JUNE 16, 1988


Jean-Pierre Cloutier

Note : This is a Telex (no Email then) sent to my Bureau Chief on June 16, 1988. It sums up the situation that led to the June 20 Coup, as reflected in another text titles "Making of a Coup".

Jean-Pierre Cloutier, Port-au-Prince.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Telex number: 325-2557 or 365-9272

Ian, here is a wrap up of the situation in Haiti. Could not get back to you yesterday, no spokesperson would go on the record. This text includes quotes from Manigat's press conference this morning.

Text follows

(Port-au-Prince / June 16) What most observers consider as the toughest political crisis President Leslie F. Manigat has had to wave through since his coming into power on February 7 found its solution in a mid-afternoon press release from the Army headquarters on Wednesday.

The terse communique signed by Colonel Gary Leon, secretary general of the Chiefs of Staff, said that "concerning the administrative measures taken on June 14 at the level of staff officers, having given way to malevolent speculation and interpretation, it has been decided following a meeting with his excellency the President of the Republic and the minister of Armed Forces, Military and Civil Service, to delay momentarily the said measures."

The high command of Haiti's Armed Forces, headed by former president of the National Council of Government General Henri Namphy, also reiterated in the communique its "loyalty without reserve" to the government, and its intent to fully "participate in the general program of development" of the government.

The events had been sparked by rumours, later confirmed, that Colonel Jean-Claude Paul, 49, commander of the powerful Casernes Dessalines Battallion, was being transferred from his post to one at Army headquarters with the title of Deputy Chief of Staff. Colonel Paul was said to be against his transfer, and a major confrontation between rival army factions was feared. The news had provoked a wave of uncertainty and some panic movements on Tuesday afternoon in the vicinity of the Presidential Palace and the adjoining Dessalines Battalion post as some shooting was reported. Colonel Paul spent the night from Tuesday to Wednesday at his military post of the Casernes Dessalines.

On Wednesday morning, the Office of President Manigat had stated in a radio release that the transfers and retirements of some high-level officers had been ordered "without the President's knowledge or consent, Constitutional chief of the Haitian Armed Forces, articles 141 and 143 of the 1987 Constitution, even if he does not command them in person." Lacking approval and ratification by the head of state, and to avoid a major crisis which the country would have to bear the consequences, the presidential communique "ordered the status quo ante" as the appropriate measure awaiting a "definitive solution." It further stated that the "politics of change" of the present government included "democratization and putting the Armed Forces at the service of the country's development."

In his regularly scheduled press conference, Manigat stated "God is great. Life goes on and the State of Law continues," adding "it was a case of democratic institutional adjustment" whereby the "civilian power and military institution gave the country a lesson of patriotism and democracy and it gives optimism for democracy in Haiti."

Questioned as to the fact that the presidential communique sided with the much controversial Colonel Paul, the President replied "It was not a question of personality, but principles were at stake."

It thus appears that the meeting referred to in the Armed Forces communique, held between General Namphy, Armed Forces minister Williams Regala, also a former member of the National Council of Government, and President Manigat, served to defuse a potentially critical situation. However, few feel this latest development can dissipate persisting rumours of an impending coup.

There has yet been no reaction from official political circles except from KID (Democratic Unity Committee) a marginal pressure group. The Committee issued a press release warning people not to be deceived by appearances and look further over superficial events. "KID is asking people to see what games are being played. These games profit different sectors adverse to the peoples real interests" said the group, calling for solidarity among opposition organizations.

The situation in Haiti remains uneasy, both in the capital city and in the provinces. Reports of ships allegedly transporting toxic wastes to be dumped in Haiti are only compounded by the fact that the removal of the already dumped residue, dating back to last February in the coastal town of Gonaives, and that should have gotten under way is late in materializing, in spite of a presidential announcement to this effect.

Radio reports from the provinces indicate that a peasant feud, reminiscent of last July's Jean Rabel incident which had claimed the life of more than 300 people, is developing in the northern community of Danty. Already 5 persons have died, dozens of farms have been ransacked, cattle has been slaughtered, and hundreds of peasant families forced off their land. The village of Gros Morne is filled by these internal refugees, but hundreds have decided to hide in the mountains until, without appropriate shelter or food, until things calm down.

The wave of assassinations that claimed at least 60 victims since February has also not been curbed by the authorities, and no arrests have been officially reported in connection with these acts.

There are apparent stress lines in the relationships between the ministerial cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Martial Celestin, the Senate, and the Chamber of Deputies. If these were to accentuate, the Legislature could, constitutionally, dismiss the cabinet by a simple vote of non confidence, and force Manigat to select a new set of ministers. The name of Williams Regala is often mentioned by observers as the potential next Prime Minister.

end of text

Back to The Haitian Files Page

On this site: May 18, 1997