Haiti talks break down one day before inauguration
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Talks between Haiti's opposition and
President-elect Jean-Bertrand Aristide's party broke down Tuesday, and the
opposition immediately announced its own alternative president, setting up a
struggle for power one day before Aristide's inauguration.
The 15-party opposition alliance Convergence announced former presidential
candidate Gerard Gourgue as the country's provisional president.
One of the Convergence leaders, Evans Paul, called for the people "to rise
and peacefully demonstrate their rejection of the president in front of the National
Palace on Wednesday, where he is to give his inaugural address there at noon.
Convergence refuses to recognize Aristide's legitimacy as president, saying
party won legislative and local elections last year through fraud. The opposition
boycotted the presidential vote.
The talks were held with the stated purpose of finding common ground, and
two parties had set a deadline of midnight Monday to reach an agreement. But
the talks were extended into the early morning, and then they failed, according to
those who were there.
Aristide's Lavalas Family party and the opposition alliance blamed each
the breakdown, with mutual accusations of intransigence.
Gourgue, a 75-year-old lawyer and human rights activist, was minister of
in the ruling junta that followed the ouster of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in
1986. He was a presidential candidate in the 1987 elections that were aborted by
The selection of Gourgue (pronounced GOORG) as provisional president was
revealed to The Associated Press by Hubert Deronceray, a leading member of
Convergence. The Cabinet members in the opposition's parallel government have
yet to be appointed.
The negotiations between the opposition and Aristide's party began Saturday
night with the signature of a protocol and continued Sunday and Monday in the
presence of foreign diplomats.
Aristide was re-elected president on November 26, handily defeating his
little-known opponents. His Lavalas Family party also won more than 80 percent
of local and parliamentary seats in a series of elections last year.
The OAS said 10 Senate seats won by Aristide candidates should have gone
second round vote, and some countries threatened to withhold or rechannel aid
through non-governmental agencies if the government did not revise the results.
"The respect of democratic principles has not yet been re-established in
the European Union said in a statement on January 29, when it decided to block
$49 million in aid to Haiti. Some $17.7 million, intended to help cover the
country's budget deficit, also was suspended.
Members of U.S. President George W. Bush's Republican Party have called
Aristide's election as president undemocratic. But U.S. ambassador Brian Dean
Curran said Monday that "the formation of a provisional government does not
advance prospects for dialogue or a solution of the political crisis."
The Lavalas Family position was expressed in a letter Aristide wrote to
U.S. President Bill Clinton in December.
Aristide offered to rectify the election results, include opposition figures
government, and appoint a new provisional electoral council.
The opposition rejected Aristide's offers, saying last year's elections
nullified and new elections should be held.
In a proposal, Convergence offered Aristide one seat on a three-member
presidential council. An opposition premier would rule by decree, and general
elections would be held by 2003.
"We want real democracy -- not a piece of the government," said Convergence
delegate Mischa Gaillard.
"We want a compromise," said Jonas Petit, a Lavalas Family delegate to
talks. "Unfortunately, Convergence wants to wipe the slate clean."
Aristide first won the presidency in a landslide electoral victory in 1990.
army ousted him in September 1991, and a U.S. military invasion three years
later restored him to power.
Constitutionally barred from running for a consecutive five-year term,
stepped down in 1996 and handed power to his chosen successor, Rene Preval.
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.