Police Assault on Haitian Politicians Criticized by Senators With AM-Haiti-Holding Out
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Haitian politicians on Sunday reacted angrily to an assault on a political meeting, saying it raised questions about whether the interim government has security forces under control.
The victim of the attack, Rene Theodore, head of Haiti’s Communist party but considered a moderate, said, ″We have to know whether or not the country is being held hostage by thugs.″
The Senate’s president called the body into emergency session to discuss the latest development in the political crisis that began with the army’s ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Sept. 30.
″Saturday’s aggression completely unmasks the government and, as such, will backfire,″ said Sen. Rony Mondestin, who on Friday had been co-sponsor of a Senate resolution calling for a 10-day delay in international talks on restoring Aristide.
″Those who still resist a negotiated settlement of the crisis have lost their moral credibility,″ said Mondestin, a member of Theodore’s party.
Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest, easily won the country’s first free elections and remains highly popular with many Haitians, particularly the poor. But he is strongly opposed by the military and conservative elite, which accused him of abusing his authority and encouraging mob attacks on opponents.
The 34-nation Organization of American States imposed a trade embargo on Haiti in an attempt to force the military to allow Aristide back. It has been pushing a plan calling for a new interim prime minister to be named who would work for the eventual return of Aristide.
The police attack came during a meeting called by Theodore, who was chosen by Aristide to be prime minister under the OAS plan.
Armed men in civilian clothes stormed into the party’s headquarters, beating politicians and killing his bodyguard. Victims identified the attackers as members of the police gang-control bureau.
It was the second attack this month on Theodore’s party offices. No one was hurt in the first incident on Jan. 18.
Theodore has said he would make no commitment to the OAS plan until Parliament, Aristide and the OAS worked out all details.
″Two things must be clarified now, at this moment of deepening crisis: whether the army commander-in-chief can or cannot control his troops and whether Parliament will or will not prolong the mandate of the interim government,″ Theodore said in a telephone interview Sunday.
Minutes after uniformed police put an end to the attack Saturday, the army commander-in-chief, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, arrived at the scene and promised to open an investigation.
Parliament is debating whether to extend the three-month term of Joseph Nerette, who was named interim president after Aristide’s ouster.
Senate President Dejean Belizaire on Sunday convened a special session, which chose three senators to meet with OAS officials. A date for the meeting was not announced.
Belizaire was expected to issue a statement Monday concerning the attack.