April 10, 2000

Haitian government sanctioning violence, opposition says

                   PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Opposition politicians accused Haiti's
                   government Monday of sanctioning violence in an alleged effort to derail overdue
                   elections and impose a dictatorship on the Caribbean nation.

                   "It is clear: Lavalas wants to restore dictatorship in Haiti," Serge Gilles, head of
                   the opposition Space for Concord coalition, said of former President
                   Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party.

                   Gilles' statements, broadcast on radio, followed an incident Saturday when
                   Aristide supporters burned offices housing two opposition groups, Confederation
                   of Democratic Unity and Space for Concord office. Armed police nearby did not

                   The attack came after a funeral for journalist Jean Dominique, a supporter of
                   Aristide and his hand-picked successor, President Rene Preval. Dominique was
                   assassinated April 3.

                   Prominent Haitians have reported receiving death threats amid rising uncertainty
                   over whether Preval's government will hold legislative and local elections that
                   have been postponed three times.

                   The opposition claims Preval and Aristide want to postpone elections until a
                   presidential vote in December, when Aristide will seek a second term. That way,
                   pro-Aristide candidates can ride his coattails to victory, opponents argue.

                   Preval shut down Parliament in January 1999.

                   Aristide last week said he supported separate elections for the legislature and
                   presidency. He also denied his supporters were responsible for recent political
                   violence that has killed at least nine people.

                   Preval insists that Haiti won't hold elections until its elections council, plagued by
                   logistical problems, is organized enough to run them.

                   At Dominique's otherwise peaceful funeral Saturday, a few dozen Aristide
                   activists threatened to kill opposition leader Evans Paul, who called on a foreign
                   diplomatic mission this weekend to provide safe haven in Port-au-Prince for his
                   family and dozens of orphans who are his wards.

                   He also said Aristide activists were forcing Paul's partisans to flee their homes in
                   Port-au-Prince's slums.

                   "They can eliminate me at any moment," Paul said in an interview. "I'm beginning
                   to wonder whether Dominique's death isn't part of a diabolical plot to have a
                   pretext to muzzle the opposition."

                   Aristide was elected president in 1990 but was overthrown in a 1991 army coup.
                   A U.S.-led intervention ousted the army-backed regime in 1994 and restored
                   Aristide to power. Haitian law forbid Aristide from seeking a consecutive term as
                   president in 1995 elections.