Haiti premier forced out, loses struggle with army

June 09, 1993|By J. P. Slavin | J. P. Slavin,Contributing Writer

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, -- Premier Marc L. Bazin resigned unexpectedly yesterday after losing a power struggle with the nation's military rulers.

No successor was named by Parliament or the army, and it was un- clear if the move would help efforts to restore ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The U.S. State Department and Dante Caputo, the U.N. envoy trying to restore democracy to Haiti, welcomed the news. Father Aristide said it may mean he could return from exile within days.

The 8,400-member Haitian army, which overthrew Father Aristide in 1991, was placed on maximum alert. Parliamentary leaders were meeting with the army high command to try to form a new government, said Sen. Ebrane Cadet, 46.

When asked who will succeed Mr. Bazin, Senator Cadet said, "Nobody has the answer now."

Mr. Bazin, 61, who served for a year, did not go to his office at the National Palace yesterday, apparently because his military escort failed to show up at his mansion, two Haitian journalists told The Sun.

In his resignation statement, Mr. Bazin cited unspecified "pressures" against his Cabinet.

Mr. Bazin's fall began Friday when he fired four Cabinet ministers, two of whom were backed by the military. The ministers balked at the dismissals and returned to their offices Monday.

When Mr. Bazin tried to hold an installation ceremony Monday for the four replacement ministers, the affair was canceled because the high command refused to show up.

Werner Fort, one of the fired ministers, said Mr. Bazin had overstepped his power by making a "unilateral" decision to dismiss the ministers.

Acting Port-au-Prince Mayor Joseph Gerald Salomon called on the army Monday to overthrow Mr. Bazin.

"The time has come to stage a coup. . . . The country must be saved. The country must live," he said at an anti-Bazin rally.

The Clinton administration on Friday included Mr. Bazin among 83 Haitians whose U.S. visas were canceled and whose financial assets in the United States were frozen.

The administration is also supporting a U.N. effort to embargo petroleum for Haiti, diplomats said.

Sen. Serge Joseph, the Senate vice president and an Aristide critic, said Haiti's de facto leaders face two choices.

"The political decision would be to reinstate Aristide and have him appoint a prime minister. The constitutional choice is to install the head of the Supreme Court as president to hold new presidential elections," he said.

"If it is the will of the international community, we will go to a constitutional political solution," he said, explaining that would mean recognizing Father Aristide as president.

He did not say if Father Aristide could return under the formula.

The National Front for Change and Democracy, a powerful liberal coalition that supports reinstating Father Aristide, called for the ousted leader's Presidential Commission to serve as Haiti's next government.

"We call on the army to stay away from the political scene," the communique said.

The Rev. Antoine Adrien, head of the presidential commission, could not be reached for comment, but an aide said that the conditions were not right for such a move, since the army is against Father Aristide's return.

The 10-member commission was appointed by Father Aristide to negotiate on his behalf in Haiti.

Senator Joseph, an Aristide critic, said the conservative voting majority in Parliament -- named the Alliance -- will use this situation to try to reopen stalled negotiations over Aristide's reinstatement, possibly by allowing Aristide to name the new prime minister.

Father Aristide was exiled by the army in 1991 after less than eight months in office.

A 20-month OAS embargo against Haiti has been unsuccessful in winning Father Aristide's reinstatement.

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