Seven More Reported Killed as General Strike Continues
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Business, church and political leaders said Friday Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy should reorganize the governing council or resign as seven people were reported killed in the fourth day of a general strike.
Those deaths raised to 22 the number of people killed in strike-related violence, with more than 80 wounded. Church bells tolled Friday for the victims.
″Everyone is losing their heads,″ Francois Wolff Ligonde, Roman Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince, said at a hospital where four of the victims killed by gunshots were taken Friday.
Bodies of three other victims were found in a slum on the capital’s outskirts, a radio station reported.
Stores in Port-au-Prince were shut and most residents remained indoors, but soldiers fired into the air to disperse looters outside a hardware store.
Two youths were dragged from the store, beaten with rifle butts and clubs and then taken away. The soldiers shot in the direction of journalists who witnessed the action.
The three-man governing council includes one civilian but is controlled by Namphy, the council president, and Gen. Williams Regala. The council was created after dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier fled the country during violent street demonstrations in February 1986.
Thursday night, the council sought to restore peace by revoking a decree issued June 23 that gave the Supreme Court, appointed by the council, control over elections.
That decree had removed the authority of the nine-member Provisional Electoral Counci to conduct elections.
The independent electoral council had been specifically authorized by the constitution, approved in a March 29 referendum, to plan and conduct elections. Virtually every sector of society except the armed forces denounced the June 23 decree and called for strikes.
During the 29 years of dictatorships of the late Francois ″Papa Doc″ Duvalier and then his son Jean-Claude, some regional elections were held, but critics said they were dominated by government fraud. Jean-Claude Duvalier is now living in exile in France.
Jean-Claude Bajeux, a leader of the committee of 57 political, peasant, student and labor groups that organized this week’s strikes, told reporters protests would continue until Namphy and Regala step down.
″The people are fed up and must have a change of government,″ Bajeux, a former Catholic priest, said. ″Namphy shut all the doors. He talks only to his cronies.″
Bajeux said the committee would accept a new governing council of two civilians and one military man, and suggested the military representative be Col. Jean Thomas, now serving in Haiti’s embassy in Argentina. He said the one civilian now on the council, Luc Hector, a former president of the Supreme Court, was acceptable. He did not propose who the other civilian member should be.
The Rev. Serge Miot, secretary of the Haitian Catholic Bishops Conference, said in an interview with The Associated Press that ″people won’t stop protesting until there is an agreement between the CNG (National Governing Council) and the 57 organizations. A dialogue between the associations and the CNG is necessary to defuse the crisis.″
But he stressed he was speaking for himself, and noted the Catholic church has taken no position on the strike or governing council.
Namphy has said the governing council will rule until national elections, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 27, are held. Local elections are set for Aug. 23.
Haiti’s first freely elected president since the Duvalier family rule is scheduled to take office on Feb. 7, 1988 - the second anniversary of Jean- Claude Duvalier’s flight to exile.
Friday was declared by strike organizers to be a day of mourning, but the boycott appeared to continue in all of Haiti’s major cities, according to the local news media.
Bajeux said the strike would be lifted Saturday and Sunday to allow people to shop, and then be reinstated Monday.
Meanwhile, 76 Rhode Island residents were stranded in Haiti when Eastern Airlines canceled its flights, said Lynn Panchuk. She is a spokeswoman for the Anywhere Travel Agency in Cranston, R.I., which arranged the weeklong trip.
The group from the East Bay Christian Center was to return Friday morning. Mike Johnston, a deacon of the church based in Providence, R.I., said the group went to Haiti to deliver supplies to missionaries in the eastern part of the country.
Lorraine King, an Eastern Airlines spokeswoman in Miami, said flights were canceled Friday morning when the airline was unable to contact its office in Port-au-Prince, but contact was re-established later and flights were expected to resume at daybreak Saturday.
Lynn Panchuk said the Americans were in no immediate danger because no fighting has been reported near the airport.