PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) -- A leader of Haiti's parliament said
on Wednesday the legislature would continue to function despite what he
called President Rene Preval's desire to seize control of the country.
"Unless the president makes a formal decree-- which will confirm his desire
for one-man rule-- I am still president of the Senate," Edgard Leblanc,
president of the upper house of Haiti's parliament, said.
"Preval wants to make sure there is no parliament," he said.
The Senate president met with reporters amid a feverish debate on the future
of the Caribbean nation's fragile democracy and in the aftermath of a
shooting attack on Preval's sister, Marie-Claude Preval Calvin. Calvin
received three gunshot wounds and her chauffeur was killed on Tuesday.
In a nationally televised address on Monday night, Preval said he believed
the terms of most members of parliament had expired and the body should
be disbanded. He also said he had the right to appoint his nominee for prime
minister by decree, without waiting for the legislature's approval.
Preval's speech came hours after hundreds of protesters burned tires in
streets of Port-au-Prince and marched on parliament in an unsuccessful
attempt to keep it from opening.
Leblanc, who is a member of the Organisation of People in Struggle party,
which controls parliament, said he saw the move as an attempt by Preval to
assure that members of his own Lavalas Family party were elected to the
The Lavalas Family was founded by former President Jean Bertrand
Aristide, a fiery populist priest who became Haiti's first freely elected
president. Aristide, who was ousted in a military coup in 1991, was restored
to power in 1994 after the occupation of Haiti by 20,000 U.S.-led troops.
Several hundred U.S. troops remain posted in Haiti.
On Wednesday, U.S. officials expressed concern about the situation in Haiti.
"We note with concern the shooting of President Preval's sister," White
House spokesman Joe Lockhart said. "We will continue to work with the
parties, both through Mr. Lake (former national security adviser Anthony
Lake) and continuing to work with all sides there to try to break the
impasse, and we continue to stress the importance of the continuity of all of
Haiti's democratic institutions," he said.
Lake left Haiti on Monday after spending four days meeting with its political
leaders in an attempt to resolve the political crisis before parliament opened.
U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said: "We know ...
President Preval has stated he has neither the authority to extend or dissolve
the current parliament. And we and others in the diplomatic corps are urging
all parties to continue their efforts to resolve this dispute."
Calvin, a member of the Lavalas Family who heads the presidential
secretariat, was hit by three bullets when two gunmen on a motorcycle fired
on her car in the Haitian capital.
She remained in stable condition in a hospital on Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear whether the shooting was politically motivated.
But one politician said the attack might have been aimed at the driver, Jean
Franklin Versailles, a former security guard for Aristide.
Versailles' brother was shot and killed by unknown gunmen one year ago,
the politician said.
Others linked the attack to Preval's speech.
"It is not a coincidence that this murderous attack happened the day after
speech of the president stating the end of the term of most legislative
officials," said Eric Cantave, a spokesman for the opposition National
Committee of the Congress of Democratic Movements (KONAKOM).
Copyright 1999 Reuters.