Haiti. On February 6, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was
installed as president, and on March 2 the new government
with Jean-Marie Chéréstal as prime minister.
However, the opposition party Convergence Démocratique
(CD) has refused to acknowledge the ruling party Fanmi
Lavala's (FL) election victory from May 2000, and at the
same time installed Gérard Gourgue as its own "shadow
Countryaah, the protracted political crisis in Haiti has caused the
US cooperative organization OAS to act as a mediator, and
the tense situation between government and opposition seemed
to be resolved when negotiations broke down in May.
Despite Aristide's talk of dialogue and peace, he refused
to agree to the proposals for re-election and a
reorganization of the national electoral commission
presented by the OAS and the opposition accepted. While the
institutional crisis remains unresolved, all international
aid to Haiti is being withheld.
On July 16, 1996, Claude Raymond was arrested for leading
terrorist activities. He was general and former minister of
Duvalier's government. Four days later, André Armand was
killed by unknown murderers. He was formerly a lieutenant in
the army and head of a pressure squad for former soldiers.
The murder took place after he publicly stated that
dismissed members of the military planned to murder Préval
Prime Minister Rosny Smarth's resignation in 1997 and the
president's decision to dissolve parliament and rule by
decrees caused the political temperature to rise drastically
and sharpened the confrontation with the opposition. In
November, a homemade bomb exploded in front of a school,
killing a woman and injuring 14 - including 4
schoolchildren. In March 1999, Jacques-Edouard Alexis from
the Lavalas Alliance was appointed new Prime Minister.
In September 1997, the UN peacekeeping force was replaced
by a 300-member civilian police force that remained under
the auspices of the UN Security Council. It was finally
withdrawn from the country in January 2000. The elections
scheduled for March were postponed to May to allow more time
to resolve voter registration issues. Only a month after the
election and widespread and violent protests across the
country, the Supreme Electoral Commission was forced to
announce the election result, giving Lavala's 16 out of the
Senate's 17 seats. Meanwhile, the United States, the UN and
the OAS continued the recount of the votes.
In April 2000, the country's best-known journalist was
killed. Jean Dominique, who also owned Radio Haiti Inter,
was shot on arrival at his job. The killing was not
resolved, but the investigation revealed the best-funded and
organized killing in the country's history. One of
Aristide's allies in the Senate invoked parliamentary
immunity to avoid testifying; evidence disappeared and one
of the witnesses was killed and the body disappeared. A few
months later, another journalist was killed with machete.
The tracks also pointed this time towards government
The opposition boycotted the presidential election in
February 2001. Its main candidates failed to stand, and the
opposition appointed an "alternative president" instead.
Despite the boycott and almost total absence of foreign
observers, the election was conducted. It did not
surprisingly give a crushing victory to Aristide, which
could thus begin its 3rd presidential term. Although the
Supreme Electoral Commission reported that Aristide had
obtained 62% of the vote, it was around 20-30% for both the
diplomats and the IDEN and foreign media. Negotiations
between Aristide and the opposition broke down as no
agreement could be reached on the composition of a new
electoral commission that could re-examine the votes cast.
The main reason for the collapse was disagreement over how
many seats each party should have.
In December 2001, a group of heavily armed former
military men entered the presidential palace, opening fire
on the presidential guard. The coup attempt left 12 killed.
Former police officer Guy Philippe was later arrested in the
Dominican Republic after being named the intellectual backer
of the coup attempt.
In January 2002, the country's economic crisis prompted
Prime Minister Cherestal to resign. In March, Parliament, by
a large majority, appointed Yvon Neptune to the post.
Neptune was a close friend of Aristide and promised to enter
into a dialogue with the opposition to resolve the country's
political, economic and social problems.
Haiti remains an extremely polarized society. In 2002,
one percent of the population of European descent owned half
of the wealth in the country, and 15% of the population
controlled almost all of the country's property. Of the 80%
of the population living in poverty, 73% live in extreme
poverty without sewerage, often without running water and
for almost everyone without access to electricity. Haiti
remains the poorest country on the American continent.