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Aristide Accepts Prime Minister; Parliament Leaders Renege on Offer

January 9, 1992

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Deposed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has agreed to accept one of his harshest critics as prime minister, but even that may not be enough to return him to power.

The announcement that Aristide would accept Communist leader Rene Theodore as prime minister came Wednesday, but hours later several Haitian legislators suggested the choice had been rejected by the military, which toppled Aristide on Sept. 30.

Theodore ″is not the correct choice for these times ... because he is a Communist,″ said Sen. Thomas Eddy Dupiton. ″He is an honest man, politically speaking, but his ideology will meet strong opposition.″

″Many political sectors do not accept him,″ the Senate president, Dejean Belizaire, told The Associated Press. ″We tried to convince President Aristide of this, but he was adamant.″

The U.S. State Department welcomed the choice and expressed hope that the Haitian Parliament would quickly formalize Theodore’s selection.

Aristide could not be reached for comment.

Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest who became Haiti’s first-ever freely elected president, was exiled to Venezuela after his ouster.

Theodore was an outspoken critic of Aristide’s administration, charging that the president abused his authority and encouraged mob violence against critics. Because of his remarks, he is despised by pro-Aristide activists, who consider him a traitor to the reformist cause.

In protest of Aristide’s ouster, the Organization of American States - which includes the United States - imposed harsh economic sanctions on Western Hemisphere’s most impoverished nation.

Thousands of Haitians have since fled their country.

Haitian legislators agreed in November to hold talks with Aristide when it became clear the OAS would not lift its embargo against Haiti until Aristide was reinstated.

Aristide let it be known on Dec. 23 that he would accept Theodore as his prime minister. That deal fell through about a week later when Aristide’s allies in parliament rejected the choice.

The parliamentary leaders had told Aristide that Theodore and conservative banker Marc Bazin were acceptable choices for prime minister. But Belizaire said he had recently realized Theodore wouldn’t be accepted.

Aristide didn’t consult with the legislators prior to choosing Theodore a second time, Belizaire said.

The latest agreement was announced with much fanfare by Augusto Ramirez Ocampo, the leader of the OAS team that has been brokering the negotiations.

Ramirez Ocampo said the agreement ″should prepare the way for Aristide to return to Haiti in a peaceful manner, without revenge, without hatred ... without blood.″

In Washington, OAS Secretary-General Joao Baena Soares, who is normally cautious in his statements, said he was ″very optimistic″ that a solution was at hand.

Theodore, an exile during much of the 29-year Duvalier dictatorship, has since avoided confrontation and sought a working relationship with other Haitian sectors, including the influential right wing.

He has focused on shaping a reformist platform that emphasizes social and economic justice and on organizing his long-repressed party’s ranks.

He was a candidate in the December 1990 presidential election, won by Aristide in a landslide. Theodore finished fourth with 3.5 percent of the vote.

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