[News] Haiti: Bicentennial celebrations + details of opposition violence

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 5 20:05:02 EST 2004

AHP News - January 1st, 2004 - English translation (Unofficial)

Bicentennial of Haiti's independence: hundreds of thousands of Haitians 
participate in the festivities

Port-au-Prince, January 1st, 2004 -(AHP)- Several hundred thousand 
supporters of President Aristide took part Thursday in the festivities 
commemorating the Bicentennial of Haiti's Independence along all of the 
Champs-de-Mars in Port-au-Prince in the presence of many foreign 
delegations such as those of South Africa, the Bahamas, the United States, 
France, Canada, the OAS, CARICOM and many other countries and international 

In his remarks at a podium outside the entrance to the National Palace , 
the Chief of State once again advocated unity among all Haitians and called 
for a better distribution of wealth.

He asked the opposition to participate alongside the government in the task 
of national development and in the next elections so as to move the 
democratic process forward.

President Aristide appealed for international solidarity toward the 
implementation by 2015 of a 21 point program to benefit the Haitian people 
in several key areas such as health care, education and  infrastructure.

The hundreds of thousands of Haitians gathered on the grounds of the 
National Palace and outside the Palace joyfully took part in the various 
phases of the festivities.

The President of South Africa, Thabo Mbéki, and the Prime Minister of the 
Bahamas said they were proud to be friends with a people whose history is 
so extraordinary and vibrant.

They recognized Haiti as the mother of freedom and that it was Haiti that 
opened the door to independence for a host of nations.

Journalists from many foreign television stations covered the festivities.

"Here is the reality of the country. We are all supporting President 
Aristide. All of us here are in favor of respecting the popular vote", 
asserted supporters of President Aristide.

Some local and foreign sources have been circulating reports in recent 
months suggesting that President Aristide no longer enjoys broad support.

" Don't believe the gossip any more", the supporters called out.

After the ceremony at the National Palace, President Aristide traveled to 
Gonaïves where he delivered a second message to the nation in the presence 
of several thousand people, including members of foreign delegations.

Members of several foreign delegations expressed surprise at this popular 
jubilation which they said contrasts with some of the propaganda 
circulating abroad.

The celebrations on the Bicentennial of Independence continued despite 
serious violence committed against the population by opposition demonstrators.

A very large concert was held Thursday evening at the Champs-de-Mars, as a 
reception was being held for members of foreign delegation, officials and 
other guests of the government.

AHP January 1st, 2004  4:00 PM

Supporters of the Group of 184 carry out violence, burning vehicles, 
setting fire to tires and threatening some members of the public with death

Port-au-Prince, January 1st, 2004 -(AHP)- Several hundred supporters of the 
opposition led by officials from the Group of 184 including André Apaid 
Junior and Théodore Beaubrun Junior sacked and burned a number of vehicles, 
and set up flaming barricades using smashed vehicles in an attempt to 
paralyze life in Port-au-Prince where hundreds of thousands of Haitians 
celebrated the country's Bicentennial of Independence.

Opposition demonstrators including some carrying weapons, broke into the 
home of a student named Marjorie Michèle, because she refused to join the 
opposition movement. They threatened to kill Ms. Michèle, who was not at 
home.  They broke the windshields of nearly every nearby vehicle that was 
not clearly identified as being the property of an opposition supporter.

Several opposition officials acknowledged the violence, saying that only 
violence would enable them to oust the elected government.

In the Christ Roy district of the capital, groups of opposition 
demonstrators burned merchandise and stands belonging to several small 
shopkeepers, accusing them of supporting President Aristide.

" We are going to put an end to the 'peaceful demonstrations" and instead 
utilize more significant means against the established authorities", said 
some of the demonstrators, of whom some had been riding in minibuses 
belonging to some of the media organizations that support the group of 184.

The fury of the opposition broke out in the wake of the success of huge 
demonstrations organized by the government in both Port-au-Prince and 

Several leaders of the opposition and the Group of 184 had said that they 
would get out of politics if President Aristide managed to organize the 
bicentennial festivities. Some had said that they would drink poison in 
such a case.

Some accidents were caused when members of the public fled the area where 
the demonstrators from the Group of 184 were gathered.

"Today the members of the Group of 184 clearly proved that it is they who 
are the violent ones, the "chimè" and the  "cocorats", when it comes to the 
abuses they have committed", said labor leader Duclos Bénissoit.

Mr. Bénissoit indicated that wherever members of the public come across 
demonstrators from the Group of 184, they flee so as not to become victims.

Two vehicles belonging to the Service Plus company, which is run by Mr. 
Bénissoit's union, were destroyed, he said, by supporters of the Group of 
184 in Gros-Morne, not far from Gonaïves.

A minibus transporting an official delegation in the City of Independence 
was also destroyed by opposition demonstrators.

Throughout the day repeated calls were made over the airwaves seeking 
assistance from the police in protecting people from threats by 
anti-government demonstrators.

In Lalue and in many other parts of the capital, residents closed their 
doors when people from the opposition appeared, saying they wanted to go to 
the National Palace to prevent, they said, President Aristide, who was 
still in Gonaïves, from returning to the seat of the presidency in the Palace.

At that moment, thousands of members of populist organizations were still 
massed around the Palace.

At the end of the afternoon, several dozen of them had decided to confront 
the opposition demonstrators in order to put the brakes on their march 
toward the Palace.

The police had to intervene with tear gas to disperse the anti-government 
demonstration. The members of the opposition then threw stones and bottle 
shards at the police whom they accused of preventing them from taking over 

In the view of Yvon Feuillé, President of the Senate, the campaign by the 
Group of 184 had taken the path of terror.

He assured that the public will not allow a minority to place it into 
slavery again. He expressed satisfaction that all the events that had been 
planned had been held, he said, without any problem.

The leader of the organization Populist Youth Power, René Civil also said 
that the public will not stand by with its arms crossed and allow itself to 
be massacred.

Some members of foreign delegations including the CARICOM delegation stated 
that it was shameful that Haitians would attempt through "blind violence" 
to sabotage the celebration of the bicentennial of their countries 

Several diplomats posted in Haiti said they were disturbed by the abuses of 
the opposition which as always attributed acts of violence that have taken 
place in the country to "chimè" ( deprived members of the population living 
in the shantytowns).

During a mass at the Cathedral of Port-au-Prince, Bishop Joseph Serge Miot 
denounced  "stateless persons who are seeking to return the Haitian people 
to slavery". He did not identify such individuals more explicitly.

AHP January 1st, 2004  4:00 PM



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