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Report: Haiti Leader’s Sister Shot

January 12, 1999

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Two gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire Tuesday on a vehicle carrying the sister of Haitian President Rene Preval, wounding her and killing her driver, a local radio station reported.

Marie-Claude Calvin was being treated for two gunshot wounds to the chest at Port-au-Prince’s University Hospital following the 3 p.m. attack, Radio Quisqueya reported. Her condition was not immediately known.

Mrs. Calvin’s driver, whose name was not released, was killed.

Preval rushed to the hospital, accompanied by Haiti’s police chief.

The motive for the shooting wasn’t immediately known, and there were no arrests. The shooting occurred in an area called Bois Vern, near downtown Port-au-Prince.

However, the shooting came the day after Preval announced he would bypass Haiti’s combative Parliament and appoint a new government by decree _ moves that critics said will set the troubled Caribbean nation on the road to dictatorship once again.

Preval’s nationally televised broadcast late Monday dealt a blow to the country’s flagging experiment with democracy. Haiti has suffered four military coups since 1986, when a popular uprising brought an end to the Duvalier family’s 28-year dictatorship.

Preval’s decision is likely to deepen a political stalemate that has left Haiti without a functioning government for 17 months and crushed hopes that democracy will bring some dignity to the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation.

Monday was the original end-of-term date for the legislature, dominated by foes of Preval and his mentor, former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Preval says lawmakers’ recent vote to extend the term indefinitely until unscheduled elections in the future had no legal validity.

``I have neither the authority to prolong their terms nor to dissolve Parliament,″ Preval said.

Parliament had failed to ratify four Preval choices for premier, and Preval said in his address that once his latest nominee _ Education Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis _ names a Cabinet, he will decree it the new government.

``Preval has staged a coup against our democratic institutions,″ Senate President Edgard Leblanc told The Associated Press after Preval’s address.

``Preval has become a dictator,″ added Rep. Arry Marsan, also from the majority Struggling People’s Organization party.

Haiti has not had an effective government since June 1997, when Premier Rosny Smarth resigned to protest elections allegedly rigged with Preval’s complicity to favor Aristide loyalists.

Now Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, appears destined for another bout of uncertainty.

While the United States and others have yet to react, local politicians had plenty to say.

``It is to be feared that, after some feeble protests of principle, the international community will resign itself to business as usual,″ said human rights activist Jean-Claude Bajeux, a one-time minister in Aristide’s government who has distanced himself from the former president.

Disgruntled legislators, even more unpopular than Preval, appear unable to muster much protest from ordinary Haitians, who are disillusioned by their dysfunctional democracy and their own grinding poverty.

``The lawmakers brought this down upon their own heads. They don’t represent the people’s aspirations,″ said artist Mathieu Painvier.

Like many Haitians, Painvier still believes in the charismatic Aristide.

In 1994, President Clinton sent 20,000 U.S. soldiers to Haiti to restore Aristide to power after three years of repressive military-backed rule.

Aristide, who has already begun his re-election campaign for the 2000 presidential election, now stands accused of shady machinations.

Alexis’ Cabinet is likely to be dominated by Aristide loyalists. And Aristide’s Lavalas Family party, founded before he handed over power to his handpicked successor in February 1996, probably will sweep elections _ if the sides ever agree on how to hold a vote.

``Preval has executed the anti-democratic plan that he and Aristide have been preparing for a long time,″ Marsan, the lawmaker, declared.

Others agreed with that assessment.

``A totalitarian government is just around the corner,″ said Haitian Chamber of Commerce president Olivier Nadal.

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