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Haiti Opposition Calls Strike; Violence Feared

December 06, 1987|DON A. SCHANCHE | Times Staff Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — The country's four major political parties, its largest labor union and several other groups opposed to Haiti's military government called Saturday for a general strike beginning Monday that could paralyze this strife-torn Caribbean nation.

Although the call aroused fears of renewed violence and bloodshed in Port-au-Prince, leaders of the move predicted that there would be few confrontations with government forces and that most Haitians would simply stay home, drawing an already faltering and dirt-poor economy to a standstill.

Louis Dejoie II, one of the four leading presidential candidates in last Sunday's bloodily aborted attempt at an election, said the strike would last until the National Government Council, a provisional ruling body headed by Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy, "erases itself."

Arrests Demanded

Dejoie, who leads the National Agricultural Industrial Party, also demanded the arrest within 48 hours of all those responsible for the reign of terror in Port-au-Prince last week that culminated in a massacre that forced the cancellation of Haiti's first attempt at free elections in more than 30 years.

The Christian Democrat Party of Baptist minister Sylvio Claude also called for an indefinite strike until the ruling council is replaced and officials of the independent Electoral Council, who were sacked by Namphy last Sunday, are given another chance to conduct a free and fair national vote.

The two other leading parties, both widely viewed as stronger in national support than Dejoie's or Claude's, echoed the call but asked for a general strike of only two days: Monday and Tuesday.

Their leaders, Marc Bazin of the Movement for Installation of Democracy in Haiti and Gerard Gourgue of the left-of-center National Front for Concerted Action, issued the call jointly with a plea to restore the powers of the dissolved Electoral Council, punish the guilty for last week's atrocities and release an undetermined number of youths arrested during police and army sweeps through Port-au-Prince after the tragic election day.

Others Rumored Slain

There have been unconfirmed reports that some youths, who were working with the so-called vigilance brigades that tried to defend people against armed pro-government thugs, were slain while being held by government forces.

The key to the success of any strike is said to be the Metropolitan Drivers' Syndicate, a union of transportation workers that joined the Central Workers' Union in announcing plans to stay off the job indefinitely.

"If they don't drive, factory workers don't get to work, and if factory workers can't work, then the people downtown can't work," said a leading businessman, who predicted that trade and industrial leaders also would join the national protest against the Namphy regime.

"If people don't put their heads together, the (ruling) council won't give up power," said Dejoie in an emotional appearance before foreign and Haitian journalists Saturday. "But if all the democratic leaders join with the people's march, the council won't dare crush the people again."

Dejoie Issues Call

Dejoie called on the Namphy government, which has been widely blamed for permitting armed gangs and its own army troops to wreak violent mayhem at the polls last Sunday, to step down voluntarily.

"If they have any patriotism left in their hearts, the provisional national government should resign so patriotic officers of the armed forces of Haiti can form a new, constitutional civilian-military government," Dejoie said.

Under the newly adopted Haitian constitution, the provisional government, which has been supported by the United States and other Western nations, is supposed to rule the country only until Feb. 7, when a civilian government named in free elections supervised by an independent electoral council is supposed to take over.

The United States had backed Namphy as the best bet to steer the two-year road to democracy following the ouster of dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier on Feb. 7, 1986.

American policy-makers stuck with him despite his government's indifference and even open hostility to the electoral process, but they canceled military and some economic aid after last Sunday's army-condoned bloodshed.

"We hold Mr. Elliott Abrams (assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs) responsible for what has happened in Haiti," Dejoie said in an angry outburst. "He doesn't give a good damn about the Haitian people."

Dejoie charged the State Department with ignoring numerous actions by the Namphy government that demonstrated it would sabotage the elections.

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