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Haitian General Strike Reportedly Only Partly Effective as Some Firms Stay Open

December 08, 1987|DAN WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — A general strike in Haiti called Monday to protest election violence eight days ago only partially shut down the island nation's capital city, according to reports from Port-au-Prince. Some shops and factories stayed open and many workers trudged to their jobs despite the reduced availability of mass transportation.

Confusion seemed to be one reason that the strike was less than fully effective. Different political groups called for the shutdown for different reasons and for differing lengths of time.

Some were demanding the resignation of the military-dominated National Council of Government while others merely wanted the now disbanded independent Electoral Council reinstated. Members of the Electoral Council have been in hiding for much of the time since presidential elections scheduled for Nov. 29 were aborted after gangs of gunmen terrorized voters across the nation.

Official Toleration

Many Haitian and foreign observers blame the government for at the least tolerating the violence. Since the ouster of Haitian dictator Jean Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier in February, 1986, Haiti has essentially been ruled by the armed forces. Lt. Gen. Henri Namphy heads the three-man ruling council, and a second member is also an army man.

On Monday, two presidential candidates, Sylvio Claude and Louis Dejoie, called for the strike to continue until the government steps down. Two others, Marc Bazin and Gerard Bourgue, appealed for a two-day work stoppage to press the government to reinstate the Electoral Council. Leaders of jitney unions whose members provide much of the transportation in the capital were asking to end the strike Monday night.

"There's a whole panoply of groups who are doing different things," said Hubert Duvall, a member of the Haitian Industrial Assn. in a telephone interview. "There is no single line of thought."

Duvall estimated that 60% of the businesses in Port-au-Prince closed Monday.

Troop Patrols

A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy said that generally, large stores had closed while smaller shops remained open in many parts of the seaside city.

On Monday, armed government troops patrolled the streets of Port-au-Prince in large open-backed trucks, but no violence was reported. Police encouraged jitney drivers to take passengers to work, eyewitnesses said.

Government ministries remained open.

Over the weekend, government television broadcast statements of support for the Namphy council. Included was a quotation from 18th Century Haitian patriot Henri Cristoph that was apparently meant as a warning against foreign intervention: "I will only surrender the town when it is reduced to ashes and when it is reduced to ashes, I will continue to fight."

Some Haitian politicians and other citizens have asked that the United States intervene militarily to overthrow the Namphy regime.

Suspension of Aid

The United States has suspended about $60 million in aid to Haiti, cutting all military assistance to the government but continuing help for private relief efforts.

The canceled elections were to be Haiti's first free presidential vote in 30 years. At least 34 people died on election day itself as thugs wielded machetes and fired machine guns to frighten voters off.

Namphy has said that he favors elections. But he also has called for the formation of a new electoral panel because he disagreed with the manner in which last month's scheduled balloting was organized. The independent council had barred all candidates with known ties to the ousted Duvalier dictatorship.

Namphy has asked civic organizations, which had picked the names for the previous independent council, to nominate candidates for a new nine-member election body. But at least six such groups have refused to do so, and some have called for the old council to resume its work.

Constitutional Provision

According to the Haitian constitution, approved last year, a new president is to be inaugurated next Feb. 7.

In Washington, the Associated Press reported that the Haitian foreign minister, Col. Herard Abraham, promised a special meeting of the Organization of American States that Haiti is embarked on an "irreversible" process toward the establishment of democratic rule.

The 31-nation OAS later approved a resolution calling on Haiti to restore the democratic process through free elections. The resolution deplored the acts of violence on Nov. 29 and the election postponement. But it reaffirmed that foreign nations have the "fundamental duty" to allow Haitians to decide their own destiny without outside interference.

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