Leaders Agree to New Government; Aristide Status Unclear
May. 09, 1992
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ Coup leaders and top lawmakers on Saturday announced plans for a coalition government, seeking an end to economic sanctions imposed after the army-led ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Aristide was not mentioned in the announcement, though it said interim President Joseph Nerette would step down. The United States has repeatedly opposed any plan that rules out Aristide's return.
An earlier draft of the agreement said it would ''close the door'' on Aristide's return from exile. Supporters of the activist Roman Catholic priest said the final accord kept hope alive he could return to power.
''Everything now depends on the credibility of the new prime minister and his government. We have not lost hope that Aristide will be reinstated,'' Sen. Eudrice Raymond, an Aristide supporter, told The Associated Press on Saturday. ''A resolution that flies in the face of world opinion and the choice of the majority of Haitians is unacceptable,'' said Deputy Joseph Fignole Jean- Louis, leader of the National Front for Change and Democracy, a 15-party coalition that nominated Aristide for the presidency in 1990.
The ouster of Aristide, Haiti's first freely elected president, brought international condemnation and a hemisphere-wide trade embargo that has added to hardships in one of the world's poorest nations.
The accord, reached late Friday after six days of talks and announced by officials and state radio Saturday, did not say who would lead the new government or give a timetable for new administration.
The pact must be approved by the Senate and the lower house of parliament. It could face a strong challenge in the lower house, which is dominated by Aristide supporters.
A government aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Prime Minister Jean-Jacques Honorat would be replaced and that conservative Marc Bazin, runner-up to Aristide in the 1990 elections, was the leading candidate to replace Honorat.
Interim President Nerette, in office since Oct. 8, will ''step down at the opportune moment,'' the agreement said without elaboration.
Parliament had failed to approve an earlier plan - mediated by the Organization of American States and backed by the United States - that called for a coalition government under moderate Communist Rene Theodore and for Aristide's eventual return.
The latest resolution was signed by Honorat, army chief Gen. Raoul Cedras and the presidents of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, Dejean Belizaire and Alexandre Medard.
A new government would face the task of ending the 34-member OAS trade embargo and re-establish diplomatic relations suspended since the coup, which led to clashes that killed 300 to 500 people. The OAS plans to discuss Haiti at a meeting in the Bahamas beginning May 17.
Since the coup, tens of thousands of Haitians have risked their lives aboard rickety boats in attempts to reach Florida. Many of the refugees were intercepted by the Coast Guard and eventually returned to Haiti.
There has been a new surge of refugees, with Coast Guard officials reporting the interception of 2,379 Haitians in the first week of May.
But Haitians have been getting mixed signals on the commitment to rigidly enforce the embargo. American Airlines restored service to Haiti last week, and U.S. officials have not stopped the flow of contraband goods from the Dominican Republic and U.S. ports.