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Haiti Station Attacked; Junta, Electoral Panel in Talks

November 22, 1987|From Times Wire Services

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Four armed men blew up a radio transmitter Saturday as the military and a nine-man council overseeing next Sunday's elections worked together after months of hostility to guide Haiti toward democracy, diplomats said.

The assailants destroyed the AM transmitter of Radio Lumiere, a Protestant church-supported station that has urged support for the elections, officials said. No injuries were reported.

A diplomat insisted he is "cautiously optimistic" that nothing will disrupt balloting, despite Saturday's incident, attacks on election targets earlier this month and the October slaying of a presidential candidate.

The voting next Sunday will be the first in the impoverished nation since 1957. It will replace the interim military-led junta of Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, installed after the collapse of the Duvalier family dictatorship 21 months ago.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack on the station, and there was no clear-cut link to the approaching vote. However, station co-manager Bob Dargan blamed supporters of the toppled regime of dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.

Radio Lumiere reporter Romeo Estinvil said: "We have been receiving threats on the phone for several days, telling us they would burn down the transmitter tower. They finally did."

The station still can broadcast on FM, but because most of its listeners in the capital pick up only AM transmissions, it is effectively off the air, said Dargan.

"The only reason I see (for the attack) is harassment," Dargan added. "We've been reporting (news like) Duvalierist candidates being turned down . . . and calling for justice and peace."

He added: "There is no doubt that Tonton Macoutes did it." He was referring to the private militia set up by Jean-Claude's father, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier.

The attack on Radio Lumiere was the latest in a series against radio stations in Port-au-Prince.

Haiti's junta has ruled the Caribbean nation since Feb. 7, 1986, when Jean-Claude Duvalier fled to exile in France.

The first sign of thawing relations between the military and the Provisional Electoral Council was a "nicely worded" letter from the council to the head of the Air Force asking for aircraft to transport ballots, one source said.

Meetings between the council's officials and high-ranking officers got under way earlier this month with no announcement from either side, said diplomats who were interviewed by United Press International recently on the condition they remain anonymous.

The reported contacts were the first between the council and the government since the two sides halted talks in early July during a violent general strike triggered by the junta's attempt to take over the electoral process.

The council attacked Namphy for not providing guards for election offices and suggested that officers with Duvalierist sympathies helped plan a Nov. 2 arson attack on the group's headquarters.

The fire occurred after a dozen presidential candidates were disqualified because of their ties to the old regime.

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