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25863: (news) Chamberlain: Aristide's party split over Haiti election (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
By Joseph Guyler Delva
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, July 28 (Reuters) - Ten weeks before elections
in Haiti the largest political party, the Lavalas Family of ousted
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the poor masses, still does not know
if it will participate.
Overwhelmed by political and gang violence that has killed some 900
people since September, the Caribbean state is struggling to put its
derailed democracy back on track. But it faces the possibility of doing so
without the party that has dominated politics for 20 years.
One faction within the party -- a grass-roots movement that helped
turn the country from dictatorship to democracy in the 1980s -- believes
Lavalas should not take part unless Aristide, exiled after a bloody revolt
last year, is allowed to return.
"No one, no party wants elections more than us, because we'll win any
democratic and free elections," said Samba Boukman, a spokesman for
grass-roots organizations affiliated with Lavalas. "But it makes no sense
to go to vote when you know your president can be kidnapped any time."
Another faction, saying Lavalas must continue to fight for the masses
in the poorest country in the Americas, believes the party should indeed
participate in the local, presidential and legislative elections scheduled
for October and November.
"We definitely want to take part in those elections, but as election
dates draw near, the government is doing everything to make sure we don't
participate," said Yvon Feuille, a moderate senator from Lavalas.
Some party officials say Aristide's position will be critical.
"Aristide is still the leader of the party," said Felito Doran, a party
spokesman. "His position is key in any decision to go to election."
Aristide, whose movement forced Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier from
power in 1986, became Haiti's first freely elected president in 1991 and
won a second term in 2000. He left for exile in South Africa in February
2004 driven out by an armed uprising and prompted to go by Washington and
The Lavalas faction arguing for Aristide's return says such a move is
necessary to restore Haiti's constitutional order but the U.S.-backed
interim government repeatedly accuses the former president's supporters of
Human rights groups, in turn, have criticized the government for
jailing Aristide supporters, including his former prime minister, Yvon
Neptune, and Rev. Gerard Jean-Juste, a Roman Catholic priest who has become
a popular figure with the poor in Aristide's absence.
"When the government keeps former Prime Minister Neptune in jail
illegally, when they arbitrarily arrest and detain Father Jean-Juste, and
when they detain so many other political prisoners, the authorities are
just trying to prevent us from running," Feuille said.
In a report issued on Thursday, the London-based rights group Amnesty
International said Haitians remained mired in a human rights crisis that
could worsen as the election nears. It said little progress had been made
since the interim government took over and U.N. peacekeepers arrived last
"Politically motivated arbitrary detentions, ill treatment,
extrajudicial executions, deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians,
rape, death threats and intimidation are routine and are perpetrated with
impunity," the group said.