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Context Haiti -- 03/25/04 2:19PM EST Thursday, 3/25/2004 [link to this item]

Haiti crisis news update

On Background


A Tripartite Council, formed in accordance with Organization of American States resolutions CP/Res. 861 (February 19, 2004), CP/Res. 862 (February 26, 2004) and UN resolution S/1529 (February 29, 2004), met on March 5th to choose a seven member Council of Sages.  The Tripartite Council consisted of a minor Aristide administration functionary, Leslie Voltaire, Democratic Convergence spokesman Paul Denis and U.N. Resident Coordinator Adamo Guino. 


The resulting Council of Sages consisted of the following Hatians:


Lamartine Clermont – Catholic Church;

Ariel Henry – Democratic Platform opposition group;

Anne-Marie Issa – Owner of Signal FM Radio;

Mac Donald Jean – Anglican Church;

Daniele Magloire – associations unclear;

Christian Rousseau – University Administrator (previously involved in opposition student protests);

Paul Emile Simon – Fanmil Lavalas (party of Aristide government).


The make up of the Council was mildly tilted toward The Opposition.  The members were generally less known figures in Haitian politics.  With the brief exception of Paul Denis, the major opposition players have remained carefully out of the limelight.


            The Council of Sages selected Gerard Latortue as the new Prime Minister of Haiti.  Latortue, aged 69, lived in Boca Raton, Florida, at the time, and was in the news for negotiations to donate his large collection of Haitian books to the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  The grandfatherly Latortue served as Foreign Minister during the 131 day Leslie Manigat administration in 1988.  He has also served in the United Nations and as an international business consultant.


While the process of displacing the Lavalas government was underway, Jean Bertrand Aristide returned to the Caribbean basin region, settling temporarily in Jamaica.  On March 16 a press release was issued by the Democratic Convergence warning “the democratic sectors of the country and the transition government [to be] extremely vigilant of the danger represented by Aristide who extends the powerful tentacles of the international mafia and a network of illegal and violent groups.”  The press release also reported that “Armed supporters of Aristide continue to make themselves felt in the capitol through their sporadic acts of pillage and assassination.”





Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue has sworn in his cabinet.  The cabinet members have been chosen entirely from The Opposition.  The following members are closely associated with the OPL and Evans Paul’s Democratic Convergence:


Adeline Magloire Chancy –Women’s Conditions;

Philippe Mathieu – Agriculture;

Yvon Simeon – Foreign Affairs;

Yves Andre Wainwright – Environment.


The following members are closely associated with Andre Apaid’s Group of 184:


Pierre Buteau – Education;

Bernard Gousse – Justice;

Daniele Saint-Lot – Commerce and Industry.


Danielle St. Lot has been Director of Training for the controversial USAID-funded, community radio development program, RAMAK, which helped to fund The Opposition’s efforts to establish media outlets.  Finance Minister Henri Bazin is the President of the Haitian Association of Economists.  Josette Bijoux has been named Minister of Health.


Planning Minister Smarck Michel was once Prime Minister under the first Aristide government, which position he held as a concession to the United States and the International Monetary Fund.  Smarck is known as one of the few right-wing members of Lavalas.  His presence was meant to guarantee the privatization of Haiti’s state controlled businesses.  Those businesses provide what little funding the Haitian government received from outside of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)/IMF framework, there being no effective taxation of the wealthy elite of the country.  Smarck resigned after the Haitian public resoundingly opposed privatization and Aristide refused to continue with the privatization program.


Interior Minister Herard Abraham is a former head of the Haitian army fired by Aristide in 1991.  His replacement, Raoul Cedras, in turn replaced Aristide by coup later in the same year and presided over an administration which featured the infamous FRAPH death squads.   Abraham’s presence in the cabinet is a clear statement of the government’s intent to reconstitute the Haitian army.


While the mainstream press, in the United States, reports well-attended Opposition rallies in Port Au Prince, and government attempts to maintain peace and order in spite of armed Lavalas partisans, information on the ground strongly suggests that rebel and government forces are actively persecuting overwhelmed and generally unarmed Lavalas supporters.  Father Michael Graves’s March 19th interview with Pacifica Radio’s program, Flashpoints, is representative of the thousands of on the ground reports which paint a very different picture.  Of the demonstrations then underway in Port Au Prince he objects that “They say hundreds of thousands of people were against Aristide but it was just the opposite.  They were for Aristide and a small crowd protested against him.”  Father Graves has worked for the American Orthodox Church, in Haiti, for 18 years and personally knows many of the political figures in Haiti.  Among the many observations he makes is that “Jean Bertrand Aristide was not in any way conspiring with drug dealers or anything like that.”


The International Republican Institute (IRI) has come under scrutiny for using $1.2 million dollars, provided by USAID, to train the Haitian Opposition.  The training was provided in IRI designed seminars held in Miami, Florida, and the Dominican Republic.  Spokespersons for the IRI deny any wrong doing.

-GWP | Comments
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