said Paula Castor Gourgue, the opposition leader's wife of 45 years. ``We called everywhere without results.''

 Some children were able to escape by climbing a ladder that allowed them to jump over the wall into neighbors' yards. The riot police came later and escorted the other
 children out of the school.

 Gourgue was calm as he toured his property, showing off the scars from the attack. He wasn't afraid, he said.

 He is no stranger to political controversy. He has a long past in Haiti's political history, beginning in 1956 when he supported a candidate who ran against François ``Papa
 Doc'' Duvalier.

 In 1986, Gourgue was one of two civilians on a seven-member military council that replaced Jean-Claude Duvalier. Gourgue spent 45 days on the council.

 Gourgue's wife has her own political lineage. She is the sister of Suzy Castor, the wife of Gerard Pierre Charles, who broke away from Aristide's Lavalas party years ago
 and whose Organization of People in Struggle is the dominant member of the opposition coalition.

 In 1979, Gourgue, his wife and four daughters were attacked while Gourgue, as head of the Haitian League of Human Rights, was giving a lecture on the presidency-for-life
 of the younger Duvalier. ``We have paid with our blood for human rights in this country,'' Gourgue said. ``This is not something we're just starting.''


 The National Front of Concertation picked Gourgue in 1987 as its candidate for the presidency but those elections were called off after dozens of voters were murdered by
 thugs backed by the military.

 ``You know I was elected president with a huge majority,'' said Gourgue, a twinkle in his eyes.

 Daniel Supplice said Gourgue became the opposition's choice for provisional president because of the respect he commands as someone who knows the law and who is
 widely regarded for his integrity.

 ``He's a man everyone knows and respects,'' said Supplice of Generation 2004, another participant in the coalition. ``He makes everyone comfortable. He's not an
 extremist. He's a symbol of old Haiti, people with morality.''

 Said Gourgue, ``I'm above it all.''

 It is hard to gauge Gourgue's popularity because only few of the coalition's supporters have taken to the streets to march, unlike Lavalas, which can mobilize hundreds of
 supporters within hours.

 ``The 50 people who were inside the headquarters of the coalition two days ago under siege were just there,'' said Firmin Jean-Louis, an aide. ``If we wanted people
 around, we could have had hundreds, thousands. People are afraid to come out because they know what will happen to them.''

 Haitian police officials said Thursday that shootings reported at the coalition offices were coming from inside the building and rejected charges that the crowds were
 responsible for any gunfire. They also denied that police officers aid the Aristide supporters.

 Gourgue has called for the return of the Haitian army that Aristide disbanded. He dismisses the charge that the coalition represents only well-to-do Haitians who are said
 to be afraid of an Aristide presidency because his political base is among the poor blacks who want to see a redistribution of the country's meager resources.

 ``I'm the president of all Haitians,'' Gourgue said.


 Although Aristide repeated on Wednesday that he was open to dialogue, Gourgue said he was waiting for the president to take the first step.

 ``Acta, non verba,'' -- acts, not words, said Gourgue, who sprinkles his conversations with Latin quotes and verse from 17th Century French playwrights. Aristide ``should
 write a letter to the Convergence and tell them that he wants to meet again,'' he said. ``He should be doing it because he's the power.''

                                    © 2001