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HAITI: Death Toll Hits 22 : Haiti Toll 22 Amid Calls for Junta's Ouster

July 04, 1987|From Times Wire Services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The leader of a powerful opposition coalition Friday called for the resignation of Haiti's ruling junta, while a general strike paralyzed the country and street violence that has claimed at least 22 lives worsened.

Seven more people were reported killed Friday as church bells tolled for the victims. Another 80 were reported wounded.

"We are threatened by violent movements we cannot control and we cannot foresee," said Jean-Claude Bajeux, a leader of a coalition of 57 groups from throughout the political spectrum. "People are fed up."

"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 closed 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 Lt. Gen. Henri 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 published 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 Council to conduct elections.

Election Authority

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, known as "Baby Doc," is now living in exile in France.

Bajeux, of the committee of 57 political, peasant, student and labor groups that organized this week's strikes, told reporters that protests would continue until Namphy and Regala step down.

Crowds in the street also demanded that Namphy be forced from office. "If the government goes, the people will cool down," said Jean Cudana, a 24-year-old philosophy student. "The people want their own government in the palace."

'People Are Fed Up'

"The people are fed up and must have a change of government," Bajeux, a former Roman Catholic priest, said. "Namphy shut all the doors. He talks only to his cronies."

Bajeux said the committee of 57 would accept a new governing council of two civilians and one military man and suggested that 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, would be acceptable. He did not propose who the other civilian member should be.

Father 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 that he was speaking for himself and noted that the Catholic church has taken no position on the strike or governing council.

To Rule Until Elections

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 local news media.

Bajeux said the strike would be lifted today and Sunday to allow people to shop and then be reinstated Monday.

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