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U.S. Criticized for Picking Priest as Winner in Haiti

December 18, 1990

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) _ A supporter of the former Duvalier regime today criticized the United States for saying a leftist priest apparently won the presidential election before complete, official results were released.

He said such a move could incite violence in Haiti.

The Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a fiery champion of the poor, won as much as 70 percent of the vote in Sunday’s elections, which also chose a new legislature, according to projections by the 800 foreign observers.

The capital, Port-au-Prince, was quiet today after Monday’s wild jubilation by Aristide’s supporters and a shooting incident that left a woman dead.

With slightly more than 1 percent of the estimated 2 million votes counted, Aristide had 70.6 percent; former World Bank official Marc Bazin 12.6 percent; agronomist Louis Dejoie Jr. 6.9 percent; and evangelical preacher Sylvio Claude 2.7 percent. Seven other candidates were in the race.

The Electoral Council released the partial results Monday, but did not indicate when further results would be made public.

It gave no explanation for the delay.

Bernard W. Aronson, assistant U.S. secretary of state for inter-American affairs said Monday of Aristide:

″We fully respect him as the apparent president-elect of Haiti and look forward to closely working with his government.″

But a spokesman for Roger Lafontant, self-proclaimed leader of the Tonton Macoutes and of other supporters of the former 29-year Duvalier dictatorship, said the U.S. government had picked the winner before the results were in. He said that move ″could put people in the streets who will incite violence.″

″The American government can’t decide who won. It’s against the law. You (the United States) don’t have the right,″ said Serge Conille, executive- secretary of Lafontant’s party, the Union for National Conciliation.

Lafontant returned from exile this year and announced his candidacy, but was barred from running for president by the Electoral Council.

″We’ll decide after the results are in how we are going to act, but it won’t be in a violent way,″ Conille said.

A spokeswoman at Bazin’s party headquarters said he would not comment on the election until final results were in. Dejoie conceded defeat Monday.

″We are very disappointed, but we are democrats. If that’s what the people want, it’s okay,″ said Danielle Bazin, a party official and sister-in-law of Bazin.

About 70 percent of the registered voters cast ballots Sunday for president, a 110-member National Assembly and local officials.

Observers from the United Nations and the Organization of American States said the vote was orderly and without fraud, despite delays and some irregularities at voting stations.

Tens of thousands of Haitians poured into the streets Monday morning, singing and dancing, honking car horns and blocking traffic with their jubliant celebrations of Aristide’s presumed victory.

But at midday, police wearing gas masks fired into a crowd celebrating outside St. Jean Bosco Roman Catholic Church, killing a pregnant 44-year-old woman, then running her over in a blue pickup truck, witnesses said.

Assassins attacked the church in September 1988 as Aristide was saying Mass, killing 12 people and wounding 70. Aristide escaped and went into hiding.

An army statement denied responsibility for Monday’s shootings, saying police had fired into the air to disperse demonstrators threatening to lynch an undentified man. Police in Haiti are under the authority of the army.

The capital was nearly deserted as Haitians fled indoors, fearing more violence from holdovers of the Duvalier family regime, ousted in 1986 when Jean-Claude ″Baby Doc″ Duvalier fled into exile.

The only other time Haitians had a chance to freely choose their leader, in November 1987, 34 voters were shot and hacked to death at polling stations by thugs supported by the army. The vote was canceled.

Aristide would take office on Feb. 7, the fifth anniversary of ″Baby Doc″ Duvalier’s departure.

Roger Lafontant, who led Duvalier’s feared Tonton Macoute militia, said last week he would ″do anything″ to keep Aristide from becoming president, saying Haiti would ″never be delivered to communism.″

There has also been concern that the United States would not be pleased by the election because of Aristide’s leftist ideology and anti-American rhetoric, which was toned down in the last few months.

Aristide was expelled from the conservative Salesian order in 1988 for allegedly inciting the poor to revolt.

He is a proponent of Liberation Theology, which encourages the poor to fight for their rights instead of waiting for an eternal reward.

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