Protest in Haiti threatens survival of provisional government
As burning tires blocked the main intersections of downtown Port-au-Prince, the position of Haiti's provisional government continued to weaken. Demonstrations calling for the resignation of the ruling civilian-military junta, the National Council for Reconciliation (CNR), and its replacement by a purely civilian provisional government, took place in the capital city and throughout the provinces. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people took to the streets of Port-au-Prince.
The government was greatly weakened last week by the resignation of its most popular civilian member, lawyer and human rights activist G'erard Gourgue.
In a televised speech last Wednesday night, Mr. Gourgue said he was resigning because of his frustration at the inability and unwillingness of the government to prosecute those charged with human rights violations and corruption under the recently fallen regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier. The prosecution of those who allegedly committed violations has been one of the major popular demands since Mr. Duvalier's departure on Feb. 7.
Demonstrations broke out the day after Gourgue resigned, sparked by a violent incident in the capital's suburb of Carrefour. As many as five demonstrators died.
In an attempt to calm the situation, the government gave in to public demands and ousted its three most unpopular members, Alix Cineas, Prosper Avril, and Max Vales. These three had been most closely associated with the Duvalier regime.
At the same time, junta leader Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy named Jacques Fran,cois, the CNR foreign minister, to the junta. Mr. Fran,cois was foreign minister in the government of Paul Magloire in the 1950s before Jean-Claude's father, Fran,cois Duvalier, came to power. This left General Namphy, William Regala, and Fran,cois as the three members of the junta.
In a further effort to give in to popular demands, Namphy named five new Cabinet ministers, two to replace Fran,cois and Gourgue, who was also justice minister, and three to replace Cabinet members who were seen as closely linked to the Duvalier regime.
These concessions have not calmed the situation. Significantly, in Monday's demonstrations, for the first time, crowds directed abuse at Namphy himself -- crying, ``We want Namphy out.''
One major problem facing any provisional government in Haiti is that the Army, the most important force in the country, is still largely made up of officers closely linked to Duvalier, some of whom are guilty of human rights crimes. Many officers insist on the presence of Duvalier supporters in the government as a guarantee that Army officers will not be prosecuted.
As Jean-Claude Bajeux, a prominent activist and intellectual recently returned from exile, put it, ``The Army is horribly afraid that it will have to give an accounting for almost 30 years of power.''
Another question concerns the government's competence. Several analysts agree with Mr. Bajeux who said: ``Either because of indecision or inefficiency, the CNR and Cabinet have largely shown themselves incapable of taking the simplest decisions regarding either the day-to-day governing of the country or the larger political issues regarding the general direction in which the government should be moving.''
However, according to Bajeux, opposition political groups in Haiti have also not defined what the role of a provisional government should be.
Many political analysts in Haiti believe that the government as presently constituted will not last.
Speculation centers around Gourgue, and whether or not he would consider joining any new provisional government. Before demonstrators started calling for Namphy's ouster, some analysts speculated that a new government made up of Namphy and Gourgue might be formed. However, Gourgue told the Monitor on Monday that he would not accept any position in a council made up of several people.
A major problem facing any new provisional government will be finding enough competent administrators who have not been overly compromised with connection to the Duvalier regime. Political analysts also question whether or not the Army will be able to rid itself of the most compromised elements in its own ranks and successfully negotiate with competent civilians in order to attract them into a new government.
Many talented administrators could be found among the ranks of the exiles who have been returning to Haiti in substantial numbers. However, they are politically divided and mistrusted by many local Haitians.
The atmosphere gives rise to speculation about a new wave of Army repression or even a military takeover. But some analysts say the Army is too divided to stage a coup, and that the United States would not permit it. These analysts speculate that if anarchy deepened, US military intervention could not be ruled out.