December 6, 2001

OAS official in Haiti aims to restart talks

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) --A top official of the Organization of
American States has returned to Haiti to try to restart talks between the
government and opposition, seeking to end a 19-month political stalemate.

OAS Assistant-Secretary General Luigi Einaudi arrived Wednesday and then met
separately with President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and opposition leaders.

"I have come to take the temperature of the situation" and to urge the two sides to
reach an agreement before the holidays, Einaudi said on his l7th trip to the Caribbean
country since disputed elections last year.

Talks broke down in October between the government and the 15-party opposition
alliance Convergence.

The conflict centers on the opposition's charges of rigging in local and legislative
elections won last year by Aristide's Lavalas Family party. The OAS determined that
seven senators declared winners after first-round voting should have faced runoffs.

Those senators have now resigned, and the opposition and government have agreed
to hold new elections, but have failed to agree to terms for a transition.

The disagreement has prompted foreign donors to block hundreds of millions of
dollars in aid.

Convergence has agreed to recognize Aristide's legitimacy, but an alliance
spokesman, former Sen. Paul Denis, said a deal would require other governing party
officials to leave office.

In a November 23 letter to OAS Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria, Aristide
complained that issues had been added "to the negotiating table that were never
anticipated." He said the resignations of the seven senators should already have
cleared the way for a resumption of aid.

The opposition demands that parliament be temporarily dismissed while new
elections are held. Aristide's Lavalas Family party insists officials stay in office until
the new election's winners are installed.

In the meantime, with most of Haiti's 8.2 million people living in abject poverty, the
country's worsening economic situation have increasingly provoked unrest.

Sporadic, sometimes violent, demonstrations have broken out across the country
since October, and several people have been killed in clashes between government
and opposition supporters.

On Monday, a mob stoned and hacked to death a radio journalist, Brignol Lindor,
who last week received death threats for inviting opposition supporters onto his talk

The Trinidad-based Association of Caribbean Media Workers condemned the killing
in a statement Thursday and urged Haitian authorities "to take strong action" to
ensure that the perpetrators are promptly brought to justice.

The country's problems regularly prompt Haitians to leave in rickety boats for
Florida. The number of departures has not significantly increased this year, but more
than 200 people are feared to have died this month when their two boats appeared to
have been lost at sea.

Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.